Yeah, a book. Made of real paper. Weird, huh?
If you’ve read almost anything I’ve ever written, you know I love me some Star Trek. What I also love, enormous dork that I am, is learning about how the stuff I love was made. Interviews, extras, DVD commentaries, reference books, I’ll devour all of them. I love television in particular as a medium and I find that an understanding of why things were the way they were straight from the writer’s mouth or the challenges of scheduling and budget or what actor had a stuffy nose that day can really enhance your enjoyment of a work, and maybe even change your mind about the show itself.
Star Trek has of course had countless books written about its making, some of them informative and honest, some of them not so much, tainted by failing memory or a desire to look good. If you’ve purchased any of these books in the past, throw em away. You don’t need ’em. Not anymore. Author Marc Cushman has compiled the ultimate behind-the-scenes look at the making of Star Trek, far above and beyond anything else released previously. Cushman wrote the fan-favorite Next Generation episode “Sarek,” featuring Picard’s memorable meltdown while channeling the eponymous aged Vulcan’s emotional overflow. So he’s got Trek-cred for sure.
These Are the Voyages: Season One takes you through Gene Roddenberry’s early television career, the creation of Star Trek, and the making of each and every episode in exquisite detail. This is a book which took many, many years to complete, and it shows. Gene Roddenberry gave his blessing during Cushman’s time on Next Gen, and since then, he has conducted several new interviews with cast and crew, and was also granted access to the original series production files, containing script drafts, internal memos, network notes, and other such paperwork. This is part of what lends These Are the Voyages its biggest asset: Honesty.
Over the years, Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry himself have become mythologized among science fiction fans and television aficionados, giving rise to a lot of misty-eyed nostalgia about how wonderful absolutely everything was. There’s no bullshittery of that nature in this book. Drawing on contemporary sources, Cushman has cut through the crap and presents unbiased fact as much as possible, even going so far as to correct the statements of certain interviewees whose memories aren’t entirely accurate. It’s a refreshing, fascinating way of looking back at the series, and in some cases turns notions long held to be true completely on their heads. No, Gene Roddenberry was not the messiah. He was a TV producer with good ideas who was also kind of a dick sometimes. No, Bill Shatner did not fight with his costars all the time. No, Star Trek was not the ratings failure NBC would have you believe.
My only complaint about this book is that the presentation is a little wacky. The book is a print-on-demand work, and sometimes the typesetting is a little screwed up. Nothing that makes the book unreadable, but it is sprinkled with the occasional spelling, grammar, and/or formatting errors throughout, though they seem to level off the farther one gets into the book.
You shouldn’t let that stop you from picking it up, if you’re at all interested in Star Trek or television history in general. The breadth of knowledge on display here far outstrips any other Star Trek offering, even putting the TOS BluRay releases to shame. These Are the Voyages is an utterly fearless and unflinching account of every aspect of a television classic. It is one hell of a read and I don’t doubt Season One and the next two volumes will go on to become the definitive books on the subject. Bring on Season Two!
You can order a copy of These Are the Voyages: Season One for yourself here