“William Shatner’s Fame Or Folly?”
by Helmut Eppich

This article was written on November 12, 2021.

October 13, 2021: William Shatner and Bezos conversation following the orbital landing.

WILLIAM SHATNER: Everybody in the world needs to do this. Everybody in the world needs to see. It was unbelievable. Unbelievable. I mean, the little things, the weightlessness. But to see the blue color whip by, and now you’re staring into blackness.
That’s the thing.
The covering of blue is this sheet, this blanket, this comforter of blue that we have around.
We think, ’Oh, that’s blue sky.’ And all of a sudden, as though you whip a sheet off when you’re asleep, and you’re looking into blackness, into black, ugliness.
And you look down. There’s the blue down there and the black up there. And there is Mother and Earth and comfort.
And there….IS there death? I don’t know. WAS that death? IS that the way death IS? Whoop and it’s gone. Jesus.
It was so moving to me. This experience been something unbelievable. You see, yeah, you know, weightlessness. My stomach went up. I’m like, ‘God, this is so weird.’ But not as weird as the covering of blue. This what I’ve never expected. Oh, it’s one thing to say, ‘Oh, the sky and the thing and the fragile...’. But it’s all true.
But what ISN’T true, what is UNKOWN, until you do it, it is this pillow. There’s this soft blue. Look at the beauty of that color. And it’s so thin, and you’re through it in an instant. It’s what... how thick is it? Do we know?

BEZOS: The atmosphere?

WILLIAM SHATNER: Is it a mile? Two miles?

BEZOS: No. It depends on how you measure it, because it thins out, by about maybe 50 miles.

WILLIAM SHATNER: But you’re going 2,000 miles an hour. So you’re through 50 miles at whatever the mathematics says.

BEZOS: Fast. Yeah. Really fast.

WILLIAM SHATNER: It’s like a beat and a beat, and suddenly you’re through the blue.

BEZOS: And then it’s black.

WILLIAM SHATNER: And you’re into black. And you’re into... Ah, it’s mysterious and galaxies and things. But what you see is black.
And what you see down there is light, and that’s the difference. And not to have this?
You have done something. I mean, whatever those other guys are doing, what isn’t... I don’t know about that.
What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s extraordinary.
I hope I never recover from this.
I hope that I can maintain what I feel now.
I don’t want to lose it.
It’s so much larger than me and life.
And it hasn’t got anything to do with the little green man ------- of the blue or... it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death and the… Oh, My god.

BEZOS: It’s so beautiful.

WILLIAM SHATNER: Beautiful. Yes. Beautiful in its way. But –

BEZOS: No, I mean your words.

WILLIAM SHATNER: Oh, my words.

BEZOS: That’s just amazing.

WILLIAM SHATNER: I don’t know. I can’t even begin to express what… what I would love to do is to communicate, as much as possible, the jeopardy, the moment, you see the vulnerability of everything. It’s so small. This air, which is keeping us alive, is thinner than your skin. It’s a sliver. It’s immeasurably small, when you think in terms of the universe. It’s negligible [1].

video credts: youtube channel NBC News

Texas. 8:30 AM Wednesday October 13, 2021.
Launch time.
Blue Origin Flight Number 2.
Blue Origin Space Company owned by Jeff Bezos.

Mr. Spock and Captain James T. Kirk.

drawing by Helmut Eppich. Mr. Spock and Captain James T. Kirk.

Ironically, this flight takes place after the holiday honoring a famous past explorer. This morning a future explorer, of a sort, will set out on a voyage of his own, be it short and quick.

William Shatner, veteran actor, famously known as portraying Captain James T. Kirk of the now classic 1960s Star Trek television series, returned to Earth a different individual. With his return came a profound sense of mortality.

It had been enhanced by his short encounter with the eternal black abyss of death above, beyond, along with the eternal, nurturing, life-giving light below him. Heaven and Hell with their traditional positions reversed? Up instead of down? Down instead of up?

Mr. Shatner’s passionate speech would have been usually expected to be presented through interviews with space shuttle and International Space Station astronauts before starting celebrations. These Blue Origin astronauts headed directly for the champagne immediately after disembarking from the capsule.

Even Jeff Bezos, head of the company.

For a little awhile.

Mr. Shatner declined Jeff Bezos’ offer of champagne.

Mr. Shatner was left by himself for a few seconds pondering philosophical implications of what he had just witnessed and felt. One saw his cranial wheels turning. Or perhaps spinning. Mr. Shatner was thoroughly, heavily, preoccupied with deep thoughts overcome by his reaction to this preceding, wondrous event.

Finally, Jeff Bezos had joined Mr. Shatner with rapt attention. He listened attentively, addressing Mr. Shatner with solemn respect.

For one moment, standing silhouetted against the Texas sun, both Mr. Shatner and Jeff Bezos’ profiles seemed to become Captain James T. Kirk, commander of the Starship ENTERPRISE NCC-1701, and Captain Jean Luc Picard, commander of the Starship ENTERPRISE NCC-1701E. It was as if Captain Kirk himself began relating his eye-opening, mind-boggling, experience to Captain Jean Luc Picard as he would to Mr. Spock; or Mr. Spock relating his visually, mind-altering Vejur spacewalk to Kirk and McCoy in sickbay during “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”.

Through Mr. Shatner’s passionate, enthusiastic account, along with his famous portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk, as well as images from the International Space Station, we, being mostly ground-based Earthers, can relate to Mr. Shatner’s testimony, comparable with Captain Kirk’s dictation to his captain’s log of this past mission, including visual data of the trip.

This relatability with Mr. Shatner and Captain Kirk expands our identification and connection with the need (for speed) for space exploration by establishing orbital industries to aid Earth in overcoming plaguing environmental problems, such as climate change.

Mr. Shatner’s tenure as Captain Kirk has entailed similar missions for him and the Starship ENTERPRISE during Star Trek’s original production run back in 1966. The series’ enduring believability of characters, science, technology, has inspired fans to enter fields of medicine, engineering, aerospace design, architecture, different aspects of the fields in science, computer technology, and of course, astronauts.

It had been essential science and technology be presented realistic as possible throughout the show’s three year run. Consultations with NASA and various scientific research organizations such as The Rand Corporation, leading scientists, as well as highly esteemed non-fiction and science fiction authors such as the late great Isaac Asimov, ensured a firm basis of science, thereby focusing, projecting, predicting futuristic technological creations and conditions: tricorders and communicators became cellphones/iPhones; electronically self-operational doors; incredibly enhanced diagnostic medical equipment currently in use by today’s various medical institutions. The ENTERPRISE’s intricately complex information library computer banks have become today’s Internet. Remember those flat, wooden, painted, square computer cartridges used in recording and storing data from the ENTERPRISE computers? Floppy disks. Even at this point, they have become obsolete.

The New York 1964-65 World’s Fair videophones made their way aboard the ENTERPRISE in smaller sizes as compact gooseneck viewers sprouting from control consoles.

Star Trek’s designer, Matt Jefferies had visited the The New York World’s Fair on vacation. Upon returning to Los Angeles he came across a message from some television producer named Gene Roddenberry asking him if he was interested in designing a science fiction television series called “Star Trek.” Jeffries aviation background was vital in designing and imagining Star Trek’s first pilot, starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike in, “The Cage”, more commonly known as the series’ only two-parter, “The Menagerie”.

During the first two Star Trek television pilots heavy tan and blue velour shirts became part of the standard Star fleet uniform.

Even Mr. Shatner and the other Blue Origin astronauts’ uniforms are blue. Blue is Starfleet Command’s official color code for its Science Division. Now for Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin flights as well. Similar indeed. Intentional? Mr. Shatner’s trip had been intended, or SEEMED to have been intended as a publicity attraction for Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spaceflight company.

Mr. Shatner couldn’t have cared less. Some other people did.

Mr. Shatner intended to look out the window for an inspirational view “and hope that something wasn’t looking back in at me.” Not throwing Skittles while tumbling about inside the capsule’s interior.

Unfortunately, Mr. Shatner’s optimistic and philosophical point of view has not been shared as well as he had hoped. Captain Kirk’s ex-crewmate, and William Shatner’s former Star Trek cast member, George Takei, ex-ENTERPRISE Helm Officer Hikaru Sulu. Both men have been feuding since the series’ end fifty years ago.

Takei always seems to start: “He’s boldly going where other people have gone before. He’s a guineau pig, 90 years old and it’s important to find out what happens,” Takei, 84, added. The actors starred together on the 1966 series.

“So 90 years old is going to show a great deal more on the war and tear of the human body, so hell be a good specimen to study,” Takei continued. “Although he’s not the fittest specimen of, 90 years old, so he’ll be a specimen that’s unfit!”

Shatner is well aware his age made him the oldest person ever to going into space on Wednesday. “I had to walk up that platform, I was exhausted. My muscles hurt from all this training, I’m aching, I’m in pain,” the actor quipped on Thursday’s CBS MORNINGS. “And I’m up there, and I’m saying,”Holy S---!, I am 90!” [2].

Actress Joan Collins portrayed Captain Kirk’s tragic love interest in Star Trek’s most popular episode, “The City on The Edge Of Forever” as the doomed Edith Keeler, called Mr. Shatner a stupid fool for joyriding into space with rich people wasting money that could be put to better use curing poverty and reversing environmental damage.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it? What a fool. Who wants to do that? No, absolutely not. Did you see Bill Shatner? He was in the air and they were turning him upside down. Let’s take care of this planet first before we start going off.” [3].

Prince William did not approve of wasting money on rich people joyriding into space either. He agreed with Ms. Collins. Prince William, who has spoken out against the space race, stated that the worlds greatest brains should be focused on tackling environmental changes on Earth.

“We need some of the world’s greatest brains and minds fixed on trying to the next place to go and live,” the Duke of Cambridge said to BBC Newscasts Adam Fleming when questioned about the current billionaire space race and the hoopla surrounding space tourism. “It is really quite crucial to be focusing in on this planet rather than giving up and heading out into space to try and think of solutions for the future,” the Duke added [3].

In an interview with the US television Show ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, Shatner responded,” He’s a lovely Englishman. He’s going to be King of England one day. He’s a lovely, educated man, but he’s got the wrong idea. The idea is not, ‘Yeah, look at me. I’m in space.’ No, I would tell the Prince, and I hope the Prince gets the message, this is a baby step of getting industry, all those polluting industries... of Earth.”

After returning to Earth, the 90 year-old actor called the trip “a most profound experience. I hope I can recover from this. I hope I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it,” he said. “It’s so – it’s so much larger than me and life.” [3].

Do Ms. Collins and Prince William not have financial influence to help cure these ailments instead of complaining about them? Ms. Collins’ and Prince Williams’ perceptions have become clichés since the space program’s early days. Ironically, true as well. Poverty, climate change, and other Earthly problems have worsened.

Despite a longstanding acting career, heavily criticized, and not a professional astronaut who had just returned from an extraordinary, unique journey during his lifetime, who wanted to enthusiastically share his exciting experience with the world from his personal soul, the negative attitudes toward Mr. Shatner are disheartening and narrow-minded.

We certainly have come a long way from the halcyon days of Apollo 11, when man first landed on the moon. However, not necessarily in the right direction.

[1] Gina Martinez and Stacy Liberatore for DailyMail, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10090185/Blue-Origin-shares-video-emotional-William-Shatner-space-No-description-equal-this.html

[2] YAHOO ENTERTAINMENT – OCTOBER 13, 2021 – “George Takei disses William Shatner’s trip to space: He’s Boldly going Where Other People Have Gone Before.” – by Tanya Ryder – Writer, YAHOO ENTERTAINMENT, https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/star-trek-george-takei-william-shatner-feud-space-185536441.html

[3] UK.TRIPLEWORK.COM – OCTOBER 22, 2021 – Matt Bagwell – ENTERTAINMENT, https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/joan-collins-william-shatner-space-trip_uk_61729386e4b066de4f6137bc