Four years after the cancellation of Star Trek: Original Series and thanks to the popularity the show build through syndication deals and re-runs, Kirk (voiced by Shatner) and Spock (voiced by Nimoy) returned to TV.
Star Trek: The Animated Series had two seasons, 22 episodes and won an Emmy.
Star Trek mega-fan? This is a must-have book. There are new interviews with writers, animators and never-seen-before interview text with Gene Roddenberry.
Let’s talk about the art in the book as I think it’ll be marmite. That means I think some people will like it, some people will hate it. I like it.
There’s no shortage of art in The Official Guide to the Animated Series, but most of it is early drafts, pencils and ideas. This is not a collection of animation cells put into a book.
I like it because it gives the Guide that behind the scenes feeling I was hoping for. I can investigate any one of the 22-episodes and discover something I wouldn’t have been able to see just by watching the re-runs on a streaming service.
The Guide begins by talking about the efforts to make the show in the first place. There’s the challenge of doing a Star Trek story in just 22 minutes, the music and then Leonard Nimoy’s reaction to finding out that nether Nichols nor Takei were involved… at least until they were.
One of the struggles that runs (lightly) through the book is the writers’ efforts to get the capable Uhura into the Captain’s chair. A woman of colour in charge of the Enterprise? In the 70s! Star Trek has always cared about diversity and fairness. It’s one of the qualities of the show that makes it so great.
What do you think happens first? Do actors record their lines and then the show in animated? Or is the show animated first and then the actors speak the lines to fit? Neither is entirely right, and I think the double-page spread on how we move from script to screen is my favourite in the whole book. There are 10 steps.
About thirty pages into the book, we get to the guts of the Guide. It’s here where we start to take the show episode by episode. We’re given the Stardate and the guest actors involved, there’s a blurb of the plot and then interesting highlights. As I said earlier, you’re more likely to get sketches that the artists put together to make the episode possible than just a reprint of any particular cell from the show. That’s fine with me.
The physical shape of the Guide comes into its own here. Compared most other hardback guidebooks for movies and games that I have; the Star Trek guide is shorter but with wider pages. It fits nicely on my lap. To be precise; it’s 24.7 x 1.9 x 27.6 cm.
As you turn the pages when you first get the book, flicking through it before you start to read it in earnest, I recommend watching out for bloopers. There are times, for example, when Scotty gets a promotion to Captain – well, at least according to a momentary depiction of his uniform braid.
Other highlights are the “Fascinating” discovers (using Spock’s own choice of words) where you can find bullet point factoids about each episode.
For example, Roddenberry wrote a similar treatment to the animated “The Lorelei Signal” for a never-produced episode of The Original Series called “The Venus Planet”.
The databank is also worth skimming on your first flick through of the book. You’ll usually find this on the right of the final page for any episode, and it provides summaries of the key characters and places featured. Heck, even Arex’s guitar gets a mention which is a double guitar played with three hands.
It’s hard to imagine anyone with a passing interest in Star Trek won’t have a passing interest in The Official Guide. Somewhat predictably, my thoughts turn to whether the book would be a handy one to have for any roleplaying game group enjoying the Star Trek RPG – and I think it would be.
Whether you’re eying the Guide as a Christmas gift or as a new entry for your own library, I think it’s worth it. The only catch is the use of so many sketches. I might be misjudging people, but I suspect some readers will hope for gloss and polish all the way. Admittedly, none of the Star Trek fans I’ve shown the Guide to have reacted in that way. They’ve all scooped it up and disappeared into nostalgia.
Overall? A safe purchase for any Star Trek fan.
My copy of Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series was provided for review. It’s published in the UK by Titan Books (who often sponsor prizes here at Geek Native) and has been available since late October.
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