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William Shatner's SPPLAT Attack
Review by Bill Mills
This video contains adult language
In the summer of 2002 the Society of Paintball Players and Teams (SPPLAT) teamed up with science fiction icon William Shatner to produce SPPLAT Attack – a big game at Challenge Park Xtreme in Joliet, Ill designed to raise money for the Hollywood Charity Horse Show, a program which generates funding for Ahead With Horses, a group which uses horse training and handling as a form of physical and emotional therapy for disabled clients.
The event was produced as a scenario game, and Paramount gave their blessing for the Star Trek names and symbols to be used in the event. Players were divided into three teams, and each issued jerseys for the event, which were designed as the costumes for their teams. The scenario story was simple. The Big Giant Head (a guy with a big head that some will recognize as the bartender co-hosting late night horror B movies on the Sci Fi channel with Shatner – the head is huge, it’s like Sputnik, spherical but pointy in parts) has brought together the Federation, the Borg, and the Klingons to “Planet Joliet” to battle it out. To the victor would go an ultimate weapon that could give them the power to rule the entire galaxy.
The three teams had all star captains. William Shatner led the Federation. In charge of the Klingons was nationally syndicated Chicago radio personality and science fiction prop collector Eric “Mancow” Muller, who gathered players from his fan base. Technologically oriented Airgun Designs president Tom Kaye led the Borg team, rallying many of his players from AGD’s online community, Automags.org.
Creative Light Video brought a crew with several videographers, some armed with 3 chip industrial cameras, and some with small lower quality consumer cameras. The number of cameras was critical to following the story, something that in the past hasn’t been done well with scenario games because so much is going on in so many places all at one time. Creative Light’s end product, the story of the game was released on both Pay Per View and DVD.
The program, William Shatner’s SPPLAT Attack opens with Shatner arriving at the field in a powered paraglider (that’s basically like a big parachute/wing and a giant fan on his back), and being escorted to the staging area by ghillie suit clad players and a red Hummer. The team commanders are introduced and the game is on.
SPPLAT Attack does a good job of achieving a very difficult goal, actually telling the story of a scenario game. One of the problems with paintball scenario games is they are often so large, that the majority of the players miss out on the true story that is unfolding, they only see it from their one perspective on the field, and just the missions in which they partake. Creative Light’s crew had enough cameras in enough places at once to catch the key command decisions and mix them in with the raw paintball action in a way that not only shows people playing paintball, but also captures the drama of the event. The end result is that a player can end up knowing more about the storyline and roleplaying of the scenario by watching the DVD than even having played in it, because all the negotiations and double and triple crosses are captured on tape.
Commentary by Shatner as the game unfolds explains what is happening and many well known scenario and rec paintballers including “PacMan,” “Mother,” “TB” Wright, “Radar,” Ben Toricelli, “Tyger,” and scenario paintball’s class clown “GI” Joe Paradise make appearances, many of which include comments to the audience.
SPPLAT president JJ Brookshire planned the game with command posts on the field. These posts were shade tents with netted sides that allowed Shatner and his executive staff to safely remove their masks while planning strategy and negotiating, which is important to telling the story for the video. When the Federation looses ground and abandons their command post, Shatner comments that the post was overrun, and it was not the same as giving up his ship, which he would never do. Apparently he forgot Star Trek III.
Shatner not only gets in on the paintball action but he thinks on his feet when it comes to the role-playing side of the game. When the players guarding him get shot out he is captured and brought before Tom Kaye, who’s JT mask is adorned with various wires and electronic Borg implants. By the time Shatner gets there he has cooked up a story about coming in willingly as a diplomat for peace. He proposes a truce, which is rejected, and talks his way into being released instead of shot (which would have given points to the Borg) but before he leaves Kaye slaps a sticker on his chest which reads “I have been assimilated.” At another point, Shatner discusses sending his wife, Elizabeth out as a decoy, since her jersey also reads “Shatner,” on the back. Later he has her play the role of sniper, referring to her excellent marksmanship. His daughter Lisabeth, who regularly chronicles the life of the Shatner family on williamshatner.com, serves as a “war correspondant” interviewing players throughout the program.
Fans of poorly dubbed Asian martial arts films from the 1970s will probably be entertained by the swoosh and hit sounds that are dubbed in at a few points where paint flies past the camera, but others are likely to find it a distraction.
Through the game, teams make and break alliances, and both the scoring system, and running totals of the team scores are displayed on screen, keeping the viewer more informed than even some of the team captains who at one point think they have just completed a game winning mission, when they don’t realize that a treaty they made forces them to split the points for that victory.
The DVD includes many extras that weren’t in the Pay Per View. The Extras menu has eight sections. One features Shatner’s combat training – video of him playing his first game of paintball with Dave Bassman in Southern California and learning to fly a paraglider. The Extreme Paintball section is full of out-takes ranging from goofy player comments and camera men walking into tent poles to a camera man getting bunkered when he tries to sneak up on Simon “Manike” Stevens. Other sections include a photo gallery, highlights of Challenge Park Xtreme and technical information about Shatner’s E-Mag.
The Extras section has a few surprises too, some hidden “Easter Eggs.” Skip right on past this paragraph if you don’t want a spoiler. On the last page of William Shatner’s Biography, an invisible button can be highlighted by cycling three times to the right with the remote control. Pressing enter plays a video clip of a woman serenading Shatner on stage at the event with her rendition of the Star Trek theme. On the biography page for Creative Light Video, pressing right twice brings up another hidden menu item that plays a video of Shatner talking about part of the game. The third Egg is a little more difficult to locate. In the Extra’s photo gallery, the third picture is of Mancow. With this picture selected, pressing the left button on the remote 5 times brings up the hidden button, which plays a video clip of Shatner on a rant aimed at his opponents.
Also bundled with the DVD when purchased through WilliamShatner.com, are high gloss trading cards of key players from the game. When a full set is collected, the backs of the cards go together as a puzzle picture of one of the tanks used in the game.
For those who grew up watching Star Trek and playing with toy phasers in the backyard, especially if they moved on to playing in the woods with paintball guns later in life, SPPLAT Attack represents the chance to see Captain Kirk doing the same.
Author’s notes: I'm confused about the whole mirror-image parallel universe thing, because they don't mention it in the DVD. However, on the back of the DVD case, there is a picture not of Shatner, but of his mirror twin from a parallel universe. He's holding the E-Mag in his left hand instead of his right (Shatner shoots right handed in the DVD) the E-Mag air line is on it's left side (in our universe they are on the right) and the name "SHATNER" is backwards on the battery, spelling our “RENTAHS” with reversed letters. It must be some sort of secret message, like in that Star Trek episode when Kirk and Spock went to the planet with the women in the silver miniskirts and then Kirks evil double came and...…
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