William Shatner turns 81-years-old today. 81. Wow. That means in 1966 when he first donned the Starfleet uniform he was 35. Before Star Trek, he had played more than 70 different roles in television and movies. Since Star Trek, he’s played over 100 different roles. But he is most known as Captain James T. Kirk.
There’s a rather famous video of he and Patrick Stewart talking about their legacies as Captains of the Enterprise.
(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)
This got me thinking – about a lot of things, really. Legacies mostly, and whether we truly choose our legacy or if it is chosen for us. Shatner might rather be remembered as an actor, in a broader, general sense of the word. Stewart might prefer to be known for his work on the stage, in the myriad of roles he played in the Royal Shakespeare Company. But ask any random person on the street, and these men will be identified by their Star Trek roles. It seems like they are okay with the legacy that has been chosen for them.
But what about the writers who wrote those scripts? Or the cinematographer? Or set designer? Who created the communicator? What is their legacy?
This all comes down to a point that has very little to do with Star Trek and much to do with being creative. Most actors, artists, writers, photographers, sculptors, creators do what they do for two reasons: because they must, and to be remembered. Yes, this is an over-simplification, so please don’t start yelling that it’s all about your art and all that. I know it is. I get it. But I also know that there’s a tiny voice constantly squeaking in the back of your mind that wants to be recognized, that wants your talent acknowledged.
The theme song to Fame comes to mind. The words aren’t “I want to make art for art’s sake”. They are “I’m gonna live forever”.
Like most actors, Shatner and Stewart act because they must, because it is what they do. They are lucky that they have these iconic roles. But the costume designer, set builders, make-up artists that worked on these shows and movies? We don’t remember their names. Are they okay with that? Are they okay with knowing that their creation, if not themselves, will be remembered? If I was that person, would I be okay with that legacy?
If my stories are remembered but my name forgotten, would I accept my legacy as graciously?