Wednesday, August 28, 2013

These Are the Voyages - TOS, Season One

These Are The Voyages:
TOS, Season One 
by Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn
Release date: August 1st, 2013
Published by Jacobs Brown Press

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From the back cover:
Author, Marc Cushman, had the great honor of befriending both Gene Roddenberry and Robert H. Justman. As a result of that friendship, Marc was given access to all the Star Trek® production documents from the three years the series ran, which are currently housed in the UCLA Archives under a bequest by Roddenberry and Justman. These documents are private and viewing is restricted and supervised. This work is derived from eight months spent researching the details of the production. These books reveal, for the first time, the truth behind all the politics and behind-the-scene machinations of the productions. Rod Roddenberry, said: "This is going to be the bible to STAR TREK® and how it was made. This is a book that I'm going to keep near and dear and utilize throughout my life." These are the Voyages, TOS, Season One contains hundreds of previously unpublished insights and recollections from actors, directors, producers, and production crew, capturing what went on from every perspective, including memos dictated by Roddenberry while reading drafts to the series scripts. The book offers a unique look behind-the-scenes in the form of original staff memos, contracts, schedules, budgets, network correspondence, and the censor reports from NBC. These are the Voyages creates the opportunity for readers to transport themselves back in space and time to witness the true history of Season One of Star Trek®: TOS. Go behind the closed doors of NBC, Desilu/Paramount, the producers' offices, the writers' room, the sound stages and shooting locations, and learn the actual facts behind all the blood, sweat, tears, politics, and spellbinding creativity that brought Star Trek® into being...and changed the Sci Fi world. This book looks behind the scenes in the form of original staff memos -- including Gene Roddenberry's own memos, contracts, schedules, budgets, network correspondence, censor reports and other newly-uncovered documentation.

My thoughts:

Ordinarily, this site concerns itself mainly with books from Pocket Books' Star Trek fiction line. However, I recently had the opportunity to review a unique book: These Are The Voyages: TOS, Season One, the first entry in a three-volume series of in-depth, comprehensive books detailing the production of Star Trek: The Original Series.

As a fairly knowledgeable Star Trek fan, I have read a great deal about the history and production of Star Trek. Like many other fans, over the years I've gleaned a lot of information and "inside stories" about the events that brought my favorite science-fiction franchise into being. Having said that, the sheer amount of information in These Are The Voyages: TOS, Season One absolutely blew me away. The book itself, already not small, is packed from cover to cover with every bit of information you could possibly want about the production of The Original Series.

Gene Roddenberry and the Enterprise

The first chapter talks all about the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry. Most Trek fans know a lot of the broad strokes about his life, but These Are The Voyages goes even deeper. In what would become a familiar theme during my reading of this book, I was endlessly fascinated and amazed by the amount of detailed information about Roddenberry's life. Page after page revealed a new tidbit of information that I had not previously known. From there, the book goes on to talk about the conception and realization of what would come to be known as Star Trek.

However, the author takes a broader view than merely chronicling the birth of the series. Rather, he goes into great depth describing the situation on television at the time, providing useful information such as the histories of the major television networks and studios, setting the stage for the emergence of Star Trek. The breadth of the information provided makes for a fascinating read and provides insights about Star Trek's beginnings that would otherwise remain unknown to a younger fan such as me, who was not yet alive during this period.

Production of the fan-favorite and critically-acclaimed "City on the Edge of Forever."

The majority of the book features the episodes that make up Star Trek's first season. It is in these chapters that the book really shines! The in-depth coverage for each episode begins with the original NBC press release followed by a brief critique of the episode. The real treasure comes with the recounting of the inception of the idea for the episode, followed by the back-and-forth process of writing, pre-production, and production. The insights into the industry as a whole and the early days of Star Trek in particular are very eye-opening.

For most people, the information in these chapters will lead to a whole new appreciation of each episode. The analysis of each episode is appropriately critical and in-depth. The tendency in a lot of publications is to fawn over the wonder that was Star Trek and to gloss over the rough patches. Not so here. These Are The Voyages is an uncompromising look at the steps (and sometimes missteps) that went into creating The Original Series. A great example is the chapter on the creation of the episode "Court Martial." At each step, the production ran into difficulties, and while the finished episode isn't terrible, there are a number of flaws that survived from writing through to post-production. Although I had to read quickly in order to do this review, I have plans to go back and slowly read through each episode chapter while simultaneously doing a TOS season one re-watch. I have a feeling that the experience would be pretty rewarding!

The cast pretends to shave with their phasers between takes during the filming of "Operation: Annihilate!"

Final thoughts:

Meticulously researched and lovingly presented, the amount of work put into this book is apparent on nearly every page. To a serious fan of Star Trek, These Are The Voyages: TOS, Season One will serve not only as an interesting reference, but as a time capsule of sorts. This is the sort of supplementary material that will not simply sit on one's shelf for years; rather, many people will find themselves consulting it often to learn more about their favorite (or not-so-favorite) episodes. This appears to be the definitive account of the first season of Star Trek, and I for one cannot wait to get my hands on volumes two and three.

My next read:

Unfortunately, I've gotten behind, and my reviews of the stories in the second S.C.E. omnibus will have to wait for a little while. I've recently been reading the first book in The Fall series, David R. George III's Revelation and Dust. Review coming soon!

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