Close Up is a 5-episode mini series follow-up to William Shatner’s 2011 documentary The Captains. Directed and featuring William Shatner, the original captain, Captain James T. Kirk, the short films profile the Star Trek captains: Sir Patrick Stewart (Next Generation), Avery Brooks (Deep Space Nine), Kate Mulgrew (Voyager), Scott Bakula (Enterprise), and of course, William Shatner (Star Trek).
Shatner sits down with each of the captains Barbara Walters-style to talk about their days as a Star Trek captain, but also about life before and after Star Trek. There aren’t any tears, but there are deeply personal stories about how the shows they started in changed their lives. For the better and for the worse. The interviews reveal how each of the captains had some type of stage experience prior to their television role as Captain. They show lives have intersected, at times they weren’t even aware of.
A Captain to All
One of the recurring themes in the interviews was that of leadership. Each captain was a leader to the fictional starship crew, but seemed to be a leader to the acting crew as well. Interviews with cast members of the various shows revealed how much they all looked to the Captain who set the tone. Cast members of Deep Space Nine, talk about how scenes with Avery Brooks were usually cut up and took a number of takes. But those scenes with Brooks was a completely different case. Brooks set a tone when taping. He raised the bar for his crew.
It highlights the importance of leadership, whether that be in government, a civic group, or a church. Without solid leadership, the tone of the work is lost. It may take a couple of tries before it is right. Leadership, as Warren Bennis says, is not a task that one does. “Your task,” he says, “is to become yourself, and to use yourself completely – all your gifts and skills and energies.” The Captains do this on-screen and, it seems, off-screen as well.
Do you regret it?
One question that seems to come up a lot is, “Do you regret it?” Another way to ask this question is, “If you had it to do all over again, would you?” It’s a tough question. Some of the stars, like Stewart and Mulgrew had significant family struggles that they would not like to repeat. Mulgrew was probably the most honest, saying that when she was offered a television show in Hollywood she would decline it and stay in New York.
William Shatner tells Patrick Stewart that regret is “not forgiving yourself.” Webster defines regret as sorrow or remorse, especially over one’s acts or omissions. Kate Mulgrew tells Shatner that regret is a “deeply human emotion.” While they treasure their time and experience as Captain (all of whom were captains longer than Shatner), there may be some things they would do differently. It may not always be connected to a regret that involves not forgiving oneself.
And while they may not come right out and say it, Shatner is right to some degree. Forgiveness of oneself is a necessary step. I imagine that what Shatner was getting at was that if we do not forgive ourselves, we will find ourselves living in regret, always asking, “What if?”
And, finally . . .
Shatner in both these shorts and the original The Captains, presents himself as a thinker, a philosopher even. He enters into these conversations anxious to hear what the other Captain has to say. His ego is not too big (believe or not) to hear from another. He truly seems interested to know what the experiences of others has taught them about this journey of life.
And if we take nothing else from Close Ups, it’s this. To be authentically interested in others’ stories. That is being Church. Listening to others and gleaning from them how their experiences, like or unlike our own, has shaped them. By doing so, we begin to understand our own story.