William Shatner has left a mark on pop culture both for his breakout role as Captain James T. Kirk, which helped solidify the Star Trek universe as the cultural mainstay that it is today. And he’s also just as well known for his very unique cadence and speech pattern that made the character unlike anything else on TV.
Anyone who has even a cursory familiarity with Star Trek or William Shatner’s work knows that his is a voice and line delivery that is easy to replicate and therefore, easy to parody. As a result, many, many comedians over the years have debuted their impression of the pop culture icon to varying degrees of success.
However, in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, fans are now able to see exactly what William Shatner thinks of some of his more high-profile impressionists throughout the years. His opinions, unfortunately for many, are not all that flattering.
The video kicks off with William Shatner hearing self-proclaimed Star Trek superfan and creator of the parody series The Orville, Seth MacFarlane, doing a word-for-word line reading of a monologue given by Captain Kirk on the show. Despite the voice actor sounding very similar to him, Shatner deems it a bit of a stinker. However, he was perhaps too quick to judge as the next in line was Kevin Pollak’s over-the-top and downright cartoonish impression. Shatner deemed his constant twitching to be “manic” and “strange.”
The next three, fortunately for them, earned high marks from William Shatner. While he wasn’t a fan of his impression, the actor credited Jason Alexander for being enough of a fan to have a monologue from Star Trek completely memorized. He was tickled by Jim Carey’s impression, even if he deemed that it “lacked a masculinity” that he felt he brought to Captain Kirk in the 1960s. As for Jon Belushi’s old Saturday Night Live impression of him, Shatner gave it high marks, likely because he was barely doing an impression at all.
Chris Pine and Bill Nye were also given high marks from William Shatner for their impressions. He claimed Pine could “do no wrong” but faulted Nye for his physicality while impersonating him in an old video clip prior to him becoming famous as “The Science Guy.” The video’s penultimate impressionist was Bruce Campbell, who noted on a radio interview that Shatner often pauses while he tries to remember his lines, resulting in his world-famous delivery cadence. Shatner noted that Campbell, being an actor, was smart enough to recognize his game and admitted that he was right. Turns out Captain Kirk wasn’t pausing for effect all those years, he was simply trying to remember what he was supposed to say next.
Sam Neill ended the video with his impression of William Shatner that ultimately landed him his breakout role on Freaks and Geeks, a show that the real-life Shatner was clearly unfamiliar with given he asks if Neill got the part for the “insulting” impression in the end.
William Shatner is currently doing the rounds on a press tour to promote his upcoming album titled Bill, which hits Amazon next week. As a result, the Vanity Fair video wasn’t the only one he did that day (judging by his wardrobe) in which he was asked to self-reflect. Esquire also had William Shatner sit down for a video where he was asked to critique his past work in Star Trek, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Airplane II, and much more.