A while back, we examined Bill Shatner's truly breathtaking (from a toupological perspective) underwater antics in the 1986 movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The scenes in which Bill Shatner, along with his toupee, swam underwater were in a sense so shocking, so audacious and so convincing that for a while cries were heard around the world that Bill Shatner might not even wear a hairpiece at all!
But that's not the end of it. In 2000, possibly equipped with his new "Denny Katz" toup, Bill Shatner set out to top his previous achievement in the program Whale Shark Hunters of the Philippines, which aired on US TV in 2001.
But the stakes would be much, much higher this time. During the production of ST:IV, the actor had the benefit of a closed production, multiple takes if necessary, hairstylists on hand at all times and the general toupological safety-net of the Paramount Pictures backlot if something went wrong with the hair. This time, the setting was the real ocean, the production was a documentary and the whales (whale sharks - in truth more shark than whale) were very real...
But Bill Shatner could afford to be more audacious. His new hair system was evidently far more secure and stable than his 1980s "TJ Curly". Even so, the air of tension building up to the underwater scenes contained in the documentary is palpable. It starts with a brief tease - the toupee is cleverly kept above the water, increasing the sense of audience suspense and anticipation.
Therein follows a long buildup...
The actor appears somewhat pensive and distracted. This is understandable in light of the feat he was preparing for. Weeks, perhaps months of detailed toupological planning were about to be tested.
Whale sharks are actually docile filter-feeders, meaning that humans can swim with them at no real risk to themselves. Occasionally, they even allow swimmers to stroke them or hitch a ride.
Bill Shatner, mesmerized by these curiously smooth-skinned (bald) creatures, succeeds in this very task.
And as he swims in the ocean, his hair becomes submerged underwater!
But what has hitherto gone unmentioned is how the fish with whom Bill Shatner swam was also mesmerized - by Bill Shatner. The whale shark in question is visibly stunned at the toupological antics that it witnesses. As it swims, its mouth hangs open in shock.
Indeed, it even appears to mouth the word "toupee":
Our "Department of Zoological Toupular Postulate-ology" analyzed the whale shark's on-screen movements and expressions and then, via specially developed technology, succeeded in transcribing this into the form of a past-tense English-language interview:
"Many of us knew and appreciated how this human had helped to bring the plight of whales to the public's attention in the movie Star Trek IV. He'd even been willing to risk his toupee in that film for the sake of marine life! We really don't have anything similar to toupees in the undersea world, although many of us have barnacles growing on our skins, so perhaps that is similar. Anyway, this human and his toupee was of great interest to us."
The whale shark then described his encounter with Bill Shatner:
"I was absolutely breathless - which is particularly notable when you consider that I am a fish and don't even breathe that way. But here I was. Bill Shatner had chosen me to take him and his toupee for a swim. I felt a tremendous sense of honor, but also responsibility. What if something went wrong? What if the toupee started to come loose? But in his physical interaction with me, Bill continued to let me know that it was alright - his toup was strong and I shouldn't worry, so I finally began to enjoy my swim with this unique toupee-wearing and whale-helping human. It really was one of the most moving experiences of my life."
And here's a clip from the show:
It's not the best-made nature program you'll ever see (it has that slight "cheap skateboarding semi-professional video" feel, where you can't help but feel that the on-screen participants are having more fun than the viewer), but it at least succeeds in highlighting the plight of this little-known creature. The program notes that as a result of Whale Shark Hunters of the Philippines, the government of that country banned the hunting and sale of whale sharks (certain footage for the program was filmed in 1998, the same year the ban was implemented). This was followed by several other countries implementing bans too (source).
And indeed Whale Shark Hunters and ST:IV aren't the only examples of Bill Shatner submerging his toupee underwater for the greater good. There's also this from the highly obscure (and by most accounts pretty awful) 1996 TV movie Dead Man's Island (sadly unavailable on DVD):
Whale Shark Hunters of the Philippines is unavailable to purchase, but occasionally airs on the National Geographic Channel.
We'd be remiss if we didn't end by providing a link to the donations page of the World Wildlife Fund as well as mentioning Sea Shepherd and the Center for Biological Diversity.