There are a lot of Star Trek books out there. Beyond the novels, there are books about the making of the different series and films to biographies and autobiographies of the people involved, both before and behind the camera. There are people who understandably get a great deal of attention in books of this sort, such as original series creator Gene Roddenberry or the different main cast members. We might also get the occasional book spotlighting other contributors, and while many of those tomes come from the usual, traditional sources and penned by professional biographers, there also are the occasional memoirs written by a close friend or family member.
Back in 2008, Richard Jefferies wrote Beyond the Clouds, a biography of his brother, Walter “Matt” Jefferies, which covered his sibling’s entire career as an artist. While Matt Jefferies is best known for his work as an art designer for the original Star Trek television series–including designing the U.S.S. Enterprise and so many other facets of that show which still resonate through every Star Trek production to this day–it was but one aspect of a lengthy career. Beyond the Clouds is a loving tribute to the man and his work.
In a similar vein, we now have The Enterprise NCC 1701 and the Model Maker, a biography of Richard C. Datin, Jr. as written by his daughter, N. Datin McDonald. Like Matt Jefferies, Mr. Datin’s work for the original Star Trek is perhaps the one item on an extensive resume for which he’ll always be known. Of course, there’s much more to the man’s story.
As Mrs. McDonald puts it:
The Star Trek Enterprise Model NCC 1701 began its journey in 1964 in my father’s model shop, most of us had our first sighting of it in 1966 when it flew across out TV screen. No other cinematic vessel is nearly as famous and it is still the most recognized and successful “starship” in history. It was donated by Paramount Studios to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, where it will once again be on display for all its fans to view in the summer of 2016. From Gene Roddenberry’s imagination to Matt Jefferies’ ability to draw what was in Gene’s head, to the Howard Anderson Co. for special effects, to my father’s ability to read, decipher and construct from those blueline plans to what we see today, my father had a wonderfully specialized talent and this is his story to tell.
Click to Enlarge (L-R: Richard C. Datin, Jr. Mel Keys, Vernon Sion)
So, why am I writing about this book?
Because Star Trek fandom is such a funny, often awesome thing, I came to know Mrs. McDonald after she came across a tribute I wrote on my old LiveJournal blog following her father’s passing in 2011. When I was asked by my editor at Star Trek Magazine to write a more in-depth piece about Mr. Datin, Mrs. McDonald was extremely helpful in providing me a great deal of information which allowed me to write a well-rounded piece that celebrated her father’s entire career while still acknowledging his indelible contributions to Star Trek. We’ve maintained sporadic contact since then.
She had mentioned on more than one occasion a desire to write a book chronicling her father’s career, including his work for Star Trek but also the work from which he derived great satisfaction as curator of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, Nevada. As for his work on the Enterprise models (the original 3-foot prototype and the larger, more detailed 11-foot “miniature”), to hear her tell it, he kept everything–notes, drawings, etc.–from that period, and those materials remain in her care.
Yeah. That was some stuff I wanted to read in a big way. As I write this, I’m anxiously awaiting my copy of The Enterprise NCC 1701 and the Model Maker to arrive in the mail. While I’m obviously interested in the Star Trek material, I’m also looking forward to reading more about the man I got to know just a bit better thanks to his daughter.
Congratulations, my friend!