September 8th, marked the 50th anniversary of the first broadcasting of Star Trek, and the beginning of an enduring cultural phenomenon. I chose to mark the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise in this post not only because I was a big time trekker in my teens, who was inspired by its optimistic vision of the future, but also because I owe a big debt to the television series and paperback novels for helping me learn English as a second language. Fans can rejoice that a new series is on the horizon but we can also take comfort in the fact that the library has a lot of material in its collections covering its diverse crews and eras for us to keep on trekking.
There are of course the television series (five up to now) and motion pictures, starting with the classic from the 1960’s that started it all to the most recent prequel series Enterprise with Captain Archer at the helm. The library has also all the feature films available on DVD or Blu-Ray, which means you can re-discover old favourites or discover them for the first time.
Despite the enduring impact of the shows and movies, the Star Trek universe owes a big debt to the novels that sustained its fanbase and help build its universe to the extent that it did. Not only do these stories have helped flesh out characters and worlds beyond what was on-screen, they also serve to this day to continue the lives and careers of the different crews after their shows ended, extending the longevity of the series and their casts. A recent release is the Next Generation/Deep Space Nine crossover novel The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack which tells the story of Captain Picard and his crew’s effort to rebuild the Cardassian homeworld with the help of Ambassador Garak (promoted at the end of the DS9 TV series), despite efforts from factions hostile to a peaceful future with the Federation. In A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack, both crew feverishly work to avert the slow extinction of an entire species, fighting not only on the scientific front, but also the political one as different governments maneuver to use the crisis to their respective gains.
As much as we loved the action, humor and camaraderie of the shows, the Star Trek universe has also garnered respect for its attempt to create a coherent vision of the future mostly based on solid science that more often than not correctly anticipated present societal and technological trends and is credited for directly inspiring technological innovations (notably cell phones and portable tablet computers). This in turn created literature exploring the mythology and fictional universe of the show, like the Star Trek Encyclopedia, while other non-fiction works like Star Trek: the Official Guide to Our Universe or The Star Trek Book set out describing the real science behind the fiction. Sure, technobabble used as plot devices that didn’t always made sense was often used, but such books reflect how the shows’ writers tried to plausibly address real scientific concepts as well, making it what science fiction at its best is all about.
But what if you are interested in the lives of actors themselves? Leonard Nimoy, the actor best known for his portrayal of Commander Spock past away recently, and like some of his fellow “crew member”, he struggled with the challenges of newfound fame and of being typecasted into this one role. His friend and colleague William Shatner relates in his newest book Leonard how they met on the set of another television show before their lives became irrevocably linked for over five decades, and shares stories from the people who knew him best to celebrate his
life. Kate Mulgrew also gained international fame as Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager, but in her memoir Born With Teeth, she tells of her struggles to establish herself as an actress despite many challenges, including difficult family issues, and her ongoing career in television.
Finally we must not forget to include the man who started it all with his revolutionary concept of “a wagon train to the stars”: Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. In addition to an authorized biography, the library has Gene Roddenberry : the last conversation Portraits of American genius by Yvonne Fern and deals with the author’s interactions with Gene during the last year of his life, presenting through their discussion his views on humanity and its future that shaped his vision of the show.
Whether you are a diehard fan of Kirk’s original 5-year mission or prefer the adventures that followed in the next following decades, there is ample trek treasures available at the library. May there be 50 more years of trekking through the stars.