Shatner, Transformed

After years of being a musical punch line, Captain Kirk sets his new CD on stun

"I wouldn't say I didn't want it on there, because nothing's there that I didn't want, but we had trepidation about..." Shatner pauses and begins again. "The tracks that are personal, that I have made it a policy I'm not going to talk about, they're just there, and they're self-evident. The record is meant in all seriousness, but there's also humor and love. The trepidation was 'Can I reveal myself this much and take the criticism that might come with equanimity?' And I think I can. This is an album of feeling, of some intellect and perception, but mostly it's about feeling. And you start and end the record, and it's all emotional, and that's what I followed--not 'Should I or shouldn't I?'"

What's most astonishing is that Shatner didn't have to do this, especially now, as he enjoys the rare third act afforded few in show business. He still has a film career (a second Miss Congenialitywith Sandra Bullock is due next year), still writes best-selling sci-fi, still breeds award-winning horses and has that shiny new Emmy on his mantle. Yet lately he's become obsessed with mortality, disappointment, grief--all the Big Stuff that a man confronts when he's "closing in on my own turn," as he puts it, referring to death.

"I've only, of late, had the courage to show that with such nakedness," he says. "It's just the way the current is running. I'm in a flow, and it's scary. Yeah, it's frightening. I spent many a night tossing and turning... yes."

So, then, does this record serve as catharsis, or does it underscore...

Before the sentence can be finished, Shatner answers.

"I think it's probably roiling the waters," he says. "We don't like to think of the impermanence of life. No matter how often you think, 'Oh, I'm going to die,' the thought goes away immediately and you're into something about life, whether it's the joy or the vicissitudes, but you don't think about dying too often, because your mind or your body won't let you. But these things are stirring the waters, absolutely."

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