As part of Mystery Season, HISTORY is journeying into The UnXplained with William Shatner. Having explored the depths of space, as Captain Kirk in Star Trek, Shatner will now focus on more terrestrial mysteries in the new series. Speaking on the phone to HISTORY in his rich, sonorous voice, Shatner talked about the series touching on varied subjects from global warming to the Wrath of Khan.
Shatner: 'You will be transported to intrigue as we try to show you so many of the mysterious things in life that are unexplained: things of the mind, things of the earth, strange events that have happened that have no explanation, bizarre rituals, strange creatures, and evil places. We live our lives in mystery and sometimes we take it for granted. And we dramatize the weirdness of the unexplained in this fascinating programme.'
Each episode in the eight-part series focuses on a different theme such as 'Evil Places' 'Strange Creatures', 'Mysteries of Mind' and covers a variety of mysterious cases. For Shatner his favourite case focuses concerns a coma patient who picked up a remarkable new skill.
Shatner: 'There's a guy who had a car accident and as a result, he fell into a coma for about a month. When he came out of the coma, he could play the piano like a genius. He became a concert pianist and went on tour, and he'd never taken a lesson in his life - he never had sat down at a piano bench - and he now tours as a concert pianist.'
'That's far different from a guy comes out of a coma and says, "I saw the pearly gates, and God visited me and now I'm back to tell you it's okay". That may be a figment of his imagination. But this pianist needs to know chords and fingering and the music. How did that come about?'
'We live our lives in mystery and sometimes we take it for granted.'
Though Shatner, is fascinated by the unexplained phenomena featured in the show, he has never experienced anything similar himself.
Shatner: I've never seen a ghost. I've never seen a UFO. I once spent seven days in the confluence of three mountains in the Himilayas, waiting while we were shooting some film. I slept outside, in a sleeping bag, waiting for enlightenment. And on the seventh day, we were packing up to go and enlightenment hit me. And that was. I don't need to be here to be enlightened, I could be enlightened anywhere. And that was my enlightenment.'
If you want to hear more of Shatner's words of wisdom in real life he is bringing his Shatner Live show to the UK in March. The show comprises a screening of a Wrath of Khan, and a live Q&A after the film where Shatner will talk about the film and the world of Star Trek.
With so many Star Trek films, why did he choose Wrath of Khan for the event?
Shatner: 'Well, The Wrath of Khan was very successful and it does have an important place in the hierarchy of Star Trek. (The film, released in 1982 was the second Star Trek film and featured the original cast from the 60s show). The original Star Trek movie wasn't as successful as they hoped it would be so they thought of it as a failure for a while. If Wrath of Khan had failed they weren't going to make any more movies after that. Had they not made any more movies, the whole franchise would have died. As a result of The Wrath of Khan, and its success they went on to do everything that they're doing, including up to today.'
'All the Star Trek series are evidence of the hope that life will continue to exist hundreds of years in the future.'
The latest addition to the Star Trek universe is new TV series, Picard coming in 2020. Patrick Stewart will reprise his role as the eponymous former Starfleet captain having one last celestial adventure.
Shatner: 'I can't imagine why Patrick has decided to do it. I'm delighted for him and I will watch him. But doing a series occupies your total life. I haven't talked to him in a long time but when I do see him I'll ask. The UnXplained is Patrick Stewart doing the series.'
Star Trek was first broadcast in 1966, over 50 years ago and still there are new iterations of the show as with Picard, Discovery and upcoming films. It is peculiar that one series should have such longevity and such long-lasting popularity across the generations.
Shatner: 'All the Star Trek series are evidence of the hope that life will continue to exist hundreds of years in the future. The fact of the matter is, there is every liability, given global warming that life as we know it will not. People take hope from the existence of a show that says, "We will be alive and well". We need to work on being alive and well today. That's the message of Star Trek as well.'