Just think, Trekkers: If not for his distaste of sci-fi, Lloyd Bridges—not William Shatner—might ultimately have paced the bridge of the starship USS Enterprise as Capt. James T. Kirk. And it was DeForest Kelley (the ship's cantankerous doctor, "Bones" McCoy), not Leonard Nimoy, who was first offered the role of the stiff Vulcan Mr. Spock. "No way! Forget it!" said Kelley. So writes Shatner, who, through interviews with dozens of his former colleagues has fashioned this breezy, entertaining memoir.
Long before it spawned a galactic empire of movie, TV and merchandising spin-offs, Star Trek's three-year mission (1966-69) was simply to survive in the hostile vacuum of prime time. But the show was second-guessed at every turn by timid NBC executives who. according to Shatner, at one point airbrushed Spock's pointy ears out of publicity stills and even vetoed what was to be TV's first interracial kiss—between Kirk and Lt. Uhuru (Nichelle Nichols). Cast and crew protested vehemently—and won. Or did they? "Look closely," writes Shatner. "Our lips never actually touched."
In fact, NBC was ready to kiss off the series after two seasons, but a letter-writing campaign kept Trek aloft for a third orbit—creatively, its wobbliest (worst episode: "Spock's Brain"). The author himself gets a phaser jolt in the backside. "I have to tell you," says Nichols during an interview with her costar, "why I despise you." And, while Shatner listens aghast, she proceeds to recount the time the self-absorbed actor once sought to cut Uhuru's "extraneous" lines from a script. Shatner reports similarly negative feedback from Walter Koenig (Chekhov) and George Takei (Sulu). And while Nimoy remains a close friend, James Doohan (Scotty) wouldn't even speak to him for this book, prompting Shatner to issue an open invitation to Doohan to sit down and clear the air. Aw, c'mon, Scotty, whatta ya say? Beam him up. (Harper-Collins, $22)