William Shatner: The Future Is Worth Fighting For, And Fans Will Lead The Way

So. I'm back from space.

I saw just how fragile our home, this spinning blue ball, really is in the depthless darkness with my own eyes and I was moved. It made all the constant static we are surrounded with evaporate and gave a clarity unknown to me.

If only the world could see what I saw — this comforter of blue that surrounds us. When everyone can see how fragile and special life is, we will finally see ourselves as one community, one people.

This past August I was in the green room of a San Jose pop culture convention when I was approached by two men — one dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, the other wearing an Indiana Jones costume complete with bullwhip. They didn't want a selfie, but instead pitched me on a startup (this was Silicon Valley, after all) – Legion M, an entertainment company built from the ground up to be owned by fans.

It's a simple but brilliant idea: Harness the wisdom and power of the community. Shorten the distance between creators and consumers. Give people a say in what gets made and a stake in the outcome. Grow that community large enough, and you could potentially change the way entertainment is produced forever. A big idea.

It's only been over the last 20 years that I've grown to appreciate and accept what fans give me, and to understand the role that these fans play in furthering the narratives of the shows they celebrate. Fans don't come to pop culture conventions to see people like me — they come to see each other, and to be part of a community. When they attend panels and put on cosplay, they aren't worshipping at the altar of pop culture, they are playing an active role in creating it. I'd argue that the fans bear as much of the credit for the long-term impact of shows like "Star Trek" as the creators, producers and cast. Shakespeare should be so lucky.

Fans Will Lead the Way

That said — it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the power of fans. People point out all the time that fans are responsible for my career. The fact is, fans are responsible for my entire industry. Take the fans away and the collective value of every company from Netflix to Walt Disney Studios drops to zero. That's why the idea of a fan-owned company is so powerful, and why I decided to become a Legion M shareholder and advisory board member, joining their quest to unite one million people as shareholders of the company.

Will they succeed? Nobody knows. What I know as an artist and an entrepreneur is that nothing of value comes without risk. To move forward, we need to boldly go where none have gone before.

But after returning from space, what excites me most about this project is their mission to UNITE. We live in an age when so many things are pulling us apart. Our politics, our media, and our technology are all optimized to exploit our differences. But when you look down from 300,000 feet, all that falls away. What remains is an appreciation of the word "humankind", and fierce desire to work towards a future defined by things that bring us together instead of those that tear us apart.

With "Star Trek," Gene Rodenberry envisioned a future that showcased the best of humanity. A future in which people of all races, creeds and colors worked together to solve problems and fight existential threats. The Starship Enterprise has always been a metaphor for the planet earth — a delicate habitat traveling through the lifeless black of space. And while I may not be at the helm of this starship, I'm proud to throw in my lot with those working towards the future Gene showed us. A future worth fighting for. A future worth uniting for.

This time, the fans will lead the way.