Story: Star Trek’s own William Shatner sits in the captain’s chair once more, this time holding court and spinning tales of the lean years after Star Trek’s cancellation, as well as its unexpectedly successful return via the big screen. These are his voyages.
Review: Despite the relative immunity that biographers and/or autobiographical writers seem to have when telling their side of their respective stories, I’m amazed that Shatner didn’t incite so much as a single lawsuit with his first book, “Star Trek Memories”. It was in that volume that Shatner alleged everything from Nichelle Nichols’ now-well-known affair with Trek creator Gene Roddenberry to Grace Lee “Yeoman Rand” Whitney’s various addictions. That a lot of Shatner’s gossip turned out to be at least partly true in the end was surprising. No doubt his co-stars would’ve had the opportunity to carefully bury these facts when the time came for their own autobiographies.
Perhaps with that in mind, Shatner’s follow-up, concentrating on the period from just after the original Star Trek’s cancellation through Star Trek: Generations, still has its share of incendiary accusations, but it seems that this time, Shatner has decided to err on the side of caution, interviewing many of the previously nameless faces in the executive and production ranks, as well as those actors who permitted the authors to quote them. Oddly enough, many of those who could not or did not whish to speak to Shatner for his new book were savaged by him in print. Any number of people were relentlessly hounded, everyone from Gene Roddenberry, Persis Khambatta (Lt. Ilia from Star Trek: The Motion Picture), almost every Paramount executive who was ever in a position to critique any of the films, James Doohan, Nick Meyer, Harve Bennett, and so forth. Curiously, Rick Berman, Patrick Stewart and other members of the Next Generation who dominated Kirk’s latest – and dare we hope last? – big screen exploits, are not roasted in this book. Perhaps Shatner knows that his latter-day counterparts are the current darlings of fandom and the media in general. Or maybe he really did have a blast making Generations, who knows? To be fair, Shatner also heaps praise for good character and professionalism upon many of his film-era co-stars, including Merritt Butrick, Christopher Lloyd, Ricard Montalban, Malcolm McDowell, and Stephen Collins.
It’s hard to make this book out. On one hand, Shatner humbly admits that he was a pain in the butt during the making of Star Trek V and even admits to numerous reasons for that movie’s less-than-successful addition to the Trek canon (though claiming that Roddenberry was jealous of the beautifully crafted Trek V plotline really stretches credibility to the limit!). On the other hand, Trek’s beloved skipper revels in his own amazing foresight, intelligence in bravery, whether he is single-handedly rescuing the screenplay of the first and second films from the jaws of boredom with Nimoy’s help, dropping everything to personally battle a spreading fire on Star Trek III‘s Genesis planet set at the risk of his own uniform, bragging of his saddlebred horse’s Oscar-worthy acting talents in Generations, and so on.
Shatner’s got an immense reputation for being an ass, and I almost feel like he’s laying too much proof of that on the table for all to see. Can this guy be for real? “Star Trek Movie Memories” is a battleground for a number of enormous egos…enter at your own risk.
Authors: William Shatner, Chris Kreski
Pages: 450 pages