We don’t typically think of William Shatner as being a normal person. The 90-year-old Star Trek icon this week did not disappoint, becoming the oldest person ever to travel to space in an historic capstone to a remarkable career.
But something revealing happened when Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule landed Wednesday following a suborbital trip into the final frontier. Shatner was greeted by 57-year-old Amazon billionaire and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos. The two men embraced. Shatner was emotional. He was ecstatic. He choked up.
But the nonagenarian Shatner remained incredibly lucid and in-the-moment as he went into a long but endearing rant about mortality and existence and the cosmos:
Everybody in the world needs to do this. To see the moon come and whip by — now you’re staring into blackness — that’s the thing. The covering of blue, this blanket, this comforter of blue we have around us. We think, ‘Oh, that’s blue sky,’ and all of a sudden you shoot through it and you whip the sheet off you and you’re looking into blackness, into black nothingness. As you look down, there’s your blue down there, with the black up there. There is Mother Earth, and comfort, and there is — is there death? I don’t know. Is that the way death is?
He went on like that for a few minutes. But before Shatner’s monologue really took off, a distracted and indifferent Bezos interrupted him — actually cut him off, mid-sentence — to spray champagne and hoot and holler with his tech bros.
Jeff Bezos interrupts emotional William Shatner to spray champagne after rocket landing pic.twitter.com/gj6B5dudJg
— The Independent (@Independent) October 14, 2021
What’s striking is how out-of-touch Bezos is with the moment. Here before him is William Shatner, who was born in 1931 and has just returned from space — space! The legendary actor, Captain Kirk himself, has had what appears to be a mystical experience of the Divine, and all Bezos can do is stare blankly at him while trying to break away so he pop a bottle of champers and take a group selfie.
At one point, Shatner is waxing poetic about the atmosphere and says, “It’s so thin and you’re through it in an instant. How thick is it? Is it a mile?” And Bezos, like some creepy cyborg, replies “The atmosphere? It depends on how you measure it. Maybe 50 miles.”
Shatner, amazingly, is the normal person in this exchange. The tech oligarch Bezos is detached, distracted, unempathetic, and altogether unfeeling. If you can’t weep with an aged Shatner on his return from space, if you can’t commiserate with him or share at all in his ecstasy, then there’s something wrong with you.
For all his drama and eccentricities, it turns out Shatner is at heart a normal person. Bezos is not.