Book review: Star Trek FAQ by Mark Clark
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A comprehensive book full of fascinating behind-the-scenes knowledge about the original Star Trek...
You might think that with the hundreds, if not thousands, of books that have been written about Gene Roddenberry's moderately successful 1960s television show Star Trek, from memoirs to manuals, episode guides to encyclopedias, and all points in between, that the universe needs another one like the Enterprise needed another Tribble in the original Trek episode 'The Trouble With Tribbles'. It is precisely this question that author and screenwriter David Gerrold, who penned that classic story, asks in his foreword to Mark Clark's recently published Star Trek FAQ tome (released in June 2012 by Applause Theatre & Cinema Books), and one that Clark has clearly thought long and hard about, as is evident by the answer he gives in his introduction.
Mr Gerrold's answer not only justifies Star Trek FAQ's existence, but provides a solid argument as to why this one may just be the most useful of them all. The clue to this claim lies in the book's subtitle:
"Everything Left To Know About The First Voyages of the Starship Enterprise"...
You see, like most of us who are partial to the adventures of Captain Kirk and his groundbreaking space-exploring amigos, Clark has read an awful lot of books on the subject, not to mention waded his way through countless websites and fanzines and attended numerous conventions, and believes that the time has come for a distillation of the galaxy full of Star Trek information out there. The purpose of Star Trek FAQ, then, is to pull together all of the facts, to collate them in one handy guide that can either be read all the way through, or dipped in and out of at will, so that Trekkies, Trekkers or just plain old fans can easily locate that piece of information that's on the tip of their tongue without spending a week ploughing through their library of books.
"In short, however many books you have on Trek, if you're a fan then this is the definitive reference work..."
Covering the years 1921, the year of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's birth, to 1978, when it was announced that Star Trek would be returning as a feature film, Clark appears to have succeeded in sifting through the vast amount of information out there and presenting just about every relevant and interesting fact about original Trek that has ever been committed to the public domain. Now I freely admit that I'm not a hardcore devotee of the original voyages of the Starship Enterprise, but I have read a good number of books on the subject and like to think that I know considerably more than your average man in the street – I know a Gorn from a Khan and the difference between interstellar and intergalactic travel (and Team Troi did do Shadowlocked proud at the recent Star Trek: The Next Interrogation event). Despite this, Clark still managed to impress me with dozens of informative and entertaining nuggets that I had never come across, and so I'm happy to agree with his description of the book as a distillation, and also as a gateway to the quite literally billions of other words on the subject of original Star Trek that are out there.
For instance, I was unaware that Lucille Ball, who as a founder of Desilu Productions along with her then husband Desi Arnaz, who also starred alongside her in the seminal US sitcom I Love Lucy, played such a large behind the scenes part in getting Trek to the small screen in the first place, or that original pilot 'The Cage' cost over six hundred thousand dollars to produce back then, equating to almost $4.5 million in today's money. Similarly, I had no idea that Geroge Takei spent the duration of World War II in what were effectively concentration camps based in Oregon with his parents, and that but for the strong belief that his father had in the American way of life, despite their branding as 'disloyals', the man who became Mr Sulu might well have followed a very different path in life.
"...presenting just about every relevant and interesting fact about original Trek that has ever been committed to the public domain."
It is revelations like this that elevate Clark's book into the realms of being essential, as he is never afraid to shine a light on the darker side of Trek history providing there is documentary evidence to support it, and so Star Trek FAQ might just be the first book to really tell it how it was, warts and all.
To fully do this book justice here would entail a review almost as long as the publication itself, but speaking as a fan not only of Trek, but of a great many other films and television series, Clark has produced exactly the sort of handy reference resource that I would want for everything that I'm into. And it doesn't stop with this book, either, I'm happy to report. Coming next year in the same FAQ series is Clark's distillation of Trek in the 80s and 90s, including the motion pictures and The Next Generation, something that I am eagerly looking forward to.
In short, however many books you have on Trek, if you're a fan then this is the definitive reference work and handy fact finder that you've been looking for (oh, hang on, that's a different franchise) and an essential, and possibly final, addition to your collection.
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