Review by C.J. Bunce
After delivering a dozen Star Trek books, fiction and non-fiction, authors Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann are back in the franchise, this time covering the entire first two seasons of CBS All Access’s Star Trek: Discovery in their new book The Art of Star Trek: Discovery. This is the latest concept art and film production book in a franchise of some of the best printed TV and film retrospectives. Star Trek: Discovery, which led the newest chapter in the television Star Trek Universe (followed by Short Treks, Picard and Lower Decks), follows the exploits of Vulcan-raised science officer Michael Burnham and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery as they boldly go where no one has gone before. This book covers every corner of the series in an attractive hardcover full of great photographs.
What comes through strong in the artwork within The Art of Star Trek: Discovery is the influence and visual language first established by Scott Chambliss for the Star Trek “Kelvin timeline” movies. The commonality re-interpreting Star Trek again is of course executive producer Alex Kurtzman, a writer on the Star Trek 2009 film, and now the Kathleen Kennedy or Kevin Feige of all things Star Trek. Taking the baton from Chambliss for this series were production designers Tamara Deverell and Phillip Barker, and creative leadership Matt Middleton, Jody Lynn Clement, Scott Schneider, Joshua du Cartier, and William Budge, along with costume designer Gersha Phillips, each interviewed by the authors. You can see the influences for fabrics, colors, and lighting, as well as starship re-designs, with the creators sharing the credit with the likes of earlier Trek series creators Matt Jefferies, Doug Drexler, Rick Sternbach, and Michael Okuda (and a legion of costume staff, prop designers, and builders).
The authors show off the concept art for Star Trek: Discovery from legendary Star Trek creator John Eaves, as well as his recollections on creating his designs for the show. Readers will also learn of direct connections back to other Trek series, with the original series as a guidepost the creators used as reference.
This book is full of sharp, high-quality photographs–a mix of concept artwork, production guides for ships, badges, props, final imagery, sketches, schematics, and marketing shots. Nice surprises are the Klingon fonts, a scale of ship sizes, and big images of new weaponry. Block and Erdmann take readers on a journey from idea to realization, looking at individual plot points and characters, highlighting episodes, even explaining why the creators made the choices they did, and how the series moves the greater Star Trek story forward.
Besides the Starfleet logo, the best connective tissue for many fans between Star Trek: Discovery and past Treks may be actor/director Jonathan Frakes, and his contributions to this book as director of multiple episodes are a definite high point, along with the visionary ideas from Bryan Fuller, who got the series off the ground.
And readers who like Klingons will see all the details that went behind bringing them back to the screen, and learn how and why they look like they do in the series, along with the steps taken toward their final costumes, makeups, sets, and iconography.
The book offers a rare study of the opening credits to the show. The authors take us through the development of the credits in part because their creation is unique as a matter of the franchise, but it’s also because readers will find plenty of content packed into each frame that might sail past the average viewer. Diehard fans may catch the changes in the credits from episode to episode, but even they may not have understood the subtleties, pointed out in interviews with the team that worked with the studio to create them.
It’s an attractive, informative visual companion to Mark Cotta Vaz’s Star Trek: The Art of the Film and Jeff Bond’s The Art of Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline. The next must-have volume for your Star Trek library, Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann′s The Art of Star Trek: Discovery is available now here at Amazon. Three seasons of Star Trek Discovery are currently airing on CBS All Access, with the first season currently airing in a primetime re-broadcast on CBS, continuing January 7, 2021 at 9 p.m. Central.