Thursday, 2 June 2016

Inside Perspectives on 50 Years: Boarding the Enterprise

The 50th Anniversary of Star Trek would inevitably produce a lot of new merchandising and the latest addition to that list is Boarding the Enterprise.

What? Another book cashing in on the franchise?

My first thought precisely but for once it's not just reiterating the history of Star Trek all over again across 300 pages. Instead it's a series of short, easy to read essays from associates of the show and writers exploring their own favourite aspects and that makes it very, very interesting indeed so give it a chance why don't you?

An unauthorised production, Boarding the Enterprise includes articles from luminaries such as The Trouble with Tribbles scribe David Gerrold, DC Fontana and The Doomsday Machine's writer Norman Spinrad and offers some very thought-provoking topics across its 200 pages and will generate a lot of debate when it's relaunched in July this year.

At first I wasn't too keen because of that "unauthorised" tag but actually this turned out to be a strong, intelligently written tome covering matters that I had never really considered. Referencing its hallowed origins is unavoidable but here we have a very unique spin on the show. Indeed, once you're past the customary introduction we open into a piece from Norman Spinrad on how Star Trek has been an influence on the real world and the inventions that we've seen in the last five decades. 

Each essay offers a different and intriguing perspective on the show which you may not have considered before from Eric Greene's wonderful work questioning the nature, use and very existence of the Prime Directive through to much more science-based words of David DeGraft who boldly looks to the stars themselves and revisits his love of space and the parallel with the stellar explorations and observations of the Enterprise crew.

The 15 essays (16 if you include the equally interesting introduction) make up a book which offers much more than a trawl through plot summaries and background facts. It provides a new and eye-opening series of questions and answers that will make fans re-examine the franchise and potentially open up new lines of interest they had never before considered.

Boarding the Enterprise is definitely a different perspective on 50 years (although there are still references to 40 years in this re-release) and I had never really delved into the concepts of personal identity (Lyle Zinda) or Michael A Burnstein's work on how religion/belief is illustrated by the series (definitely an eye opener I've always wondered about) until I'd read this book but now I have found some new angles from which to watch Star Trek.

My biggest challenge with this anniversary edition is that the sequel series are screamingly conspicuous by their absence. There are some customary nods to their existence in the timeline but overall there are a very insignificant number of references to the massive amount of episodes and movies that came after the closing credits of Turnabout Intruder. When I saw that this was an anniversary edition of the book I had hoped there would be big updates to the content and a strong link to this key time in the life of our favourite series but in this case I have to note that I was as disappointed as I was in regards to the lack of material on Deep Space Nine or even Voyager.

In comparison to the novel series this isn't a book you can easily sit down and read big chunks of and then set aside. You'll find it's best to read an essay, chew over the content, maybe watch an episode or two and the return to the next piece and repeat. It's a book that begs discussion and lengthy consideration and while it may not appeal to every fan, it will open a lot of doors to those who feel they have explored every facet since 1966.

Definitely a book for more dedicated fans (and maybe those who are familiar with the essay authors' other works) its not something I would direct a new fan of the franchise too as they begin to understand the ever-expanding Star Trek universe but even then it might given them things to look over as they take the journey.

Personally I loved it and found that taking that bitesize approach really worked. There's an essay in here for everyone to discover something new whether it's working out just what makes Spock tick, that the briefing room was perhaps the most exciting place to be or just how fan fiction became such a big thing especially for female Trekkies (that last one by Melissa Dickinson is a fine piece of writing by the way). Be aware your brain might not be the same as it was when you started but given that we're 50 years into an epic sci-fi legacy, an updated peek into the franchise has to be welcomed in favour of another episode guide. Before I was given the chance to read this I would have avoided unauthorised and unofficial books however this one has changed my opinion. It offers a lot, new, unique, and thought-provoking and still a respectful companion to a celebrated show by people who clearly love it an understand it's nature.  Dedicated fans should certainly take a look.

Boarding the Enterprise will be available from BenBella books and other good book retailers in July 2016 ISBN 978-194295215-2.

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