Star Trek: A Celebration
Written by Ben Robinson and Ian Spelling
Published by Hero Collector Books
September 21, 2021
Hardback, 256 pages
The challenge: after all this time, with so many behind-the-scenes and “making of” material that’s already out there, with the Concordance and the Compendium and everything giving us all the insights about the original Star Trek, how do you bring something new to the mix?
Ben Robinson and Ian Spelling have met the challenge with Star Trek: A Celebration. The format is somewhat limited, but I get the impression that it’s self-imposed because there’s so much out there to cover. The book looks through all three seasons of the show with brief overviews of “key episodes” as well as profiles of the main characters and members of the cast, including some of the more obscure and least-known performers such as Maggie Thrett, Celeste Yarnall, and Carey Foster. There’s even a couple of new bits of information about Mark Lenard.
This book is a collection of notes from various sources that have been previously published, and it’s an interesting mix of information. But most of it was stuff I already knew from reading other material or watching interviews and documentaries about Star Trek. I was hoping for a greater amount of new material. Perhaps I was spoiled by Marc Cushman’s trilogy of BTS books (reviewed here). That doesn’t mean this book has no value. I enjoyed reading it, and I recommend adding it to your Trek library. But it feels like the appetizer before the full meal. There’s a lot of material, but it’s mostly surface level.
Now, having said that, there’s a very interesting note in here about why Jeffrey Hunter didn’t return as Christopher Pike, and it wasn’t because of Jeffrey Hunter. And there’s a chapter on Larry Nemecek’s detective work in tracking down April Tatro fifty years after she played the human form of Isis, the feline companion to Gary Seven.
There’s also a section on James Cawley’s setup in Ticonderoga, NY, with the official CBS-licensed Star Trek Original Set Tour. Cawley’s re-purposed his Star Trek: Phase II sets into a faithful recreation of the original Desilu stages, as well as a memorabilia museum. It’s nice to see some official recognition for the set tour outside of Cawley’s own promotions work. (And you can watch Maria Foss’ interview with Cawley here.)
And I think this may be the first place where there’s any mention of why the women wore miniskirts, outside of the “it was the 60s” that we’ve always heard.
Star Trek: A Celebration is a very good supplement to add to your collection of material that examines the production aspects of the show, and it provides some new insights into things we knew — or thought we knew — about the show that started it all.