Monkey Book Review – These Are the Voyages by Mark Cushman and Susan Osborne

I’m going to tell you a secret about the monkey.  When he was a wee chimp back in the early to mid 1970’s, he loved Star Trek (now known as The Original Series).  He purchased the Starfleet Technical Manual, had countless Star Trek models hanging from his ceiling and watched countless re-runs of the original series.  Went to the release of every Star Trek movie, especially enjoying the even numbered ones, and still quotes Khan on occasion. The monkey also liked “The Next Generation” but really didn’t form an interest in Voyager, Deep Space Nine, or the Enterprise prequel.

So when this simian found this three-volume compendium, he immediately snatched it up from Amazon.  And he was not disappointed!

There is one volume for each of the Seasons that Star Trek was on the air originally (1967-1969). Each book is around 500 pages and includes information on every episode individually, in addition to stories about the actors, what they did prior to being on the episode, and since then – what was going on in America at the time, and interviews with various important people in each episode including directors, cameramen and special effects staff.

If there is one thing this book is, it’s a study in minutia.  Every episode, especially for Seasons One and Two includes excerpts from the memos between Gene Roddenberry (creator), Gene L. Coon (executive producer for Seasons One and Two) and various famous writers such as Dorothy “D.C” Fontana.  Folks like Robert Justman (writer, associate producer) would dictate funny but lengthy letters about the scripts, which were transcribed by assistants and sent to Roddenberry, Coon, and others.  It is clear these people were very smart, clever, funny and really plugged into what Star Trek was attempting to do.

The book dispels the myth that Star Trek had bad ratings and thus was cancelled due to low viewership.  Each episode includes the ratings garnered as reported by Nielsen.

There are plenty of pictures from discarded film clippings and classic photographs taken backstage.

Of the three-set compendium, Season Three is the least well done.  Season One is very engaging for what it took to get the show started.  Season Two has some of the most well done and famous episodes.  By the time Season Three rolled around, the show was struggling and losing the fight with NBC to be renewed.  Gene L Coon, DC Fontana, Robert Justman and even Gene Roddenberry had left the show.  Roddenberry was disenchanted with NBC, who refused to pay for advertisements for the show, moved it to a terrible late Friday time slot, and already tried to cancel it after Season Two.  And he let his contempt show directly to the NBC executives, over and over, which is the main reason the show was eventually forcibly cancelled.  He refused to kowtow to the executives and that cost him his beloved show.

So if you really really love The Original Series, and would like to read early versions of scripts for each of the episodes, what was changed, why it was changed, what made it to the screen, and what was clipped during the edit process, this is the three-book-set for you.  If you have only a passing interested in Star Trek, this series is probably too tedious for you in terms of details.

In closing, what really saddened me is the realization that this series is nearly 50 years old, and many (most) of the original writers, directors, producers have since passed away.  Robert Justman, especially, was funny, quick and very nice to everyone.  He passed away in the early 2000’s. Scotty, Bones and now Spock have died (the actors, of course).  It made me realize how long ago it was, and why my father, who was raised in the 40’s, always thought that 1950 wasn’t that long ago.  I still think that 1975 is not that long ago; quick math makes it 40 years passed.

Monkey says, check it out, but only if you really really love the original series.

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