William Shatner knows how hard it is to become a bona-fide science fiction star. That's why he's making it a little bit easier for the next generation of would-be Captain Kirks. William Shatner announced today that he is holding an on-line contest to find the most talented sci-fi personality in the United States. To enter, contestants just have to create a short video clip that shows why they are the heir apparent to William Shatner, and upload it at Shatner.blip.tv by September 30th.

Like many reality TV shows, this contest will rely on the voting public to help choose the winner. Anyone who wants to can view the contestants video clips and vote for their favorites online at Shatner.blip.tv. The top ten highest ranked entrants will be named finalists, and given a chance to win William Shatner's Sci-Fi Challenge.

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Unlike hit TV shows American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, which focus on contestants that have one particular kind of talent, William Shatner encourages a much broader range of applicants. Aspiring actors can submit a tape of themselves re-enacting a memorable sci-fi role or performing something new. Young directors and film makers can create a sci-fi short or a brief homage to Bill's career that demonstrates why they should win. Budding film critics can showcase their insight in a taped movie review. This diverse group of contestants makes for a richer talent pool, and a more interesting competition.

Some early submissions show the range of entries that contestants can make. A brief scan of the site revealed a sci-fi short featuring a light-saber battle between Darth Vader and William Shatner (mrpink468.shatner.blip.tv ), a handsome but somewhat deranged fan who runs the Bill Shatner TV Station (BillTv.shatner.blip.tv ), and an intergalactic celebrity roast (BjornBorg.shatner.blip.tv ). While these videos may not all become finalists, each of them is certainly fun and sure to entertain.

In addition to those finalists voted in by the audience, Shatner has selected seven celebrity judges who will each be allowed to select an additional finalist (for 17 finalists in total). The celebrity judges are a diverse group of science fiction luminaries, and include representatives from StarTrek.com, the Sci-Fi Channel, and Chase Masterson from the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Also represented on the celebrity judge panel are Ain t It Cool News, Planet Magazine, the Slice of Sci-Fi Podcast, and VideoDetective.com. William Shatner will select the winner from the 17 finalists.

The grand prize winner will receive a large cash award and will be named the Official Spokesperson for the William Shatner Science Fiction DVD Club. William Shatner started his Science Fiction DVD-of-the-Month Club earlier this year, and the club now boasts nearly 5,000 subscribers. The club identifies great but unheralded science fiction films, and offers them to customers for just $4 each (www.ShatnerDvdClub.com ).

The William Shatner DVD Club, which sponsors this event, chose blip.tv to build the online channel where contestants can upload their video and where the public can view all of the entries. Blip.tv is an Internet media company that hosts and distributes Web-based TV shows and videoblogs. Show producers can opt-in to advertising, and blip.tv splits all advertising revenues with them. Blip.tv also gives users the tools to distribute videos to blogs, iTunes, video aggregators, del.icio.us, Flickr and more.

William Shatner's Sci-Fi Challenge promises to be entertaining and engaging for both entrants and audience members. Although you need to submit a video to be eligible for the grand prize, anyone who votes on-line for their favorite submission can win a free Video iPod. William Shatner summarized his vision by saying, This is an opportunity for new faces and new voices in the science fiction world to be seen and heard. Plus, this is a chance for passionate fans to be the first to discover the next M. Night Shyamalan or Brandon Routh, and help propel them into stardom. The contest is runs from now until September 30th. To submit a video, learn more about the contest, or view submissions, visit Shatner.blip.tv(there is no .com).