In Leonard, William Shatner writes about the life of his friend, Leonard Nimoy, who passed away in 2015. Actually, that’s not altogether true. While it sort of presents itself as a casual biography of Nimoy, it’s as much about Shatner. One of the themes of the book is meant to be friendship, so once their paths cross with Star Trek, it becomes more about Shatner’s memories of him, with occasional contributions from others. Listening to stories about Nimoy’s early life was the most refreshing part since it was the stuff I had never heard before. I didn’t know anything about his early career or time in the military. Once Shatner moves into the Star Trek years, it feels as though he is just rehashing old stories he’s written about before in other books. I recently re-read Shatner’s Star Trek Memories and Star Trek Movie Memories, so some of them are very fresh in my mind. In fact, they’re so fresh in my memory that I know a story Shatner claims happened back in the sixties is also said to have happened while filming The Undiscovered Country in the early nineties. Memory is a funny thing, so ultimately you do have to take what you read with a pinch of salt.
I listened to the audio book, as opposed to reading the book. I confess I’ve enjoyed many a Shatner audio book in the past. Given a book script – as opposed to a tv one – the usual Shatner-isms disappear and I find myself drawn into whatever the subject is. Unfortunately, Shatner sounds like he’s phoning it in. He ‘umms’ and ‘errs’ his way from start to finish, runs out of breath half way through sentences and makes many flubs. ‘Long live and prosper’ could have been an accidental slip of the tongue if it happened once but he says it numerous times. He sounds like he has no concept of a second take – or worse, like he doesn’t give a shit. Since one of the recurring themes throughout the book is Nimoy’s constant efforts to be a master of his craft, it’s sad that it’s often told in such a shitty, lazy way.
It’s a shame too, because there are moments when all of that goes away and wonderful narration takes over. It happens during the more emotional moments of the book such as discussing Nimoy’s battle with alcoholism, and his attempts to help Shatner’s alcoholic wife. These are the moments when Shatner comes across as genuinely emotional and not someone trying to make a bit of money off of the death of his friend.
That might sound like a nasty thing to say about Shatner, but the more I listened to it the more I became convinced I was listening to a man talk about someone he had learned facts about, but never really knew. If anything comes across clearly, it’s that Nimoy was a very complicated person, but many times throughout the book, all Shatner can do is hazard a guess as to why he may have behaved the way he did. When talking about their final years, in which a rift meant they weren’t talking to one another, Shatner didn’t seem to understand why. You can’t know someone for fifty years and not understand why they’re pissed at you. As the audio book progressed I began to regret the purchase, not because of the shitty narration, but because it felt like Shatner never really bothered to get to know his ‘best friend’.
I suspect that Adam Nimoy’s upcoming documentary might be a better place to go for an understanding of Nimoy.