Star Trek Reference Books & Manuals

encyclopedia enterprise workshop manual

What stands out among Star Trek merchandising are the informative and fascinating reference books that the long-running franchise has spawned. Full of nifty, intricate and intimate details about the Star Trek universe, these Star Trek reference books and manuals are true literary treasures.

While it’s true that many sci-fi TV shows and ds9 tech manual 2films have inspired fiction and making-of books and comics about them, these Star Trek reference books  and manuals were among the earliest tie-ins of their kind to come out, and were unique at the time. Now the book market is flooded with all sorts of tie-in reference books like Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary and so forth. These books were possible due to the imagination sparked by Star Trek that led many to ponder and speculate on the minutiae of the Star Trek universe. How fast did the Enterprise travel? Where was Captain Picard born? What is Romulan ale? The answers to these questions helped fill in the gaps for fans hungering for more knowledge about the fictional Star Trek universe.

scotts guide samplePerhaps the best early examples of such books were Star Trek: Star Fleet Technical Manual and Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise. Much of the information would be decanonized and wound up contradicting what appeared on screen. For example, in The Worlds of the Federation the Klingon home planet was called Kling instead of Qo’noS as later established onscreen. That didn’t matter to hardcore fans who reveled in explaining away contradictions as the books helped give the impression that the wondrous Star Trek technology and universe actually existed.

More recent forays into these fictional reference books have branched off into atlases, dictionaries, travel guides and even a Klingon version of Hamlet. The best of these books include encyclopedia pagesStar Trek: Star Charts: The Complete Atlas of Star Trek, Star Trek  Chronology: The History of the Future and The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future. These three books warrant repeat reading and are bursting with the tiniest details and information about Star Trek, not to mention beautiful artwork and charts. For instance in Star Charts, it traces the course of the U.S.S. Voyager on its journey back to the Alpha Quadrant. In the Star Trek Chronology we can trace the timeline of James T. Kirk from his birth (in Iowa, not some starship!) to the moment of his death. While The Star Trek Encyclopedia lists all the ships in their classes, detailed descriptions of three-dimensional chess, episode listings and provides detailed bios on many Star Trek characters.

romulan map

Of course, these books came out some time ago and much of it is outdated. However, they have enough material to keep anyone busy and seriously, Pocket Books should look into producing revised hardcopy chronologyversions of these books. This was actually done for both the Chronology and the Encyclopedia back in the late ’90s, so the precedent exists.

Thankfully being that this year is the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek more books are coming our way. One of the most interesting of the lot is Hidden Universe Travel Guides: Star Trek: Vulcan by Dayton Ward. As long as Star Trek continues to inspire the imaginations of both writers and fans, there will always be more captivating reference books that can be poured over for hours at a time.

The following are the ten best Star Trek reference books and manuals released to date:

10. Star Trek: The Starfleet Survival Guide by David Mack

9. The Worlds of the Federation by Shane Johnson

8. Star Trek: Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph

7.  Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise by Shane Johnson

6. TIE: Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual by Rick Sternbach/Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual by Herman Zimmerman

5. U.S.S. Enterprise Owner’s Workshop Manual by Ben Robinson and Marcus Riley

4. Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary by Paul Ruditis

3. Star Trek: Star Charts: The Complete Atlas of Star Trek by Geoffrey Mandel

2. The Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda

1. The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda

Lewis T. Grove

Advertisements

The Superhero Movie War Starts On TV

justice dawn

This past week we witnessed the opening salvos in this year’s Superhero Movie War disguised as TV specials and returning programs, plus more.

Marvel Comics and DC Comics are the two comic book juggernauts on the block and they’ve taken their rivalry to other media. Chiefly on film and TV. On DC/Warner Bros.’ side, this week had the return of the popular shows The Flash and Arrow, plus the special The Dawn of the Justice League, which was largely a commercial for the upcoming DC Extended Universe (DCEU) on film. They topped off the week with the debut of the eagerly awaited spinoff show Legends of Tomorrow. Marvel Comics/Disney, meanwhile, brought back Agent Carter and premiered a special celebrating the 75th anniversary of Captain America. Just by looking at the lineup it’s obvious that DC won the first round.

flash and arrowThe Flash was the best presentation even if its universe is apart from the DCEU. It was a typically great episode with the introduction of another classic Flash villain (the Turtle, who can slow down time), more intrigue about the uber villain Zoom and Barry Allen’s personal foibles taken straight from the pages of a Spider-Man comic book. The new Arrow episode hit all the marks with Oliver Queen/Green Arrow’s vendetta against Damien Dahrk as the episode tantalized us with the mystery of who dies in the near future. Based on the flashforwards to Oliver’s cemetery visits I’ll guess that the person who died is Felicity Smoak’s mother. I didn’t see Supergirl this week because I just couldn’t get into the show when it came out earlier this season.  Legends of Tomorrow was kind of a mixed bag, which means it was a bit of a letdown since this was highly anticipated. Doctor Who mashed legendsup with The Avengers, sounds great right? Well, Legends of Tomorrow is a case of a show sounding better than its execution. Mind you, it’s just the pilot episode and there were many cool things about the premiere episode like all the cameos and Easter eggs of the Arrowverse and the greater DC universe sprinkled liberally. But the episode had a hard time with its execution. Characters behave erratically, like Professor Stein, who is too eager to kidnap his partner Jefferson  just to go time traveling. And the way the characters just seem to take Rip Hunter’s word that he’s recruiting them for a noble quest without being healthily skeptical was too unbelievable. Still, Legends of Tomorrow had a goofy charm and is worth sticking with for the moment.

nutty smithThe half-hour special that aired on The CW, The Dawn of the Justice League, was just fodder for comic book fans anxious for the DCEU to get underway already. Basically, it was a commercial for upcoming films in the DCEU with lots of pre-production art for several DC heroes like Aquaman and Cyborg. Although it was great seeing actual footage from Wonder Woman and the new trailer for Suicide Squad was magnificent, it would’ve been terrific if they presented at least test footage of the characters that haven’t made their live-action appearances. BTW, the over-the-top fawning by the host Kevin Smith was just too much and the special inaccurately stated that Superman was a founding member of the Justice League. He actually wasn’t.

ABC aired its own superhero special, Captain America: 75 Heroic Years, which was a nostalgic and informative look at one of Marvel’s most popular heroes. Just like the DC special, it got some facts incorrect, notably not properly attributing the panels that Captain America appears in to being in The Amazing Spider-Man #36 (the 9/11 issue). But on the whole it was a well done special that featured interviews with Stan Lee, Chris Evans and the living relatives of Captain America’s creators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

agent carterMarvel’s sole original fiction program was Agent Carter, which returned for its second season. For the most part, it was competent and enjoyable, but couldn’t hold a candle to the excitement offered from the DC TV shows. It lacked the other shows’ energy and intrigue, though it did its best, especially in the opening scenes. The most interesting thing about the new Agent Carter was its origin of the darkforce energy (in the show called zero matter), which is supposedly the source of power in the Doctor Strange movie.

It’s only the first month of the year and already indications are that the Superhero Movie War will be quite intense. But remember it doesn’t matter which side you want to win since after all we fans get to revel in all the goodies on screen at home or in theaters.

Waldermann Rivera

Syfy’s Brave New Worlds Of The Expanse

expanse poster

The latest TV show on the Syfy channel, The Expanse, is that channel’s most ambitious and intriguing series since their re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica. Easily one of the best TV shows ever done from Syfy, The Expanse has been described as a Game of Thrones in outer space. It’s an easy hook to bring in viewers, and one that doesn’t do the TV show justice.

expanse cast

Based on a series of books by James S.A. Corey, The Expanse takes place in the 23rd century where humanity has colonized Mars and the asteroid belt, as well as the moons of the outer planets. A fragile state of cold war exists between Earth, Mars and the colonists living in the Belt, with Earth and Mars being the two superpowers that rely on the resources mined from the Belt. Those living on the Belt, principally on the dwarf planet Ceres, are called Belters and live a hardscrabble existence. Looked down upon by the rest of humanity, these Belters disdain non-Belters and are on the verge of open rebellion. A group called  the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) has emerged and become a major thorn for Earth and Mars, which considers them to be a terrorist organization.

The Expanse has three peripherally linked storylines; miller investigatesone takes place on Ceres and details the investigation by a gumshoe-like detective called Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane), who dresses the part and has a combover from hell. He gets an assignment to track this missing rich girl from Earth called Julie Mao (Florence Faivre). During his investigations which take him into the seediest corners of the station, Miller begins uncovering a huge conspiracy that threatens to upset the balance of power in the solar system.

expanse EVA

At the same time, The Expanse chronicles the odyssey of James Holden (Steven Strait), the first officer on the Canterbury, an ice freighter on its way back to Ceres. After answering a bogus distress call from a ship that was the last known location of Julie Mao, the Canterbury is destroyed by an unknown party. Only Holden and a handful of his crew manage to escape in a shuttle. As they struggle to make it back to Ceres, they witness first hand elements of the same conspiracy that threatens to ignite a war.

Meanwhile, on Earth, United Nations diplomat Chrisjen Avasarala (Shoreh Aghdashloo), suspicious of the OPA, becomes aware of the machinations to foment a war between her world and Mars, and tries to uncover the truth before it’s too late.

expanse earth

The Expanse has so many nice touches in its depictions of what life in the 23rd century might be like. It’s very commendable that the showrunners often go out of their way to depict environments with low to zero gravity, people griping about paying for air, how much of a paradise Earth seems nyc future(the future skyline of New York City was simply stunning) compared to the cramped, squalid neo ghettoes of Ceres, the strange mishmash dialect of the Belters, and so on. The meticulous production values are worthy of awards and envelop viewers into an imaginative, all-encompassing future that’s reminiscent of sci-fi classics like Blade Runner.

Fortunately, the show also makes the effort to develop the storyline. Watching The Expanse is a lot like peeling an onion. At its core, is a mystery, and we the viewers are forced to figure it out along with the main characters. During the scenes at Ceres, again echoing Blade Runner, we’re presented with a future noir atmosphere that is colder than the space outside the fragile habitats that is hard to look away from. It may be cliché but it’s still effective. The Expanse - Season 1Then the plight of the former Canterbury crew as they witness realistic space battles and life in outer space evoke the grounded grittiness of the Battlestar Galactica reboot only it’s less cluttered with the former show’s ponderousness about lofty themes. At the same time, we’re plunged into this completely immersive and realistically rendered future. The result is a gratifying and involving viewing experience.

The characters are mostly interesting, though some could use more development. They’re all well played with exceptions given to Thomas Jane whose portrayal of Miller would fit perfectly in a Mickey Spillane story and Shoreh Aghdashloo’s dignified performance. However, her scenes often get the short shift in many episodes and many times feel superfluous. For that matter, aside from seeing militaristic Martian crew, we have little to go on how Mars is like except for some spoken descriptions. The red planet and more of Earth are definitely worth exploring in greater detail in future episodes.

naming ship

Showing some wise patience, Syfy has already renewed The Expanse for a second season. Personally, I haven’t read the books this show is based on (something that will be rectified soon), but I hope that the answers to the core mystery will pay off well. In the meantime, I eagerly look forward to the next episode of one of the best sci-fi shows in recent memory.

Lewis T. Grove

Some More Thoughts On Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star wars 7 montage

*NOTE: The following will contain spoilers about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet, should stop reading from this point on.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has just become the biggest selling domestic movie of all time. The hype machine about the film isn’t letting up and probably won’t for some time. A lot of fans are drooling about the film like it’s the greatest thing ever made, George Lucas be damned. Others are not so enthusiastic and have a wide range of opinions about Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its lasting impact on the franchise. So here are some of my thoughts on the seventh Star Wars film.

hans last moments

As a sci-fi adventure, it does the job and is a good movie. I can enjoy Star Wars: The Force Awakens for what it is. A return to the style of the original films with updated special effects. However, it suffers from being too derivative of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It also suffers from a lack of imagination from director and co-screenwriter JJ Abrams with not only the recycled plot, but also the new tie fighterlook of the film. There are not any really amazing new designs of starships and aliens that were a staple of each new Star Wars film. Basically you see repainted X-wing and TIE fighters. Now, the special effects and camera work of the dogfights are quite good and is a definite positive for the film. It’s always nice to see the Millennium Falcon soaring through space again. It would just have been better to see maybe a new Letter fighter (such as a T-wing) and truly bizarre aliens and planets. Perhaps Episode VIII will rectify this.

wimpy ren

Another issue is the portrayal of new Sith villain Kylo-Ren (Adam Driver). His temper tantrums and such are not really good at showing him as a source of menace for the heroes of the film. The exceptions are his actions at the start of the film where he murders Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow) and has his troops massacre an entire village and his brutal execution of his father Han Solo (Harrison Ford). The scene where this occurs had me on the edge of my seat and is an emotional highlight of the movie. But right after this happens, Kylo is shown beating his chest like a gorilla as he fights and loses against Rey (Daisy Ridley), who is a novice at using the Force. His screaming fits when he receives bad news from subordinates is more a source of humor rather than fear. One wonders why Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) went into hiding when, as a Jedi master, he should have had no problem against Ren.

captain phasmaCaptain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) was another villain that was somewhat misused. She is the commander of the First Order’s stormtroopers and was described as being somewhat like Boba Fett. But in the movie she is captured by Han, Chewie (Peter Mayhew) and Finn (John Boyega) and forced to lower the shields of the Starkiller Base and is then thrown in the garbage compactor. Not exactly a great way to start her off. Again, I think the next film should fix this by showing her to be as a dangerous foe and top level leader out to destroy the Resistance.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

Basically, I see Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a somewhat missed opportunity. The basic story is an interesting take on what happens after the fall of the Galactic Empire, and I do like the way the First Order is portrayed with their Nazi-like rallies and efforts to destroy entire star systems, thereby showing them to be a big threat to the New Republic. han and reyIt’s just that J.J Abrams and Disney were so keen to play it safe that it detracts from the final product. Hopefully the next film will be willing to take at least a few more chances and truly take the franchise to new and interesting places. This is what I think creator George Lucas was trying to do with the prequels and while the results were mixed, I can appreciate his vision for his universe and his ability to world build. The emphasis on practical effects and a simplified story are somewhat understandable given the backlash against the prequels, but they should be able to do this and still expand the Star Wars universe and really push the boundaries of the genre. This is just what the original trilogy did and is a reason why it is so revered to this day.

C.S. Link

Ten Films To Look For In 2016

team cap 2 id42

We’re clearly in the decade of the superhero film and this year’s slate of films reinforces that notion. Yet, there are plenty of other interesting genre films that range from fantasy to solid sci-fi. Here are ten films being released this year that are the most anticipated.

10. Passengers: The two superstars of genre films Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence co-star in this film about a man (Pratt) who wakes up prematurely in a generational starship and awakens a second passenger (Lawrence) for companionship. Given its release date and potentially controversial subject matter (the morality of waking someone up in that situation just to cure loneliness), this film may get lost or get moved to a different date. Still, Passengers sounds like a fascinating film worth watching if done right. (Release Date: December 21)

fantastic beasts9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Inspired by the book by J.K. Rowling and set in the Harry Potter universe, it’s directed by David Yates, who helmed the last few Harry Potter films. Focusing on an adult sorcerer who comes to America and the strained relations between magical and non-magical people (muggles) the trailer captured the mood of the Harry Potter film universe. The question is will it please the die-hard fans who will miss Harry Potter? (Release Date: November 18)

8. The BFG: The latest genre offering from the master filmmaker Steven Spielberg is based on a Roald Dahl fantasy book of the same name about a girl who befriends a friendly giant. It may be off putting to some fans who may want a genre film from Spielberg with more heft, especially those aching for the long-delayed Robopocalypse. However, it’s a Steven Spielberg film and he is arguably the greatest living director around, so The BFG is something worth checking out. (Release Date: July 1)

7. Deadpool: After a long gestating period deadpool poseand a terrible debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Merc with the Mouth gets his own solo film. Thanks to a tireless campaign by star Ryan Reynolds and others, 20th Century Fox finally greenlit the film last year and soon we’ll see if the efforts were worth it. Everyone involved promises that Deadpool will be a no-holds-bar, in-your-face but most of all, a faithfully violent interpretation of the Marvel Comics mercenary with the superhuman healing power thingy. (Release Date: February 12)

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: The first Star Wars anthology film comes out a year after the mammoth return of the space fantasy franchise. Eager to cash in on their billion-dollar franchise purchase Disney will increase the Star Wars movie presence with this prequel of sorts that is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker and Alan Tudyk. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story details the effort of a team of Rebels out to steal the plans of the Death Star. (Release Date: December 16)

star wars rogue one cast

5. Suicide Squad: A film that expands the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU), DC Comics and Warner Bros.’ answer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), focuses on a group of captured supervillains sent out on a deadly mission by the U.S. government. Highlighted by a Batman (Ben Afflec) cameo and Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and guaranteed scene-stealer Jared Leto as the new Joker, Suicide Squad will explore a darker corner of the DCEU as it gives audiences a unique spin on superhero films. (Release Date: August 5)

suicide Squad

4. Doctor Strange: The second MCU release for 2016 is already making waves on the Internet ever since we got our first glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. Marvel Studios is known for not resting on its superhero laurels and Doctor Strange doesn’t seem like an exception based on released concept art, which is quite eerie. Now forging a new storytelling avenue, that of the mystical and horror realm, this live-action presentation of the Marvel Comics character will hopefully be another hit for Marvel Studios. (Release Date: November 4)

doc strange

3. Independence Day: Resurgence: Finally after twenty years, we’re getting the sequel to Independence Day, the smash hit of 1996. Reuniting most of the original cast and newcomers like Liam Hemswoth, director Roland Emmerich picks up the alien invasion story twenty years after the giant alien motherships nearly destroyed humanity and the world. Now armed with hybridized alien tech, humanity, led by Jeff Goldblum, prepares for another confrontation with the aliens when they return to our solar system. (June 24)

2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Eagerly awaited ever since this film was announced back in 2013 during Comic-Con, it’s the first live-action meeting between Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) and it looks like a monumental event! Not only does Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice boast the first encounter between the two but it also has the debut of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and a new Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg). The last character may not thrill fans who aren’t too keen with the casting of Luthor, but Affleck’s once-controversial casting has won over many fans. With Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the DCEU will boldly engage the MCU in the Superhero Film War. (March 25)

batman meets superman

1. Captain America: Civil War: The epic throwdown between Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is the centerpiece in the third Captain America film. Loosely based on the Marvel Comics’ mini-series Civil War, this film, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, promises to be as hard-hitting and thought-provoking as the last Captain America film. But that’s not all Captain America: Civil War has going for it. The film will also feature the MCU debuts of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Marvel’s flagship hero Spider-Man (Tom Holland) himself. Still, with all this going for Captain America: Civil War can the Russo Brothers beat the director sophomore curse that has plagued the second MCU films done by veteran directors (see Joss Whedon and Jon Favreau)? On the other hand, the Russo Bros.’ Captain America: The Winter Solider was one of the greatest superhero films ever made and showcased their talents as directors so they should be able to repeat their success. (May 6)

cap vs iron man

Other noteworthy genre films coming out this year include: The 5th Wave (Jan. 22), another young-adult sci-fi film about an alien invasion; Kung Fu Panda 3 (Jan. 29), Dreamworks Animation’s martial arts, talking animal saga continues with Jack Black; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (February 5), adaptation of the horror romance of the same name; Midnight Special (March 18), delayed from last year about a father on the run with his superpowered son; The Jungle Book ( April 15), Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic; X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27), apthe sixth X-Men film brings back the rebooted franchise and a new slate of characters, including a mighty foe; The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (June 10), this sequel directed by James Wan reunites the stars from the first frightfest, but many wonder if it can be as scary as the first one; Finding Dory (June 17), Pixar’s sequel to the classic underwater animated film looks just as magical and colorful as the forgetful Dory goes missing; finding doryWarcraft (June 10), director Duncan Jones hopes to beat the video-game movie adaptation with this epic-looking fantasy adventure; Ghostbusters (July 15), a controversial, all-female reboot/remake of the beloved, comedic paranormal hunters; Star Trek Beyond (July 22) the terrible trailer with its Beastie Boys music dampened expectations for the latest Star Trek film, but it could be better than the trailer lets on; The Legend of Tarzan (July 1), David Yates directs this jungle epic starring Margo Robbie and Alexander Skarsgard as the title hero; Pete’s Dragon (August 12), a remake of the Disney classic about a boy and his oversized but cuddly dragon; Gambit (Oct. 7), another live-action adaptation of a Marvel Comic book character starring Channing Tatum; and Assassin’s Creed (Dec 21), stars Michael Fassbender as Callum Lynch/Aguilar, a master assassin in this long-awaited, video-game adaptation.

José Soto