In October 2021, William Shatner, the actor best known for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek film and television franchise, consented to be launched into space as part of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin project. Whereas Kirk was always enthusiastic about such exploration, it turns out that Shatner found the whole ordeal somewhat depressing.
In an excerpt of his new memoir co-written with Josh Brandon, Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder, that first ran via Variety, Shatner said that the journey to space provided him a new—and somewhat dismal—perspective on the emptiness of space.
“I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness,” Shatner wrote. “It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, all-encompassing. I turned back toward the light of home. I could see the curvature of Earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds, and the blue of the sky. It was life. Nurturing, sustaining, life. Mother Earth. Gaia. And I was leaving her.”
Shatner goes on to explain that Earth’s multiple environmental crises made him aware of the planet’s fragility. He believes he experienced what’s known as “the overview effect, “a term coined by philosopher Frank White in 1987 to describe a cognitive shift in how humans view Earth from orbit. Shatner describes it as “among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered” and one of “overwhelming sadness.”
Back on solid ground, Shatner describes a “returned feeling of hope” that mankind can see through their differences and realize their shared plights to rededicate themselves to the planet.
Shatner was last seen as a contestant on The Masked Singer.