Six Degrees of Captain Kirk (With Extra Cheese)

October 10, 2008

Chris Pine, the new James T. Kirk, is Hollywood cheese royalty, a third-generation actor with a lineage that includes many TV movies with colons in the title. His grandmother was Anne Gwynne, star of Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, The Green Hornet and, um, We’ve Never Been Licked. His father was a 70s TV icon. Maybe you didn’t know that.

And in Hollywood, where there’s cheese, there’s William Shatner.

Let’s examine, in a scholarly-type fashion with some interestingly large words, just how closely young Mr. Pine is linked to old Mr. Shatner — traverse the winding trail between Kirks, as it were.

After the original Star Trek ended, things did not go well for William Shatner. His marriage collapsed, and he spent a summer living out of his camper. Shatner did a LOT of crappy TV movies in the 70s, including that made-for-TV adaptation of John Jakes’s American Bicentennial Kent Family Chronicles. The first part was called The Bastard, which is an excellent name for anything on TV. There are eight books in the series but only three were adapted for television.

One of those was The Seekers, which starred Randolph Mantooth from TV’s Emergency! You might remember Emergency! It was a show about paramedics in Los Angeles, always calling ‘Rampart’ for guidance. Wait, Adam-12 was always calling Rampart, too. I wonder who Rampart was. Anyway, Mantooth continues to star in soaps, bad TV movies and straight-to-DVD releases, among them a 1985 movie called Bridge Across Time, which was about the London Bridge being moved to Arizona, bringing the ghost of Jack The Ripper with it, which is too stupid even to think about. Bridge Against Time also starred the Archduke of Fromage, David Hasselhoff.

Oh, boy, David Hasselhoff. From his earlier roles (he played someone called “Boner” in some movie with “Cheerleaders” in the title) to his breakout role on a soap opera and finally to prime time on Knight Rider, nobody personified cheesy manliness like the Hoff. His career pinnacle came with what seemed like 20 shirtless seasons on Baywatch and its spinoffs, playing an old crusty lifeguard who ran in slow motion. He later starred in a drunken YouTube classic in which he was out-acted by a hamburger. The hamburger may have had cheese on it, but the Hoff definitely did. Baywatch also attracted a lot of super-cheesy guest stars, including Erik Estrada.

Erik Estrada shot to fame as the star of ChiPs, the perfect 70s TV creation. Big hair, tight pants, white teeth, California and motorcycle cops … it was the right-wing Dukes of Hazzard. Estrada played a really unlikely Italian named Ponch who roared around this one section of freeway with his whitebread partner, Jon. This was one of those 70s cop shows where the cops never actually fired their weapons, but chased bad guys until there was a flaming crash in which nobody was hurt and everyone got what they deserved – the bad guys got jail, Ponch got the girl. At the end of every episode, they would report back to their captain, Joe Getraer.

Robert Pine starred on ChiPs as Capt. Joe Getraer. When I was a kid, we argued about what his name was, because I always heard it as “Getcher” but my friend Peter swore it was “Gettrapped.” Pine was a fatherly influence over Ponch and Jon and whatever other guys came along later. He was wise, tough, friendly but not a sucker, and always encouraged his young officers to follow in his footsteps. At home, he probably did the same thing, because his kid ended up trying to break into Hollywood decades later.

And that would be Chris Pine, who was picked to be Captain Kirk and is about to slingshot around the sun in an epic trek from struggling young actor to global superstar. Pine, like his co-stars, is pretty hush-hush about how he’s interpreting Kirk; he’s playing a younger, less formed version of the icon, and thus has more leeway to avoid some of the cocky, confident Shatnerisms of the first version of the character.

Let’s hope he kept some of the cheese, though. And you know what? I think he would not be Kirk unless he got his shirt torn off at least once.

Now, all of this is not my way of predicting a future career of cheese for young Mr. Pine. He may surprise us all and use Star Trek and its eventual, hopeful, sequels as a springboard to a varied and diverse career. Hard to say. I’ve never seen him in anything, and people who have tend to say he’s pretty, no great shakes as an actor, but someone you remember. Which means he fits right in on this list.

Other Trek stuff here:



  1. Wow.

  2. I am inferior.

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