Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Getting my geek on with Star Trek and William Shatner

You ever hear something that excites your soul and celebrate that knowledge by squealing like a stuck pig? Yeah, me too. It happened only yesterday when I learned there's a new book out called The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman. Sqwee, gasp, engage wishlist warp factor 10!

Let's look at a few Trekkie tomes pulled from my bookshelf below. You think the Kirk bio will fit in? Hell yes, it will! Note two of the books by William Shatner are hardback. As in, purchased immediately after release (or received as a Christmas gift shortly after publication). 'Cause yes, I used to be that level of fanatic.

Star Trek delights from my bookshelf

I even used to love a good Trek Con. This was back in the days when most conventions were one actor visiting towns large and small to talk a little Trek smack and sell some signed photos (then I discovered Atlanta's DragonCon with the access and free entry of the hallowed Media Pass, and I was in geek heaven). I never went so far as to dress up, but I did get to interview and chat with various Trek luminaries.

I never met the Shat, but he was frequently a topic with his co-stars, many of whom didn't find him as much fun to work with as fans would've imagined. I vividly remember Walter Koenig (aka Chekov) telling me how unpleasant it was to work with the overbearing Shatner (fun fact: Koenig said he only earned about $21,000 for his work in the Star Trek TV series). The supporting cast back in the days of the original series in the '60s often featured very minimally in the episodes, sometimes having only one line. Shatner was known to come in and pronounce that it made more sense if he said the line, and just like that a supporting actor was left with bupkis for the episode. It wasn't an endearing trait. (Koenig said Shatner had "a natural inclination to take over.") Shatner even admitted to this habit in one of his books (I've read so many that I couldn't say which one anymore). He attributed it to wanting the best for the show and not realizing it was ungenerous to castmates. I'm sure that makes the other actors feel all better about it. Wait, no, my bad, it's decades later and they're still pissed.

There's even a so-cruel-it's-hard-to-listen to recording floating around of Shatner eviscerating some poor guy in a recording studio that illustrates the cold wrath he can rain down on others.

But at the end of the day, Shatner is great fun to watch -- especially when he's not taking himself too seriously. Remember him in $#*! My Dad Says? It was a fairly good TV sitcom based on an uproariously good book by Justin Halpern (listen to the audiobook if you want a treat for your funny bone). The show didn't last long, but it wasn't for want of some charming hilarity from Shatner playing the gruff dad who talks a lot of shit. And he even earned a place in comedy history with that classic SNL skit when he famously told Trekkies to "GET A LIFE!"

Even when he's bad, he's good. Shatner took a lot of guff for his spoken-word album The Transformed Man, which I'm sure he didn't mean to be quite so funny as some found it. He countered that years later with a genius turn harpooning himself at the 1992 MTV Movie Awards by doing his own take of the best song contenders, all in spoken-word format. Check out his I Wanna Sex You Up. Then, just when you think his musical aspirations have been relegated to the comedy world, he releases the seriously good album Has Been (keeping tongue in cheek on that title). And while there's humor in many of the songs, several are quite serious and thought-provoking. All are frickin' awesome. Don't believe me? Dig his cover of Common People.

In the end, I can't help liking Shatner and wanting more. And while this new book is about the character of Capt. Kirk and not Shatner himself, it's the actor who made us all love the character by infusing his own passion and yes, ego, into the role. So, without a doubt, I will boldy go to Amazon and order The Autobiography of James T. Kirk one day soon. (Too much? I think I showed restraint on the Trek puns for the most part, you gotta give me that one!)

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