Today, March 22nd, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the birth of actor William Shatner, who turns 87 today. T
he future Captain James T. Kirk starred in two celebrated episodes: "Nick of Time" and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," and I would love to say that these two episodes helped launch his career as a major leading man in television. But that would be inaccurate.
A Canadian by birth, Shatner was already an established actor on the small screen by the time he got to the Zone, having starred in such leading anthology series of the day as Goodyear Playhouse, Omnibus, Studio One in Hollywood, Climax, Playhouse 90, Kraft Theater, U.S. Steel Hour, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Thriller. However, his twin Zone appearances certainly burnished his profile.
In "Nick of Time," Shatner's Don Carter goes from confident husband to desperate spouse as his life seems to be taken over by that little Devil-headed fortune-telling machine. He and actress Patricia Breslin have wonderful chemistry. In "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," which forever changed the concept of sightseeing out an airplane window, his Bob Wilson is riveting as he also undergoes a transformation from low-key passenger to hysterical vigilante, determined to destroy the creature that seems to be intent on destroying the plane.
Shatner has always been one of the most popular and charismatic actors ever to grace the Zone, and he's deserved the plaudits. So on the anniversary of his birth, let's raise a tall glass to a continuing Hollywood legend whose fortune – if pulled today – would say "the odds are in your favor."