On this day, which is William Shatner’s 90th birthday, it seemed as good a time as any to explore some of the better impressions of this great actor, spokesman, and television personality. If you’ve watched television for any period, especially late-night TV, including Saturday Night Live, then the chances are that you’ve seen a few reasonable attempts at talking and acting just like Mr. Shatner.
His voice is iconic, and he’s lent it to hundreds of projects, commercials, video games, and more. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, there was even a Shatner impersonation contest, which was judged in part by Rod Roddenberry.
For decades, fans have debated his unique voice and mannerisms. As you can read on this Reddit conversation, some believe that most of the parodies started after his spoken word interpretations (like “Rocketman” as learn about below). For good or bad, there are a few who have made a good living impersonating Shatner. Mostly, this happens in skits and spoofs surrounding Star Trek and his character, Captain James T. Kirk.
Comic and actor Kevin Pollack is well-known for his Shatner routines. He’s even dedicated to getting the rest of the world to join him, as he’s created “International Talk Like William Shatner Day,” which is March 22 of each year (today).
Fellow Canadian, Jim Carrey, took his turn goofing on Shatner during his days with the sketch comedy show In Living Color. It was during this episode where Kirk faced the wrath of Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Most know him as George Costanza on Seinfeld, but Jason Alexander appeared on Star Trek: Voyager as well. His Shatner impersonation is legendary. Watch this clip of Alexander and Stephen Collins poking fun at Star Trek: The Motion Picture on The Late Late Show in 2004.
Many believe that the best to have tread in Shatner’s mighty shoes would be comedian Frank Caliendo, who did his work on the FOX show Mad TV. Caliendo did his Shatner not as Kirk but as Denny Crane from the courtroom drama Boston Legal.
Note that all of these folks tried to do their best Shatner but are not involved with the franchise. What about those who are famous from Star Trek, especially those who worked with Shatner himself? Fans can decide for themselves.
We know him best as Chekov, but the sad fact is that he and Mr. Shatner have not been on friendly terms for some time, according to Hollywood in Toto. Koenig’s attempt at doing his “Shatner” comes after the time when they both were at a Trek fan event, and Shatner appeared to have forgotten Koenig’s name.
This comes to us in the version of a song, which Wheaton dedicated to Shatner. The story goes, Wheaton met Shatner on Star Trek V’s set while The Next Generation was in production next door. Still in his gray Wesley Crusher’ acting ensign’ uniform, a young Wheaton introduced himself to Shatner. It did not go well. Either way, Wheaton’s experience did make for an entertaining song.
It must be noted that Shatner told Jonathan Frakes during the 2009 documentary, The Captain’s Summit that he never actually watched The Next Generation. So that might explain some of his behavior that Wheaton included in his song.
Many have noted that Pine went out his way not to try to be like Shatner when it was his turn at Captain Kirk. This influenced the way that Alden Ehrenreich approached the role of Han Solo for the Star Wars franchise. Director Chris Miller told Esquire Magazine that they “talked a little bit about how Chris Pine, playing Captain Kirk, didn’t do a Shatner voice and brought his own spin to the character while still evoking the vibe of the character. We felt Alden did the same with Han Solo.”
That being said, John Cho did accuse Pine of going “Shatner” during the filming of Star Trek Beyond. When Pine appeared as Kirk on the SNL sketch above, he was clearly channeling his inner Shatner.
Who better than Spock to give a try at Shatner. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Hero Complex in 2012, Leonard Nimoy gave reporter Geoff Boucher a small taste of his version of Shatner. It’s from the eulogy at the end of The Wrath of Khan. Forward to 14:59 in the video above to hear for yourself… and be prepared to laugh.
Everyone knows that Combs is a remarkable actor, and his range is nearly unlimited. What you may not realize that he’s also got a killer William Shatner up his sleeve. As seen in the above clip, Combs performs as Shatner, singing “Rocketman.” Judging by the audience’s reaction at the Official Star Trek Vegas Convention in 2016, this might be among the very best impersonations.
The above clip is from when the Mr. Sulu star appeared on the Howard Stern Show to talk about several things, including Star Trek. Takei shared that the entire cast of The Original Serieshad their own Shatner voice, which they’d use occasionally. Takei said that James Doohan (Scotty) actually did the best Shatner.
Stern egged Takei a bit, who finally gave the shock-jock a bit of his own Shatner voice. Much like Koenig, Takei and Shatner have been on rocky terms; but no animosity shows through in this take. Takei may have absorbed more of the way Shatner spoke than any other actor (except for Nimoy). He and “Bill” were together for 52 episodes of TOS, 22 episodes of The Animated Series, and six feature films.