Retro Reviews: Star Trek Memories and Star Trek Movie Memories by William Shatner

AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 16: William Shatner attends the "You Can Call Me Bill" world premiere during 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Stateside Theater on March 16, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW)
AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 16: William Shatner attends the "You Can Call Me Bill" world premiere during 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Stateside Theater on March 16, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW) /

William Shatner delves deep into Star Trek in two semi-autobiographical books, Star Trek Memories and Star Trek Movie Memories

In the ever changing landscape of the Star Trek franchise, there stands a few constants that we as Trekkies can always count on. Captain Picard will always order “tea, Earl Grey, hot” from the food replicator (but not Admiral Picard). If given a choice a Vulcan will always choose logic over emotion, and every few years or so William Shatner will write another autobiography.

While I do hold the belief that Shatner’s favorite topic is himself (and I dare say he would agree) this is not an indictment, for I have read several of his books, and have found new insights into the former star ship captain’s life, but none so much as the two books I recently finished, Star Trek Memories and Star Trek Movie Memories.

While these books do qualify as being autobiographical (at least about certain portions of Shatner’s life) they are much more than that.

Star Trek Memories by William Shatner

While there is much about how Shatner came to be involved with Trek, how he became the iconic Captain James Tiberius Kirk and the effect it had on his personal life in Star Trek Memories, much of the book is actually about Star Trek’s creator, the great bird of the galaxy Gene Roddenberry.

The first several chapters paint a portrait of a struggling screen writer and police officer, chronicling his rise through the medium of television and how the shows he was involved with and the people and actors he worked with would eventually lead to the creation of one of the most iconic and long lasting franchises in television history.

Shatner tells the stories of how Star Trek was shopped around to all the different networks before finally finding a home and all the different challenges that went into creating a high concept science fiction television show that took place in space with almost no money.

He shines light on lesser known topics, like the constant bickering between the network execs and his costar and resident Vulcan Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols almost leaving the show, and the reason why she stayed, Trek’s near cancelation at the end of season 2 and then its permanent cancellation at the end of season 3, and even Shatner’s own personal hardships and struggles he was dealing with as he was portraying the brave and impetuous Captain Kirk.

Not only did I find this book entertaining as well as enlightening, it was made all the more so for I listened to the audio book, which is narrated by none other than Shatner himself. As most of my readers are aware, I myself am completely blind and rely greatly on audio books. I have listened to many and consider myself somewhat an expert on the subject, and I am here to tell you that I have heard many authors read their own work, but few can pull it off quite like William Shatner.

His trademark style and wit come through in every word. So for those of you who are considering picking these two books up, I highly recommend you treat yourself to the audio book versions, for it greatly adds to the experience.

Star Trek Movie Memories by William Shatner

As much as I enjoyed Shatner’s first book regarding the Star Trek TV show, I probably enjoyed the second book even more, for it provided me with previously untold stories about a huge part of Treks history, that I was otherwise ignorant of, that being the first seven Star Trek films. While I have seen those seven films many times, I knew very little about how they came to be.

There are detailed descriptions of how each film was made (all the way from finding screen writers and directors, to final scenes and world premieres) interwoven with some laugh out loud anecdotes of some of the antics that took place during shooting on the set that will have you never watching certain scenes the same way ever again, all told in that trademark Shatner style I mentioned earlier.

William Shatner shines light on some of the original scripts of the films before they were drastically changed, so we as the reader can imagine the Trek films that could have been (and in most cases) thank goodness they weren’t.

He has moments of real vulnerability when discussing his process of shooting the death scene of the character he has played for over 30 years, and how he prepared for those days of shooting emotionally.

What I found most interesting about the second book, is the entirely different light that series creator Gene Roddenberry is painted in during this second installment. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not trying to say that Shatner deliberately painted Roddenberry in an unflattering way, for I am certain Shatner was just telling the reality of the situation as close as he could.

The description of Roddenberry in the first book was one of a brilliant aspiring screen writer who had a head full of poignant ideas and stories to tell that he wanted to get out into the world using the façade of a weekly science fiction TV show as the means of doing so.

The depiction of Roddenberry in the second book however, is that of a cranky old man or a small child who wants no one else to play with his toys, unless they will capitulate to doing so by his rules.

Roddenberry fought directors and screen writers tooth and nail on what would turn out to be some of the most iconic moments in the film franchise. Meanwhile Roddenberry’s own ideas were thankfully rejected for they would have stopped the film franchise dead in its tracks, and Roddenberry was relegated to his office.

On one hand, you have to feel bad for Roddenberry, who no doubt felt as though his baby that he had birthed and nurtured was now being taken away from him, but you also can’t help but feel grateful that he was not taken more seriously, or some of the best parts of the film franchise would have never came to pass, and the film franchise would have no doubt stumbled to a blessed stop after the first two films.

All and all, I highly recommend both of these books to all Trekkies, but especially those that would like to know more about those first three decades of Star Trek, from the man who lived through it. Both books are interesting, intertaining, informative, and, at many points, are laugh out loud funny.

I would recommend these books not only to the passionate Treekie with his Starfleet badge pinned to his shirt (Don’t worry; I’ve got one, too) but to someone who is just interested in the rise of a pop culture phenomenon. You can certainly read the print versions of the book, but hearing William Shatner’s voice tell the stories in his style adds so much to the experience.

Next. To Reign In Hell told the secret history of Khan on Ceti Alpha V. dark