Book Review: ‘Phasers On Stun!’ Takes A Big Picture Look At The Star Trek Franchise And Does It Justice

Phasers on Stun!
Written by Ryan Britt
Published by Plume

Phasers On Stun! is an entertaining read with a mix of both the old and the new, much like Star Trek itself. Author and journalist Ryan Britt had a daunting task: He looked at the franchise as a whole, from the origins of The Original Series to the Kelvin movies and the ongoing series in production. This is a pretty tricky proposition, trying to cover the franchise in a way that will work for both longtime fans who have already steeped themselves in production lore and newbies who want to get a wider perspective on the whole Star Trek universe. And this is where Britt excels with his nifty balance of zoomed-in details, a big picture vantage point, and an understanding that even first-person reports aren’t always spot-on in terms of accuracy. He’s also a huge fan with a sense of humor about the universe he loves so much.

The book spends the biggest chunk of its time on the creation of The Original Series, which is perhaps its flaw; that’s definitely the show that already has the most chronicled history, and it’s the subsequent series and all the movies where old-school fans would want a deeper dive. But Britt’s writing is crisp, concise, and clever, and he manages to tell well-known stories quickly enough to avoid boring the old pros, sprinkling in details that help round out familiar history and sometimes provide something new.

Most of all, the book isn’t just a chronicle of Star Trek’s history. It excels as an analysis of the meaning of Star Trek and of the progress it’s made. There’s a whole chapter about its eventual acceptance of LGBTQ+ characters and stories—more on some of its failings would have been welcome here—and nice dives into other topics like Janeway breaking into the boys’ club, the recasting of Saavik, the emergence of the new shows, and the shift after the Kelvin movies, all of which benefit from Britt’s research and many original interviews he’s done with the cast and creatives as a journalist.

This book is a good read for Star Trek newbies, confused friends, and relatives of Star Trek fans, actors and creatives working on the new shows who are new to the franchise, and yes, even us big-time fans, who will enjoy a well-written exploration of what ties all the iterations of Star Trek together.

Available now

Phasers on Stun! How the Making (and Remaking) of Star Trek Changed the World was released on May 31. It is available now on Amazon in hardcover for $24.49, or Kindle ebook for $15.18. It is also available as an audiobook on Audible.

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My mother lives in Delaware, and she sent me a clipping from the local newspaper that talked about how the highway department was trying to get drivers to slow down by using clever slogans. The article was illustrated by a photo of a sign that said


When Star Trek is widespread enough that the highway department assumes that most drivers know about it … it really has changed the world.

As my five-year-old was fond of saying when told to clean his room, “No, thanks!”

I’ll send you a free copy of the book personalized with the quote “no thanks,” if you’d like.

That was pretty funny. I’m headed out to buy your book.

Looking at the cover, I thought this was solo a TOS focused book. But reading your review of it, it covers all of Star Trek and sounds much more interesting. But I’m more interested in learning about the later shows and sounds like it doesn’t talk about those enough.

I talk about the later shows quite a bit!

Thanks for the heads up Ryan. OK that makes a big difference now and may pick it up! :)

I hadn’t been planning to buy this book, because I have SO many Star Trek books, and the last couple really haven’t been that informative.

Then I saw that the review was by Laurie Ulster. I almost always agree with whatever she says, so I’ve just ordered the book from Amazon. Mr. Britt, you can thank Laurie. :-)

I saw this book advertised on Reddit of all places and shared the ad with my partner. She was looking for a Father’s Day gift for me and ended up buying this book for me. Started reading on a flight to San Francisco. Had to say I was sad when the flight landed because it meant I would have to put the book down. It is great to see the this work acknowledge and use other works on Trek’s history that I have read as well as first hand accounts. I wish it were a bit more academic and scholarly in tone and style, but the casual style does make the book an easy and fast read.

I will say that one of themes that has struck me early in the book is the laying out of what Trek’s purpose was and what it became. For me, this was a reminder of what Star Trek means to me and others of my generation. It is also a reminder of how current Star Trek no longer holds those ideals near to its heart any longer.

Can’t wait to have some free time to pick it up and finish

I’m about halfway through the book. Although I’m enjoying it overall, I’m troubled because the author has said at least two things that I know are untrue. It makes me wonder which OTHER things he’s said that aren’t true but which I didn’t know enough to catch.

He states in an early chapter that Leonard Nimoy was cast as Spock because Gary Lockwood and Dorothy Fontana suggested to Roddenberry that Nimoy would make a good Spock. Dorothy Fontana has said several times in several places that Gene Roddenberry showed her his pitch for Star Trek back in 1964, and she read it, liked it, and said, “I have just one question: Who plays Spock?” And she reported that in answer to her question, Gene Roddenberry slid a picture of Leonard Nimoy across the table and said, “This guy,” to which she replied, “Oh, I know him; he acted in one of the scripts I wrote for The Tall Man.

How Ryan Britt took Dorothy Fontana’s saying that and turned it into her suggesting Leonard Nimoy, I don’t know. I mean, I adore Dorothy Fontana, and I think she should absolutely be given credit for everything she’s actually done. But she, herself, said she didn’t do this.

If I leave a link, this comment won’t see daylight, but the Star Trek Fact Check guy has a lengthy entry on the casting of Spock, which feels far better researched than what Mr. Britt wrote.

The other thing I noticed is that Ryan Britt says that Spock’s death in TWOK was the idea of Harve Bennett and Leonard Nimoy. He further says that Mr. Nimoy “stopped short of saying” that he had Spock’s death written into his contract, which makes it sound as if Mr. Nimoy did have it written into his contract but coyly didn’t admit it. The truth is that Leonard Nimoy EXPLICITLY DENIED the rumors that he’d had Spock’s death written into his contract and also denies that Spock’s death was his idea. I mean, maybe Mr. Britt thinks Mr. Nimoy lied, but even if Britt thinks that, he shouldn’t pretend that Mr. Nimoy SAID anything other than repeatedly denying that he had Spock’s death written into his contract.

The book is mostly a lot of fun, but I’m sorry I bought it, because I don’t know how many lies the author is telling me.