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Captain Kirk and Mr. Sulu talk Star Trek

Captain Kirk and Mr. Sulu talk Star Trek
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Cast members from Star Trek: The Original Series appear in the 1984 movie

Captain Kirk and Mr. Sulu aren’t always zipping around the universe at warp speed. Sometimes they’re right here in Florida.

And they’re willing to do interviews, too.

George Takei (Sulu) visited Naples in 2011, when he emceed a science-fiction-themed concert with The Naples Philharmonic.

And although William Shatner (Kirk) didn’t appear at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall for this January’s Star Trek concert, he did help promote the Fort Myers event with an interview and also performed his one-man show Feb. 2 in West Palm Beach. The “Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage” concert tour was the first official event for this year’s ongoing celebration of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.

The News-Press got to interview both Star Trek stars for their respective events. Here’s what we learned:

Hardcore Star Trek fans are easy to spot.

“After the show, they come with their action figures and their books, and they ask for autographs,” Takei said. “That’s a dead giveaway.”

But they can also be really intense.

Shatner has seen fans wear Starfleet uniforms to science-fiction conventions. He’s answered their obsessive questions about tribbles, green women and “The City on the Edge of Forever.” And sometimes he’s watched them jump onto the stage for a hug or an autograph.

“Yes, they’re intense,” he said. “They want bits and pieces of you — and they don’t care what piece it is.

“They can be overwhelming in large numbers. I’m basically a loner, and I don’t like to be among a large group… I love the idea of entertaining people. But being in a crowd and being pawed is not enviable.”

Star Trek: The Quiz. Just in time for Trek’s 50th anniversary

William Shatner

Both actors are aware of how groundbreaking The Original Series was.

Gene Roddenberry’s creation portrayed an idyllic future where people of all races joined forces to explore the universe, Takei said. “Gene had a vision.”

The best Star Trek episodes had an underlying philosophy, Shatner said.

“It was a brilliant show,” he said. “(In the episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”), actor Frank Gorshin was half black and half white. Half black on one side of his face, and half white on the other side of his face. And he hated this other guy, who was half black on the other side — the opposite side.

“And so the idea of racism, the stupidity of racism, was dramatized. And I thought that was a really clever science fiction idea.”

Takei gets more recognition from younger fans forthe TV show “Heroes” (he played Hiro’s father) or from his guest appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show. The Stern show is where he got his famous catchphrase, a deep-voiced “Oh my!” Now everyone wants him to say it when they meet him.

“I never intended it to become my signature,” Takei said. “I said it once on The Howard Stern Show, and they got it on tape. And they’ve been playing it over and over again, ad infinitum.

“I think it’s been 20 years now.”

Oh my! It's George Takei.

Kirk’s famous fight with The Gorn in The Original Series wasn’t easy to shoot.

“I remember it was done right on the earthquake fault, so there were a lot of rock uprisings,” Shatner said. “It’s very much a desert. It’s very dry. It’s very stark with all these rocks that reach to the sky.

“And this guy in this suit… It was very difficult for him to get in and out of this suit. So he just stayed in the suit in the heat of the desert. And there we were, tumbling around in the dirt and the dust.

“He was far more uncomfortable than I was, although I got all kinds of nicks and bruises from the sand and the rock.”

The crew of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek: The Original Series (left to right): DeForest Kelley, Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, William Shatner, George Takei and James Doohan.

Both actors said they’re appreciative of Star Trek and what it’s done for them.

“I’ve never stopped being grateful for the opportunity that was given to me by fate, really, more than anything else,” Shatner said. “I was in the right place at the right time, and this lightning struck me.”

Takei often appears at Star Trek conventions and happily signs autographs whenever and wherever fans appear. They’re the ones who have sustained Star Trek since its 1966 debut.

“It’s longevity has been created not by us, but by the fans,” Takei said. “And I think it’s just good manners to say thank you to them in person.”

Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells (News-Press) (Facebook) or @CharlesRunnells (Twitter)

Written By

Avi Adkins is a seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. With years of experience in the field, Adkins has established himself as a respected figure in journalism.

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