Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Star Trek: The 50-Year Mission: The First 25 Years by Altman & Gross

    • The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman
    • Published June 28, 2016
    • Other work by authors together: The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The next Generation to J.J. Abrams: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek
    • Separately they have written numerous books on Star Trek and its spin-offs as well as other TV shows and movies.

    • See title.
    • Both of the authors have had ties to Star Trek over the years, interviewing numerous cast and crew of the TV and movie series.
    • This book takes those interviews and sorts them in a chronological scheme. Starting with the original creation of the 1966 TV series by Gene Roddenberry through the 6th film featuring the original crew, all bases are covered.

    • I have mentioned before how the oral history is not my favorite thing to read. I love Star Trek and most of its incarnations though.
      • I have not yet watched every single episode of the original series but I have seen most of them. I have watched every episode of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine (my personal fave), Voyager and Enterprise. I have seen 9 out of 10 of the movies, all except the last one (Nemesis) and I have only seen the first movie from the re-boot. 
      • I have no recall of watching the animated series but my brother and I were big Saturday morning cartoon watchers and I imagine we saw a few episodes. If so, it would have been my introduction to Star Trek, one I can't remember!
    • My issue with oral histories are these:
      •  You don't know when the interviews occurred.
        • An interview with William Shatner in 1968 would be different from an interview in the 1990s, say.
        • Several of the early participants have since died, some as long ago as the 1960s and 1970s, so that's always a bit disconcerting.
      • You lose the context when you have only snippets of interviews parceled out.
      • You are at the mercy of the editors who decide which tidbits to parcel out.
    • The authors did help by inserting several sections of text to clarify some things. It was in a smaller, different font than the interviews which I found distracting. A different font is fine but smaller is not good for old fogey eyeballs!
    • There are a plethora of comments from Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, several of the producers and writers but a mere smattering from the other actors.
      • I would have loved more perspective from Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett and George Takei, who got very few lines overall. Perhaps they weren't interviewed as much by the authors?
      • Yvonne Craig, a guest star on the original series, had some great comments.
    • The early years of the saga are a constant litany of backstabbing, jealousy and bitching from the men.
      • As such, so much of it was repetitive. On EVERY series or movie Shatner and Nimoy get pissy about something. And Gene Roddenberry is either loved or loathed depending on who is commenting. Gene apparently complained a lot and alienated the networks and his producers. But just a few examples would have been enough of all this.
      • I think the next book in the series might benefit from having to cover so many actors and series that the repetition factor should be limited.
    • I didn't learn much that is new but I did enjoy hearing from some of the women who worked in the background who were working in a male-dominated, misogynistic field.
      • I knew this fact but the book did expound on it more and that was the fact that Star Trek would never have happened without Lucille Ball!
        • Lucy ran Desilu in the 1960s and the studio wanted more programs that were company-owned rather than renting out studio space to other shows.
        • She was the one who overrode her board of directors to green light Star Trek!
        • She eventually sold out to Gulf & Western because Desilu was cash poor. Many comments say that if she could have held out financially for 6 more months she would have had complete control over the two most syndicated shows ever: I Love Lucy and Star Trek.
    • Recommended for Star Trek fans only.


  1. Who is "Lucille Ball?" What did "Yvonne Craig" say that was so interesting? What ever happened to "Gulf & Western?" "Desilu" also owned one of my favorites. "Mission: Impossible."

    1. Gulf & Western became Paramount Television, owned by Paramount Pictures. Yes, Desilu did produce "Mission: Impossible" too but it was not as expensive to produce as "Star Trek" and it didn't make enough money early on to save the studio for Lucy to hang on to it.
      Yvonne Craig heavily criticized everyone which was fun to read. She went from playing Batgirl on "Batman" to playing a green-skinned alien on "Star Trek".
      If you don't know who Lucy is then you must be a 51-year-old millenial!