Star Trek is back and so is Patrick Stewart. And William Shatner is delighted with his successor, reveals Donna Freed.
“Who exactly is William Shatner?” I asked.
David Zappone gasped, “Donna, how could you even ask that?”
It was 1986, in the basement of Noyes House, a student residential hall at Vassar College. A group of us were a month in to a weekday evening double-header of a Star Trek rerun (the original 1966 series) followed by The Twilight Zone.
“William Shatner stars in this one!” Dave had shouted after a smoke-wreathed, rasping Rod Serling introduced that evening's instalment of The Twilight Zone.
While I was there for the company during those evenings, Dave was an ardent Star Trek fan. He is the founder and producer of 455 Films which since its formation in 2009 has worked with William Shatner's Melis Productions to make The Captains, William Shatner's Get a Life and Chaos on the Bridge. 455 Films also made For the Love of Spock and is currently producing What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
“I just left Shatner's,” Dave tells me when I ask him about the new Star Trek series that Patrick Stewart will be filming in April, reprising his role as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, “he says it sounds wonderful.” The yet unnamed series for CBS All Access picks up the same timeline as The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager but 19 years further on, the same amount of time that has elapsed since Stewart's last series. I'm on the phone with Dave as he gets confirmation that Stewart's Star Trek co-star, Jonathan Frakes (Commander William T. Riker) will be joining the show as a director. “I saw him at Shatner's Super Bowl party,” Dave says.
At Vassar, I attended a linguistics seminar that likened the Starship Enterprise's mission to a Marshall Plan for the universe, banishing communism and bringing capitalistic democracy to space, the final frontier. Dave is convinced that Star Trek's lasting appeal is the eternal optimism of Gene Rodderberry's vision for a better future, a better humanity. “What better time for that heroic nobility and hope for human survival?” he asks me. May we all live long and prosper.