Book Review: Up Till Now

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Up Till Now by William Shatner. Reviewed by Kris Harding.

William Shatner, whom we all know as Captain James T. Kirk, TJ Hooker and Dennie Crane, has written an engaging autobiography.  The book is conversational, interspersing anecdotes with digressions on people, places, favorite restaurants and shameless plugs for products from his website which sells everything from Star Trek props and action figures to movies, books and photos.

Captain Kirk became a household name from the syndication of the original Star Trek series which was canceled after only three seasons.  Shatner’s fortune would have been assured if the current practice of residuals for reruns had been in place at the time, instead the actors got nothing more than their original paychecks from a  series which has been running worldwide almost continuously since 1970. This cult classic spawned five more television series (one animated), eleven feature films, hundreds of books, video games, fanzines, websites. Shatner initially thought the people who flocked to Star Trek conventions (Trekkies) were lunatics, but when attendance went from a couple of hundred at the first one in 1972 to thousands, he finally showed up to feel the love as well as to collect a nice appearance fee.

Many people attribute Shatner’s success in later years to his ability to poke fun at himself, but he always had a sense of humor.  He started out in theater doing light comedy and farces.  He was a hard-working actor who could memorize lines easily and was in many live television dramas during the Golden Age of Television.  He attributes his characteristic speech pattern with pauses between words to the fact that he was learning lines for so many different roles in such a short time and sometimes needed to think about the next word. He went on to act in episodes of various TV series playing anything from doctors and lawyers to murderers.  He was the guy in the Twilight Zone who saw a gremlin out the window of an airplane.  Along the way he starred in several forgettable b-movies, played the detective in Shot in the Dark on Broadway (a part that would be hilariously re-interpreted by Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther series), starred as Alexander the Great for a TV series which never got off the ground, did voice over work on documentaries and guested on every game show imaginable.

Shatner delves into the tragic parts of his life-the drowning death of his alcoholic wife, his divorces, his struggle with tinnitus, the rancor from several Star Trek co-stars.  But he is by nature an optimistic person with a zest for life.  He did most of his own stunts and has very funny stories about times he wondered why he ever agreed to do such dangerous things.  He tells insightful stories about some of the acting greats with whom he’s worked.  The book is an easy read that I recommend to even those who are not Star Trek fans.

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