'Star Trek,' old school and up close
It's supposed to last all year, "Star Trek 365," a 2.5-inch thick brick of a photo book from Abrams. The publisher has a series of 365 books -- on baseball, roadside America, penguins, punk -- all without any burden of calendaring, just a whole lot of whatever. And this is a whole lot of the original "Star Trek."
Casual fans will be tempted to devour it in less than a year; I say this with authority because I am one. "Star Trek" fandom is tricky: I never went to a convention; I remember the name of only one episode ("For the World is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky"); I've seen every episode multiple times, but only serendipitously -- I don't own the DVDs. So to many people who are more devoted than I, I realize that I don't count as a fan at all. Then again, I did once dress for Halloween in a blue polyester "Star Trek" minidress and frosted lip gloss, which has got to mean something.
And when I got to the photo above, I got chills. Because it shows the actors in full costume, from a well-remembered episode, while also revealing the set. A script! A cameraman! An annoyed crew! It's oddly thrilling to see the full imaginary world of "Star Trek" intermingled with the everyday production.
The picture is from the episode "Plato's Stepchildren" (the book makes titles easy), legendary for including the first interracial kiss on broadcast television, between Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). Sadly, it was a kiss under duress -- Kirk and Uhura's actions were being forced, telekinetically, by the evil Platonians. Authors Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann, who've written other "Star Trek" books, gently try to debunk the legend. "Do they actually kiss?" they ask, concluding with, "Well...."
Each episode gets a few pages, with short text on the left page and a full-bleed photo on the right. Many of the photos revisit the series as it was experienced by those who saw it on TV. There are production stills and well-done image grabs from the episodes themselves. Nothing looks cheesy, except for the special effects, which, frozen on the page, don't have nearly the power they did on the screen, where they flitted by quickly, often with creepy music giving them extra oomph.
But the photos that are the most fun, at least for me, are those that reveal what was going on behind the scenes. The picture above shows actor Bruce Hyde -- whose appearance as Kevin Riley in "The Naked Time" featured him singing "Kathleen" one too many times -- being coached, as Hyde says, to "loosen up" by director Marc Daniels.
Just another day at the office.
The book starts with Gene Roddenberry's pitch and the original pilot, going chronologically forward, an episode at a time. The episodes are summarized effectively, so if, like me, you're wondering what exactly that horned white gorilla was, you learn it was fauna on a planet Tyree. And that while the episode was marred by atrocious hairpieces and some embarrassing dialogue for the peaceful natives, it was originally intended to be a pacifist critique of the Vietnam War.
"Star Trek 365" hits shelves -- with a whomp! -- on Sept. 1.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo credits: Top and third, CBS Studios; second, Bruce Hyde; bottom, Abrams.