While I’m definitely running out of reasons to continue giving NETFLIX my hard-earned cash, I was pleasantly surprised to find two reasons to be happy I’m still paying.   One was the previously reviewed RED STATE by Kevin Smith.

The other was the arrival of William Shatner’s documentary THE CAPTAINS.

The premise of THE CAPTAINS is Shatner seeking out the other actors who have played a starship captain in the STAR TREK universe.  We’re treated to interviews with Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula and Chris Pine as well as hearing from Jonathan Frakes, Robert Picard and a few other notable surprises.  What is NOT surprising, however, is the absence of Shatner’s fellow castmembers — though this is not because they hold such disdain for him… but rather because with little exception the film is about the shared journey that these men + Kate made… the solitary experience of playing a starship captain.

Through his interviews, Shatner examines the lives of these people, what brought them to acting, what brought them to STAR TREK, what the experience was like, how they compared and how these people see their lives.

Though some moments in the film feel quite contrived (the meeting of Shatner and Chris Pine seems quite staged) these are counterbalanced by incredibly REAL moments between these very real people.

My favorite interview of them all is with Kate Mulgrew.  While not a fan of STAR TREK: VOYAGER per se, she and Shatner speak on a very frank level.  The conversation is engaging (if you’ll pardon the pun.)  Kate talks about being a single mother while working 12-18 hour days trying to lead an acting troupe on a starship set.  She talks over her childrens’ disdain for the series and how she understands it.  Shatner even brings up the rather taboo topic of having women in charge (he makes an off-handed remark about hormones).  While the question itself can be considered sexist, it lays bare a discussion that has been haunting this country for many years and was best summed up in an episode of FAMILY GUY where Lois is running for Mayor and report Tom Tucker asks:

“Can a woman really be mayor?  Or will she just bleed all over the city?”

William Shatner’s interview with Scott Bakula was probably my second favorite.  This was mostly due to their mutual admiration for eachother which actually comes across as one of the most genuine relationships in the entire film.  These two men do have a lot in common in their shared experiences and their conversation is more than you could expect.

Patrick Stewart and William Shatner have shared enough stages since STAR TREK: GENERATIONS that you almost feel they’ve been through this all before.  But what makes it work is that BECAUSE they’ve had all these conversations before they’re well-enough honed that you get a more direct, potent version here.  It’s still a thrill to watch and it proves that despite the journey these two men have had… there is still room for insight.

Ultimately, if you’ve been following the behind-the-scenes drama of STAR TREK you will notice an occasional embellishment or rewriting of select moments in history… but these can best be chalked up to fading memories.  They don’t affect the impact of these conversations in the least.

If there is a STAR TREK-themed legacy for Mr. Shatner, it lies most importantly here.  As a man shown to have come to terms with his iconic role in what could (admittedly) be his twilight years, he has opened the eyes of anyone who has seen this film to the very human men (and woman) how have steered the course of STAR TREK’s most famous vessels… and helped plot the course for our collective imaginations (with copious help from the writers, producers, etc.)