I’m not sure I’ve ever done two obituaries in one day before, but when I came home from lunch and errands with my family to this news, there was no other choice. He’s one of those people with one role that means that, even if they’d never done anything else, they’d be worthy of note. He is also one of those people who would be worthy of note without that one role because of all the other things they did. And it turns out his family is absolutely fascinating, which I did not know until right now because, let’s be real, he spent decades as just a working actor, and you don’t expect to find out that someone like that is descended from a Pulitzer prize winner whose own father was a well-known Impressionist painter.
Oh, and a Bonaparte—his mother was Princess Laure Louise Napoléone Eugénie Caroline Murat, great-granddaughter of Joachim Murat and Caroline Bonaparte. There’s Russian nobility back in that side of the family, too. I’d be shocked if he didn’t turn out to have the fanciest pedigree of anyone in all of Star Trek. I somehow doubt Shatner is descended from an executed King of Naples. And while all that is merely a historical curiosity and doesn’t really say anything about his talent, he also had quite a lot of talent.
In fact, he requested that Odo have heavier makeup, that his face be more obscured, and he managed to act through it in ways that were often quite moving—there’s one where he’s stuck in a turbolift with Lwaxana Troi and has to change to his “puddle of goo” form that’s really quite a tender moment. I’m not even a huge Deep Space Nine fan, and that moment sticks out for me. And, of course, there’s all the silliness of his rivalry with Quark, which I simply adore watching.
But moving on from Odo, he’s arguably had about six other careers. He’s done Broadway. He’s done voice acting. He’s done movies—I never remember this, but he was the original Father Mulcahy in Altman’s MASH. He narrated novels. He dabbled in directing. And my goodness but did he appear on TV. He did 135 episodes of Benson, a show I really need to seek out at some point soon, and that’s practically a career by itself, by TV standards. His TV career went back to 1971 and hit quite a lot of the shows you’d expect, knowing that. And I’m delighted to discover that he was on the animated show Wildfire, a cartoon from the ’80s that I was for many years convinced I’d made up.
He said that he did Star Trek conventions to support Doctors Without Borders and to travel, and that’s charming as anything. All things considered, I can’t imagine he needed the money, so I assume his fees went directly to charity. I like that. Of all the wonderful things I learned about him this afternoon, that is the most wonderful.