The performer, best known for shows such as Boston Legal, Star Trek and T.J Hooker, presents The UnXplained for the History Channel.
William Shatner has cultivated a career spanning more than 50 years as an award-winning actor, director, producer, writer and recording artist. Shatner, 88, originated the role of Captain James T. Kirk in the television series Star Trek, played the title role in the hit television series T.J. Hooker and won Emmys and his first Golden Globe for his portrayal of eccentric lawyer Denny Crane on both The Practice and Boston Legal.
He is returning to television as the executive producer and host of The UnXplained on HISTORY. Shatner’s latest venture features compelling contributions from scientists, historians, witnesses and experiencers seeking to shed light on how the seemingly impossible can happen.
So, what is The UnXplained all about?
The UnXplained deals with mysteries that are all around us. The mysteries of life and death. The mysteries of our brain. The mysteries of space. The mysteries of UFOs. The mysteries of places where terrible things seem to happen all the time. The mysteries of people who have had brain injuries and come out doing something completely foreign to them. We lead our lives in mystery and The UnXplained seeks to examine some of them
You’re executive producer, and also star. What drew you to the project?
Well, the quality of the people I’m working with is one. The tantalizing subject matt er is another. I mean, who isn’t fascinated by something that can’t be explained? You ponder it, you worry about it and you think about it, and you don’t come up with an answer. Not having an answer is enraging, so you seek even harder to find one. And those are the qualities I like to wrestle with.
Star Trek’s most famous catchphrase was ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’. What do you think drives us in the search for answers?
If something is unexplained, maybe there’s no explanati on. Quantum physics off ers us a view of things we never imagined could happen in nature. It was always somebody’s imaginati on. And all of a sudden, quantum physics tells us that so much of what we imagined is true, and it goes beyond anything we have imagined.
So you can lead your life like many scientists do, seeking an explanation, or you can have faith that the mystery will, at some point in time, be explained, and that’s religion. Or you can be somewhere in between, which is where I think I am – knowing that you might never know the explanation, but there is an explanation and the quest is to find that explanation.
Do you consider yourself a ‘true believer’ in phenomena like those featured in the series?
Well, I’m essentially an agnostic waiting for a ghost to visit me or some striking explanation of life after death. The only experience I had was when I was in the foothills of the Himalayas filming. I slept outside because I was at a place that the Tibetans thought was the confluence of the spirit world.
I was waiting for the spirits to enter, night after night. They never did. I was looking for enlightenment. I picked up my sleeping bag on the last day to leave, suddenly the enlightenment hit me: I don’t need to be here for enlightenment. I could be anywhere. You can be enlightened by sitting on the toilet.
Do you have a favourite topic from the series?
It’s all fi lled with mystery and people att empti ng to explain it. How do you explain when a guy gets hit on the head in a car accident, goes into a coma for a couple of months and, when he emerges, he’s able to play the piano like a concert pianist? Whereas before he got hit, he never touched the piano. How’s that for a mystery?
One episode deals with ‘evil’ places. Do you believe places can actually have evil attached to them?
There are areas of forest in Japan where people go to commit suicide. Why would they do that? Why do you want to commit suicide in the first place? How bad can that be? That’s bad. Why do you go to a forest where you can almost smell how evil it is? That’s a really good mystery, isn’t it? To figure out why this one piece of ground would attract that.
What keeps you motivated to interact with your fans?
I’m a performer. That’s what I’ve done all my life, and I see no reason to stop entertaining – whether it’s making a new album, or making movies or hosti ng a show or being on tour in front of an audience or other things. I’m just puttering along.
The UnXplained begins on The History channel from January 7th 2020, as part of a Mystery Season.