Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration–Excellent chronicle of the seven-year series arrives for 25th anniversary

Review by C.J. Bunce

For a fan like me, Star Trek: Voyager was the definitive Star Trek series, the crew that most fully embraced Gene Roddenberry’s vision beyond the television series he created in 1966.  It featured a crew on a ship that explored like no crew before it, with only their available technology and their wits to survive.  Helmed by Kate Mulgrew’s personable yet tough Captain Kathryn Janeway, the crew would travel 70,000 light years home after being stranded in the Delta Quadrant.  The 25th anniversary of the launch of the series was 2020, and worthy of the celebration, authors Ben Robinson and Mark Wright have created the definitive behind the scenes account of the 1995-2001 series, Star Trek: Voyager–A Celebration, available now here at Amazon.

A few good books have been written about the series, including Paul Ruditis’s Star Trek: Voyager CompanionRuditis’s book was an episodic guide to every episode of the series from an in-universe story standpoint.  Star Trek: Voyager–A Celebration is a giant, 248-page, glossy, full-color, hardcover volume full of new interviews from the actors, writers, directors, and creative crew–a true look behind the scenes, including stories fans have never read before, and images from the production they probably haven’t seen before.  Like the spectacular look back at Star Trek: The Next Generation, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens’ The Continuing Mission (which I called one of the best Trek resources available here at borg back in 2012) this is the landmark book for its series that fans have been waiting for.  It’s the ultimate love letter to the series in the words of those who created it–reading these visionaries taking us back through the development of the show and the characters is a real treat.  I forgot how much I loved Bryan Fuller’s Star Trek, the scripts produced by Jeri Taylor, the late, great Michael Piller, the prolific Star Trek series writer Joe Menosky, and Brannon Braga. 

The authors interviewed key cast members (and some guest stars, excepting only Kes actor Jennifer Lien), each looking back with specific memories and tales of their experiences, about being cast, the first season development, when their characters “came into their own” on the show, and how they worked with each other.  Each actor and character is featured in several pages of content, separated by an important episode highlighted in a two-page retrospective, followed by sections on the major production departments.   Rick Sternbach discusses development of concept art for the Voyager ship and development of the ship interior set designs, Robert Blackman discusses how he approached the costume design for this new setting after already working on Star Trek for more than a decade, Michael Westmore recounts his makeup for the show’s featured alien races and lead characters Neelix, B’Elanna Torres, and Kes, and Dan Curry recalls the workload producing the show’s visual effects (both practical and digital).  The authors engage in discussions featuring the changing writers room and directors, and Mike Okuda, Denise Okuda, and Doug Drexler discuss nuances behind some of their creations in the art department. 

Kate Mulgrew recounts how Mike Okuda’s book of Trek details for the staff, called the Okudabible, helped her immerse herself into the role of Janeway and the future world of Star Trek.  Brannon Braga recalls that he wanted the brilliant “Year of Hell” two-part story to be a serialized story that lasted an entire season, but the studio wasn’t ready for that commitment then.  The story featured Kurtwood Smith as Annorax, the Krenim leader who wouldn’t stop changing timelines via a powerful weapon, until he “undid” his wife’s death–and almost destroyed the entire Voyager crew in the process–one of the series’ finest stories.

Another section of Star Trek: Voyager–A Celebration delves into the parallel success of Star Trek: First Contact, and how themes from that feature film were incorporated into the remaining seasons of Voyager to provide greater opportunities for storytelling.  One chapter reproduces production blueprints for the Klingon Barge of the Dead, another chapter covers designing the Delta Flyer, and another includes a list of some of the EMH’s best Dr. Bones McCoy-inspired sayings.  Also insightful is writer Nick Sagan describing The Twilight Zone episode “The After Hours” as inspiration for the episode “Course: Oblivion,” which he wrote with Bryan Fuller.  Braga recalls coming up with the Hirogen after watching Monday Night Football.  The book is full of great tidbits and trivia like this.

I was especially happy to read the biggest interview I’ve read in more than a decade with Robert Blackman, discussing the ever-changing workday for him and his costume shop, discussing actor reactions to his work, and how he had five Starfleet uniforms for the season for each crewman (there’s even a solo section on Jeri Ryan’s brief stint in that silver Seven of Nine catsuit).  I also loved seeing an interview with Star Trek: Voyager theme composer and soundtrack creator Jerry Chattaway.  

The authors of Star Trek: Voyager–A Celebration provide a nifty analysis of how Voyager got home–how it specifically traversed 70,000 light years–via a Kes-powered “push” forward, unique spatial conditions, improvements in astrometrics, a wormhole, the quantum slipstreams, the transwarp conduit, the space catapult, and some help from our old supernatural frenemy Q.  A large survey includes pages of alien ship design concept artwork, and specific sections are devoted to The Borg, the Hirogen, Species 8472, and the Captain Proton holodeck program.  The book wraps with a description of every episode of the series’ seven seasons.

It’s the ultimate celebration for Star Trek: Voyager fans, and the very best behind the scenes account ever created for the series.  Celebrating 25 years of the Federation’s bravest crew, Star Trek: Voyager–A Celebration is available now here at Amazon, from Hero Collector.  All seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager are now streaming on Netflix.

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