The original story of “Star Trek” was supposed to last just five years. As all fans know, the “five-year mission” was cut a bit short, thanks to a misreading of the ratings system by NBC. And since that untimely cancellation, “Star Trek” has blossomed into a cultural phenomenon, spawning 13 feature films, three cartoon series, and eight sequel or spin-off live-action shows.
Paramount and CBS mounted a streaming celebration to mark the 55th anniversary of the airing of the first “Star Trek” episode — “The Man Trap.” Included on the event were interviews from the current group of actors who make up the various new series, and some from those shows long dormant. In a way, the television and streaming networks have taken this date, September 8, 1966, and made it a holiday for the franchise.
Lost in some of the celebrations of the 55th anniversary of “The Original Series” were some of the details and magic from the first edition of Gene Roddenberry’s “wagon train to the stars.” In some ways, the old show is overshadowed by the newer versions and even the films which starred William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.
55 Years of Trek
The fact that “Star Trek” even was produced and aired, to begin with, is somewhat a miracle and not the inevitable force that fans understand to be Trek today. So the new book from Hero Collector and Eaglemoss, “Star Trek: A Celebration,” makes that point clear with over 250 beautiful pages.
Each leading actor and character from “The Original Series” gets an individual write-up in the book, including sections for Shatner, Nimoy, DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), Walter Koenig (Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), and George Takei (Sulu). Readers will delight at a story of when James Doohan (Scotty) met Elvis Presley, a huge Trek fan.
Even Grace Lee Whitney, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, and other non-regulars are highlighted throughout the book’s pages. In fact, Barrett-Roddenberry had a few sections of her own, since she played so many different characters — including Nurse Chapel and Number One. Villains like Khan and Harry Mudd are explored as well.
Robinson and Spelling walk the reader through the very first days of the show and for both pilot episodes. “A Celebration” gives readers a back-stage view of many of those scenes from “The Cage,” including photos from some parts that were not included in the final cut.
Matt Jefferies: Designer of the Future
Part of what makes this book stand apart from other similar collections is the drawings and schematics from designer Matt Jefferies. Many of these were available previously in “The Star Trek Sketchbook,” which is now out of print. Jefferies was the person who created the iconic look for the interior and exterior of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the phaser, and many of the exotic sets made “Star Trek” so different from other shows of the 1960s.
The Original Tricorder
The book also has the original sketch for the Tricorder, which was created not by Jefferies but by Wah Chang.
The same can be said of the behind-the-scenes photos of makeup artist Fred Phillips at work — many of these photos are of Phillips working with Nimoy and those famous ears. There’s even a shocking photo of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry in green, as they tested multiple makeup looks for “The Cage.”
Again, much like for Jefferies, William Ware Theiss’ costume designs are displayed in both their original sketch form and on the (mostly) actresses.
The staff from “Daily Star Trek News” interviewed Spelling as the book was released, and he agreed that much had already been written about TOS. Still, they approached this book differently than those which came before.
“One key aspect of ‘Star Trek: A Celebration’ is that while many books have covered specific aspects of Trek — ships, actors, etc. — no book had explored it all: the show’s creation, production, impact. We wanted several voices, where possible, remembering an event or an episode. Ben likes to say he wants the Celebration books to be ‘a convention in a book,’ and that’s the goal.”
‘Celebration’ Is Just About TOS
One note about this book — there is little to no mention of all of those other Treks which followed. Aside from a few comments from modern actors who reprised the classic characters — like Rainn Wilson (Mudd) and Simon Pegg (Scotty) — this book is not about the force that is current Trek. Much like Scotty said during his appearance on “The Next Generation,” this book is about the first Enterprise crew — “no bloody A, B, C, or D.”
The book even dedicates a few pages to the only place — outside of a time machine — where fans can walk the deck of the 1960s-era Enterprise. That would be in Ticonderoga, New York, at the “Star Trek Original Series Set Tour.”