Star Trek: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, Part Two

classic-trek

Here we are celebrating Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, a milestone that many doubted would ever be reached. For good reason, Gene Roddenberry’s phenomenal TV show about Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the starship Enterprise should have been forgotten after it was cancelled after three seasons. However, Star Trek was special, it was more than weird, low-budget sci-fi trappings with empty fisticuffs. Star Trek concentrated on ideas, social commentary and characters. As long as each incarnation of Star Trek stuck to these core ideals it clicked with the general public and fans. But as with everything, Star Trek went through cycles and sometimes lost sight of what made it so reverential. Aside from the cancellation of the original series where fans went through a decade-long drought without any live-action fixes, another dark period happened more recently.

Burnoutvoyager

Oddly enough, Star Trek started to burn out and lose its edge story and character wise when it was at its peak in the mid ’90s. There was a feeling of overkill as Paramount Studios was all too eager to cash in Trek’s popularity. The show that suffered from this the most was Star Trek: Voyager with its formulaic scripts. Before the third spinoff was created, there was some griping about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because it was considered too dark and strayed too far from what was perceived to be the core of Star Trek: exploring the universe in a spaceship. Due to these complaints and because Paramount wanted to milk the cash cow, a new spinoff was created that went back to the old spaceship formula for its new TV network UPN. Star Trek: Voyager was lauded for having Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), as the franchise’s first lead woman character and for its basic premise of a lost Starfleet ship making its way back home, but apart from that the show had creative problems. It felt too similar to Star Trek: The Next Generation with familiar stock characters. What was worse, were the predictable stories that were riddled with plot holes. Why was the ship so pristine looking every week? We wanted to see the actual ordeal of being stranded and away from support. It didn’t feel realistic, especially with the way they always defeated the super-powerful Borg whenever they showed up. Still, Star Trek: Voyager had its highlights, particularly Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), an ex-Borg who filled in the Spock/outsider role.

By the time Star Trek: Voyager concluded its run and Enterprise premiered in 2001, the franchise was undeniably creaky and tired. The film series were now bringing in less and less profits, seemed listless and unfortunately, Enterprise suffered from the same problems. On paper, Enterprise had potential; the adventures of the very first starship Enterprise commanded by Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew as the first humans to voyage to the Final Frontier. The prequel/spinoff instead of truly exploring the foundation of the Star Trek universe literally recycled plots from Star Trek: The Next Generation and when it didn’t the stories were uninspired. Simply put, it did not feel fresh and relied too heavily on the trappings of the Star Trek universe. For instance, transporter technology was supposed to be largely untested, yet all too quickly the scriptwriters relied on it to get our heroes out of jams.

star-trek-enterprise-cast

The show’s creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga tried jumpstarting the show in the third season, added Star Trek to the title, and created a season-long arc about a mission to save Earth from destruction by aliens. The storyline divided many fans who felt it was too violent and dark versus others who thought the moral dilemmas and high stakes were what the show needed. No matter where one stood in the argument it was clear that this version of Star Trek was influenced by current events, in this case 9/11.

 

It was only in the final season did the show find its moorings and actually became a true prequel, but it was too late. Just as with its ancestor, the original Star Trek, Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled in 2005 because of low ratings. The film series quietly died also after Star Trek: Nemesis flopped in 2002. The general consensus was that the property was completely mined out and devoid of any new material. Many felt that unlike previous lulls and failures that it was time to let the franchise rest. As Star Trek approached its 40th anniversary it seemed as if it was truly gone for good because of a lack of any initiative to develop new material let alone celebrate the anniversary.

Star Trek 2.0: Dormancy & Rebirth

That perception is not entirely accurate. Although there wasn’t any new Star Trek content, it did live on. The merchandising, while not as prevalent as in the past, helped. Another shot in the arm were the numerous fan films that carried the torch for the original crew. It’s true the production values and acting weren’t quite up there with professional productions, but it was clear that these films were lovingly made and some of them are actually impressive. At the same time, Paramount (and later CBS Studios) tried to create new films and TV shows. For instance, one film was called Star Trek: The Beginning and would’ve taken place during the Romulan War and featured Kirk’s ancestor, Tiberius Chase. Sadly, the script never went anywhere. Others pitched ideas for new TV shows including one that would’ve taken place in the far future in the aftermath of a galactic catastrophe that crippled the Federation. However, all those developments went by the wayside when Paramount hired J.J. Abrams to reboot the franchise with a new film.

star-trek-2009

2009’s Star Trek retold the story of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the original Enterprise crew. But now they were played by much younger actors and the entire Trek universe received an updated makeover. On the whole, the film and its sequels were a faster paced, action oriented version of Star Trek. The first rebooted film was a huge box office success and many loved it. The problem, which became more obvious in later films, is that these films were catering to non-fans who wouldn’t show the same brand loyalty as regular Star Trek fans. With an emphasis on quick action shots and explosive special effects, the three most recent films alienated many traditional fans who likened the new films as Star Trek For Dummies. That perception crystalized when the ill-conceived trailer for Star Trek Beyond was released last year.

The trailer was clearly made for adrenaline junkies who crave the Fast and Furious films with its in-your-face action clips and an obnoxious Beastie Boys soundtrack. After the poor reception, Paramount let the bad feelings simmer for too long and cemented the feeling that Star Trek Beyond would be another loud and empty action porn bonanza. The film was actually more thoughtful and respectful to the essence of Star Trek, but the poor marketing ensured that it wasn’t as successful as the previous reboot films.

It is still too early to render a verdict on the reboots. It may be some time before the fervor dies down and we can all look upon them objectively. But as of now, many are decrying that the reboots are not real Star Trek and want a return to the original universe.

Fortunately, that is about to happen as Star Trek returns next year to the medium it is best suited for, television. The excitement building up over the forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery only proves that Star Trek isn’t dead or fading from the public consciousness.

Star Trek: The Legacy

Other popular franchises may be getting more attention these days, but Star Trek has shown time and time again that it has appeal and staying power. The effect the film and TV series has had in pop culture is immeasurable. To dismiss the franchise at this point is foolish in light of its legacy, which is far spanning.

Star Trek helped make science fiction a mainstay in television and elevated the genre’s perception from low-brow, youth-oriented fare thanks to its imaginative and thoughtful episodes. That is why the original show (and Star Trek: The Next Generation) received Emmy Award nominations for best series. It helped lead other executives and networks to gamble more often on sci-fi series, some of which are stellar examples of the genre. But Star Trek has had more of a meaningful impact in our society.

WILLIAM SHATNER DEFOREST KELLY LEONARD NIMOY RODDENBERRY

As we celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, we should reflect on its greatest legacy which is how it inspired the world. There are countless accounts of how Star Trek had a positive influence among astronauts, doctors, engineers, scientists and everyday people like you and I. The show and its spinoffs helped us to learn not to fear the future but to embrace it. Thanks to Star Trek, many beneficial inventions like cell phones, 3D printers, medical scanners and more became a reality due to its fictional counterparts in Star Trek. More importantly, the show taught us about how to treat our fellow neighbors. Everyone knows how the show and its spinoffs were cultural  trailblazers with its focus on characters like Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Data (Brent Spiner), Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and the Doctor (Robert Picardo). They were outsiders who had trouble fitting into their society due to being different. Past episodes dealt with prejudice as their plights touched upon civil rights, tolerance, respect and looking past outer differences and into the character of the soul. This belief can best be exemplified by the Vulcan IDIC philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. This more perfect future society is beyond our reach today, but we are laying the groundwork to make Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision a reality someday.

Enterprise-original

Star Trek will always be a part of our pop culture as it has been for the past 50 years. That is because it has so many aspects that are appealing to many different audiences. As long as Star Trek embraces its core roots, it will continue to live long and prosper. So may we all.

José Soto

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Star Trek: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, Part One

original Star Trek cast

Star Trek turns 50 this year. Think about it. One of the greatest sci-fi franchises is now half a century old. While there are countless other sci-fi properties that are older than Star Trek, very few will match the popularity, relevance and staying power of Gene Roddenberry’s TV creation. As with other properties, Star Trek has had its highs and lows, but it has had a positive impact in our culture and society. That is why we are celebrating Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. Many of us will take this figure for granted but diehard fans know too well that Star Trek has often been on a touch and go basis, especially in its early years.

Noble, But Rocky Beginnings

From its inception Star Trek faced an uphill battle. The pilot episode “The Cage” was rejected by the network NBC for being too cerebral and having then-outrageous concepts like a woman in a leadership position and a character who looked like the devil. But Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, would not give up and fortunately, others recognized its potential.

Star Trek, the actual series, debuted on September 8, 1966 with the episode “The Man Trap”. Following the cold opening, a starfield filled TV screens, wistful music played, the iconic and majestic Enterprise spaceship appeared and William Shatner’s bold voiceover announced that we were witnessing the voyages of the starship Enterprise and its crew with a mission to explore space and “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

the Man TrapAt first glance, it looked like another schlocky monster-of-the-week episode that defined most sci-fi fare at that time. But this being Star Trek, there was more to the episode than some ugly monster that had to be destroyed. It had a moral dilemma for one of the show’s main characters, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), in that the monster took the shape of a former lover and he had to confront it. Then there was the morality of killing off an endangered species versus the threat of the creature to the crew of the starship Enterprise.

Other episodes also had even more intriguing and smart plots and multilayered characters that made Star Trek stand out from most genre efforts. A huge factor in the show’s appeal was not just its imaginative and provocative scripts but its characters. The suave and confident Captain James T. Kirk (Shatner), the stoic and collected Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the opinionated Dr. “Bones” McCoy formed the perfect triumvirate as they explored new worlds. These were complicated people with strengths and weaknesses, and we identified with them. In fact, most of us wanted to be in their place as they explored the unknown.

At the same time, the show had wild imagery for its time. Star Trek technology impacts our livesThink of the time a giant hand appeared in space and grabbed hold of the Enterprise. Or when Abraham Lincoln showed up without warning or when ancient Roman soldiers donned firearms. Matching the imagery and action scenes were the fantastic plots that often dared viewers to think. Star Trek wasn’t afraid to make veiled social commentary and broke cultural and racial taboos. In the futuristic world of Star Trek, it was commonplace (as it is now) to see non-whites and women in prominent positions. We take it for granted now but this was groundbreaking for TV at the time and fortunately Gene Roddenberry’s hopeful vision of the future was validated as our society began to catch up to his vision. We’re still not there yet, but we’re making progress.

For all these reasons, the show caught on with fans, who could enjoy it on many levels, but it wasn’t enough. After three seasons the show was killed due to low ratings, however, it would not stay dead.

Comebacks & Striking Gold Again

Fervent fandom kept the memory of the show alive as it dominated syndicated runs after cancellation. During the ’70s Star Trek increased its presence in the public consciousness thanks to the reruns, merchandising and a short-lived animated show. It wasn’t long (though it was long enough for fans) before Star Trek returned in the form of a successful film series starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979.

Star Trek TMP

By the time the franchise celebrated its 20th anniversary, Gene Roddenberry was given the chance to strike gold again. He returned to TV and created the first of many Trek spinoffs Star Trek: The Next Generation. When the show first aired in 1987, it had many detractors who complained that basically it wasn’t the old Star Trek because of undeveloped characters and dull and preachy scripts.

But ultimately the spinoff succeeded as the writing improved and the characters were allowed to grow. Now that Roddenberry had more of a free reign with his show, he indulged in creating his version of a more perfect futuristic society where no one squabbled over pettiness. Whether or not this utopian view is viable is besides the question. Being that humanity had evolved in Roddenberry’s viewpoint, the human conflicts were gone, which led to problems with the scripts that needed conflict.

Gone were the bombastic space captains and cantankerous frontier doctors. In some ways it was as if the stoic character of Mr. Spock was replicated many times over with most of the new characters. That is an exaggeration of course, but Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) was the anti-Kirk in that he was more level headed, collected and cerebral than the swaggering Kirk we all love.

The Next Generation of Star Trek

Over time Picard and his crew won over new fans who saw the spinoff’s merits. People saw the value of creating a show that was decidedly different than its predecessor. Gene Roddenberry passed away in 1991, but left behind a timeless legacy that was in competent hands (such as executives Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Ron Moore and others) who ensured that his vision remained intact. On the whole, Star Trek was reinvigorated since the original cast were obviously much older and passed the torch to the new generation. Meaning, that Star Trek: The Next Generation concluded its successful run in 1994 and the cast were graduated to the big screen starting with Star Trek Generations in the same year.

Trek At Its Peak

In the same time period of the early to mid ‘90s, Star Trek could be considered to be at its peak creatively and in popularity. Two more spinoffs debuted, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager and the Next Generation crew were promoted to the film series.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which premiered in 1993, set out to be the most distinct Star Trek show of all time. It didn’t take place on a spaceship, most of the main characters weren’t even human and its lead character was an African-American. Incredibly enough, back then there wasn’t much hoopla made about having the lead character be a non-white person and it shouldn’t have. The showmakers bravely let the character of Ben Sisko and the actor (Avery Brooks) sell the character who stood apart from Kirk and Picard as being more of a military commander with his own doubts but a similar thirst for knowledge and exploration. From the start, most viewers forgot about Sisko’s race when he was surrounded by a bunch of non-humans.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine cast

But Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had its detractors who complained they wanted to old familiar shtick of a spaceship-based show and that it was too dark. In reality, this darkness birthed many of Star Trek’s best and most complex episodes and is why Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is very highly regarded by many today who recognize its merits. In fact, it can be argued that it was the best of the Star Trek shows, but that is for history and fans to decide.

As a further sign of the strength of Star Trek’s brand, Paramount Studios decided to produce yet another spinoff  which would be used to kickoff its new network UPN in 1995. Star Trek: Voyager premiered to a lot of hoopla and fanfare. This was due to the fact that the lead character was a woman named Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), a first for Star Trek. However, while the franchise was at its zenith at the time of its 30th anniversary, the first signs of problems began to seep in as it started to feel tired creatively. But like any solid property, Star Trek would weather the setbacks as it did in the past. Each time the franchise would find a way to reinvent itself and move beyond Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Wagon Train To The Stars.

José Soto

To Be Continued…

Top 10 Greatest Star Trek Captain Moments

All Star Trek captainsWhat made Star Trek and its spinoffs so outstanding and memorable had to do with the shows’ captains. It makes sense being that the starship captains were the core of their shows and had many plum moments. Those instances revealed many thought-provoking insights into the captains and their lonely dilemmas, which revealed them as complex characters. In many ways, these moments are the reason why we celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.

10. Jonathan Archer’s Speech in “Terra Prime”:  The penultimate episode of Star Trek: Enterprise featured the fragile beginnings of the United Federation of Planets and how it nearly wasn’t due to a xenophobic human terrorist group. After the group was defeated, a conference on Earth made up of humans and aliens was salvaged thanks to Captain Jonathan Archer’s speech.

Archer Terra Prime

He implored the attendees to look past humanity’s faults and to see that everyone shared the peaceful desire to gain knowledge. Or as he summed up “the most profound discoveries are not necessarily beyond the next star, they’re within us.” And so, Archer helped give birth to the Federation and secured his place in history.

9. Kathryn Janeway Turns the Tables in “Counterpoint”:  In this episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the Starfleet vessel is forced to go through a region of space ruled by the Devore, a despotic anti-telepathic race, while harboring fugitive telepaths. Captain Kathryn Janeway gets involved with Kashyk, a Devore officer seeking asylum. The two are a near perfect couple but in the end the romance was a ruse by Kashyk who wanted to flush out Janeway by pretending to be sympathetic.

Janeway in Counterpoint

But it turned out Janeway was just as devious and cunning as the Devore. She tricked Kashyk and gave  the refugee telepaths time to escape Devore space. This episode demonstrates how her guile and determination have kept her crew alive as they journeyed home through hostile space.

8. Jean-Luc Picard Sees Four Lights in “Chain of Command, Part II”:  In this two-part story of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is captured by Cardassians and tortured by one particularly sadistic Cardassian named Madred. The Cardassian delighted in humiliating his human prisoner and tried to break the noble Picard. Throughout the episode he attempted to get Picard to admit that there were five lights in Madred’s office, when in reality there were only four. Madred did this to break Picard’s free will.

there are four lights

But Captain Picard would not give up his inner dignity and demonstrated the measure of his steely resolve. He steadfastly refused to admit there were five lights despite the torture and never broke even though he came close. Picard’s action set an example of relying on one’s inner strength and core beliefs to get through difficult ordeals.

7. Jean-Luc PIcard’s Rant and Recovery in Star Trek: First Contact: Captain Jean-Luc Picard had been forcibly assimilated by the cybernetic Borg. In this Star Trek film, when the Borg returned to threaten Earth, Picard’s emotions and painful memories resurfaced. Picard became obsessed, too obsessed in defeating the Borg as they tried to take over his ship, the Enterprise. He became callous about the deaths and assimilations of his crew and insisted on fighting a losing battle against the Borg.

Picard Rant in Star Trek First Contact

When finally confronted by Lily Sloane over his fanatical behavior, Picard finally lets his emotions get the better of him. He erupted into an epic, savage rant about how he will make the Borg pay for what they did to him. After this catharsis, Picard was able to regain his senses and realized his duty to protecting his crew.

6. James T. Kirk Shows Mercy in “Arena”: Captain James T. Kirk and a Gorn captain are transported to a barren planet by advanced aliens and forced to fight each other to the death for the lives of their crew. This classic episode of Star Trek, while exciting to watch, ended on a morale message, which is what made the original show so revered.

Arena Gorn defeated

After defeating the Gorn, Kirk refuses to kill it. Then one of the advanced aliens appears and proposes to kill the Gorn for Kirk. The captain of the Enterprise turns down the offer and suggests that his defeated enemy be spared. This act of mercy surprised the alien who opined that there is something special about humanity since mercy is an advanced trait.

5. Ben Sisko’s Self-Confession During “In The Pale Moonlight”: During this episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the Federation is losing a war against the evil Dominion. Captain Benjamin Sisko is at the forefront of the war in the space station Deep Space Nine and sees firsthand the effect of the grueling war. He knows he has to do something to save the Federation and what he concocted disturbs not just viewers but himself.

Sisko in the Pale Moonlight

Sisko conspired to fabricate evidence that the Dominion will attack the Romulan Star Empire. He hoped that this falsehood will bring the Romulan into the war on the Federation’s side and it works. The only cost for this duplicity is Sisko’s conscience. But Sisko has to admit to himself that saving countless lives in the Alpha Quadrant justified his actions. A sobering thought, which put Sisko in a different, grey light.

4. Jean-Luc Picard Defends Data in “The Measure of a Man”: In this intellectually charged episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a court hearing is convened to determine if the android officer, Data, can be considered sentient. At stake is his artificial life and whether or not he is entitled to equal rights.

Picard in Measure of a Man

Despite a blistering argument against Data, his commanding officer, Captain Jean-Luc Picard defended Data. At first, Picard is typically level headed and uses logic and reason to argue that Data is sentient. Then as his argument continued Picard grew more impassioned and was able to convince everyone not only of Data’s self-awareness but of his inalienable rights, which echo one of Star Trek’s core messages about equality, tolerance and mutual respect.

3. Ben Sisko Explains Time Through Baseball in “Emissary”: The pilot episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine set this Star Trek spinoff radically apart from other Star Trek shows. But one of the few things that stayed constant was the need for exploring the unknown. In this case a wormhole that Commander Benjamin Sisko discovered near the planet Bajor.

Sisko explains baseball

Upon entering the wormhole, he meets noncorporeal aliens who have difficulty understanding linear time. Sisko cleverly used baseball to explain the cause and effect nature of time. Thanks to queries from the aliens (who took the shape of people he knew), Sisko realized that he is emotionally trapped in the past because of his wife’s death. This epiphany allowed him to come to grips with her death and move on with his life as a Starfleet officer.

2. James T. Kirk admits he feels young in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: At the start of this classic film, Kirk is downtrodden over his growing old. Compounding his mood are his deskbound duties and his birthday. As Star Trek II progresses, James Kirk takes command of his beloved Enterprise and is reborn as he confronts his greatest enemy–Khan Noonien Singh.

Kirk says I feel young

Even though in the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Kirk defeats Khan, he loses his best friend, Spock and is once again forced to face his mortality. However, recent events, while emotionally taxing, have reinvigorated James T. Kirk and his spirits have been rekindled. His personal arc perfectly encapsulated the film’s theme about growing old with dignity and spiritual rebirth, which was expressed with his bittersweet confession that “I feel young.”

1. James T. Kirk’s Soliloquy in “The Naked Time”: Captain James T. Kirk, or rather his original performer, William Shatner, was prone to speechifying in Star Trek. Often these addresses were bombastic and self important and were deservedly parodied. But early in the show’s run with the classic episode “The Naked Time” Kirk gave one of the first of these speeches and for one of the few times, his words were exceptionally heartfelt.

James Kirk in Naked Time

He was infected with a virus that loosened his inhibitions. When this happened his innermost thoughts and frustrations came to the surface. We saw Kirk as vulnerable, lonely and deeply committed to his duty as a starship captain. He lamented over the fact that his duty prevented him from enjoying a normal life or even having someone to love. The speech summed up the extent of the personal sacrifice James T. Kirk, and any other worthy starship captain, make in order to serve a higher cause.

José Soto

Top 50 Star Trek Episodes, Part 2: Episodes 11-30

 Star Trek collage wallpaper

As many reading this know, this year marks Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. It’s actually an event that will happen in less than three months from now as celebrations will most likely hit fever pitch among fans who delighted in the space-faring adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the starship Enterprise crew. Continuing our countdown of the 50 best episodes from the original Star Trek series, we will start with the 30th best episode…

30. “Tomorrow is Yesterday” The starship Enterprise and its crew time travel to the 1960s and rescues a U.S. Air Force pilot (Roger Perry) who isn’t allowed to return home and report on what he has witnessed.

Tomorrow is Yesteday

29. “The Conscience of the King” Excellent scripted lines and stellar acting by Arnold Moss as a tortured former dictator turned Shakespearian actor highlights this episode.

Conscience of the King

28. “The Devil in the Dark” Captain James T. Kirk and Spock investigate killings at an underground mining facility by a monstrous rock-like creature. But there is more to the story…

Devil in the Dark

27. “Journey to Babel” The Enterprise transports diplomats to a peace conference; among the passengers are Spock’s estranged parents (Mark Sarek and Jane Wyatt). Complicating the occasion are the strained relations between Spock and his father and an onboard secret agent trying to wreck the conference.

Journey to Babel

26. “Assignment: Earth” In this backdoor pilot, Kirk and Spock time travel to Earth in the 1960s and meet the mysterious Gary Seven (Robert Lansing), a human sent by aliens to Earth to keep humanity from destroying itself. However, his mission is hampered by Kirk and Spock who suspect Seven is up to no good.

Gary Seven Assignment Earth

25. “The Empath” Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) are captured and tortured by callous aliens. During the ordeal they meet Gem (Kathryn Hays), a mute woman who has the power to heal others and is also under study by the aliens to see if her people are worthy of salvation. Helping make the episode so memorable were Hay’s magnificent and expressive performance and a beautiful score.

The Empath

24. “Amok Time” Spock must return to his home planet Vulcan and mate or else he will die. This episode was the first one to lift the veil on the enigmatic Vulcans and revealed much about their logic-based culture. The Vulcan travelogue and cultural exploration were punctuated by a nail-biting duel between Spock and his friend Kirk for the hand of Spock’s betrothed.

Amok Time duel

23. “The Enemy Within” A transporter malfunction splits Kirk into two halves. One meek and indecisive, the other lecherous and primal. This oft-used trope of the evil twin actually worked well because the script (by Richard Matheson) thoughtfully examined how dual aspects of Kirk’s personality, including his savage side, were essential to his survival and capability as a leader.

Kirk the Enemy Within

22. “Friday’s Child” On a planet with a primitive and brutal society Kirk, Spock and McCoy are embroiled in a tribal power struggle involving Klingons. After the head of local tribal leader is killed the trio must escort his pregnant wife (Julie Newmar) to safety while avoiding the leader’s successor and his men. Meanwhile, McCoy has to deal with an uncooperative patient and Spock, who is clueless around infants.

Friday's Child

21. TIE: “The Cage”/”The Menagerie, Part I &II” The very first Star Trek pilot “The Cage” about telepathic aliens imprisoning Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), a previous Enterprise captain, was rejected by NBC, but the network allowed series creator Gene Roddenberry to produce a second pilot. However, footage from the original pilot was recycled into a classic two-part episode of the regular series as Spock undergoes a court martial for helping his former commanding officer.

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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