William Shatner's Trip To Space Was Way Darker And Sadder Than He Expected

It’s been about a year since William Shatner went to space, becoming one of the first people to take advantage of the new space tourism industry and actually went where very few people have gone before. It was a fitting place for the 91-year-old actor who is best known for Star Trek to find himself. However, unlike Star Trek that saw space travel as a romantic pursuit, it turns out Shatner did not find it that way at all.

Previously, William Shatner had only really talked about the speed involved in space travel. However, in an excerpt from the new book “Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder, published in Variety, the actor talks about his experience on board Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin shuttle, and it seems that his trip was less full of wonder and more full of sadness. He found the void of space to be just that, an empty void. He says that space lacked the wonder and awe he expected, and he describes it as “death.” Shatner says…  

I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness. 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.

It’s almost heartbreaking. Shatner was certainly excited to be going to space, though he admits to some significant nerves prior to the trip. A lot of Star Trek fans were excited as well to see Captain Kirk finally go into space for real, although not everybody found William Shatner to be an appropriate choice. The Star Trek vet clearly had an expectation of how the trip would go, that it would be this amazing joyous experience, but it was not.

That’s not to say that everything about the trip was bad. Shatner explains that while he found space to be cold and lifeless, when he looked back at our world, he saw it in an entirely different way. He now appreciates earth in a way that he never would have been able to had he not seen it from that perspective. He continues…

I had thought that going into space would be the ultimate catharsis of that connection I had been looking for between all living things—that being up there would be the next beautiful step to understanding the harmony of the universe. In the film “Contact,” when Jodie Foster’s character goes to space and looks out into the heavens, she lets out an astonished whisper, “They should’ve sent a poet.” I had a different experience, because I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving that behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound.

This is apparently a known phenomena in space travel, known as the Overview Effect. Astronauts have also reported this feeling, which causes them to see the earth in a very different way. It sounds like William Shatner’s trip to space had a profound impact on him. Just maybe not in quite the same way that he expected. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.