Star Trek Costumes Block and Erdmann final cover 2015

Review by C.J. Bunce

The best non-fiction look at Star Trek in years is now available at book stores and online retailers.  Star Trek Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier, by Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann will serve as a companion book to The Art of Star Trek, The Continuing Mission, and Star Trek: The Art of the Film, all previously reviewed here and here at borg.com.  Together these four books represent the best visual looks at the history of Star Trek.  This new volume includes beautiful, clear, full-color photographs in a colorful hardcover, coffee table edition.

General fans of Hollywood costumes will learn plenty about the variety of major costumes used in the Star Trek universe throughout the past 50 years, and Star Trek diehards will find many interesting tidbits, too.  Highlights include recollections of costume designer Robert Fletcher about his creations for the movies and photos of several of his original costume designs, including his sketches for William Shatner’s Captain Kirk Class B uniform, Scotty’s engineering radiological suit used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the maroon, naval-style officer and crewman uniforms first appearing in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

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William Ware Theiss’s era-defining costumes from the original series receive plenty of coverage, including images of some of Theiss’s often quickly rendered costume designs.  The original hand-drawn artwork from past and present is worth its weight in gold press latinum, including original costume designs for Star Trek: The Next Generation by Durinda Rice Wood (like Counselor Troi’s beautiful, form-fitting, burgundy jumpsuit), costume designs for Star Trek: First Contact by Deborah Everton (like Lily’s 2063 civilian garb worn by Alfre Woodard), Robert Blackman’s original concept art for Star Trek Generations (like the British Naval uniforms), and Sanja Milkovich Hays’ original concept sketches for Star Trek: Insurrection (like the female Tarlac nurse bodysuits) many including photos of corresponding fabric swatches.  While Star Trek Costumes provides only a brief look at the costumes of Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, and Enterprise, it provides a nice overview of the revisited designs and variants of Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness, including a focus on the Klingon costumes.

You’ll see an extensive assemblage of high quality, detailed photographs of key pieces of the CBS/Paramount Star Trek collection of original costumes (which fans over the years may have seen in-person at the Star Trek Tour, Star Trek Exhibition, and Las Vegas Star Trek Experience).  These are the few pieces retained by the studio when they sold off the remaining thousands of pieces to private buyers via Christies and other auction houses beginning in 2006.  Photos of interest include: original series tunics for members of the bridge crew, close-ups of Captain Kirk’s landing party jacket from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Ricardo Montalban’s Khan costume components, one of Mr. Spock’s maroon uniforms, Spock’s Star Trek: The Final Frontier thruster boots, and Worf and Jadzia Dax’s red wedding ensemble from Deep Space Nine.

Another gem is Robert Fletcher’s choice of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock black meditation robe as his favorite costume (sadly that costume was sold at Christies and purchased by Rittenhouse to be carved up into one-inch squares for costume cards for trading card collectors).

TMP Kirk costume

Marketing images from the CBS/Paramount archives include many images of William Ware Theiss costumes reflecting the look and fabrics of the 1960s, full-page photos of costumes like the cat dancer from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Christopher Plummer’s Commander Chang uniform from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  Thankfully Star Trek Costumes does not rely on screencaps, but presents many previously unpublished photos, and some photos reprinted from the 2006 Christies auction shoot.

Great interview stories include Robert Blackman’s account of the legendary botched relaunch of new Starfleet uniforms for Star Trek Generations, and personal recollections of a few of the actors who wore the uniforms they called “spacesuits,” including Jonathan Frakes and LeVar Burton.

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What’s missing?  The already evident sales success of this volume based on Amazon pre-orders begs for a Volume 2, which could focus on the hundreds of unique alien costumes created for all the series.  Excepting the big three: Vulcans, Klingons, and Romulans, despite the dense coverage of Starfleet uniforms, bridge crew civilians and guest movie actor garb, hardly any attention is given to some of the most astounding creations from Star Trek past and present, which would easily fill another volume.  A book like this must be written featuring the artistic creators’ thoughts behind the dress of the Mintakan, Maquis, Tamarian, Zibalian, Krenim, Kazon, Benzite, Vidiian, Malcorian, Jem’Hadar, Hirogen, Tak Tak, Annunaki, Akaali, and Andorean–and those myriad holodeck cultures.  Likewise, each of the bridge crew for Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager and Enterprise had so many disguises, variant costumes, and guest star costumes, that those outfits could fill a volume.  And we won’t even mention the need for a definitive Star Trek props book.  We dedicated Trek fans are a greedy lot.

The end notes appropriately mention that, unlike Star Wars and the Tolkien movie series, nearly all of the Star Trek costumes are now in private collections, so this is a rare opportunity for most fans to see these costumes up close.  This makes the book a must-have for cosplayers, and fashion students can also learn plenty here.  And of course fans of sci-fi generally can spend hours thumbing through this volume–an attractive book complete with a wraparound image of the reboot Star Trek sciences blue fabric inside the dust jacket.

Star Trek Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier is available now here from Amazon.com.

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