Even if you're not a Star Trek fan (hard as that may be to imagine), you know William Shatner. The actor of stage and screen has been on the scene for almost 65 years, effortlessly immersing himself in pop culture. His portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series is as fun and engrossing today as it was 50 years ago. Shatner has created a legacy anyone would be proud of—and at 85, it doesn't look like he's stopping anytime soon. Celebrate his birthday with these moments that make William Shatner the icon he has become.
Some things simply defy description. William Shatner performing Elton John's "Rocket Man"is one such thing. Although this event has been parodied throughout the years (most memorably on Family Guy), the original has to be seen to be believed. Shatner's strange, somewhat unsettling rendition of the song will leave you spellbound and speechless. It's a disaster (and a good example of why his music career never quite took off), but easily one of the most mesmerizing disasters you'll ever see. Shatner has taken all the ribbing with much good grace, and even poked fun at his own performance. It's proof that a bad rendition can still become a classic.
The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone will go down in history as one of the most disturbing shows on television. Instead of relying on cheap shocks and gore, this iconic program preferred to plumb the depths of the human psyche and feed on our deepest fears. In this classic episode, we see a young Shatner terrified of flying and the recesses of his own mind. The effects are outdated, but the terror remains palpable—helped in no small part by Shatner's panicked performance.
Let's be clear: Star Trek was a revolutionary television show that featured political commentary lightyears ahead of its contemporaries, had a level of diversity onscreen that is still all too rare, and set the stage for some legendary careers (and lifelong friendships, including the one between the late Leonard Nimoy and Shatner). It remains one of the best and most beloved science fiction franchises ever, and it all started with the original series.
That being said, it had some unbelievably corny moments and jaw-droppingly bad effects. The fight between Captain Kirk and the Gorn in the episode "The Arena" highlights everything comically awkward about this classic show. Don't worry, they reunited years later to sort out their differences.
Sarah Palin's Tweets
Actors and politics don't always mix, but William Shatner providing a dramatic reading of former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin's Tweets is a thing of beauty. His ultra-serious, intensely dramatic rendition was hilariously on-point, both mocking his own overblown style as well as the sometimes incoherent Tweets she was sharing with the world. Whatever your political affiliation, it's almost impossible not to appreciate this deadpan performance.
With all the humor and self-deprecation, it's easy to forget that William Shatner is indeed a consummate actor and professional. His role as Denny Crane in the hit show Boston Legal allowed him to stretch his acting chops as well as tickle our funny bones. And in this classic scene where his best friend and colleague played by James Spader is held at gunpoint, Shatner reminds everyone that he can still kick butt and take names—no matter what his age may be.