“Leonard” By William Shatner with David Fisher
Review by Kylie Thompson
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: memoir, biography
Though our screens are filled with a constant stream of entertainment, when it comes to world-changing television, few shows can compete with the original Star Trek. The series, about a multi-cultural crew exploring the furthest reaches of space and fighting to make the universe a better place, was a trail-blazer in its own right. In an age of all-white casts, or token minorities in housekeeping roles, Star Trek made a point of featuring an ensemble cast of women and men from a range of cultural backgrounds, all holding meaningful and respected positions on the Enterprise.
As the series progressed, various characters played increasingly important roles, but through it all, the friendship between Captain Kirk and Mister Spock was the sort of iconic odd-couple friendship that shows have been trying to recreate ever since.
Spock, played by creative powerhouse Leonard Nimoy, was the half human, half Vulcan known for his logical, emotionally distant persona. Kirk, meanwhile, was his polar opposite. Played by the larger-than-life William Shatner, Kirk was a brash, shirt-ripping ladies’ man with a knack for both saving the day (with the help of his loyal crew) and winning the girl. Their friendship on the screen didn’t just subvert the traditional hero/sidekick roles common at the time, it also made it clear that the audiences loved intellectual characters just as much as the traditionally masculine heroes like Kirk.
Oftentimes, looking back on popular shows featuring iconic relationships, it’s disheartening to see that the actors didn’t actually get along. For decades, fans have heard William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy speak highly of each other’s work, and their friendship. In Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man, Shatner speaks candidly about their lives, and a friendship as iconic on the stage as off.
Shatner is known as a gifted storyteller in his own right, and with the support of David Fisher, he has created a poignant tribute to his best friend. It’s been almost a year since the loss of Nimoy, and this is a beautiful and emotional exploration of the man behind those iconic eyebrows and prosthetic ears.
Leonard Nimoy is brought to vivid life- you can’t help but hear his voice echoing throughout, and there’s something hauntingly wonderful in the way their lives are interwoven seamlessly together. The pair were remarkably alike- born days apart, childhoods in the West End of their respective cities- two lives of circumstances seemingly fated to bring them together.
In talking about those similarities, and the way Leonard Nimoy’s friendship changed his life, Shatner of course talks about his own life story, and the weaving of biography and memoir would have been no simple feat. It would have been easy for Leonard to devolve into a mis-titled memoir about Shatner himself. Thankfully, that’s not the case. While he’s happy to talk about the similarities, Shatner has made damn sure it’s Nimoy getting the limelight here.
There’s a wry, loving humour to Shatner’s writing style, and it’s clear he adored Nimoy. Leonard Nimoy is so beautifully written that it tugs on the heartstrings more than a little to realise he’s gone. But for 275 pages, the voice of Leonard Nimoy is alive and well, ready with advice, gentle humour, and the intellectualism and creative spirit that keeps him alive in the hearts of fans. Leonard is the portrait of two men learning and growing into the kind of friendship many of us long for in a world of Facebook likes and emoji conversations. It’s imperfect, but beautifully honest in the way all the best friendships are.
If you’re looking for Shatner’s trademark larger-than-life persona, you might be in for a shock. And you’re certainly not going to be pleased if you’re hoping for a sensationalist, gossipy style of storytelling. But if you’re looking for a warm, emotional exploration of the life of one of America’s iconic actors, Leonard more than fits the bill.
Published by Pan Macmillan.