Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Denny for your thoughts...

Of all the extremely important debates that we've had about Bill Shatner's hair, perhaps the one that has elicited the greatest amount of discussions and opinions is: what exactly is Bill Shatner's current "Denny Crane" look? Is it plugs or is it another piece?

"Bill, are you trying to copy my hair?"

But setting aside this debate somewhat, our toupologists have been studying a notable phenomenon at the back of Bill Shatner's head that leads us to some other crucial and equally important questions. The actor's current "Denny Crane" look is usually quite uniform (though it can get a little patchy). But there is an area at the back of the head that stands out in stark contrast to this. At the back, the hair is often longer and a little more unruly.

In observing various images of Bill Shatner's current hair look (from 2000 onwards), this phenomenon is something we've seen again and again...

...uniformity versus a greater degree of freedom.

On numerous occasions, this mysterious area appears to be the only one showing a strong streak of rebellion and independence. Is this Bill Shatner's way of saying that although he is getting older and is settling down a little, that he is still a rebel at heart?

The below image is an example of the slight patchiness we referred to - likely the result of a long day coupled with an aging piece in need of replacement, though some might argue that this is actually indicative of a hair transplant.

But setting aside that debate (just a little)...

...the image also provides yet another example of the mysterious unruly patch of hair at the back.

And above too. So what is it? Is this an area of real hair? We believe it may well be. If so, is it used to harvest hair (seems quite small for that task) for the rest of the head if Bill Shatner has plugs? Or if Bill Shatner wears a piece (we're increasingly inclined to believe he does, though we think he may have tried plugs at some point) then is the area at the back the only place where the piece does not reach?

What about the sides? Why is the hair so uniform there almost right down to the sideburns? If it is a piece - a custom made glue-on membrane covered in hair that lasts for several weeks before being thrown away - then has it been designed to end just by the sideburns at the sides and a little higher at the back, allowing a small patch of real hair to remain?

So many questions (see here for an earlier brief analysis of this sparse patch). Our toupologists clearly still have much work to do...

Bill Shatner in deep thought, possibly about toupees.

UPDATE: A video posted at Bill Shatner's YouTube page shows this very area of hair (and only this area of hair) being combed - what is Shats trying to tell us?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Poles and polls: we're back!

The "TSS Shatner One" sails away from Antarctica back to the WSSTS.

We're finally back from our groundbreaking return trip to Antarctica! Although, as expected, we didn't find any direct information about Bill Shatner's toupee, we did manage to conduct several interesting experiments, which examined the thermal and insular properties of replicas of Bill Shatner's key toupee stages. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the "TJ Curly" with its extremely thick and curly TFSISR (Toupular Follicle to Square Inch of Scalp Ratio) proved to be the hands-down winner.

Deforest Kelley needs a visor, but Bill Shatner only needs his toupee to stay warm. Image sourced here.

Now, turning to our most recent poll...

...40% of voters stated that the shockingly thick (and curly) look of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) is what first aroused your toupee suspicions. Only 10% started to suspect while watching the original Trek series, while almost a quarter if voters say late-night TV jokes, press reports and other forms of satire is what made them suspect Bill Shatner's hair wasn't as real as they had once thought. Thanks for voting!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shatner's Toupee: Antarctic expedition.

Shatner's Toupee is taking a two week break as our staff head out to Antarctica. Naturally, the William Shatner School of Toupological Studes has already conducted numerous prior surveys of this region in pursuit of our goal of seeking out all possible information about William Shatner's toupee. However, in a recent report, one of our top toupologists discovered that we had missed a five square-mile area located by the arrow in the below image:

The William Shatner School of Toupological Studies takes its role as one of the world's foremost scientific and research institutions extremely seriously, and thus almost as soon as the oversight was discovered, we put together a comprehensive new expedition to the area in question. Sadly, our previous trips to this region yielded no concrete information, although several animals in Antarctica do appear to have fur which closely resembles Bill Shatner's current "Denny Crane" look. Coincidence?

Anyway, fingers crossed this time. Thanks, as always, to our valued readers for your interest, insights, tips and thoughtful comments. We'll be back in two weeks!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Outer Limits: "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" - a toupological analysis.

"Cold Hands, Warm Heart" is a 1964 second season episode of the anthology series The Outer Limits.

The episode stars Bill Shatner (in his one and only ever appearance in this series) as an astronaut who has returned to Earth following a pioneering trip (ironically entitled "Project Vulcan") to the planet Venus.

Once home, Bill Shatner's character, Brig. Gen. Jefferson Barton, begins to have horrifying nightmares and flashbacks of his visit to Venus... well as undergoing a physical transformation, manifesting itself in webbed hands.

The astronaut also begins to feel permanently cold, inexplicably craving the searing heat of the inhospitable Venusian atmosphere...

All of this represents a serious problem as Barton is soon expected to give crucial Congressional testimony about his trip, which will hopefully help secure government financing for a proposed trip to Mars; but this strange transformation threatens not only Barton, but potentially the future of the entire US space program.

A race against time ensues, with the astronaut's wife, along with top scientists and doctors eagerly trying to cure Barton (whose blood no longer even registers as human) via the application of heat.

What to make of all this? Another classic along the lines of Bill Shatner's two appearances in fellow anthology series The Twilight Zone? Sadly, not quite. We found "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" to be entertaining and engaging but also felt that it fell far short of being a classic.

The episode (running at 51 minutes - longer than The Twilight Zone) lacked a necessary thoughtful punch. The entire story is crafted around a rather predictable hook related to whether the central character will recover from his unusual ailment. The far more compelling implications of what the alien contact and human metamorphosis may mean are overlooked in favor of simpler and baser melodrama and thrills and spills - a shame.

Nonetheless, the transformation of Bill Shatner's character and the psychological horrors associated with it are undeniably compelling to watch, and the actor gives a typically energetic (though not particularly nuanced) performance as those around him try to literally cook the alien infestation out of his body.

Indeed, the actor, portraying a disquieting and unnerving metamorphosis, is challenged in unusual ways in this installment.

And when is it not fun to watch Bill Shatner going insane on-screen?

Now, to the hair...

The episode features a typical-for-the-time "Jim Kirk Lace" and contains plenty of unusual ruffling of the toupee:

As the character craves heat, we have a rare chance to see how Bill Shatner's toup reacts to steam (in actuality stage smoke):

We should note that many of these scenarios are frequently replicated by our toupologists at the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies, albeit with dummies and stand-ins.

Star Trek's Malachi Throne (right) is a guest-star in the episode.

So, in short: plenty of ruffling.

The episode also features an unusual moment that is strikingly similar to the famous (not yet written by this point) opening monologue of Star Trek - in 1964, Bill Shatner was only months away from receiving a phone call that would change his life. Did his very human performance in The Outer Limits as an astronaut seeking out "new worlds, new life..." impress and even subconsciously inspire Gene Roddenberry? Listen below:

"Cold Hands, Warm Heart" is available as part of The Outer Limits season 2 DVD. The episode is also, at present, up on YouTube. Fun, but falls far short of classic.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Shatner's toupee in pop-culture: Night Court.

Night Court is a US TV sitcom that ran from 1984-1992 and focused on the exploits of a group of legal professionals working the night shift in a New York court. During its eighth season, an episode called "To Sleep, No More" aired, which featured very direct references to Bill Shatner's toupee-wearing. In the episode, bald bailiff Nostradamus "Bull" Shannon (pictured above), decides to wear a toupee with an unusual name: "The Shatner Turbo 2000". A quick overview of the story:

TV host Bert Parks appears as himself in the episode, although he's now working as a spokesperson for "Frosted Neon Nuggets Cereal". He approaches Bull (played by Richard Moll) in the court cafeteria and offers him the opportunity to answer a question and win a prize. Bull answers the question correctly and must then choose from four prizes - three are revealed beforehand and one is a secret mystery prize.

Bull chooses the mystery prize, which turns out to be a toupee; the character can then choose any toupee from a catalog (sound convoluted? well, it is an 80s sitcom!). After reading through the options, he decides upon a controversial toupee called the "Shatner Turbo 2000".

This toup, it turns out, is "Cultivated from the hair of specially selected donors. Each follicle is individually steamed, pressed and hand-woven by a team of craftsmen in Vienna." But the "indestructible" toupee also has some "effects" which turn out to be an uncanny ability to attract women.

Naturally, the toup is unmistakably modeled on the long-serving "TJ Curly" style (1976-2000) that Bill Shatner wore during this period. Here's a clip from the episode:

And here's Bull realizing the powers of the "Shatner Turbo 2000":

Later on, Bull wears the toup for an important function only to have it removed and stamped upon by a colleague (prosecutor Reinhold Fielding Elmore, played by John Larroquette) who thinks that a tarantula is eating Bull's head.

In typical sitcom style, by the end of the episode, the character has learned his lesson about letting himself be loved for what he truly is rather than what he wishes he could be - he ditches the toup. What did he do with it? He gave it to the bald janitor...

Sadly, the episode in question isn't available on DVD yet, though earlier seasons of Night Court have been released. Click here for more Bill Shatner toupee pop-culture references.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A poll, a paper and a plug...

No clear majority for our latest poll, which gauged your views on the impact of Bill Shatner deciding to go bald. 36%, the greatest share, thought a breakup with the toupee would be worse than the breakup of The Beatles! 28% thought that a toupological U-turn would simply create a firestorm around the veracity of previous toupee denials. Only 7% thought that it would make up for years of such toupee denials. Thanks for voting!

Meanwhile, in an article for the August 25th, 2010 edition of the Chicago Tribune, author Steve Dahl poses an interesting question, and one which our philosophers have been grappling with for years. Speculating what questions could be answered if he were an undercover reporter posing as a washroom attendant at the Emmy awards, he asks: "Who washes his hands? Who speaks at the urinal? Does William Shatner comb his toupee?" A perhaps more important question: if Bill Shatner removes his toupee and no-one is there to see it, has he really removed his toupee at all?

Multiple Emmy Award-winning actor William Shatner!

Finally, we're going to take a rare detour away from the subject of Bill Shatner's toupee. As many of you know, an endorsement from the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies (one of the world's foremost scientific and research institutions - and in no way formally associated with William Shatner, the man) is a prize that many companies, products and even politicians frequently try to gain. Knowing that such endorsements could sway elections and otherwise have a dramatic impact on global events, we mostly turn down the thousands of such requests that we receive. But in this case, we actually volunteered to bring something to the attention of you, our valued readers - so please forgive us for the departure.

Section of Ron Jones' isolated score for the TNG episode "11001001". Hear more Ron Jones cues here.

Our friends at Film Score Monthly are releasing a mammoth 14-CD collection of the work of Star Trek: The Next Generation composer Ron Jones. For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, Ron Jones was hired as one of two regular composers at the start of the series. He insisted on approaching each Trek episode as a unique work, devising memorable leitmotifs for characters, alien races, emotions and situations, and underlining atmospherics and dramatic undertones with his compositions - all of this ended up getting him fired from the show at the end of the series' fourth season.

Ron Jones on the scoring stage of Family Guy, image sourced here.

Inexplicably, executive producer Rick Berman, perhaps the least popular major figure in modern Trek history, viewed great music as distracting and "noticeable". Instead, he wanted something called "sonic wallpaper", which often (though, to be fair, not always) basically amounted to a lot of bland noise.

"I am The Patron Saint of Mediocrity"

Jones wouldn't/couldn't budge and despite producing scores that were original, dynamic and truly loved by fans of the show (such as for the Borg two-parter "The Best of Both Worlds"), his principled refusal to conform ultimately got him fired (interestingly, the series' first cinematographer Edward R. Brown also got himself dismissed by Berman for lighting scenes according to emotions). Firing a man for scoring great music, we think, represents one of the more significant injustices in the history of motion picture entertainment. It hurt Ron Jones, who gave his heart and soul to the show, badly.

Ron Jones' celebrated score from "The Best of Both Worlds" - sourced from YouTube.

The firing, we feel, also heralded Berman-Trek's slow descent into bland "NASA realism" instead of the more aesthetically punchy and individualistic "where the mind went..." concept favored by old-school Trek producers Gene Roddenberry and Bob Justman. Up to that point, Star Trek had a great musical legacy, and Ron Jones' efforts, we think, belong up there with the best of them. In a broader sense, a marked and genuine fear of decent and dynamic musical compositions has become an industry-wide problem in much big-budget Hollywood product today. Composers were once viewed as genuine creative partners of film directors; today, they are often asked to merely subtly copy the temp music that adorns rough cuts of movies, replicating one tired cliché after another.

Anyway, we are truly delighted for Ron that FSM has released a box-set of his efforts, compiled by (unabashed Shatner's Toupee fan) Lukas Kendall. It's a large and thus expensive set, but to those of you who can afford it, we heartily recommend it. Place your orders here. FSM also have some very detailed on-line notes on Ron's music here. Thanks, and our apologies again for the non-toupological diversion. Is there a toupee connection? Kind of: Ron Jones was hired by Bob Justman, a man who also found and fought for the bald Patrick Stewart to be hired on ST:TNG...