Beaming Up–Walter Koenig recounts a lifetime as an actor in new autobiography

Review by C.J. Bunce

Walter Koenig may be best known as the youngest crewman on the original Star Trek, and he’s recounted his work and life during after the series and movies in his earlier memoirs Chekov’s Enterprise and Warped Factors: A Neurotic’s Guide to the Universe.  But there’s much more to this complex personality, and he shares his personal stories and his experience as an actor of stage and screen in New York and Hollywood in his new and updated autobiography, Beaming Up and Getting Off.  This is a continuation of Koenig’s Warp Factors, which covered his life only up to 1998, but the actor has updated his memoirs at age 83 with nearly 100 new pages looking back at a struggling actor making his way, including a filmography and a proposed but rejected story outline he submitted in 1990 for Star Trek VI.

Fans of Koenig and his work on Star Trek and Babylon 5 will read plenty of insider commentary on both series and the characters behind the scenes, much in the conversational style of Mark A. Altman’s The Fifty-Year Mission book series (reviewed here).  It’s not all gossipy tabloid fodder, however.  Koenig is aware of how his frustration and angst as a struggling actor before and after Star Trek appears in hindsight, and investigates his past after being a professor teaching acting and exploring a lifetime of the human condition.  Koenig is also aware of his successes, including poignant highlights like an ovation and top convention spot in Europe, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.

He has good things to say about Nicholas Meyer, DeForest Kelley, and Anton Yelchin, he had a close relationship with his brother, and he worked and bumped elbows with many familiar actors, including Jackie Coogan, James Caan, Sydney Pollack, and Lee Marvin.  He was even kissed by a movie star from Hollywood’s Golden Age.  His insight into Hollywood provides a different look at the inner workings of Hollywood to compare with books like Caroline Young’s Hitchcock Heroines and Cy Chernak’s The Show Runner.

Koenig digs deep into the family he was born into and the influences he picked up early in his formative years and experience at college in Grinnell, Iowa.  He highlights key relationships, including an up-and-down past with Star Trek director Harve Bennett, Gene Roddenberry, and William Shatner.  Beaming Up and Getting Off: Life Before and Beyond Star Trek is also his account of working with J. Michael Straczynski and Babylon 5, a show which reached a level of collegiality behind the scenes he says he didn’t find in Star Trek.  For the most part he leaves his family out of the book, but briefly addresses his son who died before his time in 2010.

He’s a vegetarian, a supporter of international causes, and frequent convention guest.  This is a book for convention goers, those who would stand around in line to spend a half hour asking questions or just shooting the breeze with an actor from your favorite show.  Koenig even discusses the kinds of conventions he’s appeared at–some good, some bad, and recounts dozens of actors he’s met at cons, and he freely provides his personal take on them. 

For fans of Star Trek and Walter Koenig, new from Jacobs/Brown, order Beaming Up and Getting Off: Life Before and Beyond Star Trek at the publisher website here (available autographed) or here at Amazon.

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