Back in July I read and reviewed Volume 1 of The Fifty-Year Mission, the newly-released “oral history” of Star Trek by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross. Even though it covered well-worn ground, Volume 1 was absolutely entertaining – a great supplement to more serious, thorough reference books like These Are The Voyages.
Volume 2 covers TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise and the JJ-verse films, including a lot of behind-the-scenes discussions and drama that’s not been explored in other books. That means it has the potential to keep even the most-hard-core Star Trek fans engaged.
The sections on TNG are particularly well-done, featuring producers, directors, writers and cultural critics’ thoughts on key episodes, overall messages and the often fraught atmosphere in the writers’ room.
For the slightly less die-hard fans, I would have suggested one change. The book kicks right off with the writers’ room drama of Season 1 and 2 TNG, the same kind of material that’s covered in William Shatner’s documentary Chaos on the Bridge, only even more shocking (TW for discussions of sexism and racism behind the scenes in that chapter). It’s fascinating reading but I think the flow would have worked better if that chapter was switched with the next, more positive section, on the major messages of TNG.
I also wanted a little more content in the final chapter on where Star Trek is going now, from a more diverse group of commentators.
The Enterprise chapter felt a little thin in terms of discussing the actual episodes – only “In a Mirror, Darkly” and “These Are The Voyages…” really get examined – but there’s a lot of great insight provided into the writers’ room ideas, processes and politics.
As with Volume 1, I wished the book had included dates on the speakers’ quotes to make it more useful as a reference. But overall, The Fifty-Year Mission is an essential read for Star Trek fans who want to hear what it was like behind the scenes of their favourite series and movies, right from the horse’s mouth.
Disclosure: I was provided an advance copy of both volumes of this book by the publishers.