New Star Trek Book Celebrates the Legacy of the Franchise
Not many series can say they’ve lasted fifty-five years and continue to endure. Star Trek is an exception, since it has not only endured but has also continued to evolve and expand. Since its debut in 1966, we have seen the development of seven live-action series and two animated shows (with more of both types of series in various stages of development), thirteen films, hundreds of novels and comic books, numerous fan films, and a fan base that continues to grow from generation to generation.
Which brings us to the hardcover release Star Trek: A Celebration, from Hero Collector Books. Written by Ben Robinson and Ian Spelling, this newest publication takes another deep dive into the history and development of the series and its inspiration on the current version of the franchise. Of course, the big question is, is there anything new to learn about the original Star Trek that we haven’t learned before? That’s a fair and valid question. And the answer is… yes.
From the start, we have a combination of vintage interviews with cast and crew members from the first pilot “The Cage” and new interviews with actresses Laurel Goodwin and Carey Foster, two of the last surviving actors from the pilot, as they reflect on how Star Trek impacted their lives and careers afterwards. From there, the book gives a brief overview of the development of the series, and its second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, as a vehicle to spotlight William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy as the series’ leads. Through the interviews, we gain insight into each actor and their respective character, along with characters who had single appearances in the second pilot and were never seen again.
One of the book’s more sensitive segments, spotlighting the late Grace Lee Whitney, does not gloss over the problems that affected her work on the series, and is handled with great respect and care by the authors. At one point, Nichelle Nichols had missed meeting heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali during a tour of Desilu Studios because it was her day off from work. And in a humorous anecdote, we learn that James Doohan had an encounter with none other than Elvis Presley, himself a huge fan of the series. We are also given the answer to a decades-old question: just who is Isis in human form at the end of “Assignment: Earth”?
The book also takes deep dives into twelve of the most essential episodes of the series, providing outlooks into the development of those episodes and their impact not just on the series but throughout the entire franchise. We are also given thorough explanations into the development of the Vulcans, the Klingons, the Romulans, and the many alien monsters; the design of the crew’s phasers, tricorders, communicators, and shuttles; an overlook of the design of the USS Enterprise and many of the alien sets that appeared through the series; the creation of the series’ memorable music; the costumes and makeup; and the visual effects, which were state-of-the-art at the time but seem almost primitive by today’s standards. There’s also the story behind the most talked-about kiss in the series, a collection of McCoy’s banter and favorite catchphrases, and so much more. The book is coupled with many beautiful sketches and photographs, a number of which have never been seen by the public at large.
But this is more than just another look back at the series. This is indeed a celebration of the legacy of Star Trek and how its impact continues to this day. Chris Hunter, son of the late Jeffrey Hunter, recalls how he gave his approval to Anson Mount in becoming Christopher Pike for Discovery (and the upcoming Strange New Worlds spinoff) and how Mount publicly thanked him at a 2018 convention for his blessing and approval. Whoopi Goldberg shares how Nichelle Nichols’ work on the series influenced her so much and led to her career that included appearing as Guinan in The Next Generation, two of the TNG films, and her upcoming appearance in the second season of Picard. Rainn Wilson, who took on the role of intergalactic con man Harry Mudd in Discovery and Short Treks, recalls how Roger C. Carmel’s portrayal of the character influenced him to honor the late actor. And we are given a section on The Original Series Set Tour, managed and supervised by longtime fan James Cawley, which was birthed from his series of fan films in the first decade of the 2000s.
Star Trek: A Celebration is a wonderful companion piece to the many books that have been written over the decades about the beloved series. It will satisfy both longtime fans and provide a solid starting point for younger fans who are discovering the series for the first time. Highly recommended!
A lifelong Star Trek fan since the age of six, Bill Williams has written and reviewed numerous Star Trek novels, videos, and products since 2001 for TrekWeb.com. He has also contributed material to the 2006 publication Voyages of Imagination: The Star Trek Fiction Companion from Simon & Schuster, and has written and published several independent books. He currently contributes articles for CapedWonder.com and maintains a writer’s page on Facebook.