William Shatner and Chris Kreski's names appear on the cover of Get a Life! Any time a celebrity's memoirs receive this kind of credit, we can assume that the material came, largely, from William Shatner, and the thankless task of arranging it in some kind of coherent form fell to Chris Kreski.
Shatner and Kreski
have previously written two memoirs together: Star Trek Memories
and Star Trek Movie Memories
. This book exists partially to comment on the death of James T. Kirk
in Star Trek: Generations
, partially to make a few bucks, and partially to address Shatner's feelings about trekkies
. I'll leave discerning readers to guess which inspired Shatner most. The title goes back to 1987
(though the expression
is older). William Shatner, hosting Saturday Night Live
, appeared as himself at a convention. SNL's regular cast played obsessed fans, asking obsessive, fannish questions. A good many of these contain Trek
Finally, Shatner tells them that he's been coming to conventions for years, and there's something he's always wanted to say.
"Get a life! It's a tv show!" And on he rants, suggesting that they've taken a fun job that ended years ago and turned it into a tremendous waste of time, and that they should probably move out of their parents' basements. He storms off and the geeks become confused, while the studio audience falls off their chairs laughing, and Shatner himself can barely keep character.
The convention organizer drags Shatner back on stage, where he explains that he had been impersonating the evil Kirk from the episode, "The Enemy Within."
At the after-show party, in real life now, a writer tells Shatner that the nerds are going to hate him. Shatner insists that the comment surprised him. He considered the sketch so over-the-top and cartoony, that he did not think for an instant that anyone would be offended.
I remember watching the original. I laughed. Friends of mine who watched the same sketch, many of them diehard SF fans, some of them Trek fans, laughed. Yet when I finally attended an SF convention two years later, I actually met people who had been offended. They felt betrayed, because they'd put so much effort into Trek or Sf fandom generally. Angry because, in fact, Shatner rarely came to conventions, so he wouldn't know now, would he?
In the 1990s, Shatner encountered people with the same attitudes and decided to look into the matter.
Shatner, whatever flaws he may have, has never been one for wide-eyed Trek idolatry. He has parodied his Kirk image, not only on SNL, but in films from Airplane 2: The Sequel to Free Enterprise. He can laugh about the show's cheapness. And he regards the original series' cancellation as a good thing. They had dried up creatively, and they lacked the budget to properly present the good ideas they had:
...all we have to do is hypothesize... what Star Trek's fourth season might have been like. Would Bones marry a Martian? Would high-heeled bikinitrons from the planet Go-Go bump and grind the Enterprise right out of the galaxy? Would we all spend an episode reverting to infancy? Are any of those wild-eyed possibilities even a tiny bit more far-fetched than Abraham Lincoln in space?
....Allowed to survive and publicly wither on the air, we of the Starship Enterprise could very well have disgusted our fans, wearing out our collective welcome. Under those circumstances, Star Trek would today more likely exist solely as a hazily recollected Trivial Pursuit answer (55).
Get a Life! takes a quick look back at the first conventions, but focuses on Shatner's experiences in the 1990s, when he began attending them regularly. For a time, he would put on a rubber mask and wander, largely unrecognized, in order to get a floor-level sense of a con. These portions hold some interest, but Shatner's Trek career has been handled in greater detail in previous books, and he runs out of material quickly.
The remainder of the book consists of anything he and Kreski could convince themselves would interest Trek fans. Explanations of how to properly parody Kirk, from someone with a fair bit of experience in the field. Interviews. An account of a online Trek chat. Bitchy gossip, such as the account of the unnamed cast member who sells pieces of his/her original uniform-- taken from a "huge bolt of material housed in that star's garage"(137). Thoughts about action figures. He also repeats many anecdotes which he uses at conventions, many of them only tenuously connected with Star Trek, or not connected at all. An elephant once shit on Shatner. If you want to hear the details, they're in this book. For the most part, Get a Life! reads like a drooling fanzine, except that the ostensible author is the book's subject. Reading my copy, which my wife found in a dollar bin, I couldn't help but think I was being mocked, after all; any time spent reading this book suggested I really did need to get a life.
I suppose Get a Life! would appeal to collection completists and hardcore trekkies/ers-- provided they have recovered from being told off on a comedy show.
William Shatner with Chris Kreski. Get a Life!. New York: Pocket, 1999.