INTERVIEW: Denise and Mike Okuda Discuss Latest Version of The Star Trek Encyclopedia

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The fourth revision of the Star Trek Encyclopedia written by the husband/wife duo Mike and Denise Okuda, is a massive two-volume hardcover edition. This latest revision includes information up to Star Trek: Into Darkness, and took several years to compile. Read on for our interview with the Trekspert couple.


“They say time is the fire in which we burn. Right now, Captain, my time is running out. We leave so many things unfinished in our lives.” – Soran, Star Trek: Generations


Four times Denise and Mike Okuda have been tasked with writing and updating the Star Trek Encyclopedia, the complete guide to the Final Frontier. Each time they continued their mission of chronicling Gene Roddenberry’s universe, they always had to leave it unfinished. While the fourth edition is an immense tome and published as a two-volume hardcover with slipcase for each book, it still remains something that is unfinished. While completist might look at this as the glass is half full, the optimist will note that this means 50 years after its debut, new Star Trek is still being made.

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Compiling 50 years of information takes some time: “It took about two years to complete,” Denise said. “The way we approach any of the books is as a research project. Just like you would in college, we had a methodology. We started by going out into the garage, taking scripts out of their waterproof bins, and laying them all out across the floor chronologically. We knew where we left off from the 1999 supplement, took shooting scripts and corrected to air, which was daunting. You have the script, and sit there and watch the episode, start and stop, correct the page. It was very clear this was going to have to be a two-volume set. Honestly, it’s a blur.”

“We actually started work as we were finishing up the remastered TNG,” Mike added. “Almost literally the next day we started cramming on the book. We thought how much fun it would be to sit back, watch Star Trek, and take notes. How can that be work? But after the first 10 minutes, it was incredibly tedious. We realized we can not possibly do this on our own. CBS’s John Van Citters and Marian Cordry offered to help. They both literally took home scripts and worked on them at night. We couldn’t have met the schedule without their efforts.”

Readers might assume that the fourth time out for the Okudas would be a cakewalk; after all, their previous three editions went right up to the final season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the fifth season of Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Generations. Not the case.  The previous information needed to be integrated into the new edition, which now includes entries on the final two seasons of Voyager, all of Star Trek: Enterprise and the feature films produced after Generations.

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The previous Encyclopedia revision from 1999

“Each edition has its own challenges,” Mike explained. “The last time, we had a full-time day job working on two-weekly television shows [DS9 and VOY]. You think it would be easier this time, but for some reason it was not.”

Thoroughness is something fans have come to expect from the Okudas, and they will not be disappointed. Items readers can expect to find in the Encyclopedia include full-color maps of quadrants, episode listings, full-color Starfleet and alien uniforms, as well real-life terms and related historical events. Plus, fans can also expect listings for the Kelvin Timeline. “The Kelvin Timeline is a legitimate part of the Star Trek universe,” Mike asserts.

“It was quite a quandary to incorporate the Kelvin Universe,” Denise added. “First of all, there was no name. We put a list together and worked with John [Van Citters] at CBS; so now it has a definable name.”

“It actually took quite a while to figure out,” Mike said about the official designation of J.J. Abrams’ new universe. “We went back and watched the film to find what they called this universe.”

Decisions needed to be made regarding which information independent of the franchise should be included. Character entries include actor info, including other roles those actors might have played in the Star Trek franchise. But there are no separate listings within the Encyclopedia of the actors themselves, so don’t bother searching for Karl Urban or DeForest Kelley.

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“We did occasionally break the fourth wall when we included the actor’s name,” Mike stated. “But actor biographies are not part of the Star Trek universe. We do have an appendix where you can look up an actor’s name and see if they played any other roles in Star Trek.”

Photographs were selected by CBS’s Marian Cordry, while Holly Amos assisted her in pulling those photos from rows and rows of binders in CBS’s archive. Not every listing has a photograph with it, which is consistent with previous editions, as the Okudas were given a page limit they had to abide by.

“The proposal was to make it a certain size,” Mike explained. “But we kept saying we had to add this, and this. From the very beginning CBS and Harper Collins (the publisher) understood it was an encyclopedia. They knew it would be an enormous job. They expanded the book to two volumes, and they pushed the schedule a lot for us, and were incredibly tolerant with us asking to put [more] things in.”

Carrying a high price point, some fans may decide not to purchase the Encyclopedia and just rely on websites for Star Trek history. But it’s important to note that all of those posts are done by fans, and while the Okudas are fans themselves, they have also been a professional part of the franchise dating back to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Their attention to detail and the information they are able to include from being first-hand witnesses puts this a step above online resources.

“Adjusted for inflation, the new two-volume hardcover set is about the same price as the 1999 edition, and it’s got a lot more in it,” Denise pointed out. “Also, if there was a question, we could go back to the call sheets, scripts, memos, etc. We often smile at each other. Both of us love Star Trek and have never stopped working on Star Trek.”

There’s also something to be said for the physicality of a book in your hands: “Absolutely nothing against online references,” Mike said. “But there is a certain charm to being able to watch Star Trek, flip through the book, immerse yourself in the details, characters and stories you love.  It’s a fun way to look at the show. We’re very proud of the work, and not just because we love Star Trek.”

There is no rest for the weary as the Okudas move from one Star Trek project to the next, with detours in between (including Mike working on the feature film Sully). After going from TNG Remastered episodes to producing the Encyclopedia, it was on to producing the upcoming Roddenberry Vault Blu-ray set, where the couple was responsible for cataloging all the found footage.

“We literally turned in the last piece of the Encyclopedia and two days later I was working on Sully,” Mike said.

“Our heart keeps coming back to Star Trek,” Denise added.

“So far we’ve been lucky,” Mike finished.

Unfortunately, Star Trek: Beyond was still filming when the Star Trek Encyclopedia was sent to the printers and Star Trek: Discovery had just been announced, so neither had entries in this fourth edition. Looks like the Okudas still have a journey to continue, and a fifth edition to produce one day.


“ … Time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment.” – Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: Generations


 

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Awesome!..So much has happened since 1999! I wish it could have included Beyond, but hey I can wait for the 5th edition!

I bought two copies. One to read and one to keep as a collectible. It is very well done, except I would have probably taken a different approach to the Kelvin universe. They seem to imply that things before the Narada arrived could be altered also. I choose to believe that everything prior to that event is the same as the prime universe.

I used to think that nothing pre-Narada could be altered either, but after Simon Pegg’s comments during Beyond it made sense, pre 2233 is impacted by whether the prime universe characters travel back in time and make slight alterations to the timeline (“City on the Edge” and “Tomorrow is Yesterday”are just the beginning, this goes through 24th century Trek. For example, Wrath of Khan doesn’t happen in the Kelvin timeline so Kirk doesn’t go back to save the whales, so there are some alterations….

Outstanding book! You could slip it into the middle of a set of World Book Encyclopedias and not notice the difference.

Memory Alpha is handy and all, but there’s no replacing a good hardbound book. Very highly recommended.

I remember buying the very first edition. I was SO proud of owning that book lol. Today the internet has changed a lot of things (clearly as I type on a Trek site) and the appeal of coffee tables books like this are becoming less relevant but I’m so happy to see the Okudas still providing such a great source for Trek fans everywhere. They are truly fans of this show and live and breath Trek. These books show it not to mention all their work on the shows.

I plan to buy myself a copy soon. It looks exceptional. And with the fifth edition will get Beyond, Discovery and MAYBE(?) another film included. As long as Trek keep going we should keep getting editions.

Well, i know what I am going to get for myself as a birthday present next month…

It’s a total waste of money. They didn’t fix a single mistake from the previous 3rd edition, not even the most blatant ones.

I was wondering about those past goofs too and if they were addressed. Thanks for the info, turned it from a ‘probably not’ into a definite ‘no.’

How bad are the mistakes? I had the original edition when I was a kid, but I don’t remember if I came across any goofs.

Elaborate on the mistakes, please.

Well, the most glaring errors are in the insignia section where they feature completely incorrect rank insignia for the TWOK-era.

TMP is still set in 2271 even though 2273 makes more sense in light of VGR Q2

More mistakes concerning ship classes and registries are addressed here: http://flare.solareclipse.net/ultimatebb.php/topic/6/2821.html

Thanks. I’m still going to get the book, chuck up the mistakes as something caused by some sort of “temporal incursion”. ;-)

I’ll live. I never cared about stuff like that, couldnt tell you anything about it. I like just the bigger canon stuff but its fine if you are put off by it.

@ Cody Agreed, I’m no fan of the Okudas either, for their changing of class names, like Glenn class {after John Glenn} =Oberth or Avenger class heavy frigate =Miranda.
Etcetara …..Not going to buy.

the Okudas are brilliant.
am always checking their text commentaries on the blu rays.

Mistakes from earlier editions not corrected. Animated series not included yet they included some things only mentioned in the animated series. Disappointing.

Happy 20th, First Contact

Mike, & Denise, You guys rock!!! Keep up the good work. All my best – X

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