William Shatner received a lot of criticism when he failed to cancel a prior engagement to attend Leonard Nimoy's funeral last year. They were rivals when Star Trek was on the air in the 1960s but bonded and became firm friends while attending early Star Trek conventions. It was a friendship that endured for almost 50 years. In Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man, Shatner (with co writer David Fisher) talks about his friendship and relationship with his former co-star.
Chapter 1 starts out with a quote from playwright Robert Anderson: "Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship." That's followed by an image of a dying Spock in "The Wrath of Khan" movie. If you are a Star Trek fan, you know the one. In order to save the ship, Spock had incapacitated McCoy to gain entry to the warp core and had managed to repair it in time for the ship to make its escape from the detonating Genesis device, but at great personal cost. Heavily irradiated he slumped at the front of the chamber. Kirk and Spock hold their hands up on either side of the transparent chamber wall, and as Spock slips towards death, he tells Kirk not to grieve. "It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh..."
"...the needs of the few," Kirk finishes.
"Or the one," Spock adds.
The narrative then takes us forward to 2001's "Mind Meld: Secrets Behind the Voyage of a Lifetime," a videoed conversation between Nimoy and Shatner in which Nimoy characterized their relationship as that of "Siamese twins." Both actors had gone on to different things in their careers and had not collaborated on any projects, save perhaps, for the Priceline commercials in the mid 2000s. Nevertheless, when one of their names comes up, it's hard not to think of the other, so strong is their association.
While becoming extremely successful outside of Star Trek, Shatner has also become something of a historian of Star Trek, producing documentaries on the topic like "The Captains," "The Captains Close Up," "Get a Life!" and the recent "Chaos on the Bridge." (The Captains and Chaos On The Bridge are available to watch on most Netflix regions if you've never seen them).
Leonard Nimoy & William Shatner as they looked in the 1950s
Shatner and Nimoy were born just 4 days apart. Both men started their careers in the 1950s. Both had had roles in a variety of movies (Shatner's being more mainstream movies) and guest spots on various TV shows in the 1950s and early 1960s. They actually first worked together on an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., "The Project Strigas Affair" (1964) though neither of them could recall meeting the other in later years.
While Shatner was hired as the lead in Star Trek, it was Spock/Nimoy who received most of the fan mail. (Spock was Nimoy's first lead role in anything). Shatner discusses how the two of them came to appear on Star Trek and that there was a stronger relationship between Nimoy and Deforest Kelley at the time and the pranks they played on each other. Shatner found Nimoy to be something of an enigma, an actor who stayed in role all day long. What he didn't know at the time was that Nimoy was a functioning alcoholic and this was his way of handling things.
Nimoy also began to use his fame as a Star Trek character within the franchise and during conventions. Gene Roddenberry didn't always come across in a good light here.
And then there were the problems Nimoy had with his children. His son, Adam, was interviewed for the book, and he remembered how difficult it was to simply go out for a meal with his dad. Spock's shadow was ever-present with his father frequently being recognized. And there was his father's alcoholism to contend with too.
Aside from Adam Nimoy, Shatner also contacted Richard Arnold, Joe D'Agosta, John De Lancie, Dorothy Fontana, Steve Guttenberg, Leonard Sachs, Jean-Michel Richaud and George Takei for material for the book.
Nimoy famously finagled his way into the Director's Chair on Star Trek III: The Search For Spock by saying he wouldn't come back as Spock unless he could direct the movie. He went on to become a successful director on several other movies, including "Three Men And A Baby" (which is where Steve Guttenberg comes in).
On a more personal level, Shatner recounts how Nimoy served as Best Man at one of his weddings and how he warned Shatner against marrying Nerine Kidd, who also suffered from alcoholism, and the difficulties that would bring to the marriage. Some years later, Nerine would be found dead, floating in their swimming pool.
Rumours that Shatner and Nimoy had not been on speaking terms in Nimoy's last couple of years started to appear recently. Many pooh-poohed such assertions as they appeared in tabloid rags like The Sun and Daily Mail in the UK.
However, that rift is confirmed in this book. They hadn't worked together since 2014 (when they appeared together in a German ad for Volkswagon cars). And they were not on speaking terms.
Shatner does not know the actual reason this happened but thinks it was because a cameraman filmed Nimoy speaking at a convention without his permission when Shatner was making a documentary about the many captains of the Enterprise ("The Captains"). Nimoy had already declined to appear in the documentary.
Shatner also didn't know how ill Nimoy was until close to the end and he shares with readers the letter he wrote to Nimoy, perhaps hoping for a final reconciliation, but one that never materialized.
“I don’t know if he ever read it,” Shatner wrote of the letter. “I prefer to believe he did.”
Whether or not Nimoy saw the note, Shatner writes, “I don’t have the slightest doubt that he knew the depth of my feelings toward him."
The 278-page memoir is highly readable and entertaining. In some ways it parallels The Wrath of Khan - Shatner, like Kirk, faces his mortality and survives while his closest friend dies.
Kirk, Spock and McCoy were the triumvirate of Star Trek. Now only one of the actors playing those three roles remains to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek later this year. It will be a celebration tinged with sadness because other Star Trek alumni have also died in recent years. But perhaps the strongest friendship to come out of that series was Shatner's and Nimoy's, again paralleling that of Kirk and Spock.
"Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man" is on sale on now. It has already become a #1 best-seller on Amazon.
Shatner is only scheduled for two book signings. One in New York (yesterday) and one in Los Angeles (Feb. 18, 2016 at the Barnes & Noble, Grove Drive. Los Angeles, CA, 7 p.m.)
Filed under: Star Trek Books