As “Star Trek’s” original Capt. James T. Kirk, William Shatner has been inviting viewers to “explore strange new worlds” since the TV landmark’s 1966 blastoff.
Almost a half-century later, however, the once-and-forever captain of the Starship Enterprise finds himself offering a guided tour of a world that’s not quite so strange — at least not to him.
After all, it’s “Shatner’s World.” Or, to cite the one-man show’s complete title, “Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It.”
But you’re more than welcome to visit “Shatner’s World” Monday when Shatner himself beams down to The Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall to regale the audience with tales of “Star Trek” — and beyond.
The “beyond” includes everything from his days performing Shakespeare (at the Stratford Festival in his native Canada) to riding in competitive horse shows.
Concerning the latter, Shatner notes a rave review he received during a recent winning stint at Kansas City, Mo.’s historic American Royal horse and livestock show.
After Shatner (and his horse) won one event, “a famous trainer” approached him, and boomed out, “ ‘You’re a dude, man! You’re a dude!’ ” the actor recalls with obvious delight. “That’s one of the great compliments I’ve ever received.”
Perhaps that’s because the comment was directed at Shatner, not his TV alter ego.
So says the man who’s spent decades dodging, then finally embracing, his main claim to fame.
As he told rabid Trekkies during a hilarious 1986 “Saturday Night Live” skit, “Get a life, will you, people!”
Shatner — who’ll be 83 in March — pauses for a moment to reflect.
“I told them to get a life,” he says, “and I got one myself.”
That life began in Montreal, where he discovered acting at age 6 — much to the chagrin of his businessman father, who preferred his son prepare for a more practical career in accounting.
Shatner dutifully earned a degree from McGill University but pursued the stage anyway, understudying Christopher Plummer at Stratford and performing on live television in New York, where he shared scenes with the likes of Basil Rathbone. (Rathbone could have told Shatner about being trapped in a trademark role, having spent years as Hollywood’s definitive Sherlock Holmes in more than a dozen movies and hundreds of radio shows.)
In “Shatner’s World,” it takes the star about an hour to get aboard the Starship Enterprise (if published reviews are to be believed), but nobody seems to be complaining, least of all Shatner himself.
“It’s a show of humor, of music, of joy,” he says, calling it “a wonderful piece of entertainment.” (If he does says so himself.)
The solo stage show grew from an idea he first explored in Australia, where “the people stood and cheered” as he related stories of on- and off-screen life.
So he went to his native Canada to do the same thing “and they cheered,” he remembers. He followed that up with a 2012 Broadway stint — “and, goodness me, they stood and cheered,” Shatner recalls. “The emotion that came across the footlights was seductive.”
So seductive, he adds, that “I allowed myself to be lured into the very onerous activity of touring.”
Yes, folks, without a “Star Trek” transporter room at his disposal, Shatner has to schlep around like any other mortal.
“Touring itself is arduous,” he acknowledges, adding that “the show has to be rewarding enough” to justify the uncomfortable nature of hitting the road to perform it.
When asked if he’s a Vegas kind of guy, Shatner offers a quick, decisive reply: “No, I’m not. I’m an outskirts of Vegas kind of guy,” citing “the desert, horses and dogs and the occasional cactus” as attractions for him. (Maybe it’s because of those desert days he spent in Southern Nevada filming 1994’s “Star Trek: Generations,” in which Valley of Fire State Park doubles as the planet Viridian Three.)
Shatner does “come to Las Vegas for work, or for the pleasure of seeing a fight or an act,” he adds. But “I hate to gamble. Because I hate to lose.”
At least in a casino.
In show business, however, there’s no way to avoid rolling the dice.
When Shatner was starting out as an actor, “all I wanted to do was make $100 a week and pay my bills and have someone to love next to me,” he recalls. As his career progressed “in stock and repertory,” which allowed him to play different roles, “it didn’t occur to me that I would be typecast” as “Star Trek’s” swashbuckling Capt. Kirk.
“Even if I am typecast, at least it’s being the leading man,” he says. Now.
When NBC canceled “Star Trek” after three seasons, however, no one, including Shatner, realized it would spawn a fervent cult following — and launch a lucrative movie and TV franchise that continues to this day.
Back in the summer of 1969, a post-cancellation Capt. Kirk found himself divorced, broke and unemployed, living in his truck’s camper bed “out in the wilds of Long Island,” he tells audiences in his show.
As he describes how he watched the first moon landing from that vantage point, “looking up at the moon with a 4-inch, black-and-white television set on my chest,” Shatner compares “the irony” of “the glory of what was happening in front of me” and “the misery of my condition as I fell asleep.”
Yet these days, after “Star Trek” and so many subsequent successes — from his Emmy-winning role as eccentric “The Practice” and “Boston Legal” attorney Denny Crane to his long-running series of Priceline commercials, from writing and directing to designing watches and motorcycles — Shatner can finally put things in perspective.
“Everything in its place,” he says. “In every phase of your life, there is something.”
Right now, that something is his current “Shatner’s World” tour.
“It’s me,” he says, “delivered with an energy that’s necessary to compel you to stay watching.”
Which, come to think of it, has been William Shatner’s acting philosophy all along.
Contact reporter Carol Cling at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0272.