REVIEW: Boarding The Enterprise Edited By David Gerrold and Robert J. Sawyer
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Another collection of essays from BenBella’s Smart Pop line, this time covering Star Trek, the original series.
PROS: Very entertaining read, lots of interesting essays, a quick, easy read.
CONS: A couple of weak essays, mostly for the Star Trek fan.
BOTTOM LINE: If you are a Star Trek fan, especially of the original series, this is a book you will enjoy.
Boarding The Enterprise is yet another fine entry in the BenBella Smart Pop series of books. Focusing mainly on the original Star Trek series, this book explores a wide variety of topics arising from the show’s affect on American television and culture. Quick synopsis of each essay below:
“Star Trek In The Real Word” by Norman Spinrad covers the show’s handling by NBC and its resulting explosion in popularity in syndication. He covers a lot of ground discussing why ST became the first show to be more popular off broadcast TV than on. One eye opening fact: Though Star Trek was considered a ratings failure, it actually averaged around 20 million viewers per show. That kind of share in today’s TV market would make ST king of television and shows just how far the big 3 networks have fallen in terms of viewership.
“I Remember Star Trek…” by D.C. Fontana is he recollections of life one the set of Star Trek. She has some interesting and humorous events to recount, but this essay is very short and leaves the reader with the impression that there is a lot of stuff left unsaid. OK, but a bit weak.
“All Our Tomorrows” by Allen Steele discusses the shared universe nature of Star Trek. Steele illustrates how Star Trek was a strong show storywise because it relied on many different writers, many of them SF authors, to create the weekly adventures. Even though this led to instances where the show might advance either side of a given argument over different episodes, the willingness of Star Trek to tackle both sides of issues is one of the reasons that led to it’s eventual success. Steele liberally illustrates his points by referring to many episodes and even contrasts the original series with the less adventurous Next Generation, which relied on a stable of writers with little to no experience with SF. Very interesting.
“The Prime Question” by Eric Greene discusses the Federation’s Prime Directive and how it related to America’s role in the world and, more specifically, to the events unfolding in Vietnam. Greene discusses the philosophies on both sides of the non-interference policy and what Kirk’s seeming disdain for the PD actually means. Again, Greene uses many episodes to bolster his arguments. Another very good read.
“We Find The One Quite Adequate” by Michael A. Burstein discusses the role of religion in ST. While ST seems to respect religions of all types, it does seem to pay only lip service to Christianity, and also discusses why, in a society that supposedly values diversity of all types, actual religion seems to play almost no role in daily life. Burstein uses many episodes to illustrate the attitudes of the writers and, while short, its also a good read.
“Who Am I?” by Lyle Zynda discusses personal identity in ST. This is really a discussion of the philosophy of identity in general and applied to ST. Being philosophical in nature, this essay tends to be a heavier read than the others, although it contains some very interesting thoughts. I especially liked the discussion of the teleporter and the issues surrounding its use, as illustrated by McCoy’s dislike of the teleporter. A good, if slow, read.
“What Have You Done With Spock’s Brain?!?” by Don DeBrandt is a humorous look at Vulcan’s and Vulcan society and how their whole logic based society is actually based on an emotional idea and thus is self-contradictory. A lighter and short read.
“Lost Secrets Of Pre-War Human Technology” by Lawrence Watt-Evans is a discussion of the seemingly lost 20th Century technology (like seatbelts) as illustrated in ST. Couched as a report to his superiors by xenophsychologist Gleep, many of the seemingly odd tech omissions in ST are discussed in terms of survival of the fittest. Quite humorous and well done.
“Exaggerate With Extreme Prejudice” by Robert A. Metzger discussed the most important person on the Enterprise, Scotty! Metzger illustrates how Scotty exaggerates and manipulates the situations encountered to make himself look good and, besides, as an engineer, he knows how to make things work. Entertaining, especially to those engineers among us.
“To Boldly Teach What No One Has Taught Before” by David DeGraff is a discussion of how ST influenced many people to become engineers, physicists, astronomers, and other science related professions. Also shows how the science in ST isn’t necessarily correct. A decent read, if weaker than the others.
“Who Killed The Space Race?” by Adam Roberts discusses how SF and Star Trek may have contributed to the public’s malaise and disillusionment with the Apollo era space program. The fantasy was illustrated on TV, everyday by ST, yet the reality was three men in a tin can and only two who could actually land on the moon. A far cry from the wonders shown in ST. Very short.
“Alexander For The Modern Age” by Melissa Dickinson discusses the rise of fan fiction, especially that sub-genre known as slash. Dickinson details what it is about the characters that makes people want to write their own stories about them. Even though I’ve known about slash for a long time, I still find it a bit scary that people want to write that type of fiction. Somewhat interesting.
“How Star Trek Liberated Television” by Paul Levinson discusses how Star Trek‘s banishment to syndication ended up changing the face of television. Very interesting to read.
“Being Better” by Howard Weinstein attempts examine ST in the context of the cultural reality in which in was created, specifically the late 60′s, and explains why ST was more than just another television show. Also interesting, even if it does cover some of the same ground as earlier essays.
As you can see, this book is much more focused on Star Trek itself and doesn’t branch out in SF areas like the Star Wars On Trial book did. As such, I’m not sure this book will appeal to the non-ST fan or to the general SF fan as much as the SW book did. But, if you are a ST fan, this book has a lot of good stuff in it and is well worth reading.
Edit: Corrected horrible misspelling of Michael Burstein’s name. I hang my head in shame and blame the spell checker…
Filed under: Book Review
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