DVD Review: The Captains Close Up

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A follow up to William Shatner’s 2011 documentary The Captains, The Captains Close Up is a series of five 30-minute episodes that originally aired on the Epix network. Each episode finds Shatner spending time with an actor who portrayed an iconic captain in a Star Trek series. His interview style is casual and friendly. The subjects covered go beyond the Trek-related.

Unfortunately the first episode is also the weakest—it’s focused on Shatner himself. It plays more like a promotional piece for his many upcoming projects. He’s done a one-man show, he’s got a new music album in the works—it’s seriously impressive that Shatner, in his 80s, has so much on his plate. But there isn’t a lot of depth to this opening half hour.

Thankfully the other segments are more interesting. He meets Patrick Stewart at Stewart’s rather rustic-looking home (at least judging by the weed-ridden steps they sit on). The discussion goes beyond Stewart’s portrayal of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, even including a brief appearance by the actor’s son (also an actor). Avery Brooks (Captain Sisko on Deep Space Nine) does some piano playing. Shatner and Scott Bakula (Captain Archer on Enterprise) do a little horseback riding. Again, the emphasis is on friendly, laidback chats. Bakula identifies himself as a “singer first,” which may surprise some viewers.

It’s all breezily enjoyable if you don’t mind a relative lack of Trek-related discussion. Things almost get heated during the Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway on Voyager) segment. She and Shatner seem to disagree on the artistic merits of TV acting versus theatre. Mulgrew’s main point is that she’d do theatre for free, but TV jobs require financial compensation. It cuts to something else before the two can really hash it out, but things do rise above “relaxed” status momentarily.

The box art depicts Chris Pine, the “new” Captain Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ reboot movie series. It’s a little misleading because Pine only gets about five minutes of screen time. His appearance arrives early, tacked on to Shatner’s episode. Just don’t expect a whole lot of examination of Pine’s take on Kirk.

At a generous 150 minutes, The Captains Close Up is a neat release for Trek fans, if a little peripheral. The bonus features amount to a pair of minute-long clips that offer almost nothing of value.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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