Monday, October 1, 2012

October 2012: "Star Trek: The Next Generation 365"

If you are simply looking for an ‘episode guide’ to Star Trek: The Next Generation, don’t bother buying this book. It won’t satisfy you. If you are looking for a rich, immersive journey into the production and life of TNG, then “Star Trek: The Next Generation 365” is definitely a book that is for you. Our review of the Block/Erdmann TNG retrospective follows the cut.

"Star Trek: The Next Generation 365"
by Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann
Hardcover - 744 pages
Abrams - October 2012 - $29.95

Star Trek episode guides have been through various incarnations. Some were unauthorized collections put together by fans or unlicensed publishing houses, others were classic reference works (such as “The Star Trek Compendium” by Allan Asherman). To be sure, Star Trek: The Next Generation has received its fair share of authorized and unauthorized episode coverage, most notably Larry Nemecek’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion”, most recently updated in 2003. But “Star Trek: The Next Generation 365” is in a league, and a genre, of its own.

Thank goodness these uniforms weren't used!

Authors Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann are no strangers to Star Trek. Block oversaw licensing for Paramount during the run of TNG (and beyond), and as a collaborative team, the two have published in many venues. Given their mutual love of the subject matter, and their deep, long term connection with Star Trek, the pair bring a loving retrospective of the Next Generation forward as one breaks open the pages of their latest ‘brick’.

After an engaging introduction by Ronald D. Moore, Block and Erdmann begin the TNG story with pre-production photography, insight, and behind the scenes information that, while not new, remains endearing. The same methodology permeates 365 from start to finish... sharing interviews with writers, producers, and actors that have been collected over a span of two and a half decades to give a wide-ranging exposure to what went into TNG in general, and specific episodes in particular.

Production design graphics are provided throughout.

The pages are richly illustrated with behind the scenes photos ranging from makeup tests to rehearsals, and also with screen-grabs from episodes which are the only real detraction from the book. The quality of the grabs is lacking in many instances, with obvious pixelation to be noticed, especially in pictures that are rendered full page.

However, while the photos are nice, and having little episode teasers (they can hardly be called summaries) is nice, the real value of 365 can be wrapped up in the following description: “Star Trek: The Next Generation 365” is like attending a Star Trek convention with every star, writer, director, producer, behind the scenes personage, and guest… all between two boards.

Assimilating the script...
just one example of a humorous touch
that helps TNG:365 feel like you are spending
time with actors at a convention. 
Having been to my fair share of conventions in earlier years, I have heard many of the stories presented here before, and yet reading them in this format, paired with behind the scenes pictures, was a priceless and uplifting revisitation of my own childhood. Just as I would spend each Saturday afternoon in eager anticipation of the 7 PM unveiling of the week’s syndicated TNG adventure, I spent each page of TNG 365 eagerly anticipating what would come with the next flip of the page. That anticipation was heightened because there were stories I hadn’t heard and photos I hadn’t seen, like Patrick Stewart in Picard’s costume… with a wig. Some of the stories will be completely new to many fans, and, perhaps, some of the stories will be old hat to a fraction of TNG’s fans, but having this memory brick at hand will be an enjoyable way to spend a few minutes, or an afternoon.

What Block and Erdmann have created is a Star Trek convention in a box, lovingly resurrecting memories for TNG fans who, like me, remember the giddy feeling we all got each weekend when we heard the first notes of music and the almost invariable words “Captain’s Log: Stardate…” coming forth from the screen. “Star Trek: The Next Generation 365” easily deserves a place in any Trek fan’s library.

Our special thanks to Abrams for providing a review copy of this book.

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