Star Trek fans, many of them costumed as their favorite aliens or Starfleet officers, filled a 6,000-seat Las Vegas theater to capacity on Saturday to listen to Capt. Kirk himself.
In a Q&A session with Adam Malin, co-founder of Creation Entertainment, producer of the 50th anniversary convention here, William Shatner shared familiar stories of pranks he played on original-series co-stars Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley. But things got both strange and profound when fans stepped up to microphones on the theater floor and asked questions.
A young boy named Lincoln, dressed in a blue "Next Generation" uniform, laid out a question that Shatner admitted he had never heard before in all his 50 years of answering Star Trek queries. Lincoln wondered what Shatner would have done in the famous "Twilight Zone" episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" if he had looked out the plane window and see the Gorn on the wing instead of the little fuzzy monster that was out there. The Gorn was the lizard-like creature that tried to kill Kirk in the Trek episode called "Arena."
"It's a great question," said Shatner. He then spun it into an amusing story about how he would board planes with his kids and then call the flight attendant over, look out the window and turn back while making the exaggerated horrified face from "The Twilight Zone." He never got around to answering the Gorn aspect of the query. He did call the furry gremlin out for not being aerodynamic and said the actor inside the monster suit was a Czechoslovakian acrobat.
Later, another young man stepped up to the mic and asked Shatner if he was familiar with Pokemon Go, the augmented-reality game that's sweeping the world. Shatner quipped, "I play it all the time." He says his granddaughter showed him how the game works. "It occupies all your attention," he said. He then encouraged his 12-year-old fan to "read a book while playing Pokemon Go."
Sometimes it feels like there's a sci-fi rivalry between Star Trek and Star Wars, though in reality there's a lot of crossover among the fandoms. A Trekkie asked Shatner about his take on the issue. "Star Wars created Star Trek," he said. The statement brought a gasp from some members of the audience. He went on to explain how the popularity of the Star Wars movies spurred film studio Paramount into reviving Star Trek on the big screen. "It was Star Wars that thrust Star Trek into the people at Paramount's consciousness." That film opened the floodgates to more movies and the subsequent Trek television series.
Shatner recognizes the style differences between the two franchises. "Star Trek, at its best, tells human stories," he said. "Star Wars was grand like opera and it was huge and it had great special effects and it was a marvelously entertaining film, but it wasn't specifically about people the way those Star Treks were." Shatner came off as personable and expansive during his interview, a fitting tribute to Star Trek on its 50th anniversary.