Friday, 25 March 2016

Nimoy in Shatner's Words: Leonard

On the 27th February 2015 the world of Star Trek lost Leonard Nimoy.   In memory of that day I had planned to write something but I never actually got to put my thoughts down. 

On a shopping trip out I stumbled upon William Shatner's Leonard which I had completely forgotten was being published. Instead of splashing a fair wedge of cash for a copy on the high street I did wait a few days for it to arrive from a certain large online shopping site beginning with an A simply because it was six quid cheaper.      

To be honest I was expecting this to be a huge 300 page Shatner Love In with asides to Nimoy as the narrative progressed but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I've previously read both of the Kirk actor's Memories books plus the Get a Life autobiography which led me to that premature expectation but Leonard is so much more than Total Shatz.

As described on the cover it really is an exploration of Shatner's fifty year friendship with the man who played Spock. Do not think this is going to be a Nimoy biography because that's not what this is. The book is very clearly William Shatner's take on his best friend, the relationship they had, the way it evolved and the way in which he saw Leonard Nimoy live his life.     

In a way I found it to be much more personal than a lot of Shatner's earlier works. The stories he recounts in regards to Nimoy right from his birth and childhood through the early years of his acting career and then onto the world stage thanks to Star Trek do carry parallels and Shatner does relate his own experiences in those pre-Trek years to those of Nimoy. Using the memories of people including Leonard's son Adam, George Takei, Steve Guttenberg who worked with him on Three Men and a Baby and many others, Shatner builds a picture of what drove Nimoy to act, what made him choose a particular path and how he became involved in the franchise that would make him a worldwide household name.      

From the point in which Shatner joins the story in 1965 we get a much clearer picture of Leonard from his immediate perspective. We get to see the actor, the father, the director, the photographer as well as the troubled alcoholic and heavy smoker - the latter of which would have a critical effect on his life. The relationship is laid bare from the start. No, they didn't immediately hit it off and nor did it really happen during the show. It took some time and rather than being all Bill Shatner, the book does look at how Nimoy held his own with Roddenberry, occasionally "sell out" as Shatner sees it and fight to protect the nature of Spock in every appearance he made.     

There are a few Shatner-esque moments where we do have the author blowing his own trumpet in regards to story points and direction within the movies of the late 70's and 80's as well as how the pair worked to get themselves a better deal within the franchise. How responsible Shatner was for some of the decisions we can only take his word for on this occasion especially in relation to The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, both of which were directed by Nimoy.

Shatner does admit he didn't get it nor did he understand the Trekkie following the show gathered in syndication and forever more. In fact he's open enough to say that Leonard was much more aware and open to the possibilities that the show's fandom provided across the decades.

The story does focus on Nimoy more than his Captain Kirk co-star however the influence of Nimoy on Shatner is clear right the way through especially in relation to the tragedy of a Nerine Shatner and her battles with alcohol. While their relationship wasn't perfect, it is clear that William Shatner cared a great deal for Nimoy and has been left with an unfortunate question over why they seemingly lost contact in the last few years and never really patched things up over a possible disagreement.

It's easy to lose yourself in the Star Trek Nimoy but Shatner is careful to focus on him as a father, a husband and also in some of the areas he loved which nearly took him away from the franchise permanently. I for one didn't know about his Van Gogh one man show nor understood the extent to which his photography work was such a massive part of his life. Perhaps because we see what is going on from another perspective, from one who was there, we truly get an objective angle on just what made up the Real Nimoy aside from the ear tips and angled eyebrows. Some of the details around these "extra-curricular" activities are a bit sketchy but its through that which you realise how busy a man he was and how Leonard Nimoy lived his life beyond Spock.

As fans and followers of William Shatner on Twitter will know his daughters and not the man himself attended Leonard Nimoy's funeral and the actor's reason for doing so is documented here. Ok, it was a bit strange that he didn't go but I understand his thought process behind the decision and in some ways this book seems to be his way of confronting those lost final years of friendship and facing the demon of not going to that funeral. While he doesn't seem to be sorry he missed it because he was involved with a Red Cross commitment I found myself reading between the lines that there is certainly a lot more to it and I would not be surprised if some of that emotion led to the writing of this book.

Leonard isn't a book filled with juicy revelations, torrid stories or sensationalist journalism. It's a genuinely heartfelt book in which Bill Shatner seems to wear his heart on his sleeve. How much you feel this is genuine is up to you but for one I thought it was for the most part.

You can forgive the occasional slip into an anecdote around his own experiences but on the whole this remains true to the title and honest to Leonard Nimoy's memory. It's a fitting tribute which, while not giving up any secrets is a good solid, entertaining read which provides us with Shatner's thoughts and opinions on his closest friend. It's likely to be a must-get for any fan purely to get Captain Kirk's thoughts on his Vulcan first officer and make their own mind up about their 50 year partnership. I enjoyed every page even if it wasn't a revelation on every line and I suspect you will too.

Was Leonard all Shatner or that fitting tribute I suggest?

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