Sunday, September 25, 2016

Review of "Star Trek Movie Memories" by William Shatner with Chris Kreski

I enjoyed William Shatner's memoir "Star Trek Memories," about the original TV series. This follow-up book, about the spin-off movies, isn't quite as good but it's entertaining and informative.

When the original series aired it wasn't a huge success. Star Trek had respectable ratings but wasn't a big money-maker and was cancelled in 1969 after three seasons. Shatner, not being the megastar he later became, had to scramble to get work. For a while Shatner traveled around the country, touring with Broadway shows and - needing to provide for his children - economized by driving a mini-trailer where he could bed down, prepare food, and watch a small staticky television. Shatner talks lovingly about his two daughters, how much he missed them when he was away, and his rush to get home after a tour.

This was the era of the first moon landing and people were enthralled with space. Thus the idea of making a Star Trek movie took hold and "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" came out in 1979. The movie was successful and was followed by six sequels. Shatner reveals the nuts and bolts of making the films: how the plots evolved, the budgets, sets, locations, actors, writers, directors, producers, and so on. Leonard Nimoy directed two of the movies, and this is discussed in some detail.

As he did for the first book Shatner interviews people involved with the Star Trek movies, but the anecdotes tend to be drier this time - with lots of talk about finances and creative differences. Some of Shatner's most memorable stories involve the difficulties of obtaining good special effects with limited funds. In "Star Trek: The Final Frontier" for example, God appears at the film's climax. Created with a small budget God looked like a big spotlight with a face pasted on. LOL

With some dismay Shatner relates how creative control of the movies was wrested away from series creator Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry, who wanted to preserve his vision of Star Trek, would pepper the movies' writers, directors, and producers with memos...but these were largely ignored. Roddenberry's pet idea for a movie script - in which the Enterprise traveled back in time and Spock shot JFK (for good reasons) - never happened.

Shatner talks extensively about "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier," which he directed. The actor/director discusses how much work went into making the movie, starting with the story - which changed considerably from initial idea to final product. He also talks about the film's budget; cinematography problems ('losing the light'); the teamster strike (he had to hire strikebreakers to drive); filming in the desert when the temperatures were 110 degrees; watching the dailies; difficulties with special effects; the rush to get the film done in time; etc. Shatner admits, in retrospect, that he was disappointed by the film's ending - which looked cheesy (i.e. the God spotlight). He also notes that, though he thought the movie was good, it was the least successful of the Star Trek films.

The book contains engaging stories about each of the Star Trek movies, which are:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Star Trek: Generations (which 'passed the baton' to "Star Trek: The Next Generation")

Shatner fills the book with informative tidbits about film-making, which is a difficult and time-consuming business - but also lots of fun. One humorous anecdote involves blueberry muffins, a toaster, and making DeForest Kelley think he's losing his mind. Ha ha ha.

I liked the book and would recommend it to Star Trek fans.

Rating: 4 stars

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