Star Trek – A Celebration
Written by Ben Robinson and Ian Spelling
Hardcover | $23.08
Published by Eaglemoss/Hero Collector | 256 Pages
Writing a book about Star Trek: The Original Series presents a challenge: How do you tell the story of a revered, classic show that can serve both die-hard fans who’ve heard the same stories told over and over for years along with the newcomers who came into Star Trek from either the Berman-era shows or the Kurtzman ones? Authors Ben Robinson and Ian Spelling have found a way, combining familiar stories with new interviews and rarely heard details without ever condescending to either group, in a beautiful new coffee table book called Star Trek: A Celebration, the second in a series that started with the Voyager book last year.
Finding something new for a 55-year old legend
This picture-filled, detail-rich book tells the story of The Original Series through a mix of brand-new interviews conducted by the authors (who are both pros and have been in the Star Trek world for decades), mega-research from first-person sources, and older interviews from those who aren’t around anymore. They seamlessly combine them to unearth old gems and tell new stories, always adding in some perspective that a 55-year legacy (and research into it) can bring. The big question around books like this is always “Is there anything new here?” and the answer is a definitive yes, but I think the bigger achievement is finding a way to weave all of the elements together to tell the story of the show that launched an empire.
With regards to the creator of Star Trek, the book covers the genius and perseverance of Gene Roddenberry, but also his flaws and petty behavior; it’s an honest look at a very complicated person. The authors also do the best analysis of the widely mythologized Kirk-Uhura kiss in “Plato’s Stepchildren” I’ve seen. And yes, there are some great rarities in here among the new interviews that include actors like Andrea Dromm (Yeoman Smith in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”), Carey Foster (who was cut from “The Cage” but appeared on TOS multiple times), Maggie Thrett (Ruth, “Mudd’s Women”), and April Tatro (Isis, “Assignment: Earth”).
The authors clearly spent some serious time with the legendary casting director Joe D’Agosta, who says Gene Roddenberry didn’t hire him on the show because of his knack for casting, necessarily:
What sold me to Gene was that the former casting director wasn’t disciplined about getting actors to get military haircuts for a show about Marines,” D’Agosta recalls, laughing. “Well, I didn’t let an actor go on set unless they got a military haircut. So, Gene liked me, not because I was a great casting director, but because I could deliver actors with military haircuts.
The artistry behind the scenes
Surprisingly, my favorite sections weren’t about writing or acting—my usual beat—but about production design, costumes, makeup, props, and special effects. The sheer creativity required to create strange new worlds with limited budgets and resources is inspiring, and while I’ve read about it all many times before—like many fans, I read The Making of Star Trek about 100 times as a kid—these sections really brought the process and the innovation to life. Like many, I weary of the references to “cardboard sets” and bad effects in The Original Series; what they achieved was astonishing, and this book gives the artistry and production expertise its due.
The sketches from Matt Jefferies are particularly remarkable.
Cover-to-cover or random pages?
If you read the book cover-to-cover, you will find some minor repetition, but the book is really designed for someone to pick it up, choose a section, then flip around and find another, so with that as context, it makes sense.
I do have the same complaint I had about the Voyager book that came before it: I wish the typeface was a little larger and a little darker. I have to use a book light to read every tasty bit of text, which is mildly cumbersome. (I checked with younger family members, by the way, and they agree.)
But that’s a minor point, and I can’t complain about the overall look of it: The photos are gorgeous, the stories are well told, and the book will entertain you for hours and give you a fresh look at the show we’ve all watched and loved for so long. It is, indeed, a celebration.
The 256-page Star Trek – A Celebration arrived in hardcover on September 21, and is currently priced at $23.08 ($44.95 in Canada). You can order it from Amazon.com. or directly from the Eaglemoss Shop.
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