William Shatner’s new autobiography "Up Till Now" is actually the last of the autobiographies of the actors from the original Star Trek. So how does it compare? In this Library Computer, we take a look at all the autobiographies from the various TOS actors?
Rating the TOS Autobiographies
Trekmovie.com provides you an exclusive guide to the TOS autobiographies. Each entry below is followed by three ratings.
- "GBI" is the Generic Biographical Interest rating which is how interesting is the book’s discussion of the actor’s pre and non Trek experiences (on a scale of 1-5.
- "STI" is the Star Trek Interest rating which is how "fascinating" is their discussion of their TOS days (on a scale of 1-5) .
- "CR" is the combined number for the book.
Leonard Nimoy — "I Am Not Spock" (1975) & "I Am Spock" (1995)
Gee, what a difference twenty years makes. 1975’s "I Am Not Spock" was a badly named book, because far from distancing himself from Spock, the book is actually about how much of Leonard Nimoy is Spock, and vice versa. It is a celebration of Spock, not a disparagement. Yet, as Nimoy tells it, the publisher really wanted this negative title, and so, the legend was that Nimoy hated the Spock character, at least for those who never actually read the book! " I Am Not Spock" is excellent, especially impressive in Nimoy’s thoughtfulness about acting. Nimoy tells good stories with real morals and challenging ideas. The 1995" I Am Spock" is a perfect sequel, focusing more on the feature film era. Nimoy "is" Star Trek, at least equally, or perhaps more so, than William Shatner. Therefore, his stories are very intimate accounts of his experiences. The poetry of Nimoy is shown in his books. Both books utilize the convention of Spock sometimes commenting on Nimoy’s observations, which is a delight.
GBI: 4 / STI: 5 / CR: 9 out of 10 (both)
George Takei — "To the Stars" (1994)
George Takei was ironically an enigma to fans before 1994, ironic because he is one of the friendliest and most enthusiastic of the Star Trek actors. Yet, many fans never knew about George Takei’s offscreen experiences, before and after Star Trek. "To The Stars "shares a great deal of the personal side of George Takei, and the most fascinating section is his discussion of his internment during World War II in the United States. The actions of the U.S. government towards Japanese Americans is one of those moments in history that is easier to forget than to remember for the generic population because of its shame, and not much was taught or talked about until the 1990s. Takei’s book is actually an important contribution to that discussion, showing how the internment affected his family. For this alone, this is a worthy read. However, Takei also discusses his experiences in politics, making other films, and of course Star Trek. His Star Trek section is much less interesting than his pre-Star Trek experiences. There is, also, a tinge of whining to his Star Trek memories, especially regarding William Shatner. That being said, like Takei personally, there is an enthusiasm and likeability to the book.
GBI: 5 / STI: 2 / CR: 7 out of 10
"To the Stars" available at Amazon
Nichelle Nichols — "Beyond Uhura" (1994)
Singing and dancing were Nichelle Nichols main claim to fame before acting in Star Trek. Her career is truly remarkable, singing with the likes of Duke Ellington. Her book "Beyond Uhura "discusses her experiences on the road, her family, her romances (one of which was with Gene Roddenberry), and her friends. Like Takei’s text, Nichols pre-Star Trek life is incredibly interesting, especially her experiences with racism. This is a good book for those who wish to learn what it was like for a young entertainer during days of intolerance, and hearing these stories make us appreciate the positive message of Star Trek. Also fascinating is Nichols good work with NASA, recruiting minorities and women into the program. The Star Trek content does not disappoint either, with her discussions of each of films and many of the episodes. Her contributions to the animated show are amazing, from voicing many of the female characters showing her vocal talents, to really showing various sides of Uhura in episodes such as "The Lorelei Signal" where Uhura is Captain of the Enterprise.
GBI: 4 / STI: 4 / CR: 8 out of 10
"Beyond Uhura" available at Amazon
James Doohan — "Beam Me Up, Scotty" (1996)
James Doohan was a hero. Not Scotty. James Doohan. This book is a must read for those who would like to learn of the amazing war experiences of Doohan who, like Roddenberry, performed real acts of sacrifice and bravery during their lives (Roddenberry saved survivors of a plane crash while a civilian pilot). Doohan was at D-Day, losing his finger and suffering many more wounds during his service. He was also an incredibly busy Canadian, then Hollywood, actor before Star Trek. The pre-Star Trek discussion is amazing. However, there are real problems with the Star Trek sections of the text. They are often glossed over and it is mostly Doohan’s personal opinions that the book offers, not really interesting facts or information. His dislike of Shatner is very obvious in the book, with probably the only real compliment about Shatner being that his acting as Kirk was okay. Yet, learning about Doohan makes the reader miss him even more, both for his fan friendly demeanor and his real contributions to freedom.
GBI: 5 / STI: 2 / CR: 7 out of 10
"Beam Me Up, Scotty" available at Amazon
Walter Koenig — "Warped Factors" (1998)
Prepare for an interesting self psychological evaluation of Walter Koenig with his book "Warped Factor". Koenig’s academic training in psychology is evident in Koenig’s sometimes acerbic and sometimes funny autobiography. Koenig’s pre-Star Trek life lacks much of the drama of the experiences of James Doohan (a war hero), George Takei (a survivor of U.S. Japanese American concentration camps), or Nichelle Nichols (touring with legendary musicians). However, of all the biographies, Koenig is probably the most balanced and honest, especially in regards to Star Trek. Unlike some of the other supporting actors, Koenig is more realistic about his place in the pantheon of Star Trek. Any disappointment he has is not because he thinks of himself as the main star of the show, yet he does wish for slightly larger contributions to films such as "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country". He writes about how the making of that film was a personal misery, while for most other actors it was a wonderful experience, mostly because of his own state of mind. He is the most diplomatic towards William Shatner of the "fabulous four" biographies, criticizing him, yet also trying to practice some understanding of his fellow actor. Most interesting for Trekkies is his memos to Harve Bennett about "Star Trek II" (he was asked to do a "Trekkie" fact check of the script) and to the producers of "Star Trek VI" (where he offered to have Chekov be sacrificed to give the story more meaning). Reading about the Star Trek convention which was really a "con" (meaning it was run by a "con" artist) is worth the price of the book.
GBI: 2 / STI: 5 / CR: 7 out of 10
"Warped Factors" available at Amazon
Grace Lee Whitney — "The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy" (1998)
This could be a very depressing book. Much of Whitney’s experiences have been tragedies, from substance abuse to divorce. Yet somehow, like Rand, Whitney keeps the book positive, showing how one could learn from these kinds of mistakes. Her Star Trek section is excellent, especially considering her character was in only a few episodes and films. Rand, though, was supposed to be, besides Kirk and Spock, the most important character on the show (a role that eventually would go to DeForest Kelley). As such, Whitney was very involved at the early stages of Star Trek and its formation. Her stories are interesting, and sometimes heartbreaking as when she describes being asked to not to return for Star Trek. Her early life is somewhat reminiscent of Nichols with singing and touring as the theme, yet the Star Trek section is really the best of the text.
GBI: 2 / STI: 5 / CR: 7 out of 10
"The Longest Trek" available at Amazon
DeForest Kelley — "A Harvest of Memories" (by Kristine M. Smith 2001) & "From Sawdust to Stardust: DeForest Kelley" (by Terry Lee Rioux 2005)
DeForest Kelley never wrote his autobiography. Yet, these two books are written by people who were close friends with both DeForest and Carolyn Kelley, and each is an authorized text on the life of the actor who portrayed Dr. Leonard McCoy. Smith’s book reads like one written by a daughter about her parents, and in many ways, that is what Kris Smith was symbolically to the Kelleys. It is a very personal book, and it is heartbreaking when reading about how illness affected Kelley. Terry Lee Rioux book is more like a traditional biography, yet both books are excellent. There is much about Star Trek in both, with good details about DeForest Kelley’s McCoy and behind the scenes information. Both are very recommended if you wish to know more about this gentle actor who was a perfect neighbor and husband.
GBI: 5 / STI: 4 / CR: 9 out of 10 (both)
Tip: If you can – get the audio versions
A tip for those thinking of getting these books, some of the texts have an audio book counterpart read by the actor. These are quite enjoyable, as the audio books are almost like interviews about their own experiences. All of the audio books are great, especially Nichols and Takei, both of whom have melodic voices and really are very good narrators.
Where are the TNG, DS9, VOY, & ENT actor autobios?
If you are wondering if we left out autobiographies from stars of the four Trek spin-off series that followed TOS, we didn’t. There just aren’t any. The closest would be Wil Wheaton’s 2004 book "Just a Geek," which is excellent, but more of a collection of essays rather than a real biography. Like Shatner and Nimoy there is also an unauthorized (and rather unflattering) biography of Patrick Stewart ("Patrick Stewart: The Unauthorized Biography" from 1996). There is also a omnibus bio by Adam Shrager and David Gerrold called "The Finest Crew in the Fleet" which covers the entire TNG crew and some big guest stars. It is recommended, but each bio is brief. It would better to get their full stories and in their own words, so isn’t it about time Kate, Jeri, Patrick and Avery?
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Review "Up Till Now" Autobiography
"Up Till Now" Preview + Overview of previous Shatner Trek memoirs