William Shatner may seem like an odd choice of a keynote speaker for the Content Marketing World
conference in Cleveland where I was this week, presenting on Avaya’s editorial and social media strategy (and also taking a small victory lap).
But then consider how the 82-year-old has continually re-invented himself from his iconic role as Captain James T. Kirk – cop TJ Hooker, lawyer Denny Crane, Priceline pitchman, video blogger, Broadway actor, documentary filmmaker, sci-fi novelist, autobiography writer…the list is endless
. Shatner is a supreme self-promoter. But he has plenty to talk about – the guy is BUSY.
I got to ask Shatner a question after his hilarious speech – there’s me below, asking him whether he thought Star Trek was marketed better or worse than Star Wars (his answer – “Star Trek wasn’t marketed at all” was meant to be politically-sensitive but rang untrue to me) and also sharing that my son is named Tiberius
Shatner’s Kirk is often viewed as a throwback Alpha Male, the kind who bosses around the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise while disregarding his own bosses (locking lips with every green-skinned alien female from here to Alpha Centauri would seem to be a GROSS violation of the Prime Directive).
That’s an oversimplification. Think of how reliant he was upon the advice of the uber-logical Spock and the uber-humane McCoy. This collaborative mindset was even more pronounced with the other Captains and in later movies. Here’s the collaborative moments that stood out for me.
5. That one where Kirk and the Klingons yuk it up together like bros
In the original series episode, “Day of the Dove,”
an alien life force stokes a battle between Kirk and his crew and a bunch of Klingons – admittedly, not a hard thing to do – in order to feed on the resulting psychic energy of hatred. It even magically replaces all of the crew’s phasers with swords and knives. En garde!
Spock and Kirk figure out the alien’s intentions, and convince the Klingon commander Kang that the way to weaken and drive away the alien is to stop fighting and together laugh at it. I think I’ll suggest this the next time our intra-department meetings get testy.
Join in Spock – laughing is logical.
4. The one where Kirk and the Klingons collaborate to avert a war
“Day of the Dove” was about a fight between two crews. The movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was about a potential all-out war between the Federation and the Klingons. Released in 1991, the movie was a timely allegory about the fall of the U.S.S.R. and how the U.S. would respond. There’s lots of stealthy, tech-aided collaboration between the Enterprise and the ‘good guy’ Klingons to foil an assassination attempt that would have crushed sensitive peace talks and launched an all-out war between the Federation and the Klingons.
3. The one where Spock helps Kirk fight…Spock?
Did you forget already that there were two Spocks in the 2009 reboot of the Star Trek film
franchise? Leonard Nimoy plays the elder Spock, who has been transported into from an alternate universe into the same one where the younger Spock played by Zachary Quinto exists.
In a crucial scene, the older Spock advises young Kirk how to provoke the younger Spock into anger so that the latter will relinquish his temporary command of the Enterprise starship back to Kirk on the basis of being “emotionally compromised”. That seems unfair – who knows your emotional trigger points better than yourself? Still, this allows Kirk, Spock and crew to repulse the Romulan bad guy. All’s well that ends well.
2. The one where Picard and an alien collaborate in order to communicate
The classic 1991 episode “Darmok
” from Star Trek: The Next Generation has a profound message. You can speak words to someone, but they won’t grasp the deeper meaning you’re trying to convey unless you two have shared the same experiences.
Picard is sent to negotiate a peace treaty with an alien race. Using their Universal Translator software, Picard can understand the alien’s words “Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra” but cannot understand the meaning behind the metaphor. Frustrated, the aliens beam Picard down to their planet along with their leader, who offers Picard a knife.
Take it – just don’t stab me with it.
Rather than fighting each other, the alien wants Picard to join him in a quest to defeat a fearsome beast. In that battle, the alien leader is mortally wounded, but not before Picard understands the meaning: he and the alien are like the Darmok and Jalad, forging a friendship as they work together battling a common enemy. The alien’s ultimate sacrifice cements the budding friendship between the two races.
1. The one with Spock’s Goatee
I’m referring, of course, to “Mirror, Mirror,”
the Original Series episode that launched a thousand bad Sci-Fi Channel movies about alternate universes where the good guys turn evil, don muscle shirts and stop shaving.
Though his eyebrows remain shockingly kempt.
This episode is chockful of BAD collaboration. In the mirror universe, the evil versions of the Enterprise crew build violent alliances and backstab each other to get promoted. So evil Chekhov tries to assassinate Kirk, but is betrayed by one of his accomplices. It’s like a demented sci-fi reality show.
There are also some good examples of collaboration:
– Evil Spock works with Good Kirk and his crew to send them back to their universe
– Good Kirk advises Spock that making peace and collaboration with other races rather than conquering them will help the Empire (the evil Federation) thrive.
And Evil Spock’s reply? He agrees. Because collaboration is logical, after all.
Are there other moments from Star Trek that stand out as exemplars of collaboration?