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.

The Painful Art of Accepting Life’s Stalemates

Recently I was inspired start a series of posts drawing on wisdom from Star Trek, particularly the series I grew up with, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Although many consider TNG to be nowhere near as groundbreaking or topical as the original series, I find it rife with life lessons that are timeless and speak to the human condition. Many of these  helped me grapple with young adulthood and the solitude of being unpopular in high school.

The point of this blog series is not to highlight the better-known quotes from either series, but to focus on those buried a little deeper within an episode. There is no set schedule as my paying client work comes first, but hopefully I will manage two per month.

Rather than post the second in the series here, however,  I’ve opted to post it to an up and coming site called Medium. After blogging about my impressions of the site and its content, I received an invitation to contribute, so click here for “The Painful Art of Accepting Life’s Stalemates” on Medium; the first installment, “Variations on a Program: You Can’t Go Back” can be found here.

Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer, editor and content strategist storyteller.

The Best of All Cliffhangers

“I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile. Your life, as it has been, is over. From this time forward you will service us.”

“Mr. Worf: Fire.”

bobwSeason-ending cliffhangers are now standard practice on both network and cable TV series, but in 1990, they weren’t so common, and the season finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation made jaws drop.

The first part of “The Best of Both Worlds” had Star Trek fans and casual viewers wondering all summer if Captain Jean-Luc Picard would survive his assimilation by the relentless Borg, while TV critics were comparing the cliffhanger to the infamous season ender of Dallas in 1980: the mystery of “Who shot J.R.” was the most watched program in television history for its day.

TNG’s “Best of Both Worlds” remains one of the most effective season finales of any Star Trek series – arguably of any series – because it looks like there is no way out: Picard is lost; Riker will soldier on as captain of the Enterprise with ambitious newcomer Commander Shelby as his first officer.

I spent that summer wondering if Picard would return in season four. It was hard to contemplate Star Trek: The Next Generation without Patrick Stewart, especially since the series had found its creative footing in season three. The return of Gates McFadden as Dr. Crusher coupled with some great storytelling begged the question: If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Even without the ubiquitous Internet and social media, there was chatter that Patrick Stewart was leaving the show, apparently unhappy with the series’ scripts – these rumors could be traced back to an uneven second season that was cut short by a writer’s strike. I vaguely recall reading a brief news item in Starlog magazine that fueled the fire; it also reported Wil Wheaton was leaving the series, something that did come to pass.

The late Michael Piller, who scripted the episode, made use of his own inner turmoil to drive the story as he debated whether to continue on as head of the show’s writing team; the episode became a Riker-centric story that reflected Piller’s own dilemma. (He would ultimately stay on through the end of the series, co-create Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager and write the screenplay for Star Trek: Insurrection).

Riker’s struggle with the prospect of promotion rings true given that he’s already turned down command twice, and it adds to the overall sense that things will inevitably change aboard the Enterprise, especially since Shelby is convinced she’s going to land the first officer’s gig.

But what really made “The Best of Both Worlds” cliffhanger so compelling was that Piller had in fact painted himself into a corner. He didn’t think he’d have to worry about solving a seemingly unsolvable problem: how to save Picard and defeat the Borg. When “To Be Continued” appears on the screen backed up by Ron Jones’ chilling music, it’s hard to imagine how the rest of the story will unfold.

Nearly 23 years later, it’s still an amazing hour of television. A feeling of foreboding hangs over the scene where Picard and Guinan discuss the tradition of a captain touring his ship on the eve of a hopeless battle and how Nelson never returned from Trafalgar, even though the battle was won.

And it even holds up well on the big screen. Last week the combined two-part “Best of Both Worlds” was shown in theatres across North America, and while the second half struggles to live up to the first (most second parts in the Star Trek universe do), as a feature film it compares well to the actual Star Trek movies. The special effects are still convincing, especially considering they were produced on a television budget with older technology, and the story slowly builds tension throughout the first half with a seamless transition into a faster paced second half.

The big screen debut of “The Best of Both Worlds” serves as a reminder that Star Trek works better on television when the characters are allowed to develop and the story lines are allowed to evolve over time. Viewed on television it is Star Trek at its finest and holds its own against big screen lens flare.

Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer, editor and content strategist storyteller. “The Best of Both Worlds” Parts I & II is available today on BluRay as a feature-length film as is the entire third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Variations of the Program: You Can’t Go Back

“She’s gone. I tried variations of the program; others appeared, but not Minuet.”
“Maybe it was all part of the Bynars’ programming. But you know, Number One, some relationships just can’t work.”
“Yes, probably true. She’ll be difficult to forget.”

Will Riker has one of life’s rare yet perfect experiences in the form of a computer-generated lady who charms him with her beauty, intelligence and love of jazz in the ST:TNG first season episode “11001001”. Ultimately, the moment proves fleeting as Minuet is nothing more than a distraction created by an alien race to occupy Riker until they needed his help aboard an abandoned Enterprise. Once the crisis is averted, the specially-created holodeck program is no longer exactly the same despite Riker’s efforts to bring it back.

Minuet is gone; the moment is gone.


We all have these moments: a confluence of great people, events and shared experiences. They can last only a few hours, a day, months or years. It might be your first love, your first day at university or your first adventure abroad. If you’re fortunate, you have these moments in your career where a supportive boss, talented colleagues and appreciative customers are bundled together to create a rewarding and even exhilarating workplace.

When these experiences end we mourn them; we grieve them as we would a lost loved one. When they end abruptly, it’s jarring. Even when you’re prepared for the closure of one chapter, the mourning period that follows can last for what feels like an eternity.

Not long ago I had moment that I’d thought – and hoped – would last for a long time, if not forever. Ultimately it lasted less than a year and ever since, I’ve sought variations of the program; I’ve hoped and tried to recapture the fun and the camaraderie of those months, and hoped to maintain a connection to one particular person whose impact on my life caught me completely by surprise. I had some amazing adventures with her; she brought out the best in me when many other things in my life weren’t going right.

But one day, just like Minuet, she was gone. She was difficult to forget, but I managed. Rather than being sad when her visage danced into my mind, I recalled the exhilarating experiences I had with her, truly some of the most joyous moments of my life.

“Don’t look back unless you are going that way,” said Henry David Thoreau. And even if you try to go back, the footprints fade and often disappear altogether. You wind up in a similar place, but it’s not quite the same, and you ultimately drive yourself mad making comparisons.

Not long after coming to terms with this unexpected and unwanted ending, I was presented with a variation of the program. My Minuet resurfaced, albeit in a different setting. It was an unexpected but welcome surprise.

But it was short-lived, and I’ve been a little miffed at the Universe ever since. I’ve considered suppressing memories related to the program, but if I’m honest with myself I would not trade those experiences for anything. I am grateful she was in my life if only for short time.

One day soon I hope to no longer yearn for a variation of the program. No promises though; she will be difficult to forget.

Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer, editor and content strategist storyteller.

Star Trek: The Wrath of Gary

Gary Mitchell RebootedThe Interwebs are all abuzz about Star Trek Into Darkness with the online release of a short teaser trailer and a nine-minute preview set to debut in theaters ahead of The Hobbit next week. The biggest point of discussion: What iconic Trek villain is being portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch?

Over at io9, Charlie Jane Anders has dissected the trailer looking for clues as to the identity of the Cumberbatch character as well as other hints that might reveal the movie’s plot.

Speculation was rampant that genetically-modified superman Khan would return ever since the movie went into production. But given what’s been shown in the limited clips and stills released so far, it’s unlikely.

And that’s a good thing, otherwise this Trekker would be forced to boycott this film. While I was pleasantly surprised by J.J Abrahm’s rebooted Star Trek, it was more style than substance, and every time I rewatch it, I find another element that irritates me. I will concede it’s a good start, but I have high expectations for its sequel. I want some depth and some compelling ideas, two ingredients that are essential to a great Star Trek story.

I also think the whole point of rebooting the Star Trek franchise is to tell new stories, and no matter what spin is put on a Khan-centric story, it will inevitably be compared to The Wrath Khan, arguably the best Star Trek film.

It’s been reported that the villain in Into Darkness is a character Star Trek fans will be familiar with, and based on what I’ve seen, Gary Mitchell, seen in the second original series pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is the best bet, given that Cumberbatch is seen wearing a Starfleet uniform. While Garth of Izar from the original third season episode “Whom Gods Destroy” has also been mentioned as a possibility, I think he’s a little obscure. Considering Alice Eve‘s unnamed Into Darkness character looks a lot like Sally Kellerman‘s character Elizabeth Dehner from “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the Mitchell theory has a lot of legs.

And I’m okay with that. For one thing, it’s plausible he would have exist in the rebooted timeline and have crossed paths with Kirk during their Starfleet Academy days. That doesn’t mean he has to become the silver-eyed God as he did the original series: he could be driven off the deep end by a different set of circumstances, hopefully something with emotional resonance rather than by some abstract alien force.

As for the trailer, it was full of sound and fury, but there wasn’t much to distinguish it from any other action/sci-fi movie. Abrahms has said he wants to bring a Star Wars sensibility to Star Trek and this worries me as much as the possibility of Khan popping up. The whole point of Star Trek is that it’s not Star Wars.

While I may be completely off-base with my predictions and concerns, one thing is for sure: There will be lots of lens flare.

Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based writer and content strategist. He also does a mean fox trot.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season One [DVD Review]

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season One
DVD / Paramount / March 2002

Regardless of what you thought of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s rookie season, it can’t be denied that it had a lasting influence on the genre television for years to come. One could even say it revived science fiction on television, paving the way not only for its spinoffs, but for ground breaking series such as Babylon 5 and Farscape, and forgettable flotsum such as Lexx and Starhunter.

Yes, season one of TNG, now available on DVD as a box set, was pretty uneven, but there are a few gems among what is clearly the series’ weakest season.

Encounter At Farpoint: The two-hour premiere hammers us over the head with the message that humans are still savages – a typical Roddenberry story – but it capably introduces the new cast and crew. And, while “humanity on trial” plotline is derivative of the original Star Trek, John de Lance as Q is will prove to be entertaining throughout the show’s even-year run.

The Naked Now: An obvious original Trek ripoff, (The Naked Now), the crew’s enounter with a virus that acts on the brain like alcohol does lead to some character revelations and some funny moments, but it’s an ultimately forgettable episode.

Code of Honor: Probably the first hint of TNG’s true potential as Natasha Yar because the unwitting participant in a fight to the death.

Haven: It was just a matter of time before Majel Barrett-Roddenberry showed up in what would be a recurring role as Counselor Troi’s mother. This episode is a weak attempt at developing the past between Deanna and Will Riker. A few funny moments, but overall forgettable.

Where No One Has Gone Before: High marks for this one; great story and character development, and one of the rare episodes that treats Wesley’s precosiousness properly. An early highlight of the season.

The Last Outpost: We finally get to see the Ferengi, and while the makeup work is outstanding, they’re neither frightening nor foretell the potential of the race as finally shown in Deep Space Nine as great sources of comedy. And there’s that whole “humanity on trial” theme raising its pesky head again.

Lonely Among Us: Farfetched but fun. Data plays Sherlock Holmes for the first time, there’s a mystery to be solved and some cool aliens. Oh yeah, Deanna Troi’s cleavage is particularly cleavy.

Justice: Ouch. A misguided attempt to illustrate how Picard would handle the prime directive. Lots of pretty barely dressed humanoids, but a rather juvenile approach to sex. Palease!

The Battle: The Ferengi are a little more cunning this around, and we get a peak into Picard’s pass. An above average episode and holds up rather well.

Hide and Q: A fun, fast paced episode. John de Lance shines as Q, but it’s painfully clear that Denise Crosby needs acting lessons. And where’s Deanna Troi?

Too Short A Season: A great dramatic episode with action to boot, but an early sign that Yar’s days were numbered. She’s the security officer but doesn’t get any lines in an episode about terrorists taking hostages until almost the final act. Hellooooo?

The Big Goodbye: The first major holodeck story and deserved of its Peabody award, but the whole Wesley saves ship schtick is getting obvious.

Datalore: Proof that Brent Spiner is da man and that Data is more than a Spock clone. A few plot holes don’t overshadow the overall enjoyment of this episode, which begs for a sequel and does eventually get one.

Angel One: The only thing that kept me watching this one was the hope the Romulans would reappear and they don’t. Big blandfest this one.

11001001: Possibly the best ep of the season, and smart use of the holodeck. The beginning of a solid run of episodes.

When The Bough Breaks: A good commentary on how we’re screwing up our environment back on Earth.

Home Soil: Neat story idea, a few thrills, but once again we’re told humans are savages and the guest cast barely phone in their performances.

Coming of Age: Two parallel storylines do a nice job of teaching some life lessons that aren’t unique to Star Trek.

Heart of Glory: We all knew Worf kicks ass and he finally gets to show it. A first step in developing Klingon culture, this episode raises the bar.

Arsenal of Freedom: Yet another example of how Star Trek can entertain and inform at the same time, this time making a solid comment on the arms race.

Symbiosis: This time the commentary’s on drug addiction, and it’s done dramatically and cleverly, except for Yar’s just say no to drugs speech to Wesley. Die already!

Skin of Evil: And so she does. Killing off a regular character always makes for good entertainment, and overall this episode works quite well.

We’ll Always Have Paris: Cool time-travel idea gets muddled by melodrama.

Conspiracy: If humans had been at the heart of the conspiracy, it would have been the best episode of the season. Unfortunately the great setup is ruined by the introduction of aliens and gory ending bordering on hokey.

The Neutral Zone: A lot going on here, but it never really gels. The Romulans come back, and the hint of a bigger threat remains to the end. A shaky end to the season.

You see, there were some gems to be found here and there. As for the extras, they’re almost non-existent. Most of it comprises of recompiled footage from previously-aired specials, and there’s no real insight offered into any aspect of the series.

Episodes: 6/10
Extras: 3/10

Once More Unto the Breach [TV Review]

Since its debut, I’ve always tried to like Star Trek: Voyager. It’s not as if I don’t like the show, but for the most part, I’ve been disappointed in it.

Every year I sit down to watch the season premiere and hope that the show will improve. I usually start the season optimistic, depending on the season finale from the year before. Last season, Voyager finished with a ho hum episode, so I wasn’t overly excited about year five.

I have mixed feelings about “‘Night”, the season premiere. It had an interesting premise and some good character development, but still lacked many elements, elements that have made Deep Space Nine my preferred Star Trek sequel series.

While the writers finally to a leap and made Paris and Torres a couple, the relationship has simply gone nowhere. In ‘Night’, they’re reduced to unconvincing squabbling to further demonstrate the frustration the crew is feeling while traveling an expanse of lifeless, starless space.

Admittedly, the story wasn’t horrible and there were some nifty special effects, but it is an obvious example of what is wrong with Voyager: In the Delta Quadrant, everything seems to happen in a bottle. Yes, there have been sequels to previous episodes, but rarely are the consequences of actions carried over from one episode to another. “Year of Hell” was a great episode until it turns out it never happened at all.

It’s not that I’m unwilling to give Voyager a chance. I’ve given it plenty of chances. But after fours seasons, I don’t feel this crew has developed much in terms of characterization and I’ve yet to see an episode that truly wowed or surprised.

Deep Space Nine has given me a reason to come back every episode because of its continuing storyline. Right now, I can take or leave Voyager.

Gary Hilson is a writer, editor and digital media specialist for hire. He lives in Toronto.

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.