With the just-released "Star Trek Into Darkness" now playing at theaters, and continuing the saga of Captain James Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise, you can experience a bit of where it all began thanks to veteran actor William Shatner.
Shatner is in town this weekend to host special screenings of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" May 24 (screenings at 6:15 and 8:45 p.m.; appearance between 4 and 10 p.m.), and May 26 (screenings at 1:30, 4 and 6 p.m.; appearance between 1 and 7 p.m.) at Hollywood Boulevard Cinema in Woodridge; and May 25 at Hollywood Palms Cinema in Naperville (screenings at 11:30 a.m. and 10 p.m.; appearance between 1 and 9 p.m.)
Commenting on the newest entry in the "Star Trek" feature film dynasty, Shatner said: "The new film has story based on the old film. So it's of interest from many points of view of folks interested in 'Star Trek.' ... This new one, for example, is masterpiece of special effects and wonderful storytelling devices that we didn't have in the old show. But we didn't know that. This sophistication wasn't around. ... It's a monument to the longevity of 'Star Trek,' almost 50 years, and here we are with energetic, vibrant film that brings new magic to this old franchise."
Working on the original "Star Trek" feature films, specifically "Wrath of Khan," Shatner has only fond memories.
"The story, the actors, we all had a good time doing that," he said. "When it was done everybody was very proud of the result.... Nobody could have anticipated this new film would come around one day. ... To be part of this continuity and the phenomenon of 'Star Trek.' ... The series and movies are all over the place [television syndication and DVD sets]. I did a documentary on it. I did personal docs on the individual actors of the 'Star Trek' franchise. [Laughing] I've been peripherally useful for 'Star Trek' [franchise] over the last several years."
The 79-year-old actor is currently appearing in the television series, "Weird or What?" on the SyFy network, in which he investigates various oddities and mysteries.
"The show is about all the weird things that exist, and [we] give it and explanation," Shatner said. "I'm just gratified that I continue to work and put stuff out that I find interesting."
So what are some of the strangest stories he's come across in the series?
"Well, two guys fall out of the sky [while] window washing 44 stories up. One guy gets mashed on the pavement, the other floats to safety. Why? A boat goes down in the middle of the ocean, and they find it upright, pristine, no damage. How did it sink? ... The overall picture is we know nothing. And we look at these mysteries and wonder why and how. These little things that happen, these anomalies are so interesting to try to explain.
In an homage to Mr. Spock, perhaps, Shatner said: "The fact that science tries to explain a mystery is continuous. Trying to give some logical explanation to the strangeness around us. It's my belief that science in the next few years will have a 180-degree turn about everything... a wrenching moment of realization that everything they thought is wrong."
In the realm of the strange and odd, Shatner is also remembered for an iconic episode ("Nightmare at 20,000 Feet") of perhaps the ultimate sci-fi series, "The Twilight Zone," in which he starred as a man, just recovered from a nervous breakdown, who looks out an airplane window to see a very strange creature indeed. The actress who portrayed his wife in the episode, Christine White, recently passed away.
"I'd lost track of her after the show," Shatner said.
Shatner says he is also set to release a new book titled "You Can Hire Yourself," about people being out of work after age 55.
"People who are 55 or over are out of work longer presumably because they get more money than a kid coming out of college. But they have with them a fund of knowledge that has to be used."
So what's the worst job Shatner ever had?
"Several of my movies," he says laughing heartily.
For more info on tickets and show times for Shatner's appearances this weekend, visit atriptothemovies.com.