William Shatner talks the 'mythological component' of Star Trek convention fandom

Contributed by
Mar 12, 2015, 6:53 PM EDT

The Once and Future Capt. James T. Kirk, William Shatner, gave a recent interview in which he discussed Star Trek conventions and his BFF, the late great Leonard Nimoy. Now in his 80s, the actor is a veteran of many a sci-fi convention and has written a few books, as well as a few documentaries, on the subject. When he was asked why he thought conventions — those giant bastions of geek and pop culture — continued to be so popular, here’s what he told the Raleigh News & Observer:

“You have to ask, what is pop culture? It’s culture that’s been popularized and that most people can assimilate. That has to do with gossip and celebrity to some degree, but the stuff that remains popular is something that touches a nerve – whether the audience knows it or not. You know, Star Trek is going to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. What is the explanation?

I wrote a book called Get a Life years ago, where I felt I’d done my due diligence and figured out why it is that people come to these conventions. And it’s to see each other. That was my final conclusion. Then I did a film documentary and some deeper research. And it was therein that I discovered that this pop culture goes deeper than we’d imagined.

There is a mythological component, especially with science fiction. It’s people looking for answers – and science fiction offers to explain the inexplicable, the same as religion tends to do. Although 99 percent of the people that come to these conventions don’t realize it, they’re going through the rituals that religion and mythology provide.”

Shatner continued by explaining why he thought Star Trek in particular has had such lasting power in the lives of sci-fi fans, saying:

“If we accept the premise that it has a mythological element, then all the stuff about going out into space and meeting new life – trying to explain it and put a human element to it – it’s a hopeful vision. All these things offer hope and imaginative solutions for the future.”

Since he’s been on the convention circuit for decades, Shatner has seen how it has changed and evolved over the years:

“It’s metastasized, I guess is the word. It’s become a huge, huge business. There used to be one or two conventions a year. Now I have to be careful and pick and choose where I go.”

The Canadian actor also had some beautiful, meaningful words about his friend Leonard Nimoy's passing two weeks ago.

“I loved him. He was a wonderful man. And we’re all so much the less with his passing. Two other people connected to Star Trek have also passed away recently: Maurice Hurley, who produced and wrote the first two seasons of Next Generation, and Harve Bennett, who produced four or five of the Star Trek movies I was in. We’ve lost a lot of wonderful people of late. It makes you consider your own mortality.”

You can catch up with William Shatner at the Wizard World Raleigh Comic-Con in Raleigh, N.C., this weekend. What do you think about The Shat’s views on why Star Trek still resonates today, sci-fi conventions and the deeper reasons why he believes the fans actually go to these events?

(via Trek Today)