Back in 2011, William Shatner released a self-produced and self-directed a documentary in which he met up with the various actors to helm the various incarnations of "Stark Trek" over the years. Running just shy of two-hours, I said in my review of the feature, "While the intent of "The Captains" isn't always clearly realized, the side paths some of the interviews take are reason enough to warrant a viewing. The complete program is a bit too ambitious and could have used some more judicious editing and even for Trek fans, repeated viewings aren't really foreseeable." For me the big point of contention was it failed to live up to the potential, citing specifically Shatner's one-on-one with Leonard Nimoy in ‘Mind Meld." Well, lo and behold, Shatner revisits "The Captains" with an all-new miniseries release, "The Captains Close Up." Whereas, "The Captains" attempted to cover not only every actor to play a Star Trek captain and to a lesser degree the impact of "Star Trek" in general, "The Captains Close Up" devotes roughly 30 minutes to each of the five major actors to play a Trek captain including Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, and yes, Shatner himself. It might sound strange given Shatner is the interviewer, but it works and it works well.
Viewed chronologically, each episode builds on the next, given that each subsequent actor to be given the daunting task of helming a "Star Trek" series would inevitably be compared to his or her predecessor. The very fact that the first episode focuses on Shatner and works as well as it does sets the tone admirably for the remaining four episodes. Shatner is less grandiose in the interview format, revealing a more personal side at times, but using the Shatner persona at times to press interview subjects to open up themselves, when it might be easier to try and move to the next question. Narrowing the focus also changes the perception of each subject that in "The Captains" may have left some viewers with an unfairly skewed perspective, namely in how Avery Brooks was presented as more of a musically obsessed kook and Kate Mulgrew as somewhat hostile. Mulgrew in particular, becomes one of the most fascinating subjects with the hostility we seen in "The Captains" merely being her way to show Shatner she won't be pushed around, before giving a very candid take on not just her groundbreaking performance as the first female lead in a Trek series to her life at large.
"The Captains Close Up" also takes the time to let those close to the subjects add their own insight and provide an outside take on how being a captain forever affected these people. For those who have already viewed "The Captains," "The Captains Close Up" should be mandatory viewing and for those who haven't, its predecessor should be skipped entirely. Naturally there is a deal of repeated footage and yes, some of the best segments with each actor were shown in "The Captains" already (Patrick Stewart becoming an impromptu therapist for a completely unguarded Shatner easily remains my favorite moment), but the whole world view nature of this companion piece makes it an invaluable piece of insight into "Star Trek" history. If this weren't enough, "The Captains Close Up" transcends its source material and serves as a solidly produced series of interviews with a diverse group of actors who all owe pop culture for their most iconic roles, as well as one more reminder that William Shatner is truly a one-of-a-kind force that we may never see the likes of again.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is acceptable for a documentary project. Long and medium shots suffer from some noticeable compression issues and soft detail. Close-ups are much richer and consistent, while colors vary from setting to setting, with a few areas where moiré patterns become a distraction to the eye.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track is overkill for the dialogue driven production. It's a front loaded affair, albeit a balanced and distortion free one. English SDH subtitles are included.
The extras consist of some additional b-roll interview footage.
Whether you've seen "The Captains" or not, "The Captains Close Up" is not just merely mandatory viewing for "Star Trek" fans but also for those who want to know what makes actors tick. William Shatner does a tremendous job of getting his subjects to open up and playing to their strengths in the interview process. Highly Recommended.