Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration
By Ben Robinson and Mark Wright
Published by Hero Collector
8.94” x 0.99” x 11.48” hardcover: 248 pages
This lush coffee table book digs deep into Voyager’s history, looking back with fresh interviews from the entire cast (minus Jennifer Lien, who doesn’t give interviews), directors, Dan Curry and the VFX team, Michael Westmore and the makeup department, Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda from the art department, and writers including Bryan Fuller, Brannon Braga, Kenneth Biller, Lisa Klink, plus the elusive Jeri Taylor, who co-created the series with Rick Berman and the late Michael Piller.
Meant to be read either cover-to-cover or leafed through at random, Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration is divided into sections by topic. (Those reading it cover to cover will find a little repetition, mostly there to provide context for readers who don’t.) The individual cast member sections are spread out across the book, and include insights not just from the actors who played the roles but also has writers, directors, and other actors. Separate breakouts put the spotlight on different departments, with sections for directors, life on set, recurring alien races, and occasional one-offs (like Captain Proton or the Borg Queen).
Also scattered throughout the book are a handful of what the authors call “key episodes,” which are identified as such not because they’re necessarily the best ones—although quite a few are—but because they “changed things, or exemplify a particular kind of Star Trek.” That means there are surprises like “Think Tank” and “Meld” along with more obvious choices like “The Gift,” “Timeless,” “Future’s End,” the pilot and the finale, and of course, the polarizing “Tuvix.”
This book is a feast for Voyager fans. Even the most avid convention-goers will find stories they’ve never heard before—Ethan Phillips’ tale of running into Robin Williams on the Paramount lot is a standout, as well as Bryan Fuller’s recollection of a writer—a pal of Garrett Wang’s—who kept pitching them stories starring Debbie Harry as “love personified.”
Authors Ben Robinson and Mark Wright clearly spent a great deal of time with their interview subjects, looking back at the show with an eagle-eye view that comes with time and hindsight along with in-the-weeds detail that Trek fans are sure to appreciate. It is, indeed, a celebration: You won’t find any talk of the famous on-set difficulties between Jeri Ryan and Kate Mulgrew (and the two actresses have long since made up), but you will get a deeper understanding of why Jennifer Lien was let go from the series and how everyone felt about it at the time.
Most of all, there are sections where you’ll feel like you’re right there as the show was being created. Here, Doug Drexler and Michael Okuda reminisce about the very long night they spent finishing up the Voyager studio miniature:
“In the dead of night, Mike and I packed our gear and headed into the San Fernando Valley for Brazil Fabrications,” continues Drexler. “To say that I was excited was an understatement. If I told you that I was not playing the Enterprise launch music from THE MOTION PICTURE in my head, I would be a big fat liar. So here it was, zero hour, and Mike and I are working gleefully to the finish. Mike and I had to lift the gorgeous model off of its stand in order to work on the bottom. One slip, and your career is over!”
“There wasn’t time to finesse it,” says Okuda. “I had to have enough variations of things in case something didn’t fit or didn’t look good. I make it out to be very stressful, which it was, but we were two kids getting to play with a starship!”
Ship nerds will rejoice over all the Starship Gallery, which includes the Prometheus, the Time Ship, the Equinox, and a Hirogen Warship, among many others, and the Delta Flyer gets its own section. The information and photos on the U.S.S. Voyager itself examine its exterior and interior in fascinating detail along with the inspiration and decision-making process for each main area of the ship. You don’t need to be a ship nerd to appreciate it; any fan of the series will happily absorb themselves in those pages. There’s also a spread specifically dedicated to the ship’s size.
The photos in general are pretty gorgeous, especially when it comes to the VFX, costume, makeup, and art departments, which often include detailed sketches and outlines of plans both fulfilled and abandoned.
Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration gives you a great sense of the challenges and delights of making the show. The writers describe the dread of walking into the writers’ room at the beginning of each season (which explains the franchise’s long-running policy of accepting pitches and scripts from outsiders, even ones without agents, although the newer shows have dropped the practice):
Ken Biller, who ran the writers’ room in the final season, remembers that they were always under pressure. “The worst day was always the beginning of every season,” he says. “The dread of, ‘Oh my God, how are we going to do this, how can we come up with 26 fresh, original stories?!’ That was the worst.”
And you will also learn that despite the long hours required to get the show produced, people working on it found themselves inspired nonetheless.
“I looked forward to coming to work, even during the hiatus times,” says Rick Sternbach. “I consider myself astoundingly lucky to have been accepted into the STAR TREK franchise and to be able to invent out of thin air – with some stylistic rules – things that no one has ever seen before. It was a pretty astounding time.”
David Livingston, who was the show’s supervising producer and directed 28 episodes, doesn’t hold back on the challenges and obstacles to directing and producing the show, but sums up his experience with this sentiment:
“For all the cast and crew on VOYAGER, life couldn’t have been better. We didn’t have studio interference, we didn’t have network interference, the producers gave us leeway, and they wrote wonderful stories that respected Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future. It was a rarefied period in television and I was incredibly grateful to be part of it.”
A must have… with one quibble
This review only scratches the surface of the insights into the series. The book is an essential addition to your Star Trek book collection, and Voyager fans who are also interested in television production won’t be able to put it down. If there is a quibble with the book it lies with the faint typeface, which can be hard to read even in a bright light. The photo captions were just as pale but even smaller, making them challenging to read. Clamping on a book light was a solution, but a darker font for second printing is highly recommended.
All of the images above are taken from Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration by Ben Robinson and Mark Wright, published by Hero Collector, a division of Eaglemoss. The 248-page hardcover coffee table book is already available. You can order it on Amazon for $20.13.
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