Sunday, 15 November 2020

Let's Celebrate: Hero Collector's New Book Goes to the Delta Quadrant

Released on November 24th, Star Trek: Voyager: A Celebration is the companion fans deserved back in 2001.

The original companion as you might recall was filled with plot synopses and very little background data on the 172 episodes of the seven series show. To say that it left much to be desired was an understatement so the arrival of HeroCollector's 247 page tome is well overdue and sincerely you hope it hits all the right spots.

From Ben "Starships Collection" Robinson and Mark Wright this is penned as a retrospective conceived as a convention in a book - especially fitting because just this week should have been Destination Star Trek at London's ExCel featuring the Voyager cast and celebrating 25 years of the series.

Yes, 25 years and a series that for myself was always overshadowed by the Dominion War of Deep Space Nine. I was never a huge fan of Janeway or that little Intrepid Class ship lost 75,000 light years from home. Over the second and third watches as I grew older though I started to "get" Voyager. It was different, it offered a lot more high-concept sci-fi than any of its predecessors and with this new book we get a real feel for what the production team envisaged from day one.

A Celebration isn't detailing every casting process, every nuance of the build up to the show but more a full 360 experience of the show from its first day of production through to the climax of Endgame. Each of the main cast has been approached for new interviews on their characters yet it's even more layered than that, taking in key and classic episodes from the show with fresh perspectives on what worked and if it didn't, how the challenges were faced. What I enjoyed as well were that the cast also revealed what they loved about their costars and what made the series a career highlight for them.

The continued development of the series particularly past Michael Piller's direct involvement with seasons one and two is fascinating and explores, throughout the book not just the way in which each year panned out but what the drive was and how each character grew in turn with the decisions. Some of these changes and challenges are covered in the interviews with the cast but others come from the behind the scenes crew who were pushing the limits every day with incredibly tight deadlines.

All of the main villains from the series are dissected showing what made them work and how they ticked plus ideas that were ditched, lost or frankly had to be ended because of the nature of the journey. The piece on the Borg actually made me reconsider my view on the show's use of them and what led to the inclusion of Seven of Nine as well as the departure of Kes.

The level of detail and insight from all involved is simply astounding and I found this to be one of the best page-turner reference books of the last decade. Every sheet has something of interest, every paragraph has a fact that will astound or bring back a memory from an episode. My understanding of not just the characters but of the writing, direction, costume and visual effects, to pick out just a sprinkling of the content, is a lot more comprehensive than it was before and while this isn't in its nature a reference book, it is one that you will be tempted back to after watching one of those selected episodes or because having watched a certain season you want to reflect on the path that the person in charge at that time chose to take. Thinking of how that landing was approached? Check. Aeroshuttle? Check. How Neelix got his appearance. Check. The key to a good story or where Braga gets his ideas? All in here as is the thinking why the Maquis aren't raging with conflict for seven years and more answers to questions you've always wanted answered (Paris wasn't an arrogant so and so on purpose...)...

A Celebration does contain the obligatory episode list and mini-synposes but these are kept right to the back and don't get in the way of the journey back on NCC-74656. Nothing is left untouched here with in front and behind the camera covered and the text is paired with an extensive set of photographs from screened episodes plus model work, makeup sketches, ship designs and, exhaustively, a lot, lot more besides with even some that have not been used before.

There is some material that might be familiar in here but it's so well integrated into the book that you don't notice and soon you're totally engrossed in the explanation of a visual choice or the reason there were so many two-parters. Which episodes did the cast actually like? One or two might surprise and that's just one of the highlights of this impressive book.

Hardbacked and beautifully presented this is a stunning volume that every single Star Trek fan needs to have on their shelf. If there is one complaint there are a couple of annoying little errors in photo captions and the right episode referenced but they are only one or two microscopic examples in an otherwise outstanding publication. Maybe there could have been more on some of my favourite episodes such as Hope and Fear or Living Witness or Blink of an Eye but I guess you have to draw the line somewhere!

Saying that, the quality and depth of the content is outstanding and incredibly immersive and Ben Robinson and Mark Wright need to be thoroughly praised for the work that has gone into A Celebration

As I said, this is the book that Voyager fans have been waiting for and deserved since the show ended in 2001 - we just had to wait 19 years for it to be released.

Star Trek: Voyager: A Celebration is published by HeroCollector and priced £23.99. You can purchase it HERE

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