William Shatner was “this close” to “beam me up, Scottie” mode when CNN+ host Chris Wallace introduced a clip of the “Star Trek” icon performing a spoken-word rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” at the 1978 Saturn Awards.
Last year, Shatner became a “rocket man” of sorts when he joined Jeff Bezos on his Blue Origin flight to space. But long before that, Shatner pursued a musical career with spoken-word recordings of popular songs. His debut album, The Transformed Man, had his interpretive renditions of everything from “Mr. Tambourine Man” to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.”
But Wallace pulled a surprise on the actor during a recent interview on his CNN+ show, first giving a warning, jesting that the “Boston Legal” star would “kill” him for what he was about to do.
“No, I would never kill you, I’d torture you,” Shatner assured him.
And… Wallace showed it. Shatner, donned in a wide-lapeled tuxedo and a ruffled shirt, took a long drag on a cigarette, and looked intensely into the camera as he began, “Rocket man… burning out his fuse up here…”
Following the video, Shatner said to Wallace, “Now your audience is going to watch Chris die as I kill you,” prompting a hearty chuckle from the newsman.
Shatner shared that he was asked to do the rendition at the awards show, which wasn’t being broadcast, by its producers for the entertainment of the audience. He opted for a neo-noir-esque, Frank Sinatra approach.
“So I was just kidding around,” the two-time Emmy winner said of his belief that the performance was just for attendees. “I didn’t know they were recording it. They released that thing.”
“Well then don’t kill me, kill them,” Wallace joked.
“They’re dead, you never heard from them again,” Shatner said, continuing the gag. “It’s not my proudest moment. But then I re-recorded it on another album the way I thought it should go.”
Fans of Shatner may know that he has had an almost equally long career as a recording artist, dating back to 1968, when he released his debut album “The Transformed Man.” His singing style largely features sprechstimme classic covers, and has long been the subject of fascination, lending it a cult status. In 2018, the actor even released a Christmas album.