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Category: Sci-Fi Café


Peck?  As in Gregory Peck?  Turns out Oscar-winning actor Gregory Peck has a grandson who took to the acting business–Ethan Peck–and he has been tapped to co-star in the next season of Star Trek Discovery.  This will be the 13th actor to portray the half-human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock in the more than five decades of the franchise–a role performed by more actors in the franchise than any other character.  Peck appears in the photo below (center) with Leonard Nimoy’s family, released today (and if the woman at left looks familiar, that’s because it’s Terry Farrell, who played Dax on Deep Space Nine, Leonard’s daughter-in-law, married to Leonard’s son Adam earlier this year).

Although he wasn’t “that kid in Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Peck did play a boy in the Disney fantasy film (which also featured former Star Trek actor Alice Krige).  He has also appeared in The Drew Carey Show, That ’70s Show, and the TV series version of 10 Things I Hate About You, among other things.

Here is an excerpt from the announcement earlier today about Peck from Star Trek Discovery executive producer Alex Kurtzman:

“Through 52 years of television and film, a parallel universe and a mirror universe, Mr. Spock remains the only member of the original bridge crew to span every era of Star Trek.”

Oops.  Actually Spock did not appear in Star Trek Enterprise.  So Spock has been in almost all the eras of Star Trek to be put to TV or film.  Kurtzman continued:

“The great Leonard Nimoy, then the brilliant Zachary Quinto, brought incomparable humanity to a character forever torn between logic and emotion.  We searched for months for an actor who would, like them, bring his own interpretation to the role.”

Pretty much anyone–sci-fi fan or not–can tell you Leonard Nimoy portrayed Spock the longest, from the pilot to the original series through the second film in the J.J. Abrams movie series, Star Trek Into Darkness (and a photo of him appeared in the next film Star Trek Beyond).  The character is almost without question the most iconic sci-fi character of the post-television era.

Zachary Quinto has taken on Spock for the three Abrams movies–that is, the part of young Spock in the separate, Kelvin timeline.  So where did we come up with eleven other actors who performed the role of Spock well in advance of Peck being handed his first tricorder?

Audiences have seen Spock several times before.  Remember in Star Trek III:  The Search for Spock, moviegoers saw Spock grow up on the Genesis planet, where he was played at age nine by Carl Krakoff:

Then at age 13 he was portrayed by Vadia Potenza:

At age 17 he was played by Stephen Manley:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Shane Black, director and screenplay writer of next month’s sci-fi action film The Predator, could have gone in any direction with his return of the Yautja alien hunters to Earth.  He, along with co-screenplay writer Fred Dekker, decided to continue onward to the present day following the events of Predator 2.  Since the third film, 2010’s Predators, was set away from Earth it doesn’t factor in to the new film and neither does 2004’s Aliens vs Predator and 2007’s Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, so The Predator is basically Predator 3.  If you missed the latest trailer, check it out here.  The first trailer (and the movie) begin with a child opening a package where he finds a strange futuristic device.  His play with the device ends up triggering the return of one or more Predators to the planet.  So what happened between Predator 2 and this kid handling the device?  You can find out in The Predator: Hunters and Hunted, the official movie prequel to Shane Black’s The Predator, from author James A. Moore.

The novel follows a single Predator on a hunting excursion to southern Georgia in alligator country where he starts plucking off townsfolk, biker gang members and local law enforcement.  Derived from the team headed up by Gary Busey’s Peter Keyes in Predator 2, a new government-funded initiative is focused on locating and capturing one of these aliens, and this Georgia sighting has been their first lead since an appearance in Los Angeles back in 1997.  We get a brief appearance from Keyes’ son Sean (to be played by Jake Busey in the new movie), but the focal point is an opportunist named Will Traeger–Sterling K. Brown’s character in the new film–who is carefully manipulating both a military special ops unit called the Reapers and Congressional leadership to gain full control of Keyes’ project, now called Project Stargazer.  Traeger’s impediment is the current project lead, General Woodhurst, a four-star general played by Edward James Olmos in early cuts of the film (later to be excised entirely from the final cut).  Woodhurst is very much like Olmos’ General Adama in Battlestar Galactica, a military strategist more than someone on the front lines with the troops.  Woodhurst and Traeger are the guys in Washington, DC, trying to gain funding while answering to the federal agencies dolling it out.

A Yautja alien in Shane Black’s September theatrical release, The Predator.

For most readers the more interesting part of the prequel novel will be the viewpoint of the Predator.  While not giving us the play-by-play of the bureaucrats, the story alternates between the Predator’s perspective and thoughts and the Reapers’ efforts to capture him (the Predator’s vantage was also a feature of the novelization of Predator 2).  The best scene in the book is entirely removed from everything else–an inspired, vivid one-on-one battle with an alligator.  Why waste time on these puny humans when you have a real threat like that?  The prequel novel is key to the coming movie because it establishes from the Predator’s perspective an important code that the hunters must follow.  Unless this gets recounted in the movie, it’s some key data to know before heading into the theater.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Many products oversell themselves with some flavor of marketing puffery, they claim to be better than they ultimately are, or give consumers only the best content in the previews.  That’s not the case with Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’s second chapter in their two-volume chronicle The Fifty-Year Mission, The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J.J. Abrams, The Complete Uncensored Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek (I’ll shorten that hefty title to The Next 25 Years for this review).  With the first volume–The First 25 Years–coming in at 577 pages, it probably evens out that this second volume is a lengthy 864 pages considering all it needed to cover (everything from Next Generation onward).  Key words to note in that long title are unauthorized, meaning CBS and Paramount didn’t publish this (like the These Are the Voyages trilogy of books from Marc Cushman), complete meaning once you’re finished there is no possible way there is anything left to say about the production of the Star Trek TV shows and films, uncensored meaning Hollywood creators you may have idolized when beginning the book show a side of their personalities that remove the magic, awe, and spark you felt about them.  And oral as in stories passed down via the oral tradition, because The Next 25 Years features stories being told by hundreds of players (and a few non-players) via a loose outline broken down within topics Star Trek: The Next Generation, followed by the TNG movies, followed by Deep Space Nine, then Voyager, then Enterprise, stop-start show ideas, and then a too-brief section on the J.J. Abrams’ produced movies.

As for the “oral,” The Next 25 Years feels only a bit like what a historian may document as an oral history in that it consists nearly entirely of quotes from those who made these productions with only the barest of context added to try to keep the reader (and contributors) on-topic.  The Next 25 Years was published in 2016, so it includes contributions from those alive at the time the book was written, but also shuffles in comments of those creators who died long before, as if they were speaking along with the living contributors.  Neither is this a work of journalism or scholarly creation, because absent citation references–as Cushman used quite well as an integral part of his trilogy–it’s difficult for anyone to use the book as a reliable reference.  “When did Gene Roddenberry say this?”  “When did David Gerrold say that?”  Even more confusing, it’s obvious that the compilers of these quoted statements showed certain statements to others and allowed them to comment and respond.  When was this allowed, and when wasn’t it allowed?  Readers just don’t know, because the compilers of these statements don’t provide context.  Was Rick Berman given an opportunity to rebut this disparaging comment?  Did Michael Piller, who passed away in 2005, get the opportunity to ever respond to such statements?  Did he even know these people thought these things about him?  Timing matters so much in communication and memory, yet it’s missing here.  Around 2006 I read Piller’s unpublished (later on-demand released) manuscript about the making of Star Trek: Insurrection–it doesn’t make those associated with the production look very good, which is likely why publication of that book was originally cancelled by the studio.  The Next 25 Years will provide a similar vibe for franchise fans reflecting the memories (good or bad) of Star Trek’s execs, writers, and actors.

Those who have read every magazine and book on Star Trek over the years already know most of the gossip found here from a 30,000 foot view.  The Next 25 Years is a “tell-all” book.  What may be different is you get the details from multiple sources and in more detail than a passing fan would probably care to read.  It’s one thing to read a tell-all article in a magazine, and quite another to read all the tell-all tales of a subject of this massive scope over 864 pages.  But don’t walk away–there are some good nuggets along the journey.  Like some detail on the several attempts to make spin-off series that failed after Enterprise, F. Murray Abraham’s view of making Star Trek: Insurrection, Kate Mulgrew’s approach to Captain Janeway, and how Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Brannon Braga, and others cyclically stepped into Gene Roddenberry’s shoes initially with new ideas, but ultimately came back to his approach.  So diehards will want to read it simply for their niche fandom area of the franchise.  Actor/director Jonathan Frakes, for example, never appears in the book as anything but professional, positive, and contemplative about the past.  Gene Roddenberry’s son Rod is similarly diplomatic despite all of the negative statements lobbed against his family members.  Others reveal their flawed humanity for all to see, the colloquial “airing the dirty laundry” comes to mind.  Just keep in mind that other saying: “Don’t believe everything you read.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The right mix of writing, acting, art direction, and music come together in Orbiter 9, a direct-to-Netflix Spanish film that really has it all.  Like the critically-acclaimed Midnight Special, saying too much about the plot will give away too much of what is compelling about this film.  But you can be sure to find a tense piece of science fiction derived from those classic tales of great writers of the past like Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Philip K. Dick.  It’s a tale of future Earth where Earthlings have ravaged the planet, so, like recent sci-fi entries Passengers and the Lost in Space reboot, the only chance for humans is to embark on long voyages to distant worlds.

Clara Lago (The Commuter, The Librarians, LEX) masterfully plays Helena, a young woman left on board a spaceship heading from Earth to a distant colony who encounters an engineer named Álex, coming to repair the ship’s oxygen system, played by actor Álex González (X-Men: First Class).  We learn from a video image Helena is re-watching that her parents left her alone three years ago when the oxygen system broke down–their math showed that with Helena flying alone the oxygen could still get her to Celeste safely.  Raised on the ship since birth, she has never met another human.  She is diligent in her daily rituals, including exercise, with a determination to complete her mission prompted by her parents’ sacrifice.  But after Álex’s arrival, everything changes.

More believable than prior visions of the future in this sub-genre (Passengers, Moon, the Cloverfield series), Orbiter 9 may pull its tale in part from classic Greek sacrifice mythology or closed-room mysteries like Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, and wrestles with the limits of sacrifice, for family or others–again, a concept addressed in many past sci-fi stories, Star Trek in particular (think Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “Suddenly Human” in Star Trek: The Next Generation and “Child’s Play” from Star Trek Voyager).  Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one?  Orbiter 9 attacks this question in many surprising ways.  And unlike many a recent sci-fi film, it’s story belongs in a full feature format like this–it’s not just another short story dragged out to fit a movie-length format.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We’ve seen the unique retro artwork of Juan Ortiz before, first in his episode-by-episode feast of posters in 2013 for the original Star Trek series (reviewed here at borg.com) and then in 2015 he attacked Star Trek: The Next Generation (reviewed here).   With Ortiz’s original series posters, they all rang with a similar nostalgia vibe, applying mid-century retro imagery from advertising, movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  Some of his Next Generation posters followed the rules he created with his first series, but they also veered in more symbolic and subtle representations than for his look at the original series.  Juan Ortiz is back with his next homage to episodes of classic TV in the new oversized, hardcover, full-color artbook from Titan Books, Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Art of Juan Ortiz.

Ortiz’s posters for Lost in Space are likely to appeal to fans of his original Star Trek poster art.  This is likely because Ortiz has commented that he watched both the original Star Trek and Lost in Space before taking on his poster project, but much of Next Generation was new material he needed to watch for the first time.  That passion and familiarity with the material follows through in each of his Lost in Space works–each one pulling something from the episode it honors.  And the animated introduction to each episode (that was backed by John (“Johnny”) Williams classic theme) was tailor-made for Ortiz to incorporate those details, like the ship and the spacesuits, into several of his images.  Better yet, you’ll find many images that feature the Robot.

Definitely among Ortiz’s best work, for fans of the series or not. You may want to cut some pages out of the book and frame a few for your wall.  Who knows what is next for Juan Ortiz, but The Twilight Zone had 156 episodes–less than the 178 Next Generation episodes but more than the 83 episodes of Lost in Space, so maybe someone should talk him into giving those a try next?  Especially because each episode was so vastly different, it would seem perfect for Ortiz’s imagination.  Until then, you’ll want to see how the artist interpreted this great classic science fiction series that starred Billy Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, and Jonathan Harris.  Here is a look at four more posters from the book:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Everything’s connected.  Everything’s vulnerable.

The visionary behind the groundbreaking 1997 science fiction film Gattaca has at last delivered his next worthy sci-fi follow-up.  The direct-to-Netflix movie Anon is equal parts future crime and noir detective thriller.  It stars Clive Owen (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Children of Men, Sin City) and Colm Feore (Thor, The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck) as police detectives in a near-future Earth where smart phone and computer technology has merged with the mind.  Technology and science have evolved to allow humans to instantly identify and search their minds and a database shared with everyone as they move through their day–as if Google Glass tech was inside a contact lens wired to the brain.  Written, produced, and directed by Andrew Niccol, writer/director of Gattaca and writer of The Truman Show, Anon features a police detective nicely synthesizing Rick Deckard, Frank Bullitt, and Dirty Harry Callahan.  Only an actor as unique as Clive Owen could pull that off.

With a world similar to Gattaca–but a colder, stark, and concrete-filled version of a rigid, totalitarian future close to that of the Prime side in the world of the Starz series Counterpart–telling lies has become a thing of the past.  The detectives must track down an unidentifiable woman, the anonymous hacker of the title played by Amanda Seyfried (Veronica Mars, Ted 2, Mamma Mia!), sought as the criminal behind a string of murders.  This hacker can erase memories and replace real thoughts with replaced images, and we see the best example of this as Owen’s detective pursues the hacker in a busy subway.  Oddly, this dystopia doesn’t feel as horrible as that of Mad Max: Fury Road, or Blade Runner, or Terminator.  It’s just not that far removed from the wired life of today.  Which should be enough of a cautionary warning.

Stark but slick and cool like The Adjustment Bureau, not only the visuals of Anon but the music is haunting and cold, thanks to an inspired score from Christophe Beck (Ant-Man, Edge of Tomorrow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Surreal camera angles and the use of shadow firmly plant the audience in this future thanks to cinematographer Amir Mokri, and you can credit production designer Philip Ivey (District 9, Elysium) and art director Aleksandra Marinkovich (Crimson Peak, Kick-Ass 2, Total Recall) for a stunning, new vision that leaves behind tech noir for something fresh and different.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The latest big-budget movie that has arrived at Netflix could have been on par with prior Netflix movies The Cloverfield Paradox or Bright.  These are science fiction movies that have something to offer viewers, yet they probably would disappoint most if you paid to see them in the theater.  As much as the marketing for these Netflix films is trying to convince subscribers these are the “real deal,” the new sci-fi movie Extinction brings the discussion home again.  The Cloverfield Paradox had a broad, fairly well-known cast and significant production values.  Bright relied on the charisma of star Will Smith with a solid performance from Joel Edgerton working through some hefty prosthetic make-up.  So they had that minimum quality for first-out-of-the gate films for newcomer movie house Netflix.  But despite the well-known genre star cast of Extinction, the latest Netflix sci-fi movie just isn’t strong enough.  Remember the rack of B-movie sci-fi films at the old movie rental stores?  Sadly, that’s where this one would have been filed.

Michael Peña plays the father of two girls in a future Earth.  He’s having problems dealing with violent nightmares that are too real to merely be in his mind.  His wife, played by Lizzy Caplan, and their friends, all think he’s crazy.  When an invasion on par with War of the Worlds arrives in the middle of a dinner party, the father attempts to use the bits he can recall from the dreams to keep his kids and wife alive, and try to understand the menace approaching from the skies.  Peña and Caplan are not given enough to do, not enough to make us want to cheer them on, as director Ben Young drags the audience through very carefully selected architectural layouts, platforms, pathways, futuristic buildings, all slowly panning and following people walking, doing mundane things that people do.  For an entire hour nothing happens.  Luke Cage’s Mike Colter plays Peña’s boss, and when hell breaks loose you get the feeling that roles once owned by Keith David can now be handed over to Colter, as Colter becomes that take-charge leader.   But his scenes are few.  The standout performance in the film is by British actor Lex Shrapnel (K:19: The Widowmaker, Captain America: The First Avenger) who steps in to assist the family after the first barrage.  His performance brings some much-needed life, albeit too late.  But the actors just aren’t enough to save the film.

You can’t blame the cast for this one.  The slogging story doesn’t gain any momentum until the last 30 minutes, and then it must rely on a gotcha to even get viewers’ attention to stay around for the last act.  The film probably suffers from a young director and an unsalvageable script by the Oscar-nominated writer of the similarly thin and derivative screenplay for Arrival, Eric Heisserer, among others.  And it lacks a much-needed sci-fi or action flick musical score–the one thing that might have given some energy or passion to the first hour (The Nelson Brothers are listed as composers, but someone must have edited out most of their music).  At only an hour and 35 minutes, the movie drags to feel like a full 2 hours, yet the thin story could have been told in a 20 minute episode of a show like Black Mirror.  Worst of all, Extinction is devoid of any humor–an essential element of the best tense sci-fi action thrillers.

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Although fans had heard the rumors and suggestions, you just can’t beat hearing good news from the source.

Patrick Stewart just announced to his social media followers the best news fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation could hope for:  The return of Stewart as everyone’s favorite captain, Jean-Luc Picard.  Stewart made a surprise appearance to make the announcement at the same time as his media release with Star Trek executive producer Alex Kurtzman at this year’s annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas.

Here is Stewart’s announcement:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If the third season of AMC’s/UK Channel 4’s sci-fi series Humans had a single theme this year it was sacrifice and heroism.  After Lucy Carless’s Mattie set off the course of events to give sentience to the show’s thousands of cyborg servants, who knew what direction showrunners Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley would take us?  Mattie had the series’ greatest crisis of conscience–her actions resulted in the deaths of thousands of humans and synths–yet she brought freedom to her friends and so many others.  With the shocking events at season’s end, she became poised to have an even more significant role next season.  As the lawyer and sole voice for synth rights among the humans, her mother, Katherine Parkinson’s Laura Hawkins, became a symbol for the oppressed and a metaphor for civil rights struggles beyond the television screen.

The cyborg characters were no less powerful, coupling strong acting with a talented group of writers, to create what may be the most thought-provoking look at the “life” of borgs yet–showing a sympathetic and dramatic view through their eyes.  Gemma Chan’s Mia stepped forward to be the target of hatred among those trying to eliminate all the “damaged” green-eyed synths.  Defying all sense she became the figurehead for synth rights and brought on attack after personal attack.  From another approach, Ivanno Jeremiah’s Max stepped forward as leader of a gated community of synths, clinging to the vision that peaceful cooperation was the only solution to bridging the gap with humans.  This left Emily Berrington’s Niska in the role again as vengeance seeker, and more violent means to assist both synths and her human lover (Bella Dayne’s Astrid) harmed by ant-synth activity.  With these three characters the writers provided a mirror of society from different approaches, only to introduce other levels of modern reality: terrorism via new synth Holly Earl’s troubled Agnes and the covert acts of Laura’s newly assigned orange-eyed synth, Dino Fetscher’s Stanley.

But the writers didn’t leave out the impact on humans of a society divided, and that was most poignantly revealed through Laura’s flawed ex-husband, Tom Goodman-Hill’s Joe and his encounters with a familiar synth in hiding, Ruth Bradley’s Karen Voss.  Karen discovers a young boy synth (Billy Jenkins’ Sam), an experiment left behind by the synth inventor, and she chooses to live in the open as human with the boy as her son in the heart of the anti-synth area of town.  Her performance and her character’s choices result in the most powerful and gut-wrenching segments of the season.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It only takes a few pages of David Tilotta and Curt McAloney’s new book Star Trek: Lost Scenes to realize this fantastic new book is like discovering the Lost Ark of Star Trek fandom.  Beginning with a spirited foreword by Doug Drexler (life-long Star Trek fan and later multi-award winning creator of later Star Trek series), who provides personal context for the book, it is like no other Star Trek book published in the five decades since the original series wrapped.  As the annual Star Trek convention gets under way in Las Vegas, thanks to Titan Books we at borg.com are providing this first look and review of what is sure to be the biggest hit for fans of the original Star Trek series this year.  For early Star Trek fans who collected original film clips (also called cels) from Gene Roddenberry’s personal Lincoln Enterprises company after the series first aired, this book will be viewed as a gold mine they only dreamed about–an almost archaeological recreation of the lost past.  For fans that have longed for anything truly new from the 1960s series, this is what you have asked for, as it includes images never before published of deleted scenes from 36 episodes, plus never before published angles of actors, sets, costumes, and props from the series.  For fans of Hollywood television history, carefully assembled rare images take readers onto the studio stages, backlots, and on-location sets, providing a detailed explanation of how the production shot the actual visual effects and used the technology of the day to create a vision of the future that continues to inspire generations 50 years later.

As explained in Star Trek: Lost Scenes, “Everything that went before the cameras during the production of Star Trek: The Original Series, both intentionally and unintentionally, can be seen in the film frames.”  In the late 1960s fans wanted any souvenir they could get from Star Trek.  Thanks to Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel Barrett Roddenberry, a legion of fans could purchase the actual film from the TV show in the form of film clips.  You’ve no doubt heard of the concept of footage shot in TV and movies that “hits the cutting room floor”–parts of film roll footage, called “dailies” or “rushes” that were filmed and then printed in color for viewing the next day by production staff, taken either from bad takes or alternate takes attempted but not preferred by the director, or maybe footage shot that was intentionally deleted from the show for time constraints or editorial decisions, and unused for any number of reasons.  Where every other production threw away these trimmed film roles and segments of footage, show creator Roddenberry was savvy–he collected them and took them home to sell in his side business.   From 1968 through about 1990, Roddenberry’s company sold fans these film clips by the millions, most images containing a single frame from episodes that were seen in the final cuts of the episodes (initially at eight clips for $1).  Because of the nature of the film stock used, most of these film clips are faded, and many simply have been lost to time.  But some collectors over the years, including the books’ authors, chose to focus on collecting and preserving those most rare and obscure images that went beyond the scenes everyone knows so well.  Those otherwise “lost” images are what readers will find collected in this book, and they’ve been methodically restored to reveal their original quality and colors for the first time.

The authors match collected film clips to the actual text pulled from the production scripts that was edited out of the final cut of 36 episodes, re-creating scenes that almost made it into production but didn’t (like more Vina and Captain Pike from “The Cage,” more Romulan footage from “Balance of Terror,” more Khan footage from “Space Seed,” new views of the Mugato from “Private Little War,” more Gorn from “Arena,” and much more footage of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and the rest of the Enterprise crew).  For aficionados of television history, the film clips and the authors’ commentary provides a film school study guide on Star Trek’s optical effects, demonstrating the use of filming miniatures (models of iconic ships, space stations, planets, and other models), blue screen photography, matte paintings, split-screen effects (as used to see two Kirks in a single frame), superimpositions, animation-based effects, dissolves, cloud tanks, and combinations of these (like phaser beams and the transporter effect), plus make-up, costume, and stunt effects.  Fans of bloopers will enjoy pages devoted to outtakes and production gaffes, plus a section delves into information that tells even more surprising stories from the production via clapper boards and the most obscure details in frames discovered by the authors after years of study.

Check out these preview pages from Star Trek: Lost Scenes (available to order now at a pre-order discount here at Amazon, to be released August 21):

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