Despite the absolute candor and honesty that sits behind Leonard: My Fifty Year Friendship With A Remarkable Man – William Shatner’s tribute biography to Leonard Nimoy – there remains a significant mystery to its conclusion. Though it’s evidently a painful one for the author, who co-wrote the books with his memoir collaborator David Fisher, it’s a mystery that will go on to be a big talking point for Trekkies for years to come.
The mystery is why Leonard froze William Shatner out of his life during the last few years before his death at the mercy of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in February 2015. It’s a revelation that comes late on in the book and so it feels as much a surprise as a reader as it probably did to William at the time, because of the sheer volume of warmth, support, humour and friendship that precedes it.
However, for us there are clues littered throughout the biography that at least hint at a possible explanation for the late-in-the-day incommunicado that transpired. William reveals that he was left out of the loop and that even now he doesn’t really know why. There’s undoubtedly a little trigger in the fact that at their last convention together a cameraman working on a project with Shatner tried to film Nimoy without permission, but we’d be willing to bet a tribble or two that there’s a lot more to it than a mix up about a video shoot opportunity.
Apparently, at the end of the convention the two actors flew together back to Los Angeles in Nimoy’s plane with their usual camaraderie, so William finds it difficult to see this as the reason behind his shutout. If the rest of the book is anything to go by we’d be inclined to agree with him that this is unlikely to be the nub of it all, but it may well have been the spark that lit the touch paper for Nimoy’s decision to entrench at the last.
Leonard: My Fifty Year Friendship With A Remarkable Man covers a lot of ground at an emotional level, building the story of how the two Starshippers met, got over their initial competitive angst and developed a strong friendship over many years, but underneath it all there’s still an element of friendly rivalry. Whether it’s the “what he gets I get” clause they both had in their Star Trek contract, or the hilarious poles apart photography dichotomy that materialised with Nimoy shooting nudes as fine art and Shatner doing something similar, but less tastefully, for Playboy, there’s good natured competition inherent in their relationship.
While you might be fine with your best friend seeing you at your weakest and most vulnerable, you might be inclined to draw the line with your lifelong rival, no matter how much you love them, especially if they’re as boldly going as they’ve always been (and have a film crew in tow to capture it all on camera). It’s a speculative theory, but it does sort of fit the rest of the memoir as Leonard Nimoy decided to focus his remaining years with his family, nudging out his long-time friend and professional fencing opponent in the process.
Even with the mystery aside, the book makes for a fascinating read, not least of all because of the revelations it contains about the complex nature of their relationship. While the distanced ending taints things a little, it does act as a conduit for the author to get the situation off his chest a little, while also saying goodbye and paying tribute to a man he knew for so long, but didn’t get to say goodbye to before his death.
Where Leonard is less comprehensive is in the details, which William Shatner is pretty honest about, stating that when he thinks about Leonard Nimoy his memories are more feelings than specific. What this means is that for any Star Trek fans out there looking for swathes of anecdotes from their time on set, you’ll need to look elsewhere. However, if you want to head out on a time hopping voyage of discovery with two of the most important men in the world of sci-fi then this is a must-read book.
William Shatner, Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship With A Remarkable Man review: 4/5