William Shatner has written many books, while also being an actor/producer/director and on occasion a documentary maker. But this book unlike any other of his creations is a very personal insight into a personal relationship.
Not many of us can say that we have had a friendship that has lasted 50 years, a lifetime in some cases. I know I certainly can’t. My longest friendship outside of relationships would be 8 years. But these two men who have figured in my life and viewing pleasure since i was a child, managed something that few of us can. It’s brave of William Shatner to put his friendship with Leonard Nimoy up for public scrutiny. The glare of Star Trek fans as well as the press was always bound to be focused on this book, advance orders hit Amazon as soon as it was made available. But it was all the more poignant because this was not just a man telling the world about his friendship. This was and is a man, in his own immutable style, paying his own tribute to not only his friend but also an icon to Star Trek fans and a well established and respected person in the field of entertainment.
So how does Mr Shatner go about this? Well he does so in a heart felt and thoughtful way. He could so easily have gone down the sensationalist route. But no, he starts off by laying the ground of their forthcoming friendship by showing the similarities of both men’s early lives. Now if you’ve read Leonard Nimoys biographies, as well as William Shatners various books about himself. Then the first portion of the book won’t tell you anything new. It is in essence the early part of both men’s careers. But what he does do, is show how they overlapped in various ways, how they went through similar experiences. He draws a narrative and a picture in your mind about them, enabling you to see how and why they ended up as friends.
But his also honest, he tells how in the early days of Star Trek they didn’t immediately get on, how he upset Leonard with his casual cavalier approach to acting, which was the opposite of Nimoys methodical character driven style. He openly admits to having upset Leonard when they filmed the Horta scenes, because Leonard Nimoy thought that Shatner was making fun of him in exchange for a cheap joke. But then you see the other side of the relationship with the banter and the practical jokes, including one about Nimoys pushbike suddenly finding itself hanging from the rafters.
The book contains some wonderful photos from across the 50 years they have known each other, some of which are true reflections of friendship. It’s nice to see that despite the well published and well known animosity that existed on the Star Trek sets, these two managed to forge a friendship and understanding. An understanding that helped them both, albiet in different ways. For instance Shatners tells the story of his wife who was an alcoholic, an addiction that ultimately and sadly led to her death. He uses this to weave in Leonard Nimoys own alcohol addiction, Which Shatner was unaware of for years, but which helped him talk to Nimoy about his wife to be and her own demons. Common ground, it may be from two different perspectives, but it helps when you can talk to someone who understands. Even more so when they’ve been there themselves. It’s this and other stories in the book that indicate how strong and open their friendship was.
Of course there are insights into what went on on set. The view of not only working with each but also directing each other. He comments on the rumour mill and media frenzy that circulated (pre Internet), about Spocks death and why Nimoy viewed Spock in very different ways throughout his career.
But all through Shatner, while taking various chances to tell you more than a little about himself, conveys how important Leonard Nimoy was to him and his life. How in a business where everyone pretends to be your friend for as long as your working together, true friendship and camaraderie is rare.
They have both had ups and downs and both have suffered marriage break ups, they’ve polarised people on various topics. Been involved in many ventures and have very varied outside interests and passions. Leonard Nimoy is an accomplished photographic artist. William Shatner a successful horse breeder and dog lover. But they have a passion for acting, for entertaining and that shared interest and passion was what brought them together and held them together.
It’s ironic that despite all the movies and tv shows that they’ve both been involved in, it was the convention circuit that forged the bond. Being on the road and turning up at various venues at the same time. Meant that they spent a lot of time together, this allowed them time to talk to each, share life and grow a friendship. The fact that Shatner at first didn’t understand the clamour of the fan base, makes the fact that this was where a friendship was born. All the more poignant.
Alas as Q said, “all good things must come to an end.” And sadly Leonard’s other addiction to cigarettes ultimately took him from us. Shatner conveys his pain about this In the book, plus the pain that at the end of Leonard’s life he and William where not on speaking terms. He tells us how he is at a loss as to understand why, even reaching out to Leonard via a letter only a month before he passed. It’s true that for people with terminal illness certain things do get left, perhaps he intended to contact William Shatner. But we will never know.
What I do know is that they shared much and had much in common. To have had any true deep friendship in life is a blessing. To have enjoyed that for 50 years, is truly something to be thankful for.
Leonard Nimoy has been Spock in my life for decades, his last outing in that role in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” Is something I treasure. He and Spock are the reason I got into Star Trek. His portrayal of the character and his acting where both sublime and powerful, he was a true giant in the field and an inspiration to millions.
I hope that somewhere his doing something he enjoys, because to me, he truly deserves a glorious after life.
There are two quotes that to me sum up this friendship;
Spock Prime: “Because you needed each other I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could accomplish together, of a friendship that will define you both in ways you cannot yet understand.”
And of course.