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Shatner vs today’s America

Shatner vs everyone else
Shatner, on the left, turns away from Bezos and the spray of champagne.

Capitalism in space: The profound, emotional, and thoughtful reaction of William Shatner to his short suborbital flight yesterday on Blue Origin’s New Shepard space capsule contrasted starkly with the crass, rude, and shallow response of his co-passengers and Jeff Bezos.

You can watch Shatner’s comments right after landing at the video at the link. Watch how he tries to express his thoughts to Bezos immediately, and is almost ignored as Bezos and the others instead want to spritz champagne at each other. Shatner turns away, almost in disgust. The screen capture to the right shows him turning away, not because he doesn’t want to be hit by champagne but because he doesn’t want that shallowness to steal from him the emotions he now feels.

Eventually Bezos realizes Shatner is going to say his peace, and that he better pay attention. Shatner, almost in tears, struggles to note how shocked he was at the relative thinness of the atmosphere. To him, the rocket so quickly zipped out of a blue sky into blackness. As he said,

“This air, which is keeping us alive, is thinner than your skin. It’s a sliver. It’s immeasurably small when you think in terms of the universe.

…”What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened … it’s extraordinary. I hope I never recover, that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it. It’s so much larger than me and life.”

Shatner is an actor. For him, the emotion is the most important thing, as that is what he has specialized in expressing on screen to others for his entire life. At this moment, however, he was not expressing the emotions of a imaginary character he was creating on screen, but his own personal emotions. He managed to do it, in the best way possible. God speed William Shatner. We shall miss you when you are gone.

That Bezos was so unprepared for this moment from Shatner was very unfortunate. It made him look very shallow and foolish, which is a shame because, as Shatner so correctly noted, Bezos was the one who made that moment possible.

Shatner, at ninety years of age, is of a different more civilized generation that believed strongly in applying thought to one’s emotions, rather than letting those emotions rule. The contrast between him and all the younger people in this clip gives us a clear snapshot of an America now gone, replaced by the thoughtless emotional America of today.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Gary

    “That Bezos was so unprepared for this moment from Shatner was very unfortunate. It made him look very shallow and foolish, which is a shame because, as Shatner so correctly noted, Bezos was the one who made that moment possible.”

    And, this, may be a crucial difference between Bezos and Musk and the difference in success (so far) between their companies. I truly think Musk is doing this because he has a vision and a dream. Yeah, he is smart enough to turn that vision and dream into a money making enterprise, but he has a vision. Bezos, in my opinion, is a phenomenal businessman with no vision. To venture into the unknown, you have to have vision.

  • Matt in AZ

    Shatner’s 3rd wife was an alcoholic, and died as a result, so that was likely a big reason he didn’t want to partake in the silly celebration as well. Speaking of, I think the others are a good example of the out-of-touch executive narcissism that runs rampant here and abroad, more than Americans in general (I hope). Lord knows Bezos is.

  • Jason Lewis

    Robert, you’ve confirmed that I wasn’t the only one that perceived this as an awkward moment when Bezos abruptly turned away from Shatner as he began his emotional outpouring about his experience.

  • Andrew_W

    “Shatner’s 3rd wife.”
    On his 2004 album Has Been, Shatner has a song about the night Nerine died. That track, What Have You Done, is a spoken word track that recounts his experiences of finding her body. One passage of the track recalls:

    The water was still and so was she
    I dove in with so little breath
    In truth I knew
    I was too late for death
    I had one chance
    I grasped her arm and floated upwards
    Wanting to stay below in the warm forgiving waters
    What have you done
    I screamed to the stars

  • Doubting Thomas

    Gary – I think you also reflect what I have wondered about the differences in Bezos and Musk

    Jason – Ditto your thoughts.

    As a 12 year old kid who tried to make it home from Scouts in time to watch the network Star Trek episode, I’ve always had a soft spot for Shatner. I also found it lonely that Shatner had no one (that I saw) to greet him on landing.

  • Questioner


    No, Jeff Bezo’s passion for space is real and not inferior to Musk’s. Bezos is just following a different direction than Musk (more moon than Mars). And what else they have in common: Both their enthusiasm for space can be traced back to a large extent to S / F series such as Startrek. And there is something else that both have in common: They are not very skilled at dealing with people. We know from Musk that he has Asperger’s. I don’t know what’s wrong with Bezos.

  • Gary


    You may be right. If Bezos does have the same passion, I would have expected him to be more hands on in his involvement, like Musk. Maybe he is moving in that direction.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Gary – I believe that the clinical description for Bezo’s problem is ” entitled jerk”

  • Doubting Thomas

    Questioner- I believe that the clinical description for Bezo’s problem is ” entitled jerk”

  • sippin_bourbon

    I don’t think anyone here is qualified to determine the strength of anyone else’s “passion” for anything.

    But we can question it.
    I am not entirely sure what Bezos goals are. And that is after reading the “Space Barons” by Davenport.

    The book gives a nice overview. It leaves me with the impression that Bezos simply wants to be part of a push to Space, and gives a solid impression of the Blue Origin (BO) philosophy (gradually, and the jury is out on the ferocious part). So the slow NASA-like pace is not that surprising. It is faster than NASA really. Look what they have accomplished compared to NASA, minus what NASA has contracted with SpaceX (SX).

    Take away commercial crew and commercial cargo and what has NASA done? Built a few probes and rovers. Good stuff, yes. Good science. They have surely advanced scientific knowledge. But have they advanced the Humans as a space-species? I would argue only incrementally. That has been farmed out, and that is where the progress is being made. What they have done is limited to the research into long-term space living, via the stays on the ISS.

    In the arena of vehicular launchers and vessels, SX leads the way. Rocketlab (RKLB) close behind, and other small launchers behind them. I would not even put BO in the mix. They are doing hops and that is all they have been accomplishing. They built some engines (BE-4), that have any of them lifted a single pound to orbit? They have talked about New Glenn for years. I have seen them in the promos. But not even a whisper about readiness to fly. And it needs 7 BE-4s.

    People get caught up in the tribes. I am not an SX “fanboy”. I simply enjoy that they are succeeding. I want to see BO succeed. And RKLB, and Sierra Nevada (SN) ( I love design of the Dream Chaser. It looks like a space ship.)

    But what exactly is Bezos shooting for? Is he happy with what he has accomplished? Is this it?

  • John

    Did video come out from apogee with Shatner looking out the window while everyone else floated around?

    I thought the requisite “whooo!” “Whoooo!” social media esq attention whoring from the girls lined up in a row after landing seemed artificial, even scripted. You could tell Shatner wanted to talk, and I thought that might have been scripted too with him alone right near the camera- but it wasn’t, he spoke honestly.

    At one point he spoke of death- something like is the black void death and the thin blue shell of air is life. He’s getting up there and might be contemplating the great beyond.

    New Shepard doesn’t seem all that big, it can’t be that expensive…hope the price comes down before I’m 90. It’s the best amusement ride I can think of. I mean, I want to be an astronaut too.

  • Patrick Underwood

    Just watched it. Yes, there was some distraction as the ground crew and other flight crew celebrated, and yes, Shatner was momentarily nonplussed. But then Bezos (praise be his name, haha) spent several minutes listening to Shatner’s exposition. Must say, for a 90-year-old, Shatner comports and expresses himself like a much younger man. I congratulate him, and thank him for so much enjoyment he has given me, strutting about painted cardboard and plywood sets. Wonderful that he, at an age at which most have been written off, has blessed us with such an inspiring report of an ACTUAL space flight. You did it, Jim. BILL.

  • Edward

    Robert noted: “The contrast between him and all the younger people in this clip gives us a clear snapshot of an America now gone, replaced by the thoughtless emotional America of today.

    The 1960s and the baby boom generation made many changes to the U.S. The loss of emotional control is one of them, and can be seen in the inability of liberals (e.g. the hippies) to think through their desires and their policies. The phrase “if it feels good, do it” was prevalent in the late 1960s and 1970s. It ignores the times when “just do it” is a bad idea, because they don’t know why it would or could be a bad idea.


    Bill Shatner has a unique view on life. I don’t always agree with him, but I always love to hear his take. And he’s the best guest at Star Trek conventions too, bar none.

  • Robert Pratt

    I said on the air about Shatner’s comment about it all being black above that such was why this site is named behind the black – that’s the great question: What’s behind the black? Isn’t answering that what Star Trek was about?

  • Jeff Wright

    For years spaceniks have asked for a poet to be sent aloft…we got that with Bill. I too was initialy disgusted…but I hope this made them think. I see some ‘Prince’ on the dole in the UK made a Unabomber-esque statement from his palace. Hitchens was right about ending the royals. Questioner-Musk is an aspie…and Bezos also has the first two letters in his personality…the second letter repeated. Elon excepted….the better the businessman-the worse the human being.

  • Max

    Captain kirk’s first trip to space
    60 years ago

    This popped up next which was surprisingly well done, and not over acted.
    William Shatner playing a doctor on Fred Astaire’s production. Million dollar hospital.
    Is that Sergeant Schultz as one of the patients?

  • Jeff Wright observed: ” . . ..the better the businessman-the worse the human being.”

    True, but business and politics give sociopaths something to do.

  • john hare

    “”the better the businessman-the worse the human being.”””

    Having run a business for few decades, and having dealt with associated businessmen for that time, this statement is so wrong as to defy belief. There are a fair number of jerks running businesses, just as there are a lot of jerks working for them. The difference is that very seldom do people become really successful unless other people want to work for them and with them. That weeds out most of the jerks. (Stronger language not allowed on this site) On a percentage basis, self made successful people average far more honest than most and have better people skills.

    For the worst, look to the second generation businessmen that didn’t have to earn their way up, and the managers that got there with no skin in the game. The bad ones destroy companies. Blue Origin might have this issue with senior management.

  • Jeff Wright

    My anger comes from my parents being preyed upon by home repair rip-offs, my own dealings with mechanics, lawyers, and employers. I had a chance to leave a boss who was a lush and go to a better job-had I left..the outfit would have folded…and the older folks would have been hurt. So I took the hit. Bezos would have understood. A lot of the old money here who hired illegals got hard hearted and defunded Cooper Green Mercy Hospital…and that just resulted in the premire UAB hospital being overloaded. At this point in my life, I am just trying to crawl into my grave in as honorable a way as I can…I just have to work on resentment.

  • Bill-OrionArm

    Not to be pedantic but it’s “say your piece” not “say your peace”. I know that’s true because Google says so and Google never lies except when talking about politics. Then you’re not likely to ever get the truth out of them. It’s possible to imagine an alternate time line where the manned space program continued and we have a flourishing base on Mars that Shatner could have already visited. But we had something more important to do – spending trillions of dollars and many lives replacing the Taliban with the Taliban.

  • wayne

    there is a bit of early Shatner available on-line.

    A Roger Corman Film…..
    “The Intruder” (1962) [aka “I Hate Your Guts” and “Shame”]
    William Shatner
    written by Charles Beaumont

  • wayne

    “The Man Who Didn’t Fly” (1958)
    Kraft Theatre Episode 11-40
    William Shatner / Jonathan Harris

  • wayne

    “For The People” (1965)
    William Shatner
    (season 1 episode 3)

    “”For The People” ran for 1 season (13 episodes) from Jan – May 1965. It aired opposite Bonanza, at the time.”

  • Mike

    Watching it live I couldn’t get over how awkward Bezos was.

    He couldn’t decide which emotion to have, spraying champagne like a frat boy at his bachelor party, or introspective poet like Bill.

    I think he got caught off guard and his forced tears trying to interact with Bill absolutely disgusted me.

    Also, SpaceX is very good at packaging their product for the digital age.
    The live camera BO had rolling between touchdown and speaking with the “astronauts” was unplanned and haphazard.
    They better hire better creative people before the next one cause they fed came off as amateur.

  • GaryMike

    I, too, noted Bezos was too easily distracted by a celebretory bottle of champagne rather than maintain his engagement with Shatner.

    Not a good look.

    It said to me that Bezos is ‘in it’ for Bezos and that Shatner was a means to an end–a tool for bringing to Blue Origin much needed attention for his product, but not so much for his ‘vision’.

    Tone deaf.

  • Jeff Wright

    True that.

    Had he been less introspective-I would have risked a rib and said “now that we’re weightless-hit me with that drop kick for old times’ sake.”

  • NorthOfTheOneOhOne

    Max sez…

    “Is that Sergeant Schultz as one of the patients?”

    Yep. That’s John Banner. Also, the man with his pregnant wife is a young Arte Johnson.

  • Craig

    This flight was a publicity stunt, a marketing exercise. Shatner went off script, and Bezos didn’t immediately realize that he had to go off script too, or be seen as a total jerk. Too late!

  • jburn

    William Shatner is accustomed to performing and makes a lot of money for his brand of celebrity endorsement. (Many of us fondly remember his role of Captain Kirk).
    He’s not accustomed to being used as a prop and then set aside by a self worshiping billionaire. Especially in a singularly profound moment.

  • Jeff Wright: Ah, yes. What my brother and I called ‘Kirk Tactics’. Who knew that ST:TOG would include Pro Wrestling?

    “And a special treat tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen. Two Barbarians: Kirk v Gorn. You voted these the top fighters, and now they’ll go caput-to-caput. But, first a word from Jupiter Motors.’

  • Nabi

    So glad, too, that the trip was so eco-friendly. No need to fret about that ‘thin sliver’ when all the hopes of Musk and Bezos for ‘space tourism’ are realized.

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