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‘Boarding the Enterprise: Anniversary Edition’ – Book Review

Fifty years ago, the Enterprise first embarked on her five-year mission, taking interstellar explorers from their living rooms on a journey through the stars.  There was a lot that made the show unique, not the least of which was because a show that was openly “failing” going into its third season has become a force unto itself, inspiring a fandom that espouses continuously the remarkable nature of its stories (this writer included).  Though I’m more at home in the 24th century with Picard and the Galaxy and Sovereign class ships, there’s no denying that without the original adventures of a slow-speaking, but quick-acting, captain, his Bilbo-loving First Officer, and their intrepid crew, there wouldn’t be a United Federation of Planets, any continuation of the name Enterprise, or such a bright future predicted in sci-fi.

Boarding the Enterprise is a collection of essays written by prominent members of the sci-fi community originally written for the 40th anniversary of Star Trek and re-released by BenBella Books with a new forward for the 50th.  Included in these essays are viewpoints on the many different aspects of the Star Trek phenomenon, from the letter writing campaign that saved the series after its first disappointing season, to the role that syndication played in keeping the dream alive, to themes explored in the series like “what is a person” and “how does that transporter work?,” to how it was the only thing on television openly questioning and criticizing the Vietnam War, and a lot more in between.  Regardless how big a fan you are or how much you’ve read, there are bound to be some insights in here that will make you look at it in a whole new light.  There were a few for me that made me recognize the incredible amount of work that went into turning a few sets and some special effects into a phenomenon that would stretch into a half-century of entertainment and fandom.

This is really not a book that you’ll blow through in a weekend.  There’s a lot of thought and analysis behind every essay, and each one will want to sit with you for a while and continue to drop thoughts into your consciousness.  I went back to those that I could once I had gone through my first pass and recognized ideas that hadn’t quite stuck with me before.  The essays are incredibly varied, which is awesome because it’s interesting to see how so many minds can approach the same stimulus and pull such diverse and unique threads of conversation from each of them.

I’ll admit the fan fiction essay was one that took me by surprise in quite a few ways, and though I still hold the same opinion on the subject as I had before, it was interesting to hear the perspective in a well-written and impassioned manner.  There are a few of these essays that do the same thing: they’ll make you look at an aspect of the show’s production or content in a new way, and it never feels like they’re talking down to the reader at all.  Much like the show itself, these essays are written without insulting the intelligence of its intended audience and are very engaging because of it.  I have to say that the essay “Exaggerating with Extreme Prejudice” is easily my favorite, and not just because it’s written in such a fun, laid back tone. It also takes apart every tech manual you’ve ever read and tosses the “impossibility” of warp drive  or the transporter by admitting that there’s no way that they could work as advertised by the many physicists that have tried over the years and explaining how it really works.  It’s imaginative, intelligent, and an absolute blast to read.

This is a great collection for fans of any series in the canon, as it has everything to do with how good not only the show was but also the phenomenon behind it lasting ten times longer than its original mission.  There’s something in here for anyone to enjoy, so if you missed it the first time, take this slingshot around the sun and save some whales…er…essays. 

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