I first met William Shatner a little over 19 years ago when we were filming a TV inspired in part on my book, The Physics of Star Trek. The show was ultimately titled, How William Shatner Changed the World. I am not sure what I expected when I met Bill, but what I got was something completely different. After a brief period during which I felt a bit like I was being auditioned, and which I passed after we filmed a scene in which I was required to use a teleprompter to spout a long series of Star Trek technobabble, we settled in to begin to discuss the world, and I fell a bit in love.
Bill reminded me in many ways of my Uncle, who had long been my favorite relative, and the patriarch of our rather small family. His humor, his confidence, his energy, and his curiosity emerged from the crumbling armor he had originally amassed to potentially protect from him what he may have expected to be a pestering nerd. (And which, for all I know, I may have been).
As the days wore on (I think we spent 3-4 together in total), we began to talk about science and the world, and I was impressed not just with Bill’s intense curiosity and enthusiasm, but his native intelligence. Once again, I guess I had not been prepared for that.
A decade later, and perhaps seven or eight years ago, we spent a week on a Star Trek Cruise together. He of course was the headliner, and I gave some science lectures, and ended up doing two programs on stage with him—one on the program, and one more impromptu. While perhaps billed as a dialogue, the provided an opportunity for Bill to pepper me with questions about all things physics, trade jokes, and overall have a blast. I suspect that is the norm. He invests everything he gets involved in with the same joy, and charm.
So, I was over the moon, when after discussing the possibility of doing The Origins Podcast for over 2 years, Bill finally, in a weak moment, I assume, agreed. It took about 30 seconds for the same sense of fun and joy to take over, a deep friendliness to be transparent, and for Bill to basically take over. From there, I held on to my chair and just tried to enjoy the wild ride. It was fun, and informative. I had 5 pages of questions to ask him, and I managed to sneak in about 3 or 4 questions. Instead the conversation went wherever it went—most often to questions about the Universe—and it was one of the most enjoyable 90 minutes I have spent in awhile. It also gave me a chance to reconnect with Bill, and I don’t plan to wait another decade before doing it again. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.
As always, an ad-free video version of this podcast is also available to paid Critical Mass subscribers. Your subscriptions support the non-profit Origins Project Foundation, which produces the podcast. The audio version is available free on the Critical Mass site and on all podcast sites, and the video version will also be available on the Origins Project Youtube channel as well.