BLOG Beam Up Denny Crane For Star Trek Legal

BLOGGERS’ WEEK Since combining procedural shows with sci-fi and fantasy is all the rage in Hollywood TV land at the moments, Steven Ellis has his own suggestion…

A while ago my fellow blogger Al Stuart wrote a blog about mixing up sci-fi TV shows with police procedural shows, and on the occasion of William Shatner’s 80th birthday SFX re-published an interview with the great man here on the website. The two pieces got me thinking about a TV show mash up I’d like to see. But first I’m going to champion a non-sci-fi show, or rather William Shatner’s portrayal of a character in a non-sci-fi show...

Every geek out there knows James T Kirk, captain of the star ship Enterprise. You’ll all probably know of TJ Hooker too. But what you may not know is William Shatner has played another TV show character more recently and for longer than he played Kirk or Hooker on the TV.
That character is Denny Crane in the comedy/drama/lawyer show Boston Legal . The show was a spin-off from another legal type show called The Practice and ran for FIVE seasons from 2004 to 2008.

It is an excellent show, full of larger-than-life characters and situations; with people bringing the strangest cases before judges. It’s a hard show to pigeon hole, full of comedy and pathos, with characters constantly breaking the fourth wall and giving knowing winks to the audience, where people seem to know and accept the bizarre things that happen in their world with straight-faced ease.

In the show Shatner plays Denny Crane, an aging hot-shot lawyer in the twilight of his career; he’s a man who knows his better days are behind him and blames his failing mental acuity on Mad Cow disease. Denny Crane shoots someone at least once a season, be it intentionally or accidentally. He says his own name in conversation or as a statement all the time. He’s sexist and rude and says some really offensive things, but at the same time he’s a loveable character; an old grandparent who we love despite their brashness. He gets names wrong, he makes promises he can’t keep, his co-workers are terrified of him slipping up during cases yet he always seems to find a way to win the day or redeem himself. The fact that he’s hiding a real fear of getting old and the prospect of early onset Alzheimer’s adds poignancy on the occasions he lets his guard slip.

The real heart of Denny Crane, and the whole show for me, is his relationship with fellow lawyer and best friend Alan Shore; another brilliantly-portrayed character in the show played by James Spader. The two actors play one of the best-realised male friendships I’ve ever seen on TV and the tradition of usually ending the show with the two of them sharing a drink and a cigar on the balcony usually provides a brilliant, humorous and uplifting conclusion to each episode.

In a lot of ways Denny Crane is an aged Kirk. The show makes several nods to Kirk; Crane boasts about being captain of a ship in his younger days, and his phone’s ring tone is the Star Trek communicator beeps.

Denny Crane is a wonderfully-played character and although Shatner may well be remembered by most for his portrayal of Kirk I think I’ll remember his Denny Crane more because this character has brought me far more memorable moments than Kirk ever did.
Boston Legal is currently showing on CBS Drama on weeknights and I urge people to tune in and give the show a go. Some of you may not like it but most people I’ve recommended it to have enjoyed it. And I know several fans of Kirk, Shatner and Star Trek who love the show. There is also the added bonus of sci-fi actors René Auberjonois and Mark Valley in the main cast and guest spots from many more faces people will know from other sci-fi genre shows.

So – and here’s where I wedge the sci-fi in – I’d like to see a mash-up show featuring Denny Crane as the captain of the USS Enterprise. William Shatner playing Denny Crane as a star ship captain, with Alan Shore at his side; exploring the universe and bringing his Republican sensibilities to alien races. Sure Denny will probably end up blowing most of the galaxy up, but doing it, I’m sure, in interesting amusing and politically incorrect ways week in week out. With exclamations of “Denny Crane! Star ship captain! Denny Crane! Bring us your alien women! Denny Crane! Beam me up! Denny Crane! She’s a natural green!” Oh, the adventures he could have…