What gift can you get the person who has everything?
You can get them face-to-face with Captain Kirk.
William Shatner is plotting a course to Tulsa for a screening of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” at the Brady Theater. Tickets would seem to be a perfect gift if you are the kind of thoughtful, forward-thinking person who wants to take care of Christmas and Valentine’s Day with one purchase. Shatner’s appearance is scheduled Feb. 13, the day before Valentine’s Day.
Recap: Santa Claus. Cupid. Khan!
If you’ve noticed, it has become a “thing” for actors to tour the country and attend screenings of beloved movies. John Cusack came to Tulsa with “Say Anything” in June. Jon Heder and cast mates from “Napoleon Dynamite” will invade the Brady Theater in March. In between you’ll get to watch “The Wrath of Khan” with Shatner.
There’s a lot to love about this concept. Know who else loves it? Shatner.
“I do,” he said during a phone interview. “We show the film ‘The Wrath of Khan,’ which is a really terrific film and holds up very well, and we show it on the big screen with big sound and then, after the film, I will come out on stage for an hour or more and do an improvisational happening with the audience — their questions, my answers — and everybody has a great time. In our reviews we have gotten great notices in which they comment on what a wonderful evening’s entertainment it has been.”
It’s like watching the DVD “extra” of a favorite film except the commentary is interactive.
“It’s live and it’s touchy feely,” Shatner said. “The audience and I have a great time. We bond. By the end of the hour, we are all best friends.”
There have been many “Star Trek” films. Why this one?
For a big-picture answer, here’s a refresher course on Trek history: The original TV series was cancelled in 1969. That could have been the last voyage of the starship Enterprise. But Trek garnered so many loyal fans during its three-season run that there was a clamoring for a continuation.
Ten years passed before fans were treated to the sight of the Enterprise gliding across the big screen in “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” In that moment, there was a “wow” factor, but the “wow” was not sustained. The film has a 42 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
A follow up — “The Wrath of Khan” — hit a sweet spot with audiences in ways that the first film did not.
“That’s my opinion, too,” Shatner said. “The first movie, where a lot of money was spent to make it, they fell in love with the technology and at that time computer graphics were just beginning to burgeon ...
“In the second movie, they realized that the original ‘Star Trek’ premise was always about human beings. It was always the human story. So we focused on the human story in ‘The Wrath of Khan’ and people responded to it. And so, at about a third of the budget of the first movie, the second movie made a great hit.”
“The Wrath of Khan” also directly connected moviegoers to the original series because it wasn’t just a sequel to a movie. It was a sequel to an episode of the TV series. In “Space Seed,” a season one episode, the Enterprise encounters a hibernating batch of superhumans. Awakened and led by Khan Noonien Singh (played by Ricardo Montalban), the born-for-conquest bad guys were oh-so-close to beating the good guys. Spoiler alert: Given a choice of punishments at episode’s end, Khan elects to have the bad guys exiled to a primitive planet.
Because Khan can’t help but be an alpha male, he comes roaring back in “The Wrath of Khan.” It’s difficult for any character to be a match for the virtually undefeated James Tiberius Kirk. Khan was a worthy nemesis.
“Ricardo Montalban, who played the role, was himself such a wonderful physical specimen,” Shatner said. “His upper body was so powerful and he was such a wonderful actor. He made a great villain. It was a joy to be with him. I got to know him better after the film and enjoyed his company. I loved being a friend of his.”
Spoiler alert II: Spock dies in “The Wrath of Khan.” The death scene and his memorial service? Powerful stuff. Said Kirk before Spock’s remains were jettisoned into space: “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most human.”
Shatner was asked if, at the time of filming, Spock’s death was intended to be permanent. Leonard Nimoy’s iconic character was revived in the next film, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.” Shatner said he thinks Spock’s death was supposed to be lasting.
“On the other hand, it’s possible that everybody, the people who were important to (the franchise), knew that it was a ploy,” he said. “I’m not sure if Leonard wanted, honestly, not to do it again or whether they planned it and never revealed it to the outside world. It’s too late now and it really doesn’t matter because subsequently Leonard was able to direct a (Trek) film and so was I. It all worked out.”
“The Wrath of Khan” has an 87 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it, at least as far as the review site is concerned, the most-liked movie of the initial Trek film series.
Is it the best of those movies?
“This is a great ‘Star Trek’ film.” Shatner said. “Whether ‘Star Trek V’ is better or not is a matter of opinion.”
That one was yours — the one you directed?
What followed was a perfect Shatner response: “Yes, I modestly say.”