Bill Shakespeare, Bill Shatner and Patrick Stewart

The official Star Trek Convention will take place this month in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a special event in that it’s the forty-fifth anniversary of the first episode of Star Trek. The guest appearances make up a pretty formidable list of stars, far too long to honour all the celebrities who will participate, but some of the big names are Leonard Nimoy (Mr Spock), Michelle Nichols (Lt Uhuru), George Takei (Mr Sulu), Walter Koenig (Mr Chekov), Brent Spiner (Data), Jonathan Frakes (Commander Riker), and who could forget the beautiful nurse of the classic series, Janice Rand, played by Grace Lee Whitney?

There is a notable English actor among them. David Warner is a distinguished Shakespearean actor with a celebrated performance as Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 1965, and many other Shakespearean roles.

But the prime spot is reserved for two special guests on August 13 who will be appearing together. Captain Kirk will meet Captain Picard to reminisce about being star ship captains. But there is more that William Shatner and Patrick Stewart have in common. How many of you know that, long before you first saw Canadian actor, William Shatner on screen in the Canadian Howdy Doody  Show he had appeared in several Shakespeare plays on stage? As a trained Shakespearian actor he cut his teeth on Shakespeare. Then he landed the role of Captain James Kirk. Some may say that was the beginning of Shatner but some will say that it was the end of him because after Star Trek his acting career became difficult: he had by that time become thoroughly type-cast. I remember once in the seventies, at the cinema, watching a cowboy movie, one of the baddies was Leonard Nimoy. When he appeared a ripple went round the audience. ‘That’s Mr Spock’ everyone told everyone else. To see him without his Vulcan ears and his lack of emotion was too much for me. I was far too distracted to take his outlaw character seriously. That. I fear, is what’s happened to Bill Shatner.

Patrick Stewart is one of the most famous English actors. He will be best known to American audiences as Captain Picard, but he appears regularly on television in the UK, playing a range of roles, usually in dramas by the classical writers, including writers like spy story writer John le Carre. He has played scores of Shakespeare roles and is currently performing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, England, as Shylock in Shakespeare’s controversial play, The Merchant of Venice.

If you tune in to television transmissions from Las Vegas, there they will be, together. I wonder whether, as they reminisce about playing star ship captains, they will mention Shakespeare, the writer who has been so good to both of them, at all?

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