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A Brief Guide To Star Trek by Brian J. Robb

01/05/2012. Contributed by Aidan Fortune

Buy A Brief Guide To Star Trek in the USA - or Buy A Brief Guide To Star Trek in the UK

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pub: Constable Robinson. 288 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84901-514-1.

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Just under five decades of ‘Star Trek’ history in 265 pages? Make it so. Taking us all the way from the show’s beginnings in 1966 to JJ Abrams’ 2009 reboot, this book covers the genesis of each incarnation, the challenges it faced and the cultural barriers it overcame.

Brian J. Robb was the editor of ‘Star Trek Magazine’ for over ten years and he lets his encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject shine without being smug or too knowing. Anecdotes whizz by a warp speed, reminding me of an old comedy adage, ‘if you don’t like this joke, you won’t have to wait too long for the next one’.

Being a devoted ‘Star Trek’ fan for nearly 20 years, I expected to know most of the stories, all the little winks and nudges that usually come in books like this. But I was pleasantly surprised to find this was not the case. Robb provides a no-holds barred look at ‘Star Trek’, its creator Gene Roddenberry and the cast that doesn’t sugar coat the challenges it faced throughout its existence, along with some interesting tales about the show and movies.

Particularly sad is the account of how Roddenberry became more removed from the product as he became older and more enfeebled. When he first started out on ‘Star Trek’ back in the early sixties, he was full of life and a vibrant character, able to talk his way around most problems. As he worked on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ in the late 80s, he wasn’t able to contribute as much and found himself being phased out by the studio and the new producers.

Robb is particularly critical of the later series such as ‘Voyager’ and ‘Enterprise’ and it’s apparent how much it pains him to see something he loves decline in quality and popularity, limping along to its temporary demise.

As he tackles the new films, there is almost a sense that although he doesn’t want to have his heart broken again, he is hopeful for the future. Robb also addresses the books that helped expand the Star Trek universe and allow fans contribute to it.

This book won’t tell you everything you need to know about ‘Star Trek’, that’s the job of the numerous other episode guides and encyclopaedias out there. You won’t find star dates or names of redshirts killed off in the fourth episode in the third season of the original series (trick question, they were unnamed). What you will find is an honest and excellent source of information about the work that went into the series that is still surviving after almost 50 years.

Aidan Fortune

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