Review by C.J. Bunce
In many ways the most diehard Star Trek fan is going to be surprised when they flip open the new behind-the-scenes account of the original 1966-1969 series in the full-color, hardcover, coffee table-style book, Star Trek: A Celebration. Even if you’ve read everything about Star Trek you could get your hands on, you haven’t seen it in one volume presented like this. Star Wars fans have seen this kind of volume in the works of the late JW Rinzler, and although this book is not as dense, it will serve the same purpose for Star Trek aficionados. The wildly popular The Princess Bride–A Celebration was given similar treatment, as was the landmark Star Trek: Voyager–A Celebration, released only this year, also by publisher Hero Collector. I can’t understate what a welcome book this is for fans of the original Star Trek series. As Star Trek fans across the globe celebrate 55 years of the Star Trek franchise, coinciding with the centennial of the birth of its creator, Gene Roddenberry, it’s well past time fans got a book to–yes–celebrate one of the greatest and most influential television series of all time. Star Trek: A Celebration is available today for the first time here at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.
But wait–what about those hundreds of non-fiction books written in the past 55 years documenting the production details, the cast and crew, the ships, the costumes, the props, including a six-volume, 4,000 page treatise on Roddenberry and the production? If I haven’t read them all, I’m certain I’ve read 95% of these works, and this is the first to provide an overview that condenses key characters from each of the three seasons, including new, insightful interviews with the actors that played them, spotlighting key episodes to give a flavor for the show, all forming a chronology of the series behind and in front of the camera. It covers all the subjects a new or old fan would want, presenting something more than merely highlighting each subject while also not drilling down into the most minute detail on each subject (as noted above those books are available, too, for even further “study” of the subject matter).
The 55th anniversary of the launch of the series is well timed for this celebration, and authors Ben Robinson and Ian Spelling have fulfilled the promise of the premise, creating that first, one-stop book to check out for any new fan, like someone who only just binge-watched the series for the first time. Those 55 years mean that for some cast and crew the authors needed to return to prior interviews, but they also used that distance as an advantage–giving viewers the benefit of cast and crew recollections as they look back on their roles, how the show influenced them, and how they have seen the series influence the world. Many of these have not appeared in a book like this before, and here they get two-page spreads discussing their roles and careers.
As a franchise, the marketing team for Star Trek could always tell viewers who the key characters and ships were thanks to contemporary model and prop kits and–much later–in the selection of action figures. So of course you’ll find Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, Rand, and Chapel, as well as Pike, Number One, and Sarek (also useful to visit for the newest fans of recent shows Star Trek: Discovery and Strange New Worlds), and guest characters Khan, Edith Keeler, Harry Mudd, and Marlena Moreau, but here you’ll also meet (or revisit) crew members Boyce, Colt, Tyler, Piper, Smith, Alden, Landon, and Boma.
I love that the writers got the 13 selected, spotlighted episodes right: “The Cage,” “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” “The Corbomite Maneuver,” “Arena,” “Space Seed,” “The Devil in the Dark,” “This Side of Paradise,” “The City on the Edge of Forever,” “Amok Time,” “Mirror, Mirror,” “Journey to Babel,” “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and “The Enterprise Incident.” Each episode is important to the ongoing story, and each subject gets a backstage account tying in show myths and humor. The other key subjects selected for focus just make sense, like features on the series’ key aliens: the Vulcans, the Romulans, and the Klingons; the trio of Matt Jefferies and Wah Chang’s series-defining props: phasers, communicators, and tricorders; the studio itself; the “Space, the final frontier…” narration drafting process; scenes in photographs and editing room floor outtakes; concept art, matte paintings, and designs; visual effects; costume, creature and makeup departments; ship design; the writers and directors; music, post-production, and more. Winding up the book is a handy six-page episode guide covering each season.
The outline for this book can also be seen as a card catalog of the history of non-fiction books on Star Trek’s original series (many reviewed here at borg over the years). It’s no overstatement that every two pages represents at least one thick previously published book that dove into the subject in greater detail, a nod to the enormity of interest in the show.
As I found in Hero Collector’s Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration, this is the next must-have book in your Star Trek library, whether you’re new to the show or think you know everything there is to know about the original series. Celebrating 55 years of the Federation, Star Trek: A Celebration arrives here at Amazon–and all good bookstores–today.