'William Shatner's Get a Life!' Returns Captain Kirk to the Alien World of His Fans

Jesse Hicks
Publicity photo. (photographer unknown)

The film's easy conclusions leave us wishing for a little less abstract pontificating, and a little more self-reflection.

William Shatner's Get a Life!

Director: William Shatner
Cast: William Shatner, John Cho, Terry Farrell, Rene Auberjonois, Nana Visitor, Dominic Keating, Nichelle Nichols, Connor Trinneer
Rated: NR
Studio: 455 Films
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-07-28 (EPIX)

William Shatner is 81 years old. As most of us know, he's had a complicated relationship with Star Trek fans. Recently, he's turned reflective about the experience. William Shatner's Get a Life! is the latest in a series of artifacts chronicling his attempts to come to terms with his status as a cultural icon. While it comes across as primarily self-promotional, it also tells the story of a man still seeking, in retrospect, to understand his own life.

The hour-long documentary -- premiering on EPIX on 28 July -- takes its name from Shatner's 1999 memoir, which in turn took its title from a 1986 Saturday Night Live sketch. Get a Life! opens with the punchline of that sketch, which not only neatly closes the circle of references, but underscores just how long Shatner has been trying to negotiate his role within Trek fandom.

In the sketch he plays himself, as the guest of honor at a Star Trek convention. He takes questions from a room full of trivia-obsessed fans, representing the kind of diehards who in 1968 nearly tore his clothes off as he left NBC headquarters. Finally he exclaims, “Get a life!” As their mouths drop open, he insists, “It's just a TV show!, and moreover, just a gig he did for money.

Before this seminal moment, Shatner, a former Shakespearean actor, had long voiced similar disdain for Trekkers and had stopped going to conventions during the 1970s. But he also needed to work, as the sketch neatly points when he storms off the stage, only to return when he's reminded that he's under contract. The sketch's final joke is cruel, in its way, and delivered at Shatner's expense: give the fans what they want if you expect to get paid. Shatner's life is defined by his audience. He's trapped by commercial exchange, imprisoned by his fans' fastidious adoration.

This is territory that Shatner has continued to mine. In 2011, he produced The Captains, a documentary about the actors who have played captains in the Star Trek franchise. In conversation with Patrick Stewart, he confesses he'd only recently realized he was “slightly embarrassed about playing Captain Kirk.” After all, he says, he received poor reviews for the role, a new experience at the time, and in the years since Star Trek, he's resisted the idea that manning the helm of the Enterprise might be his lasting legacy. Only after hearing Stewart acknowledge that despite years as a Shakespearean actor himself, he was still best known as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, does a teary-eyed Shatner confess that if, when he dies, “They say, 'That was Captain Kirk,' I'm happy with that.”

If this moment suggests Shatner has a private, even self-reflective self, we're most used to dealing with his blustery public persona, one that doesn’t suggest he's burdened with self-consciousness. He typically presents an amiable superficiality, a kind of glibness. Get a Life! delivers more of that. It focuses on "Star Trek Las Vegas," an annual convention that draws some 20,000 fans, with the premise that Shatner still has more to learn about his fans.

The film focuses more on our education than his. This is framed in a series of familiar convention scenes, with costume contests, autograph hunters, and merchandise booths. There's a Klingon make-up class. Several interviewees assert that Star Trek conventions offer a safe haven or note the difficulty of being a “geek.” While Shatner claims that he still wonders, “Who are these people?”, the film does little to illuminate them as individuals, only revealing that they aren't all the 30-year-old virgins of the SNL sketch.

In pursuit of more information, perhaps, Shatner brings in Robert Walter, head of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, to explain why Star Trek endures. He offers some fairly obvious points about the show's utopian vision of collective harmony (still run by a captain, though), alongside more dubious assertions such as, “We are hardwired for narrative.” Convention goers, he explains, see the event as a ritual, their fellow attendees as part of a tribe. “They're buying into a narrative, a series of narratives, a mythology if you will,” he says, and “a myth is a metaphor for life.” Star Trek provides a potent myth: this, of course, is exactly what the president of the Joseph Campbell Foundation would say.

It's impossible to know whether this kind of talk helps William Shatner understand his fans, or himself, because Get a Life! never interrogates these ideas. He says in closing, “That's what these shows do: they lift us out so we can see that we're a part of one human tribe, living on one little blue marble.” Perhaps Star Trek really does that, and we never want to underestimate the value of platitudes. But the film's easy conclusions leave us wishing for a little less abstract pontificating, and a little more self-reflection.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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