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William Shatner's
Spplat Attack

Rating: unrated
Release Date: December, 2002

For years, it seemed that the worlds of Paintball and Star Trek fandom were doomed to never meet. Until one day last summer, when William Shatner led the Federation one last time against the paintballing hordes of the Borg and the Klingons. Thankfully, the people at Creative Light Entertainment captured that day of triumph and tragedy on video, and have released it to the masses.

If you're reading this far, it either means that you think William Shatner's Spplat Attack is one of the most brilliant ideas you've ever heard, or the stupidest. In truth, it lies somewhere gloriously in between. (And please, say that like John Colicos as Commander Kor in "Errand of Mercy" - "gloooooooriously…")

Set up as an event to benefit the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, Spplat Attack began life as an excuse for hundreds of men and women (not all Star Trek fans) to swarm through woods and meadows with paintball markers (not guns; you quickly learn that's a forbidden word). But it became something more by adding a film crew and a semblance of a plot.

Referencing much of Shatner's science fiction career, leaving out Kingdom of the Spiders, the resultant video has a few chaotic moments, but ends up being more entertaining than casual fans might expect. (Hardcore fans, of course, already have this DVD.)

An alien being known as "Big Giant Head" has gathered forces from across the universe to battle outside Joliet, Illinois. Naturally, the winner will get some sort of wonderful cosmic prize, assumedly weaponry. Narration alternates between BGH and Shatner himself, in a voice-over called "Shatner's Log" so as to not annoy Paramount.

As he has done so well everywhere for the past two decades, Shatner sends up his own image while still preserving it. It's like Adam West's Batman; you're perfectly welcome to take it seriously.

Not content to just be a figurehead, Shatner goes out into the action long before his opposing (and much younger) commanders do. It's understandable that radio deejay Mancow Muller, here known as Klingcow, might not be eager to jump into the fray. But Borg commander Tom Kaye is evidently a legend in the paintball world, and plays it strangely safe at first.

Some of this plot is apparently endemic to paintball. I'll admit that going in I assumed it was just sort of a "splatter who you can" kind of thing, but the video makes clear that aside from safety rules, the game often involves scenarios and role-playing even without a celebrity presence.

In fact, out in Joliet they have Challenge Park, an amazing battlefield which includes a jungle temple and an abandoned small town façade, as well as a variety of terrains. Equipment includes shields, troop transports, and paintball tanks. This is far bigger than I thought.

Teams earn points for completing various missions, and some poor guys in stripes have to brave the terror of flying spheres of paint in order to referee the whole thing.

To best understand it, the DVD includes extras that go over the basics of the games. I wish I'd watched them first. It might have cut down on the confusion that runs through the first half of the game.

Making up for my lack of understanding, though, is the personalities. Not just Shatner, Muller and Kaye, but the average joes that are avid paintball players. Like any other hobby, it has its hardcore practitioners, and they're well represented. Some just want the chance to shoot Shatner with paint. Others just want to win at any cost.

Shatner himself seems particularly taken with a player dubbed "Welt Man." Though the point gets made early on that getting hit with a paintball hurts, it isn't until the gonzo Welt Man appears that you can really see it. Most players wear camouflage; Welt Man goes topless, and his body is covered with the angry red badges of either his courage or his insanity. Still, he volunteers for the most dangerous missions.

The best part of the ambience is the sensation that everyone playing knows more about Star Trek than Shatner does. Though he throws in a few obvious references, it's his assistant "Pacman" who compares Shatner's plans to his battle with The Gorn. At one summit, Mancow/Klingcow establishes his geek credentials by quoting as many Trek lines as he can, throwing down the ultimate insult by ripping on Star Trek V.

Of course, Shatner takes it all with good humor, which makes the man all the more watchable. Clearly enjoying himself, he will do what it takes to make sure the video is fun for us.

In the end, Shatner comments that he can't wait until next year. And thanks to the strength of this DVD, I want to be there, but no way am I going topless.

William Shatner's Spplat Attack

Derek McCaw


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