Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Three Dimensional Thinking

Khan would have serious issues with this offering which will fill more than a corner under your Christmas tree this year.

Star Trek Pop-Ups comes from Thames & Hudson providing fans with something a little innovative for the festive season with seven expansive vistas from the Prime Universe. Seven pages might put fans off as might the £20 price point however the result is suitably beautiful.

We get a 3D Enterprise encountering Balok's First Federation starship and Kirk cuddled up in Tribble Mountain from The Original Series and the first of those gives a great example of the art involved in putting this work together. The Enterprise fold-out background is a bone of contention for me. There are better situations to base it in and I would have thought The Doomsday Machine might have had more impact but the it's about the paper art not the backing sheet if you will.

Turning over I was disappointed to find that the choice of movie excerpt was the Klingon Bird-of-Prey swooping under the Golden Gate bridge rather than something from The Wrath of Khan (too obvious?) but the angle, the colouring and, once more, the imagination to bring the ship to life and off the page has to be applauded. This is certainly more technical in design and execution than the pop-up which was produced around the time of the 30th anniversary in 1996. A couple of the pieces both here and on the Deep Space Nine spread did clash together but not enough to rip yet I would air caution when you're running through its pages.

The Borg Cube (The Next Generation spread) is brilliant, (hence the header photo from Thames and Hudson that made mine look decidedly amateur) including a mini Enterprise-D for full effect and the bit that really works is the depth of the cube. I suppose anyone could do a pop-up box but McCarthy has managed to give the ship layers and more than just a simple cubic outer hull. It's a nice touch that works well. The flip out Enterprise-D is kind of cute although it's worth noting that you have to fold it away manually rather than turning the page.

My favourite though has to be the stunning Deep Space Nine scene with the station surrounded by Jem'Hadar and Cardassian ships as we saw her during the opening few episodes of season six between A Time to Stand and Sacrifice of Angels. There's a warship or a fighter coming from every angle around the curves of the station which make this a truly epic display. It's extravagant nature fits the very nature of the invasion as well as the size of the former Cardassian mining station.

The text accompanying however does refer to A Call to Arms and while that is a key moment in the show it doesn't link directly with the scene we are presented here. A swift bit of editing and rewriting could have encompassed all the activities of the seven episode arc - or even the addition of an escaping Defiant would have meant the model matched the text however that does make it a little disjointed. More on that in a bit but now I want to stick with the models.

Voyager gets the black and white retro citadel from Bride of Chaotica! which makes as much sense as including The Corbomite Maneuver but the build quality here is again fantastic to behold as the towers and walls leap out from the page. It does make for something very different (not just another space vista/starship) and that's perhaps another positive for this book - the variations of what and how McCarthy has chosen her designs. No two unfold in the same manner and each displays a different "paper technology" skill.

Finally there's Enterprise. It's a third starship foldout being a face-on view of the NX-01 launching from spacedock as seen in Broken Bow. A clear homage to the launch scene from The Motion Picture it's beautifully presented and very neat in its papery deployment. In fact this is quite subdued and closer to the page when opened up than we see with the Bride of Chaotica! or Call to Arms scenes. It comes back to that variation point in that every foldout doesn't have to be an explosion from the page - they can be more subtle, stylish and cleverly designed than an attack on your eyes. McCarthy has certainly chosen her subjects well and made her techniques suit the scenes she has picked. 

In all fairness the text is what lets this book down. The author's work and love for the subject cannot be ignored and should be highly commended but the narratives alongside are of poor quality and miss the mark - and in some cases the facts. They are ok and very, very top line but minor errors seem to have crept in especially on the first double page introduction section talking about Star Trek's initial lack of success and then revival at the hands of syndication. It may just be the choice of wording however it does niggle - although it's worth remembering the introduction is far from the main event here. Each of the pages does contain images from the respective series and some information (tenuously) linked to the pop-ups which manages not to distract but could have done with a bit more checking before inserting into the book - and at least making them relevant would have been a good idea.

Another obvious point that becomes even more and more evident as the years go by is that this features only the Prime Universe shows and movies. As with the new Ships of the Line book, anything to do with the JJ expansion is conspicuous by it's glaring absence. I would think a lot of fans will rejoice at this choice/licencing enforcement but in some way it does make Star Trek Pop-Ups just that little incomplete.

At just seven pages this isn't going to take you a day to digest or even an afternoon at a push and the price, £19.95 in the UK might put you off but the quality of the results is worth adding it to your library. The techniques to bring the scenes to life from a variety of angles and dimensions is superb and no two explode from the pages in quite the same manner - there's the subtlety of the Bird of Prey under the Golden Gate bridge which is followed by the towering Borg cube which can be explored from every side. I cannot question McCarthy's sterling ability nor her dedication to the art which has produced these paper wonders. I for one hope that Thames & Hudson get to commission a second volume with another variety of scenes from the show.

Star Trek Pop-ups is available now from Thames & Hudson priced at £19.95 ISBN 9780500517499

Have you bought this or are expecting it from Santa? 

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