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Library Computer: Review – Star Trek 101 September 16, 2008

by John Tenuto , Filed under: Books,DS9,ENT,TAS,TNG,TOS,VOY , trackback

Pocket Books has just release Star Trek 101: A Practical Guide to Who, What, Where, and Why, which is different than past ‘companion’ books and more of an ‘Idiots Guide to Star Trek.’ The question is, who is this book for. See our review below to find out.

 

 

The 101 on Star Trek 101

It has been more than five years since the last Star Trek episode guide from Pocket Books, Paul Ruditis’ Star Trek Voyager Companion. Without a new show and the unfortunate cancellation of Enterprise, it seemed unlikely new episode guide books would be forthcoming. However, venerable behind-the-scenes authors Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block have written Star Trek 101: A Practical Guide to Who, What, Where, and Why.

A big caveat for this review is that "Star Trek 101" was originally written to coincide with the release of the JJ Abrams Star Trek film. It was to take advantage of the increased interest in Trek and help new and casual fans make sense of the sometimes daunting 42 years continuity and history of Star Trek.

With the feature film’s release date moved to May 2009, the book could be labeled a text in need of an audience. That is the challenge faced by Pocket Books with this guide. It doesn’t have the kind of in-depth analysis or trivia of other guidebooks because that would confuse the new fan. Yet, because it lacks that, does it have anything to offer fans already familiar with the show? With this audience issue in mind, to write a review of Star Trek 101, it is really necessary for this reviewer (and professor of Sociology) to adopt a bit of what scientist Max Weber labeled "sociological verstehen." Verstehen means to understand, to appreciate the feelings and experiences of others (it is the real world application of IDIC). I’ll need to look at the book imagining I am from different audiences to really understand its value.

Possible Audience #1: The New Fan

If the audience here is new fans, this is an excellent book. It is amazing that Erdmann and Block could condense more than 700 episodes and movies into a text that is accessible and fun to read. Anyone unfamiliar with Star Trek would indeed get an education as the name of the book suggests. Most helpful to the new fan is the structure of the book and the way it is organized. Each of the six television versions and all ten feature films are detailed, each given its own chapter. The television show chapters include the following sections:

These sections are very helpful to the new fan as they navigate the world of Star Trek. In this way," Star Trek 101" is reminiscent of the 1979 book "Star Trek Catalog" edited by Gerry Turnbull which was timed with the release of Star Trek The Motion Picture and was meant to help fans learn about the actors and the episodes of TOS. Practicing verstehen, and thinking back to when I was a newbie to Trek, the Catalog was a true gift because it helped me learn about this wild world I had suddenly become passionate about, and "Star Trek 101" has the same potential to help those fans who are now finally seeing the light and the greatness of Star Trek in 2008.

The book is also very helpful to those fans who wish to share their passion with their girlfriends, boyfriends, family, or friends who just don’t get their love of Trek. For example, my wife loves Star Trek and she loves gymnastics. As her husband, I would appreciate a guide to gymnastics because I could better understand the jargon and ideas she tries to communicate to me. There may be audience then for this book for those girlfriends and boyfriends who are trying to practice their own kind of verstehen, understanding their significant others’ passion for Star Trek. Again, for this audience Star Trek 101 is perfect.

For the new fan (including the loved ones of committed fans), this is a VERY recommended title.

Possible Audience #2: The Casual Fan

There is much to like here for the casual fan, too. "The Ten Essential Episodes" sections have good commentary to help fans appreciate why these episodes are important to the themes of Star Trek, and there are many, many sidebars that include factoids and humorous asides that would be appreciated by casual fans. The book is also helpful for those who are fans of one version of Star Trek thinking of starting to sample other Trek shows. Although they do decide to dive deep into a new show, it would be recommended to eventually get the full ‘companion’ book for that series (except in the case of ENT, where 101 is all there is).

Possible Audience #3: The Committed Fan

Committed fans are the one problem audience for this book, which is indeed a problem because it is the committed fan who is most likely to buy a Trek book in the first place. Is there anything here for fans who already are very familiar with Star Trek? Yes, fellow Committed Fans, there is a Santa Claus.

There are several things about Star Trek 101 that give it value for serious fans. First, thank you to Pocket Books for FINALLY giving fans of Enterprise some kind of episode guide. While I will not stop in my tireless, although probably futile, endeavor to get Pocket Books to publish a proper companion to Enterprise (um, Pocket Books, even the Dukes of Hazzard has a companion book released 20 years after the show was canceled), at least Archer’s trek gets some respect here.

The book makes for a useful and handy encyclopedia and reference text. While there are online guides, I tend to agree with Samuel T. Cogley that there is something irreplaceable about books. This text is perfect for sitting next to the DVDs, and could be useful to even the most serious fan. There is also a great deal of humor in the book that serious fans could appreciate.

Bottom Line

Star Trek 101 may have lost its intended purpose, but with verstehen, it is easy to see that the book has utility. While it is best suited for new fans, there is much to appreciate for all kinds of audiences. This isn’t to say there are not problems with the text. Except for the Enterprise photos, most of the pictures in the book for example are often seen. It would have been good to utilize this occasion to include some really unique or unusual photos from the history of Star Trek. Also, the section on the feature films could utilize some improvement with more details. However, "Star Trek 101" is a good holiday gift for a variety of Star Trek fans, or perhaps even their family and friends who wish to learn more about Star Trek.

Star Trek 101, class dismissed.
 


"Star Trek 101" is available now at Amazon for $10.88

Sample pages


TOS ‘Menagerie’ (click to enlarge)


TOS ‘Essentials (click to enlarge)

 

Comments

1. Vorus - September 16, 2008

Good to hear that someone is finally giving Star Trek: Enterprise some “facetime”, so to speak.

Sounds like this book might be an interesting one to pick up. I’m in the processes of “Trekifying” my wife, so this might be of some help. :D

2. Energize - September 16, 2008

Cool. Neat book.

3. John from Cincinnati - September 16, 2008

What happened to possible audience #2?

4. Energize - September 16, 2008

Why the black and white pics?

5. James R. Kirk - September 16, 2008

I think my girlfriend is going to get this in her Christmas stocking.

6. Thomas - September 16, 2008

Looks like a good read. Thanks for the review, John.

7. Capt Mike Of the Terran Empire - September 16, 2008

For us totaly commited fans would be a nice excuresion. But would be good for all the New fans.

8. The Underpants Monster - September 16, 2008

>>The book is also very helpful to those fans who wish to share their passion with their girlfriends, boyfriends, family, or friends who just don’t get their love of Trek.<<

This seems like the most likely main audience to me. The fan will have the impetus to buy it, and the recipient will have a good reason to read it.

I really like the layout and cover design – clean and neat.

9. Holger - September 16, 2008

Thank you for this very informative review!

I would like to amend that totally committed trek geeks (like me for example) will buy this book anyway simply because it’s there, i.e. because it says Star Trek on the cover and they want to have a complete library of Trek books. So maybe the book will sell well even among the committed fans.
Of course it would have been better if it had appeared along with the movie, but the book will most probably still be available next May and newbie fans can still get it then. Maybe Pocket Books will even bring out a revised edition with some information on the movie next May, who knows.

Ceterum censeo: Pocket Books, bring out that Enterprise Companion already!! (And a TOS Technical Guide (based on Remastered) and an Enterprise Technical Manual, while you are at it!)

10. richpit - September 16, 2008

I agree with #9: bring out a TOS Technical Guide and Enterprise Tech Manual!

Also, on the point that committed fans will buy it just because it’s there. That’s why I’m buying it!

11. NCC-73515 - September 16, 2008

Is ‘with verstehen’ really used in English? Verstehen is a German word, meaning ‘to comprehend’… :D

12. BK613 - September 16, 2008

“Kirk is forced to fight [a Gorn] mono a mono, emerging the bare-chested winner.”

Nice line except that Arena is one of the few fights where Kirk doesn’t tear his shirt or [/alan rickman] manage to get his shirt off.[/end alan rickman]

And yes I have watch TOS too, too many times in my life. lol

13. MORN SPEAKS - September 16, 2008

I’ve asked this question before, and I think it’s evident by the scan, but i want to make sure. Is this book in color or black and white?

And Can we get another edition of Star Trek Chronology????

14. The Enterprise - September 16, 2008

Who needs a new Chronology when there’s plenty of Trek websites out there with one?

15. Spockanella - September 16, 2008

I may pick this up, just to get up to speed on Trek in its various incarnations. I’ve always been one of those TOS people; I’ve seen enough TNG to be vaguely familiar with it, watched Enterprise in re-runs, and am ashamed to admit I’ve never seen any of the other shows. So this would actually probably be helpful for me…maybe I fit the category of casual fan?

16. Hallbjorn - September 16, 2008

I’m so buying this and this will be my gift to my friends for xmas….

17. Daniel Broadway - September 16, 2008

Perhaps they should name Star Trek XI as “Star Trek: 101″

Ok, perhaps not. :)

18. Oregon Trek Geek - September 16, 2008

K, I have no idea how the publishing of books works…but couldn’t they just delay the book until the movie comes out?

Anyway, this book looks fun and interesting…. new stuff for some, review for others…but still interesting…

#9—I also would love a new TOS tech manual. Anybody remember Mr. Scott’s guide to the Enterprise? I liked it, warts and all. (There were a few errors, the one I can remember right now being that the refit Enterprise was a new class of starship called the “Enterprise” class.)

19. Capt Mike Of the Terran Empire - September 16, 2008

They Could name the Move. Star Trek. The Two Spocks. Ok Maybe not.

20. Energize - September 16, 2008

Two Spocks and an Enterprise.

21. steve623 - September 16, 2008

Two Spocks in Search of an Ending

“Why the black and white pics?”

Because its cheaper to print!

22. Diacanu - September 16, 2008

Cool, sorta like a super-duper updated Star Trek Compendium/Concordance.
I’ll have to check it out.

23. Aragorn189 - September 16, 2008

#18

I still have a copy of Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise lying around somwhere. Probably one of the most in depth tech manual for at least the Original crew movie era. Although I have to mention its error of the fact of stating the Enterprise-A had transwarp drive. Other than that and some of the other descrepancies, it was a great blueprint for the Movie era Constitution class. Ahh memories of curling up in the sofa and reading this when I was young. Anyway, I intend to get the book because it appears to be more up to date and less cumbersome than the last edition of their Star Trek Encyclopedia. Makes you wonder if they’ll ever updat that.

24. jr - September 16, 2008

Another possible group… The Trek Collector.

25. BK613 - September 16, 2008

18 23
I own Mr. Scott’s as well and it is important to remember that it wouldn’t be clearly established on screen until later (TUC and TNG Relics) that 1701/1701-A were Constitution class.

Prior to that there were fans that thought it was Starship class, fans that thought it was Constitution class (thanks to Franz Joseph’s works mostly), fans that thought the refit should be a another class since it “almost totally new.”

And there were licensed publications like Mr. Scott’s, which said one thing (Enterprise class) while other licensed publications, like the first Spaceflight Chronology, which listed another (Constitution II class.)

So Shane Johnson did what others had done before, he fleshed out some details that hadn’t been really established on screen.

As for transwarp that is behind the crew on the displays of the Ent-A’s bridge at the end of TVH. So in 1986ish why would Shane Johnson not put that in the book?

26. Daoud - September 16, 2008

Hmmm, like the cover of Spock Must Die! by James Blish originally had Two Spocks. Unfortunately, one of them wasn’t with goatee.

I’ll hold out for the grad level Star Trek 501 though.

27. Dennis Bailey - September 16, 2008

“I think my girlfriend is going to get this in her Christmas stocking.”

This book is going to cause more fights between couples than any Trek book ever. It’s the trekkie equivalent of buying “the little woman” an ironing board. LOL

28. Splurch - September 16, 2008

Since this was supposed to coincide with the release of the movie, does anyone know if it has any information about the movie in it?

29. Joe Schmoe - September 16, 2008

Lesson number one, on page one of “Star Trek 101″:

“Slap the name Star Trek on something, and someone will buy it.”

Now please excuse me while I use my Ferengi Ear Hair Removal Drill.

30. steve623 - September 16, 2008

Oh, wait, I’ve got it:

“Star Trek XI : How Green Was My Vulcan”

31. The Enterprise - September 16, 2008

Two Spocks, One Kirk, and Some Pisssed Off Romulans.

32. Gary - September 16, 2008

Would have been cool if it was similar to the “Dummy” books eg. Star Trek for Dummies.

33. Dennis Bailey - September 17, 2008

Nah, “Star Trek For Dummies” is called “Stargate 101.” LOL

34. star trackie - September 17, 2008

Too bad the majority of yuonger “new fans”, that this type of book is geared towards, rarely picks up a book outside of english class. It needs to be adapted to computer software so the young-uns can toss it into their DVD-rom drive. Regardless, it is nice to see some more Trek non-fiction on the shelves again.

35. Lyle - September 17, 2008

25

Actually, I think that the TNG episode “The Naked Now” was the first time (in RL terms) that the phrase “Constitution Class” was spoken on-screen…

36. BK613 - September 17, 2008

35 Your right. I had forgotten that statement by Picard (probably because it is such a painful episode to watch.).

I sit corrected. :-)

37. Dom - September 17, 2008

I’d rather wait to see if there’s a guide at some point purely about TOS and the new film. Not bothered with a guide to the 24th Century Treks.

38. weeharry - September 17, 2008

in the second set of sample pages i zoomed in to see what they rekon the ten best TOS episodes are. It only shows 9, the last one must be on the next page.

anyone know what number 10 is?

39. Third Remata'Klan - September 20, 2008

Heck with this book. (Though it looks pretty cool.)
Heck with a new chronology.
When do we get a new version of the Okudas’ Star Trek Encyclopedia???

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