Thursday, 13 April 2017

Kirk Drift

If you have a little time on your hands I commend this excellent Strange Horizons article by Erin Horakova on our changing (and inaccurate) perception of the character of Captain Kirk:

It struck a chord with me because I had a related, if parallel, set of thoughts after watching the entire run of the original series. The popular culture cliche is that William Shatner is/was a somewhat crude and mediocre actor with a peculiar sense of ... timing ... in the delivery of his dialogue, and I went into the re-watch to some extent pre-conditioned by this notion. Regardless of the quality of the individual episodes, though, I quickly found myself wondering when this legendary bad Shatner was going to turn up, because all I was seeing - right from the outset - was an efficient and convincing portrayal of a man in a complex, demanding position of authority. Shatner isn't just much better at playing Kirk than the popular myth would have it, but the character itself is also much more plausibly drawn than the supposed brash womaniser of the insidious meme.

Erin Horakova dismantles this false Kirk in expert fashion, while lobbing a few well-earned potshots at the reboot films.


  1. I'm under the impression people can't separate Shatner from the imitations of Shatner. By necessity, impressions need to be overwrought and caricatures of a personality or performance. The Shatner impressions leave quite an impact and color memories of old ST:TOS episodes, but upon watching Shatner's portrayal of Kirk isn't over-the-top awful nor camp.

  2. William Shatner threw himself into the role, and it shows. His commitment to James Kirk, coupled with solid performances from Nimoy, Kelley and Takei, gave ST:TOS a serious edge that drew audiences in. The strange timing issue is really only evident in situations where Kirk is under duress, or perhaps when he's giving a speech. It is not there in normal dialogue, as caricatures would have us believe.

  3. Shatner's work in episodes like Balance of Terror and City on the Edge of Forever is terrific.Those performances completely refute the stereotypical image of him. As for the eccentric timing in his speech patterns, Shatner in his memoir admits it was due to having problems remembering his lines. The pauses were inserted in between words as he was trying to remember his line. Shatner's film performances in The Intruder, and the PBS presentation of The Andersonville Trials, is also superb.

  4. Had a similar experience re-watching TOS. As a big fan of the Mark Rylance / Michael Kitchen school of under acting, and having read the criticisms of William Shatner's performance, I expected to hate it, but instead found it nuanced, believable and subtly humorous.