Yep, it’s Tuesday.
A check of my blog tells me it’s been a little over a month or so since my last entry in this stuttering, staggering, “irregularly recurring” feature that’s little more than an excuse for me to babble on a bit about some bit or bob of Star Trek fandom. This usually translates me to waxing nostalgic as I recount a fondly remembered bit of oddball merchandise or collectible, anniversaries, “milestones,” or important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day.
As for the “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker, it’s a salute of sorts to Dan Davidson and Bill Smith aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” Their fan group over on Facebook, Camp Khitomer, is devoted to all things Trek where all are welcome to join in their positive vibes and community. Sometimes, they also like to push a #TrekTuesday hashtag over there, inviting members to share updates, links, and/or pictures celebrating their fandom, so this feature is definitely offered in that same spirit.
In an unreleated but welcome bit of synergy, today is also National Book Lovers Day, so now I’ve got a perfect excuse to roll out some fannish observations about a few of my personal favorite Star Trek books. For this exercise in full frontal nerdity, I’ve opted to take a look at a handful of my favorite “Behind the Scenes” from various corners of the Trek franchise. You can do that sort of thing when you’re an alleged adult. People dont even look at you weird when you check these out of the library or plonk them down on the counter at a bookstore. Go figure.
First up? The daddy of all such tomes devoted to the care and feeding of the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek. It doesn’t get any more “You Are There!” than this, written by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry and published in 1968 while the original series was still in production. It chronicles the show’s creation and development through its two pilot episodes and transition to weekly series, and recounts various production highlights through the conclusion of its second of three seasons. This very much makes it a time capsule from that period, not just as a Star Trek reference but also an insider’s look at just how a television series of the late 1960s was made.
Considered by fans as a companion piece to The Making of Star Trek, The Trouble With Tribbles is David Gerrold’s in-depth recounting of the development and production of one of the franchise’s most memorable episodes by the man who wrote it. Featuring initial concept notes, script drafts and revisions, as well as notes and insights as his story was put before the cameras, told from the unique perspective of someone who was there as it happened. This wonderful morsel of Star Trek production history is currently available in electronic format from Mr. Gerrold’s website, along with another book he wrote which is also a favorite of mine, The World of Star Trek. These books along with The Making of Star Trek, which I first encountered while still in elementary school, ignited an interest in the show’s production that fascinates me to this day.
Though written as a retrospective, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story still makes for a nice bookend with The Making of Star Trek to round out a history of the original series. This first-person tale recounts the show’s genesis, production, and enduring legacy, presented by two of the three men who were there from “Day 1,” Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman. Despite a few factual errors – likely misrembrances owing to the passage of more than 30 years from the show’s production to the book being written – the insights offered from people in the trenches makes Inside Star Trek is still one of the better entries in this category, and does its own bit of fueling my continued obsession with the production of the original series.
The most recent of the books I’m calling out here, Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects is an absolutely gorgeous, oversized coffee-table tome brought to us by authors Jeff Bond and Gene Koziki. Published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the film’s theatrical release, the book takes a detailed look at the unleashed imaginations and artistic brainstorming of the numerous people who guided the first (and, arguably, still the most ambitious) Star Trek feature film from concept to reality. Of course I had my copy pre-ordered the nanosecond I heard about it, which ended up being about a year ahead of the book’s publication.
Sticking with the current theme, I have tip my hat to Chekov’s Enterprise: A Personal Journal of the Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Walter Koenig (who’s definitely no slouch as a writer, either) presents a very candid diary from the perspective of Lieutenant Chekov himself. Like The Making of Star Trek, there’s a definite “There on the set” vibe permeating the book’s every page, offering a lingering look at the daily grind of the film’s production. Mr. Koenig gives us welcome insight into the process of the cast “re-learning” how to do Star Trek after so many years away from their roles, along with the numerous obstacles face by Gene Roddenberry, director Robert Wise, and the entire crew to bring the film to fruition. It’s not all roses and unicorns, but you can’t beat the insider perspective Mr. Koening provides.
To close out this installment, I’m stepping away from the original series to salute not just one of the best Star Trek behind-the-scenes books but perhaps one of the best such books written about producing television, period. I refer to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, published in August 2000. Working from notes and interviews compiled as the series progressed from initial concept to its final episode, authors Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block offer us as complete a history of the series’ seven seasons as we’re ever likely to see. Worth the price of admission all on its own is the collection of anecdotes and interviews from the production staff, who give us a no-holds-barred look at the show, episode by episode and never shying away from telling us what they thought worked and — more interestingly — what they thought fell short….in some cases, very short. As a sort of companion to the Companion, Erdmann and Block along with DS9 visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel wrote The Magic of Tribbles, an e-Book exclusive which details the development and execution of “Trials and Tribble-ations,” the show’s wonderful 30th anniversary tribute episode to the original series.
Okay, I suppose that’s enough babbling for one day. There are, of course, numerous other titles I could’ve included in the mix, but then we’d be here all day. No, I didn’t forget your favorite but feel free to share it down in the comments. Happy #TrekTuesday, and Happy National Book Lovers Day!
(Note: Some of this material repurposed from an article I wrote for StarTrek.com in 2014.)