5 Key Books for Your Star Trek Discovery

5 Key Books for Your Star Trek Discovery

There’s been lots of chatter about the production problems and delays affecting Star Trek: Discovery. But the latest series in the franchise is no different than its predecessors. What’s new is the existence of social media.

Star Trek productions have always been fraught with challenges to varying degrees over the past fifty years. Reading about the development and filming of the various series is part of the fun of being a fan. I discovered Star Trek more than 30 years ago when I was not even a teenager, and I’m still learning new things about the franchise.

Discovery is no doubt going to prompt new fans to investigate the series that began it all and the ones that followed it. There’s no shortage of books chronicling the voyages of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future, but there are several that stand out in terms of detail and thoroughness that should be at the top of anyone’s list.

These Are The Voyages

Star Trek: These Are The Voyages
Marc Cushman’s These Are Voyages provides an incredibly balanced view of the original Star Trek while shattering many myths about the series.

In fact, there is a book for each of the original Star Trek’s three seasons for a total of nearly 2,000 pages. They are the best proof that Discovery is not unique when it comes to growing pains. Social media would have had a field day with the tumultuous production of the series in 1960s.

Authored by Marc Cushman, These Are The Voyages pull together detailed production documents, memos and interviews that actor Walter Koenig has described has the definitive story of the making of the original Star Trek. In provides an incredibly balanced view of the first incarnation while shattering many myths about the series.

For fans of classic Trek, These Are The Voyages are a must-read, and those interested in TV production would find them fascinating as well.

The Making of Star Trek

This book is often mentioned by fans and writers of later Trek series as being a treasure trove of information and insight. It’s hard to come by now, and for some reason I let myself part with my copy, but if you can find it, hold on to it. It’s considered the first of its kind in terms of Star Trek reference books thanks to the multiple points of view from a wide range of contributors, everyone from studio executives to fans.

Inside Star Trek: The Real Story

Inside Star Trek: The Real Story
Inside Star Trek: The Real Story debunks many of the myths that had arisen about Star Trek over the previous 30 years.

Written by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman, both executives who worked on the series, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story is the first book I read that didn’t sanitize the making of the original series the way most official reference books published at the time.

It’s a fascinating book from two insiders that complements Cushman’s series and is full of production art and behind-the-scenes photographs, primarily from Justman’s personal collection. And like These Are the Voyages, the book also debunks many of the myths that had arisen about Star Trek over the previous 30 years.

Star Trek: The Fifty-Year Mission

The Fifty-Year Mission
The Fifty-Year Mission is described as an “oral history” of the Star Trek franchise.

Like These Are the Voyages, The Fifty-Year Mission is more than one book. Authors Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman split 50 years of Star Trek history in two. The first volume is dedicated to the original series through to its feature film era, and the second covers the subsequent series and the J.J. Abrams films.

Described as an “oral history” of the franchise, it pulls together decades of interviews by Gross and Altman, who as journalists wrote about Star Trek for more than 30 years for publications such as Starlog. It’s a no holds barred look at 50 years of the franchise from the many cast, crew and writers involved in its many incarnations.

The Star Trek Encyclopedia

When it comes to books that pull together everything about the Star Trek universe, there’s no better tome than Mike Okuda’s Star Trek Encyclopedia, updated and re-released for the franchise’s 50th year.

Make no mistake, this is an encyclopedia in the truest sense, split into two heavy hardbound volumes, assembled by someone who worked on four of the series and continues be a steward of Star Trek continuity, most recently with his wife Denise on the Star Trek: The Next Generation BluRay remastering and documentaries.

It’s not something you can carry to the beach with you, that’s for darn sure.

Star Trek Lives!
Star Trek Lives! Tells the story of how a canceled TV series became a cult classic in the 1970s

They are many more books that are well-worth reading. Allan Asherman’s Star Trek Compendium is a great companion while watching episodes of the original series. Larry Nemecek’s Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion does the same. Writer David Gerrold dives into the making of his well-loved “The Trouble with Tribbles,” in a single book, and takes a broader look at the original show with The World of Star Trek.

Star Trek Lives! tells the story of how a canceled TV series became a cult classic in the 1970s and the rise of Star Trek conventions, while many of the biographies and autobiographies of cast members over the years provide differing perspectives. The relatively recent Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History by Robert Greenberger is a great visual and chronological overview of the franchise.

Star Trek: Discovery will both enjoy and endure a great deal of scrutiny in real-time thanks to the Internet, but eventually it too will be the subject of many books that dive deeper into its production, and hopefully its longevity and success.

Remembering a Writer’s Writer: Ann Crispin

IMG_1083Science fiction author A.C. Crispin passed away Friday after a year-long battle with cancer.

Crispin’s first novel, published in 1983, was also one of the first original Star Trek novels I read upon discovering the iconic TV series in the mid-80s: Yesterday’s Son is a follow up to the third season episode “All of Our Yesterdays.” It would be followed by a sequel, Time for Yesterday. I still own both novels, as well as a hardcover edition of her novel Sarek.

Crispin would go on to write a great deal of media tie-in novels for sci-fi franchises such as Star Wars, Alien and V, and was named a Grandmaster by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers in 2013. Her first original novel, Starbridge, debuted in 1989 and would be followed by six sequels.

In addition to being a prolific author, Crispin also put a great deal of time and energy into helping other writers.  In 1998, she co-founded Writers Beware with Victoria Strauss to alert authors of scams and provide them with information on publishing houses, agents and contracts. Strauss wrote Friday that Writers Beware is here for the long the haul.

Author John Scalzi wrote on his blog Friday that “No one I know worked harder than she and WB co-head Victoria Strauss did to make sure that writers were aware of scams and shady characters out there in the world. She was also a heck of a writer, and a hell of a good person.”

Tor blogger Ryan Britt wrote that Crispin “will be missed for her vigilant devotion to sticking up for writers, her wonderful candor, her thoughtful and exciting writing, and most of all, for giving the fans of various fictional worlds sweet and unforgettable gifts.”

Ann Crispin was 63.

Remembering Frederik Pohl: A True Grandmaster of Science Fiction

pohl-future-wasFrederik Pohl passed away this weekend just as the 73rd annual WorldCon was coming to a close – his granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary broke the news Monday afternoon via Twitter.

Pohl blogged regularly until his death; his blog won a Hugo in 2010 for Best Fan Writer, one of four Hugo awards he won over the course of his lengthy career; he also won three Nebula Awards.

Pohl grew up in Brooklyn, New York and served with the US Army in the Second World War. His first published work was a poem in1937, but he is probably best known for his 1977 science fiction novel Gateway, the story of a space station hidden in an asteroid. It won the Hugo, Locus, Nebula and John W Campbell awards and was adapted into a computer game.

The Science Fiction Writers of America named Pohl its 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993 and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998.

Upon hearing the news of Pohl’s death, Canadian science fiction and fantasy author Jo Walton blogged that “it’s impossible to over-estimate the importance of Frederik Pohl to the science fiction genre…. He wrote stories and novels that were absolutely essential to the genre, and he kept on writing them, from his early stories in the 1930s to his most recent novel in 2011.”

I must confess I’ve only read a few of Pohl’s novels and particularly enjoyed the quirky Narabedla as a teenager; I wish I still owned a copy.

Frederik Pohl was 93.

Doctor Who: Escape Velocity [Book Review]

By Colin Brake/BBC Books/February 2001

Escape Velocity is a combination of the new and the old. New because it takes place after the pivotal Ancestor Cell, and old, because despite being part of the new arc of Doctor Who novels, it’s basically a traditional Who story.

The Doctor has spent the last hundred years on Earth while his TARDIS heals. He’s not exactly himself either. His memory is full of holes, but he does have a note to meet Fitz, his companion, at a certain bar in London. For Fitz, it hasn’t been all that long, and he’s looking forward to seeing the Doctor again. Unfortunately, he gets sidetracked by a TV news story that hints of the Doctor’s presence in Brussels, and off he goes.

This serves to introduce Anji Kapoor, destined to be the Doctor’s new traveling companion. She’s on vacation with her boyfriend Dave in Brussels, and witnesses the death of a two-hearted alien. It isn’t the Doctor, but it is an alien. The trio’s investigation into the odd occurrences puts Dave at risk, and sends Anji and Fitz back to London to enlist the Doctor’s help.

The ensuing story involves two rival rich men vying to be the first private venture into space, while an alien fleet lies in wait to invade the earth. Aside from the changes the Doctor has undergone, this is a traditional Doctor Who story in every sense, with few surprises. Everything is tied up very nicely and predictably. It’s not badly written, considering it’s Brake’s first novel – he is an experienced TV writer (he was a script editor on the British series “Bugs”) – but there’s nothing new here.

The Doctor and Fitz are handled quite well, and to his credit, Anji Kapoor is a very likeable companion. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters are rather two-dimensional and follow paths that are contrived and all too familiar.

Not a great book, but a reasonably enjoyable light read.

Doctor Who: The Janus Conjunction [Book Review]

Doctor Who: The Janus Conjunction
By Trevor Baxendale / BBC Books / October 1998

“The planets Janus Prime and Meridia are diametrically opposed in orbit round a vast Red Giant star. But while Menda is rich and fertile in the light of the sun, Janus Prime endures everlasting night, its moon causing a permanent solar eclipse.

When the Doctor and Sam arrive on Janus Prime, they find themselves in the middle of a war between rival humans colonizing the area. The planet is littered with ancient ruins, and the Mendans are using a mysterious hyper-spatial link left behind by the planet’s former inhabitants. But what is its true purpose?

The Doctor and Sam must piece together a centures-old puzzle. How can Janus Prime’s moon weigh billions of tons more than it should? Why is the planet riddled with deadly radiation? As the violence escalates around them, will the time travelers survive to discover the answers?”

I really liked The Janus Conjunction because it doesn’t strive to be anything more than a straightforward Doctor Who adventure and succeeds.

The Doctor and Sam arrive on a planet, get separated, thrown in prison, get caught between two factions and have a puzzle to solve in the process. Nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it’s well executed. The guest characters don’t take over the story, but are well developed enough that their motivations are understandable, even the villains.

While the recent outing Seeing I had a lot to do about looking at the Doctor and Sam’s relationship in depth, here they are just Doctor and companion working together with really well-written dialogue. The Doctor is the Doctor I’ve always known in any regeneration: the hero that takes charge of the situation.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about The Janus Conjunction, but it’s very functional, entertaining and moves along briskly.


Doctor Who: Seeing I [Book Review]

Doctor Who: Seeing I
By Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman / BBC Books / June 1998

Sam is homeless on the streets of the colony world of Ha’olam, trying to face what’s just happened between her in the Doctor. He’s searching for her, and for answers. While she struggles to survive in a strange city centuries from home, the Doctor comes across evidence of alien involvment in the local mega corporation, INC – and is soon confined to a prison that becomes a hell of his own making.

Where did INC’s mysterious eye implants really come from? What is the company searching for in the deserts? What is hiding in the shadows, watching their progress?

Faced with these mysteries, separated by half a world, Sam and the Doctor each face a battle – Sam to rebuild her life, the Doctor to stay sane. And if they do find each other again, what will be left of either of them?”

I was expecting a lot from Kate Orman, who wrote some of my favorite New Adventures, but Seeing I doesn’t quite deliver in the end. However, it’s still well above average.

At the beginning of the book, Sam and the Doctor are already separated, so there is a lot of Sam development going on. In fact, she ages years, not days or months, in this story. Meanwhile, the Doctor is stuck in a prison that even he can’t escape.

For the first two thirds of the book, Seeing I is a departure from most Who novels as it explores the plight of the Doctor and his companion on a psychological level. However, the last third of the book turns into a straightforward Who adventure. That’s not to say it isn’t well done, but it doesn’t quite deliver the ending as promised with the earlier character trials.

All in all a definite must read.

Doctor Who: Dreamstone Moon [Book Review]

By Paul Leonard / BBC Books / May 1998

“Sam is on her own, but here distance from the Doctor doesn’t make for a trouble-free life. Rescued from an out of control spaceship, she finds herself on a tiny moon which is the only know source of dreamstone, a mysterious crystalline substance that can preserve or dreams – or give you nightmares.

 Pitched into the middle of a conflict between the mining company extracting dreamstone and ecological protesters, Sam thinks it’s easy to decide who the good guys are – until people start dying, and the killers seem to be the same species as some of her new friends.

 Meanwhile, the Doctor has tracked Sam down, but before he can reach her he’s co-opted by the Dreamstone Mining Company and their sinister military advisors. Suddenly, it’s war – and the Doctor is forced to fight against what he believes in. He alone suspects that Dreamstone isn’t what it appears to be. But nobody’s listening – and nobody could dream who the real enemy is…”

After my first BBC Books Doctor Who outing, The Eigtht Doctors, I really needed to read a *good* Doctor Who book. Dreamstone Moon by Paul Leonard didn’t quite deliver, but it wasn’t bad either.

First off this is a Sam book – the Doctor and his companion were separated several books ago, I assume. It isn’t entirely a bad thing because at this point I wanted to get to know the Sam character. But I also read Doctor Who novels to read about the Doctor, and role in the book is very wanting. When he does have scenes in the story, he doesn’t seem on the ball about anything.

The story itself is really predictable although quasi-interesting. It didn’t really grip. Nothing about it really did. The one observation I can make is that Paul Leonard is skilled at creating truly alien characters.

In the end, I don’t know if like Dreamstone Moon or not, so it’s probably worth deciding for yourself.

Star Trek New Frontier: Fire On High [Book Review]

Star Trek New Frontier: Fire On High
Peter David/Pocket Books/April 1998

Fire On High isn’t Peter David’s best work, but it still proves how his Star Trek: New Frontier setting is so much more entertaining then Voyager ever was.

This is the second full-length novel since the debut of the initial four novellas, and while the story stands on its own, there are subplots that have been going since previous books. Fire On High revolves around the reappearance of Lt. Robin Lefler’s supposedly dead mother and a deadly ancient weapon. It actually takes a while for those events to get under way, but in the meantime, Doctor Selar deals with the consequences of her recent Pon Farr, and there are various other character bits percolating.

Overall, the story isn’t exceptional, but the crew of the starship Excalibur is just as lively and interesting as any crew that’s graced either the big or small screen. And they’re definitely more fun than Voyager.

Doctor Who: Lungbarrow [Book Review]

Doctor Who: Lungbarrow
By Marc Platt / Virgin / March 1997

This is it folks. The last New Adventure to feature the Seventh Doctor.

Lungbarrow attempts to answer the main questions raised by the Sylvester McCoy incarnation of the Time Lord, which it does well for the most part.

A warning, however: this is a book you have to read carefully to understand the ending. I don’t think this is Marc Platt’s fault. In this case, I think it’s my own. A second run through cleared up most of the questions I had.

Some high points, besides explaining much about the Doctor’s origin, are the reappearance of past companions, including Ace, Leela and K9. The book also introduces the Doctor’s ‘family’, who play a key part in the story.

There were some disappointments, however. There’s a nice goodbye between Ace and the Doctor, but Chris Cwej sort of just disappears at the end. Bernice doesn’t even appear in the novel, so there’s no real closure between her and the Seventh Doctor, although she does play a major role in Lance Parkin’s The Dying Days, which introduces the Eight Doctor.

If there is one thing Lungbarrow illustrates, it is how the character of the Doctor has evolved since the The New Adventures debuted in 1991. Oh, the last page is a hoot too!

Originally published in The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Resource Guide.

Doctor Who: The Dying Days [Book Review]

Doctor Who: The Dying Days
By Lance Parkin / Virgin / April 1997

The Dying Days is an apt title for the last New Adventure featuring the Doctor, in any incarnation. It’s a story of endings and beginnings, and unlike many of the NAs featuring the Seventh Doctor, this novel featuring the Eighth Doctor is a straightforward adventure story, reminiscent of the television series.

Bernice Summerfield is waiting for the Doctor to arrive at his house. He’s late, which Bernice thinks is rather unacceptable, since he is a Time Lord. When he does finally show up, he has changed a little.

So begins the story that will launch the continuing adventures of Bernice Summerfield, while the Doctor continues on in the new BBC line of books. Before the story ends, you will reacquaint yourselves with old friends such as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the Ice Warriors.

Lance Parkin does a fine job with this novel, sticking to tried and true storytelling techniques, while incorporating elements from the FOX TV movie to maintain continuity.

The ending is rather interesting as well.

Originally published in the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Resource Guide.