I’ve been watching my site stats dwindle as I continue Shatnerfest, so maybe it’s time for closing ceremonies, where I’ll report on the last few things I’ve watched and maybe reflect a little on what I’ve learned. Don’t worry, I may come back some day and visit more Shatner hits (I have yet to view a single episode of T. J. Hooker), but for now, I think it’s time to say goodbye to Bill and move on with my life.
In the last days of 2011, I watched three classic TV shows and one non-classic made for TV movie that all feature, or star, William Shatner.
Mr. Shatner guest-starred in the 1972 episode “You Don’t Have to Kill to Get Rich – But It Helps” as private investigator Sam Tolliver, who is hired by a Texas billionaire to find a blackmail ring who have incriminating photos of him.
This was not one of my favorite performances of Shatner’s, mainly because his character is from Texas, and I have trouble accepting Shatner affecting some kind of Southern/Western accent. Sometimes I thought that the P.I. he played was masquerading as a Texan because it sounded like he lost his accent every once in a while, but no, he was supposed to have the accent all the time.
His character is a pretty smart guy who is able to gain the upper hand over the blackmailers, but he almost as quickly finds himself over his head at the very end, but by that time McGarrett and the Five-O crew have caught on and save the day.
I remember seeing this show as a kid. I never had any idea exactly what they were doing or why, but I thought it was cool how they planned and executed their mission. As I watched episodes as an adult, this didn’t change much. Sometimes I would understand what they were doing, and other times I wouldn’t. It seems like there was usually some head of state, or evil general, who coincidentally looked a lot like Martin Landau, who needed to be brought to justice.
This has nothing to do with the first Mission: Impossible episode William Shatner guest-stars in. In the 1971 episode “Encore,” Shatner plays Thomas Kroll, an aging gangster who was involved in a cold-case murder in 1937. As usual, I’m not entirely sure why Mr. Phelps and the IM Force reopen this case, but they decide to find out what really happened on that day 33 years ago is to convince Kroll that he has somehow gone back in time and is reliving the crime.
So I guess our federal tax dollars are used to recreate the entire neighborhood (including Kroll’s apartment, a fully-functional restaurant, and a working movie theater) and pay dozens of actors to populate it, so the IMF can solve an old gangland killing no one else remembers except for the killer himself.
Okay, we’re not watching this show for it’s realism. We’re watching because it’s cool. And William Shatner is in it. His old man is convincing enough. I thought he may rehash his performance in the Star Trek episode “The Deadly Years,” in which Kirk and members of a landing party are exposed to a kind of radiation that causes them to age rapidly. Shatner, consummate professional that he is, doesn’t do this. This is a fresh old guy who is given a makeup treatment to make him look 30 years younger (or Shatner’s actual age and appearance) and some kind of shot that cures him of his limp and somehow makes him feel younger (a vitamin B complex?).
One other unbelievable part: Greg Morris plays a cop in the 1937 part. Really? A black cop in New York in 1937?
While he didn’t redo his role in “The Deadly Years,” there was a little glimpse of his gangster role in “A Piece of the Action,” where Kirk and Spock find themselves on a planet that has recreated the old Chicago gangland wars of the 1920s. Shatner does a great job of being a baffled guy who refuses to believe he has really gone back in time. When he eventually accepts his (manufactured) fate, you can tell by his facial expression and body language that he now believes. Just as he’s finally convinced, he has given away the hiding place of the body he killed, his makeup starts to deteriorate, and his limp returns. This is when he meets up with his old rival, whom (Spoiler Alert) we assume is going to kill him.
The 1972 M:I episode “Cocaine” makes a little more sense: some drug dealers are planning the largest shipment of cocaine into the U.S. (500 kilos), and the Impossible Missions Force has to find out where it is before it can be distributed. In this episode, Shatner plays Joseph Conrad, a member of the group who is staging this historic smuggling occasion.
While the plot makes more sense than the previous episode, it isn’t as much fun to go over, and I’d rather talk about the other guest stars.
The first scene of the show features Gregory Sierra, whom I know better as Det. Sgt. Chano Amenguale from Barney Miller or as Julio Fuentes from Sanford and Son.
Barbara Anderson plays one of the members of the IMF, and when I first watched her, I thought that maybe she was in an episode of Star Trek. I went back and forth for a few minutes until I saw her utter a line through clenched teeth and immobile open lips. Then I knew for sure that she was the actress who played Lenore Karidian in “The Conscience of the King,” the Shakespeare episode. Her hair color was different in M:I than it was in ST, which is what threw me off. I wondered if it was weird for Shatner and Anderson to act together again, especially since she was the good guy, and Shatner was the bad guy this time (role reversal from the STepisode). Probably not.
And finally, in an uncredited appearance, Charles Napier (Adam from the ST TOS episode “The Way to Eden” and Tucker McElroy from The Blues Brothers) was in one of the final scenes when they discover fake cocaine, which was actually 500 kilos of sugar. As unexpected as the other two actors were in this show, it was even more so with Charles Napier, since I saw him as a bigger actor to play in one uncredited scene. It was also sad because Napier just died this past October.
This movie also had an a-ha moment after watching one of the other main characters. I didn’t recognize her name when I saw it in the opening credits, and I’m not used to seeing her without considerable makeup on. Her name? Roxann Biggs. Who? AKA Roxann Dawson. That’s vaguely familiar. How about B’Elanna Torres from ST Voyager? On Voyager, she is half Klingon and half human. In Broken Angel, she’s half black and half Puerto Rican. She plays a woman who works with kids in gangs and tries to keep them from killing each other.
What about his “Rocket Man” performance? Or his performance of “Mr. Tambourine Man” on The Tonight Show? I can’t help but think that he was putting that on for a reason. When I listen to his work on the Has Been album, I’m convinced that he can deliver a meaningful performance, so I guess I’m saying he can deliver whatever kind of performance he wants to. He is, after all, Shatner.