Sunday, 14 February 2021

The Depth of DS9: HeroCollector's Illustrated Handbook

Over Christmas I finally submitted to HeroCollector's will and got hold of the three Illustrated Handbooks.

Covering the Constitution Class USS Enterprise NCC-1701 and NCC-1701-A, the second on Picard's Galaxy Class vessel and a third on Voyager, these are masterful guides to the hero craft of the franchise. With one notable exception.

Which has now been solved with the publication of the Deep Space Nine Illustrated Handbook. Excited? Yes, yes, yes and it's about time.

Once more diving into the wealthy archive of the Star Trek Fact Files, the book pulls together all the material on the series you could desire including the station, Runabouts and the iconic USS Defiant

I was, shamefully, not a collector of the Fact Files back in the day. An ex-girlfriend did and I remember spending a substantial part of a day just flicking through the binders and being really impressed with the graphics and notes alongside. Possibly one of the reasons I became an ex!

Anyway... this book just goes that step further. If you've collected and still have the files, then this is money you can avoid spending because 99% of the content is exactly the same but just in one place and not filling half a wall. 

So let's take a look under the hood and flip open this hardback compendium.  The first thing you'll naturally do is compare it to the '90's DS9 Technical Manual. As with previous entries, these books are, when aligned with those schematic heavyweights from the likes of Okuda and Sternbach, like two halves of a medallion. One provides in depth "real world" technical understandings of the workings of just about everything while the Handbook provides a more relaxed and informative read. This handbook book is much more a journey through DS9 rather than a guide on how to fix a broken warp engine and relates more as a story backed by CG as well as episode reference shots which you wouldn't find in the technical manuals but still keeps it grounded in the Trek universe.

Yes, there are technical aspects to it, but this new volume excels in its cutaway drawings of Ops or the Promenade as well as relating the construction path of the station by its Cardassian builders. The superb images also have further areas expanded on such as control panels and in the case of the Promenade it even goes into specific operations on that deck. Notes indicate specific items and key points with the main narrative exploding the background.

The Illustrated Handbook adeptly covers just about everything and links it back to the series itself in many cases. The Cardassian counterinsurgency programmes from Civil Defence are referenced as are the away team desert uniforms from Shadows and Symbols. Even the optolythic data rod from In the Pale Moonlight gets a section devoted to it. That's where the technical manual and this really part ways. Ben Robinson and editor Simon Hugo have gathered together information which is made accessible to all levels of fandom and just looks amazing.

Beyond the station there's even more with the Runabout sections even showing that mid-section only used on TNG as well as a decent recap on the fates of DS9's fleet over the series along with further annotated views of the utility craft.

For those wanting a bit more starship action then there's the Defiant with close up looks into the engine room, the bridge and even the cramped mess hall. Each section not only explains some over technical pieces in plain English but the relation to the show through an in universe explanation. All aspects of the ship are covered from its creation right up to its destruction and resurrection in the final season. There are also pieces on the features of the ship which made it unique in Starfleet.

It's difficult not to come away from this, the fourth book in the reconstituted Fact Files series and be highly impressed, disappointed and slightly hopeful all in one go. Let me explain.

The work that has gone into scouring the man, many volumes of the classic part work cannot be underestimated and to have it all here is, as said, just wonderful but it this going to be the last one since the Fact Files never touched on anything more recently. Is there a chance that we might get an Illustrated Handbook for Discovery for example? I think fans would be excited to see that but it would be a project from the ground up (I have time, Ben, if you need a hand!). 

Just as a good reference book was an absolute necessity for your library back in the 1990's, this is another piece of Star Trek history that every fan should have in whatever form. Personally I'm ecstatic to have a hold of it in a single book that logically details the elements of arguably Star Trek's best and most unique show in one place. At this place and time, HeroCollector is the place to go if you're looking for that more inquisitive look into the workings of the Roddenberry-created universe. Let's have some more. 

The Deep Space Nine Illustrated Handbook will soon be available from HeroCollector in the UK...

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