[50/50] Books: Keep on Trekkin’

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Book #6:
“The Making of Star Trek” — Stephen E. Whitfield (1968)
“Star Trek: The Inside Story” — Herbert Solow/Robert Justman (1996)

Book #7: “Star Fleet Technical Manual” — Franz Joseph (1975)

themakingofstartrekWe had two bibles in our house. One was The Holy Bible, and the other was … The Making of Star Trek. I dare say I read the later much more than the former. The paperback copy my dad gave me in the early ’70s (at left) went with me to school every day, and into my backpack on many a hike. It has been loved into mulch and is still held together — barely — with old cellophane tape. It was a huge best-seller, and beyond its nerd cache, “The Making of Star Trek” is a seminal title in both publishing and Hollywood. It was the first behind-the-scenes book that showed the public the step-by-step of how a TV show is actually created, right down to budget memos. It also introduced fans to the idea of a ‘show bible’ and reproduced early production sketches, set photos and prop measurements. If Star Trek (the show) inspired kids to become astronauts, scientists and doctors, then “The Making of Star Trek” inspired a generation of writers, filmmakers and producers, and gave them their first look at what it takes to make something for the screen.

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And if “The Making of” was the alpha of Trek books, “Inside Star Trek,” by the show’s two original producers, Herb Solow and Robert Justman, was the Omega. Written soon after Gene Roddenberry’s death, Solow and Justman decided to finally tell the rest of the behind-the-scene stories, and their version differs greatly from the official mythos Roddenberry encouraged.

insidestFull of fascinating tidbits (such as the fact that Lucille Ball herself put up the money for the show and bet the future of her production company on getting it on the air), “Inside Star Trek” deals with the downside of the creative process: the insane politics of the studios and the networks, and what it takes to keep a business enterprise like this going. It also reveals a number of long-rumored truths about creator Gene Roddenberry.

While Roddenberry was the driving force behind the show, it turned out he frequently went off rails and needed constant reining in. Known for promoting strong female characters, it seems this was because he often promised big speaking parts to actresses he slept with, not because he was a feminist. Roddenberry also often took credit for others’ work (he got co-author credit on The Making of book, for example, though he had nothing to do with it). Luckily for us, he was very good at hiring very talented people, and it was their collaborative effort that gave us one of the best TV shows of all time. If you like the show at all, or are interested in how television productions are made, it’s worth tracking down this book.

StarTrekStarFleetTechnicalManualFinally, there is the “Star Fleet Technical Manual.” If Star Trek invented modern fandom (for good or for ill), then this codified it. Building off the ideas and images in “The Making of Star Trek,” engineer and Trek fan Franz Joseph created a stunning and influential tome that provided ship designs, prop schematics, maps, dress patterns — everything that was so lovingly mocked in Galaxy Quest — in a title that is still regularly reprinted today.

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