Monday, 2 November 2015

All Dressed Up: Star Trek Costumes

Just go and buy this now.

If I was keeping this review simple and straightforward that's exactly what it would say. In fact just open another tab while you're reading this and order a copy.  Go on. Yep,  that's it....

And why am I exhibiting signs of total over excitement towards this book?  Because it's flippin' brilliant. That's why. 

Since it's announcement early in the year I've been looking forward to seeing just how this was going to be pulled off.  Would it be another childlike book with idiotic annotations and minimal text that any fan of any age or knowledge level would feel patronised by?  Not at all.  In fact quite the opposite.

For about four hours on Saturday I was glued to this book,  reading every word and taking in every picture,  sketch and note. Truly this is a one of a kind book that will never be repeated and is something never seem before in print.

It's a heavy book in both weight and price but the finished product more than justifies both in my humble opinion with its informative text and stunning colour images packing out every single page in this hardback product.

Written and extensively researched by Paula M Block and Terry J Erdmann,  Star Trek Costumes is the first and last word on the clothes that helped realise the vision of the Final Frontier.  If you're familiar with their work,  the pair were responsible for the stunning 365 books on The Original Series and The Next Generation, Star Trek 101 as well as putting together one of the best Star Trek series reference guides ever, the Deep Space Nine Companion.

Starting out with The Original Series, readers get an intricate look at everything from Andrea's infamous jumpsuit through to the varying materials of the main cast uniforms, this has everything and all shades (pun intended) in between. The best thing is that it's not just a picture and some text about what it's made from - there are actual first hand stories, notes on how changes were made, how Theiss titilated, how items were reused and what inspired some of the most incredible costumes to have hit the technicolour screen. Not just pictures but original sketches as yet unchanged for the screen and first hand accounts of what wearing the items was actually like.

From there the tone certainly subdues with the greys of The Motion Picture and how the wardrobe from the movie was resurrected and again, reused with some clever colouring for the second movie and beyond. The writers have packed this to bursting point allowing us insight into why Khan's costume appears as it does and what was used to give it a "worn" look, what led to the civilian oufits for The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home and even how Sybok was attired for The Final Frontier.

But it's not just a journey through history but a trek through the work of several individuals who have picked up the torch from their predecessor and made their own indelible mark on the Star Trek universe. It might be Robert Fletcher's legendary monster maroon "off colour" movie uniforms or Durinda Rice Wood's original Borg bitsa costumes but each one has left something that each of us will instantly recognise and remember with fondness. 

Interestingly The Next Generation receives a three-way split dependent on the wardrobe boss in charge at the time. Theiss' work is purely the first season and explains more than the troubling effect of stretching spandex while Durinda Rice Wood in season two got to re-work Troi's severe appearance  as well as introduce the Borg to the world. However her successor, Bob Blackman, took over the reins from season three right through to the demise of Enterprise in 2005. While he didn't touch any of the movies with the exception of Generations and the odd dress uniform, Blackman has probably had the biggest impact on the clothes of the 24th Century more than anyone else.

There is significant space given over to the last five years of The Next Generation as well as individual sections on each of the movies (with their own designer) but I was just a little disappointed that Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise were clumped together into one bite rather than each having their own section. There's still a lot covered in the pages but as a Niner I would have loved to have seen much more on the variety of alien races that dropped in and out as well as the main and secondary casts.

The other thing that niggles are the few terrible typos that should have been picked up - Dax and Jadzia's wedding? That image NOT being Kira's seventh season colonel's uniform and an odd one noting a communicator as a phaser. Icky errors that do take a little bit of the edge away from what is otherwise a perfect Star Trek reference book and one that is 200% essential to any Star Trek fan's library. Even the internet does not do justice to this under-appreciated topic within the franchise and certainly the unsung heroes who have slaved away in the hours of the night to sew up a costume or finish a crucial design.

Importantly Star Trek Costumes closes out with a section on the two rebooted movies. I did skip to the end looking for any teasers of Beyond but I was out of luck. What we get with the 2009 movie and Into Darkness is fairly standard since there haven't been a massive range of characters. There's the requisite look at the nicely re-envisaged classic uniforms which did receive a minor twist for the sequel as well as Nero's Romulans, the image in black of Cumberbatch's Khan and certainly the one which stopped me flicking back through the book - the helmeted, armoured Klingons. Their coverage in both the sections regarding the reboot movies is excellent and certainly the highlight of that later part of the book even if you're not a keen follower of the reboot.

Block and Erdmann have produced a fantastic read here and one that fans will be looking over for years. Everything about it oozes quality and makes this a no-brainer purchase. Having a few more pages on some of the most bizarre and one-off costumes might have been the only thing that they could have added but you can't question the level of detail or research that has gone into producing the book as it stands. Quite simply one of the best Star Trek reference books for a while.

You can order the Star Trek Costumes book now from Titan Books HERE priced £35.00 ISBN 9781783299676.

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