Boarding The Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek Edited By David Gerrold and Robert J. Sawyer
I have been, and always shall be a Trekkie…
As we approach the 50th Anniversary of the phenomenon called Star Trek, I cannot help thinking about how much that show has shaped my life and the influence it has had on me, and all completely for the good, I might add. I cannot tell you how many times I have watched each and every episode of the show over and over again and still enjoy it as much now as I did when I was a youngster growing up during the heady years of the space-race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., and while there were frequent voyages of astronauts launching on rockets, original series Star Trek was on to watch weekly, and later daily to fill the gaps between NASA missions.
I continue to watch the original series at least once or twice a year, start to finish, every episode good or bad, and I continue loving it. I have said before that sitting down to watch these shows is like getting a visit from an old friend that I haven’t seen for a long time. It is comfortable and fun.
I have also read numerous books on Star Trek including numerous making of, philosophy of, science of, biographies of, etc. and so on but never really gave much thought as to the meaning of the show and the influence it has had on the greater world. I have heard much on the “Roddenberry Vision” and the message that he intentionally, or unintentionally, meant for us to find in the shows, that is, until now.
Recently, I received an e-mail from a representative of BenBella Books inviting me to be a part of something called a blog tour. It is an honor to participate in this and I deeply appreciate the opportunity to help promo the re-release of Boarding the Enterprise, a truly unique book, at least as far as the reading I have done on the subject of original series Trek.
So first off, let me explain what Boarding the Enterprise isn’t; it isn’t a rehashing of all of those stories we have heard many times about how Gene Roddenberry sold his show, it isn’t all about those behind the scenes stories that we have heard many times, it isn’t an expose of how the actors got along, or didn’t. This book is a collection of essays written by writers and scholars that deals mostly with the influence that Star Trek has had on us as Trekkies/Trekkers individually, on television as we see it today, and on society in general.
Boarding the Enterprise contains thirteen essays written by men and women who either have been involved with Star Trek directly, or who have been influenced by it in some way that inspired them to go into their chosen profession because of the show. Nearly every essay contains references to events that have taken place along with specific references to episodes that are relevant to the commentary; some even quote specific scenes as they relate to the author’s material. Add to that the introduction by Robert J. Sawyer, and a foreword by David Gerrold, two award winning Sci-Fi writers and you get what is, in my opinion, a great read.
One example of a very fine essay included in this volume is titled “The Prime Question” penned by Eric Green. Green discusses how original series Star Trek either dealt with, or danced around their own “Prime Directive.” In his essay he cites numerous episodes including “Friday’s Child,” “Plato’s Stepchildren,” “Return of the Archons,” and even “Spock’s Brain” as well as many others as examples of how the Prime Directive was either applied or ignored depending on the situation. Green also makes it more relevant by citing the realistic relationship between governments in the real world and how such a directive, if it were to be adopted, might help relations in our own tension filled world. In my humble opinion, this essay alone is worth the price of the book.
In another essay by Dorothy Fontana, she neatly sums up what made Star Trek stand out among other science fiction shows on the air around the same time as Star Trek. Two such examples were Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space, both of which were, more or less, “monster of the week” shows, while at the same time Star Trek was more of an anthology show in with a different story every week. In Fontana’s words (used by permission):
“Our tales weren’t like that (i.e. Monster of the week). Gene Roddenberry and the Star Trek writers were more interested in stories that reflected the issues and problems of our times. We were the only show on the air that managed not just one, but several episodes that examined aspects of the Vietnam War during a time when the networks had decreed the subject absolutely taboo for anyone else. Against a backdrop of science fiction, we talked about racial discrimination, determining one’s own future, defending personal and national freedoms, compassion, love and friendship that held against all odds. Star Trek told stories of how Man could be far better than he was, how there could be a better future if we could only reach for it and build it.”
“One network executive, frustrated by our insistence on honesty in the science and truth in the stories, finally blurted out in a meeting, “You people think that ship is really up there!””
And there it is in a nutshell. Why do we keep watching this show, introducing to our kids, talking about it, attending conventions about it, dressing up as our favorite characters? It is because the writers and people involved with the show helped us believe that the Enterprise was real, and still is, and it reflects the best of what we can, as humans, can be.
One does not have to be an academic to appreciate what is contained in these pages and will gain a better understanding of the social and political aspects of Star Trek, and the reader of this work will gain an even better appreciation behind the creativity that went into the show, and may also be better able to define what the meaning of Star Trek is on a personal level. I give this book my highest recommendations for one that should be added to a library containing non-fiction books on Star Trek.
*** RED ALERT! ***
I have been authorized to give away two copies of Boarding The Enterprise by BenBella Books! If you would like to participate, please send me an e-mail with your name and e-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will have a random drawing and notify the recipients by e-mail on June 5th, 2016. This offer is limited to residents of the United States and Canada.
Well, there it is…