Type Book
Date 1979-11
Pages 327
Series Star Trek books
Tags nonfiction, biography

Shatner: Where No Man...

This biography was an absolute trial to get through. There was the odd section that was pleasant to read, when it was mostly an interviewee speaking, but whenever Marshak and Culbreath are musing on their theories or congratulating themselves, it gets so tiresome.

M&C had a pretty clear agenda with a lot of questioning, for example, they write:

Does the concept of the "alpha" male--the dominant male of a primate group (with the second most dominant being "beta", etc.) apply to man? Do men strive for dominance in that way? Do women? Is there such a thing as an "alpha female?

If there are men who are alpha males--do they still experience the need to yield? And to whom would or could they yield? An alpha female? But in an Earth context, while that is intellectually possible, it is physically not very convincing. There is a certain issue of plain strength. Muscle.

What about an alien woman now? Say, a Romulan fleet commander? Say, a Vulcan woman? Vulcans are, after all, stronger than humans. Even alpha male starship captains.

That 'Romulan fleet commander' thing they mention? They're talking about the Romulan Commander from The Enterprise Incident, no doubt. But the connection between her and Kirk is explored in fanfic, rather than in the series proper. Whose fanfic? Why, Marshak & Culbreath have a book or two that might be relevant.

And they make a point of bringing up their idea about alpha males over and over in interviews (oh, and they have another fic on the topic, too). One assumes that they kept asking questions in slightly different ways until they got the quotes they wanted. A couple of famous ones came out in this book:

As I've said, I definitely designed it as a love relationship. I think that is what we're all about--love, the effort to reach out to each other. I think that's a lovely thing.

'There's a great deal of writing in the STAR TREK movement now which compares the relationship between Alexander and Hephaistion to the relationship between Kirk and Spock--focusing on the closeness of the friendship, the feeling that they would die for one another--'

"Yes," Gene says. "There's certainly some of that with--certainly with love overtones. Deep love. The only difference being, the Greek ideal--we never suggested in the series--physical love between the two. But it's the--we certainly had the feeling the affection was sufficient for that, if that were the particular style in the 23rd century." (He looks thoughtful.) "That's very interesting. I never thought of that before."

How much of that was really Roddenberry's thinking in writing Trek, and how much was him just giving M&C what they so obviously wanted? He apparently wanted walk those back so badly that he inserted a footnote into the novelization of the film. Their much-vaunted study had some exceptionally leading questions, too.

From the book itself, it seems that Shatner was absolutely in love with everything they were doing, but I heard years ago (and Fanlore links to a source for this rumor) that Shatner hated the book enough that he tried to limit distribution.

Amazingly, for a (supposedly) nonfiction book, this thing reads like fanfic. M&C's style comes through strong as ever: they try a word or phrase, congratulate themselves for how clever they sound, and celebrate by repeating it about fifty times over the next chapter or two. If I never see the word 'shellmouth' again (and, honestly, I never expect to) it'll be too soon.

Not just the words but the ideas are repetitive--M&C are constantly admonishing the reader not to forget The Crucible Years that Shatner went through, or reminding us how they, specially, have been trusted with the most intimate details of Shatner's life, which he has never told anyone before. And they make sure to quote other people exclaiming about how they can't believe Shatner opened up so much to M&C, and how amazing M&C's ideas are and why didn't M&C write the script for the Trek movie?

It's exhausting.

Potential future readers are enjoined in the strongest possible terms: do not become regretful past readers.

Notes

  • even in the introduction, they're already talking about sex appeal and Spock, and they have twice used 'unexpurgated' in a way with the same feeling as their use of 'gossamer', etc.
  • and a third 'unexpurgated' on p. 7
  • p. 11 asks if there is such a thing as an 'alpha' among humans--no need to wonder about M&C's opinion
  • p. 36, 'gossamer', p. 40
  • Ch. 1 discusses how Shatner came to be an actor and talks about his one man show "An Evening with William Shatner"
  • Ch. 2, Shatner's acting career, before and after Trek
  • Ch. 3, How Shatner turned down some lucrative contracts, and other 'landmarks' in his life.
  • Ch. 4, The difficulties following Shatner's divorce from his first wife, Gloria, and how he got together with Marcy
  • Ch. 5, How similar are Kirk and Shatner? Lots of gushing about Kirk's emotional openness, praise of Shatner. Repetitive.
  • p. 134, I'm getting rather tired of 'shellmouth'
  • p. 145, "I definitely designed it as a love relationship"
  • p. 148, "the affection was sufficient for that"
  • p. 154, someone took out an ad about the Kirk-Uhura kiss in Variety
  • Ch. 7, an interview with Shatner and Roddenberry
  • p. 194, quote about "Turnabout Intruder" being an anti-woman piece
  • p. 207, more alpha nonsense
  • p. 207, Dr. Lionel Tiger, Ph. D. "Men in Groups"
  • p. 225, they mention "Romulan Fleet Commanders" among the kinds of women Kirk finds attractive, but that's just in fanfic--and their fanfic, in particular
Name Role
Myrna Culbreath Author
Sondra Marshak Author
William Shatner Subject