William Shatner is returning to television, continuing his nearly seven-decade-long career as the executive producer and host of HISTORY’s “The UnXplained,” which airs every Friday at 10/9c. Shatner’s latest venture is a one-hour, nonfiction series that explores the world’s most fascinating, strange and inexplicable mysteries. Each episode will feature compelling contributions from scientists, historians, witnesses and experiencers—each seeking to shed light on how the seemingly impossible can happen.
We asked Mr. Shatner to shed a little light on his experiences making the series, including whether or not he’s a true believer in these phenomena—and why he thinks we, as humans, are constantly seeking the answers to the seemingly unsolvable mysteries of life.
HISTORY: So, what is ‘The UnXplained’ all about?
'The UnXplained' deals with mysteries that are all around us. The mysteries of life and death. The mysteries of our brain. The mysteries of space. The mysteries of UFOs. The mysteries of places where terrible things seem to happen all the time. The mysteries of people who have had brain injuries and come out doing something completely foreign to them. We lead our lives in mystery and 'The UnXplained' seeks to examine some of them.
You’re executive producer, and also star. What drew you to the project?
Well, the quality of the people I'm working [with] is one. The tantalizing subject matter is another. I mean, who isn't fascinated by something that can't be explained? You ponder it, you worry about it and you think about it, and you don't come up with an answer. Not having an answer is enraging, so you seek even harder to find one. And those are the qualities I like to wrestle with.
One of the most famous catchphrases from ‘Star Trek’ was ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’. What would you say drives us, as humans, to keep going further in the search for answers?
If something is unexplained, maybe there's no explanation. [But maybe there is.] Quantum physics offers us a view of things we never imagined could happen in nature. It was always somebody's imagination. And all of a sudden, [quantum physics tells us that] so much of what we imagined is true, and it goes beyond anything we have imagined. So you can lead your life like many scientists do, seeking an explanation, or you can have faith that the mystery will, at some point in time, be explained, and that's religion. Or you can be somewhere in between, which is where I think I am—knowing that you might never know the explanation, but there is an explanation and the quest is to find that explanation.
Do you consider yourself a ‘true believer’ in phenomena such as the ones covered in the series?
Well, I'm essentially an agnostic waiting for a ghost to visit me or some striking explanation of life after death—and all those things we all, to one degree or another, think about. And I've had no such experience. The only experience I had was when I was in the foothills of the Himalayas filming. I slept outside because I was at a place that the Tibetans thought was the confluence of the spirit world. I was waiting for the spirits to enter, night after night. They never did. I was looking for enlightenment. And as I picked up my sleeping bag on the last day to leave, suddenly the enlightenment hit me: I don't need to be here for enlightenment. I could be anywhere. You can be enlightened by sitting on the toilet.
Do you have a favorite topic from the series?
It's all filled with mystery and people attempting to explain it. How do you explain [when] a guy gets hit on the head in a car accident, goes into a coma for a couple of months and, when he emerges, he's able to play the piano like a concert pianist? Whereas before he got hit, he never touched the piano. How's that for a mystery?
The first episode of the series deals with what HISTORY is calling ‘evil’ places. Do you believe places can actually have evil attached to them?
There are areas of forest in Japan where people go to commit suicide. Why? Why would they do that? Why do you want to commit suicide in the first place? How bad can that be? That's bad. Why do you go to a forest where you can almost smell how evil it is? That's really good mystery, isn't it? To figure out why this one piece of ground would attract that.
You recently appeared at AlienCon. How would you compare it to other conventions you have attended?
The high point of my being there was being in a panel with Kevin Burns, who's the producer of 'Ancient Aliens,' 'The Curse Of Oak Island' and 'The UnXplained.' We had an hour and a half in front of a large audience, discussing the very things we're talking about on the series, and it was terrific. And I'm looking forward to having that kind of discussion with other people in the business of searching for the truth, or whatever the truth is.
What keeps you motivated to interact with your fans, whether it’s through television series like ‘The UnXplained,’ social media or convention appearances?
I'm a performer. That's what I've done all my life, and I see no reason to stop entertaining—whether it's making a new album, as I'm doing right now, or making movies or hosting a show or being on tour in front of an audience or other things. I'm just puttering along.
'The UnXplained' with William Shatner