Star Trek FAQ 2.0: Everything Left to Know About The Next Generation, the Movies, and Beyond Book Review
Star Trek FAQ 2.0 continues chronologically from Mark Clark’s previous book, Star Trek FAQ (which I previously reviewed on Film Junk). That is, this book covers the years of Star Trek starting from its first motion picture up to, but only briefly, Star Trek Into Darkness. Accordingly, the book is subtitled, “Everything Left to Know About the Next Generation, the Movies, and Beyond.” As hinted in the subtitle, Star Trek: The Next Generation gets the most coverage, making this book too lopsided in my opinion. For additional detail and information beyond what was discussed in Film Junk’s Star Trek Movie Podcast, this book serves as a nice companion.
As mentioned in the author’s introduction, the book had to omit chapters dealing with the Star Trek novels, comic books and video games in order to keep the page count reasonable. But there is still space for fun by including a chapter on the food and beverages of Star Trek. He also states that this book is ordered more in a chronological fashion, which was probably prompted by the fact that this book covers more years than the first book.
The book contains a forward by Peter David, who fans of literary Trek will instantly appreciate. (He is a prolific author who has written several popular Star Trek fiction novels and comic books.) I always find it interesting how people got involved with Star Trek.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was the most successful ratings-wise of all the Star Trek television series, and for this reason I’m guessing, a cast photo of that series adorns the cover of the book. Also it’s the only one of the later series that is covered with any depth. Each season of the series gets its own chapter with a brief description and interesting facts for each episode. Both a chapter on the Next Gen directors and a chapter on the social commentary and recurring themes of Next Gen are highlights for me. Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise don’t even get their own chapters, but there’s a chapter on Michael Dorn!
Like the first book, this book is unofficial and unauthorized, so the author is free to comment negatively although being a fan of Star Trek, he tends to be positive. The author injects his own viewpoint, and I generally find his views to be fair-minded and reasonable, striking a balance between a full-blown Trekkie adoring of the minor actors’ careers and a member of the general public who gets Star Trek confused with Star Wars. Though, I do find his praise unusual at times. (There’s only one quibble I have with a negative viewpoint of his which I’ll bring up in the next paragraph.) The author praises the Next Gen first season episode “The Arsenal of Freedom,” which I don’t recall anyone else having done so. In “Cost of Living,” he considers the final shot of Worf in a mud bath to be “a riot.” (I suppose I’m not easily amused.) Uniquely, he also praises the acting capabilities of some cast members like Jonathan Frakes, who played Lieutenant Riker.
Since this book covers all the Star Trek movies, of particular interest to me was the author’s comments about Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. I am an unabashed fan of this film, but I was expecting the author to tow the populist line of heaping scorn on the film. With the chapter heading “Shatner’s Folly – The Final Frontier Debacle (1989),” my expectations were fulfilled. (Another sign of bad portents is that it’s chapter 13.) Many of his criticisms repeat what I’ve read from other reviews, so I suspect he has been influenced by his research. Of course, maybe the film’s shortcomings are the same to many people. At least he recognized how good the score by Jerry Goldsmith was.
As in the first book, I noticed some errors which devalue this book as a research resource. For example, at one point, the co-writer of the first Star Trek movie is referred to as David [sic] Livingston when it should have been Harold Livingston. (The confusion is understandable given that a David Livingston did work on Next Gen.) Christopher Lloyd’s character in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is referred to at one point as Captain Kluge [sic] rather than Captain Kruge. Director Richard Colla is referenced as Robert [sic] Colla. There are several other names misspelled that I spotted on cursory reading, but I’ll leave you with one more. There are several instances where the “sexy” Seven of Nine is said to have been portrayed by Jeri Taylor [sic]. We all know that should be Jeri Ryan. (Jeri Taylor did executive produce Next Gen and Voyager, and also co-created the latter.) Thankfully, Khan is not misspelled anywhere. (Being a grammar-Cardassian, I have to mention the occurrence of “color palate [sic].”)
The author commented on my review of his first book, so I would hope that he had read my quibble on his claim of the replicator being used on the Original Series; however, he maintains his stance in this book. So I consulted The Star Trek Encyclopedia – A Reference Guide to the Future published in 1994 and authorized by Paramount. In its entry for replicator: “Replicators were apparently not in use during Captain Kirk’s day, unless the food slots seen on his ship were indeed replicators.” At this point, you might be thinking, okay, there’s a possibility that the food slots were replicators. However, according to the updated and expanded edition of the encyclopedia published in 1997: “‘Flashback’ [VGR] establishes that replicators were not in use aboard Federation starships in Captain Kirk’s day, suggesting that the food slots on his ship were some kind of mechanical delivery or preparation system.” I rest my case!
I only came across one other fact that I question. The author claims that no actual whales were filmed for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and implies there’s no actual whale footage in the film. But I believe there’s an actual shot of a whale breaching the surface near the end of the movie. This could be a stock shot in which case the author would be technically correct in what he’s written. And people do mistake the remote controlled underwater whale models as real whales.
The author does have some interesting observations that made me think. For example, it’s common Trekkie knowledge that originally, Marina Sirtis auditioned for the security officer role and Denise Crosby for the counselor role on Next Gen. Gene Roddenberry decided they should switch their characters between the two. Had he not done this, Crosby’s early departure would have either resulted in a new actor/actress cast as the counselor or the counselor role eliminated. (I think it’s safe to assume that Crosby would have found the Counselor Troi role as undemanding as the Tasha Yar role was.) Also Michael Dorn’s Klingon character would never have gained prominence as the chief of security. And adding another female, Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan, to the cast might not have been considered. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see this alternate universe when Next Gen gets rebooted.
There’s a chapter on fan-made Star Trek on video. I wanted to mention a recent production, Star Trek Continues, which is not covered in the book. The episode “Pilgrim of Eternity” with Michael Forrest in his Original Series role as Apollo is awesome.
Of the 400 pages in this book, I was disappointed that only 7 of them covered the years after Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled. This means that J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009) gets scant coverage. I would have liked details concerning Paramount’s discussions with Sam Raimi before J.J. Abrams was approached. The author refers to the “slings and arrows hurled at it by traditionalist fans,” so he does acknowledge the people like me who did not receive Star Trek (2009) with high regard. I, however, wouldn’t categorize myself as being traditionalist, but I do see how that word could be applied to fans that weren’t willing to see the appeal of this new version of Star Trek.
Having the Original Series as my favorite Star Trek series probably accounts for my liking the previous book more than this one. If you’re a fan of Next Gen or the Star Trek movies, then you’ll like this book more. If your favorite Star Trek series is Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or Enterprise, then I think you’re bound to be disappointed by this book. I suppose there will be a chance to redress the situation when plans for a Star Trek FAQ 3.0 begin. — Reed