Review by C.J. Bunce
It will take fans of the earlier editions of The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future, Revised and Expanded Edition less than a dozen pages of browsing to realize the enormity of the material–and the effort–required to update the previous 1999 edition for this 50th anniversary boxed, hardcover, two-volume reference published this week. Enterprise–the series that has been virtually ignored in Star Trek reference publications, finally gets its due, as does the later seasons of Voyager, the last season of Deep Space Nine, and the films Star Trek Nemesis, Star Trek (2009), and Star Trek Into Darkness.
An invaluable reference until the creation of the online fan-run Memory Alpha, the original three editions of the The Star Trek Encyclopedia were the only place for fans to get quick Star Trek data with the last update in 1999. The advent of the Internet seemed to have spelled certain doom for any hope of a revised and updated edition. Memory Alpha has more than 40,000 pages of detailed Star Trek reference data. How could a 1,056 page two-volume edition compete? For one, long-time fans of all or many of the Star Trek series likely appreciate the ability to pull a reference book off the shelf. Memory Alpha’s recent updates make the website difficult to navigate and website TrekCore’s value is very much in its screen captures. Star Trek reference works have been very sporadically released in the past 20 years, so fans are always clamoring for a new book. The Star Trek Encyclopedia is very much an encyclopedia, and many may not remember the days of pulling a volume of an encyclopedia off the shelf and reading it through for entertainment. This is a great set of books to do just that. And the detailed content is what fans want.
Excluding this summer’s release Star Trek Beyond, original edition creators (and former Star Trek art department creative gurus) Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda craftily and seamlessly weaved the J.J. Abrams’s movies–called the Kelvin timeline now– into this work as explained in their foreword (only Star Trek (2009)’s villain Nero’s entry, for example, bridges both the Prime timeline and the Kelvin timeline in The Star Trek Encyclopedia). The Star Trek Encyclopedia is also the first publication that thoroughly addresses the nuts and bolts of Star Trek Into Darkness.
I came up with a list of my favorite items: references, characters, objects, and places that did not turn up in the past editions, to see if they all were now included. They were, except for entries and images of certain key alien weapons, uniforms, and artifacts from the Kelvin timeline (like John Eaves’ beautifully designed Klingon weapons, Romulan disruptors and rifles, or the new Klingon uniforms and helmets). These types of updates are present across the board for Enterprise, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. Artist Ian Fullwood updates Doug Drexler’s artwork quite well, adding to his work updates with the same look and feel as Drexler’s original creations. Don’t expect past entries to be updated other than some have updated photographs–the research and preparation was clearly all about the new series and movies, also what the fans want and expect.
In the original volumes a reader might have a character name and want to see what actor played the character and the Encyclopedia provided that quick answer. Readers of this edition are more likely to find what they are after. Highlights include sections focusing on lifeforms, planets, spaceships (including new artwork and an updated registry), Starfleet uniforms, signage, and symbols, and appendices including a timeline of key events, a production timeline, and writer and director credits by episode/film.
My only quibble with the Encyclopedia is the same as my concerns with the prior editions, and that is with the use of the newly created artwork images (originally by Drexler, and in this edition supplemented with new art by Fullwood, whose spaceship drawings are a high point of the Encyclopedia). Very often the images rendered do not exactly match the items in the series or movies. As an example, the only self-sealing stembolt we’ve seen in canon was in Deep Space Nine, and the design of the reference image is very different from the prop as it appeared onscreen. Similarly, in an image of mirror universe Starfleet uniforms, the Enterprise era uniform artwork is missing the key black zippered shoulder belt worn in the two Enterprise mirror universe episodes. This wouldn’t have been an issue if photos were used. Do these things matter? Probably not, so long as the artwork isn’t used for reference purposes for other “study,” or for those after exact cosplay re-creation source material, etc.
That said, use of the artwork with the hundreds of small photos from screencaps of the series and movies is useful and attractive. It breaks up and gives variety to the book, and along with the new design, margin line art and colors, new easier to read type fonts and greater white space, the book is now easier to read and more enjoyable. These two volumes actually take you back to the days when the look and feel of Funk & Wagnall’s and The World Book Encyclopedia were eclipsed by the format of the more enticing, image-filled Encyclopedia Britannica.
An essential set of books from Harper Design for every Star Trek fan, pick up a copy of The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future, Revised and Expanded Edition at nearly half off the cover price now here at Amazon.com.