McGinnis: Wheaton shares memories, critiques of ‘Star Trek’Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s one thing that Wil Wheaton wants to make very clear: “Memories of the Future” is not, repeat, NOT a “tell-all” book about his time working on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
“It was extraordinarily important to me that this was not some kind of stupid, gossipy book,” Wheaton said. “I despise that kind of thing. I just hate it. It’s the reality television of literature, and I absolutely cannot stand it.”
Indeed, “Memories of the Future” is instead a funny review of, and a loving tribute to, the first season of “Next Generation,” which began its television run in 1987. The first book, “Volume One,” was released in October and covers the first 13 episodes of the series. “Volume Two” is scheduled to come out next year.
Wheaton, now 37, was just 14 when he was cast as the Starship Enterprise’s resident teenager, Wesley Crusher. Now working primarily as a writer, Wheaton began revisiting his days in Starfleet by writing humorous reviews of the show for the Web site TV Squad. Though the feature was enormously popular, when parent company AOL slashed the site’s budget, Wheaton’s column was let go.
“I figured that was just sort of the end of it, and then I started getting e-mails from people — including e-mails from my editor at TV Squad — who really wanted me to do more columns, wanted me to finish the season,” Wheaton said.
Having already self-published several books about his life, family and career, Wheaton decided to compile a book based upon the columns. “Everything just kind of lined up, and it made sense to put at least the first season into two volumes,” he said.
Though the final book does share some behind-the-scenes memories, the meat of the project lies in its very funny and bitingly observant reviews. Though “Next Generation” would eventually rise to widespread acclaim and create some amazingly powerful television, it cannot be denied that its first years on the air could be, well, somewhat inconsistent in quality. Wheaton has plenty of material for comedy, but the jabs are always loving and never mean-spirited.
Wheaton cites the writers of “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ as a major influence in the tone and construction of these passages, and notes the fine line he was walking as a humorist. “This book was risky,” he said. “I wanted to make it crystal clear in the introduction that this was not a book that should be taken very seriously. This is a book that’s supposed to make you laugh. And like my friend Anthony says, ‘If you remember the first season of “Next Generation” with equal parts nostalgia and face-palm, then you’re gonna love this book.”
“Memories” also represents a major departure from Wheaton’s previously published works, which focus on the realities of growing up a child star and self-described geek, as well as married life and raising two teenage boys. Wheaton has a lot of experience writing humor (he performs improvisational and sketch comedy for the ACME Comedy Theater in Hollywood), but for many of his readers, the shift in tone may come as somewhat of a surprise.
“Writing comedy is very different from writing other things. Comedy has a very specific set of rules. It’s like writing music, you have to write in a very specific time,” Wheaton said. “And the time signature for comedy is different than the time signature for everything else that I do.
In addition, Wheaton believes that he brings a different perspective to the proceedings — not just that of a cast member, but of someone who came to “Star Trek” at a very formative time of his childhood.
“I’m really clear in the book, this is the way *I* remember it. I may have a detail here or there that’s a little off, but I worked really hard to talk to my friends from the cast and crew to make sure, ‘Okay, this is the way I remember it, is this really the way it happened?’ That was the most wonderful gift; the most super-unexpected, joyful gift of writing this book was re-connecting with people I love and recalling really wonderful times in my life.
“It was really neat to see that, as a matter of fact, everybody on ‘Next Generation’ loved it and cared about it and was as proud of it as I was when I was doing it. That wasn’t just me being a teenager. That was like, ‘Yep, it really was that awesome.’”
“Memories of the Future” and all of Wil Wheaton’s other books are available through his Web site: http://wilwheaton.typepad.com.
E-mail Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com