BooksStar Trek

Star Trek: The Art Of The Film by Mark Cotta Vaz (book review).

Just in case you’re getting withdrawal symptoms as to why there are no film books for the second ‘Star Trek’ film, ‘Countdown To Darkness’, this is a reminder for those who didn’t buy this book the first time that Mark Cotta Vaz’ book, ‘Star Trek: The Art Of The Film’ is still available. As I doubt if they re-invented the Enterprise and its equipment for the second film, much of it is still valid, providing enough visual data for the scratch-build model-maker to compete with CGI, as well as enough visuals to keep any Trek fan happy.


What surprised me most of all that there were several expensive scenes filmed but edited out of the final film. Granted JJ Abrams has been busy this past 18 months or so, it does make me wonder if there’s a special edition in the works somewhere down the line. The Rura Penthe scene looks like it was far too expensive just to be ditched. I re-watched the film after reading this book and although I can see it being omitted for pace, it could probably still work. Seeing the designs but not filmed for a cantina instead of the ice planet station where Kirk meets Scott is a sharp contrast to the film. The change makes sense as otherwise all Kirk would have had to have done was to steal another spaceship rather than a demonstration of transporter function to a moving starship. It did make me wonder just how fast the Enterprise was travelling considering that it was still within range after stranding Kirk.

Looking more closely at the designs of the Enterprise, I’m surprised no one thought to consider making it look longer or at least some of the its components like the assembly below the saucer. Again, looking at the film again, the Enterprise did look awfully clumsy when avoiding space debris that made it lose its elegance.

Considering that anti-gravity devices exist in the ‘Star Trek’ universe, having the Enterprise built on Earth isn’t that hard to grasp although I would have that getting it into orbit might have been a problem considering that once up it was never likely to enter a planet again. I was rather amused that the engine room sets were actually a Budweiser beer plant. No wonder Scott had a happy face leaving the piping. Whether or not real warp engines would resemble a distillery is only something you can decide. Those pipes seem more decorative than useful for cooling the engines down. For the record, releasing excess heat to space isn’t actually very practical because space doesn’t conduct heat away but would be carried with the Enterprise at speed so maybe there is some sense there to use that heat.

Seeing Leonard Nimoy being made up as the elder Spock was interesting, especially as his wig was actually grayer than his own hair. By the way, don’t forget to look under the dustcover on both sides of the book.

The designers worked out from the mandate to make the sets look functional as well as have some resemblance to the original series with a dose of modern technology. With an effective budget, all things are possible and we all saw the result on the screen or DVD.

As I pointed out above, I re-watched the film after reading the book and got a greater appreciation of the detail that I read. I’m still puzzled why more wasn’t done with the big screen on the bridge or even showing that kind of perspective, even as an occasional overlay but that’s probably a small point until I see what is done in the second film.

Although the text overall is light, it is made up for by the number of pictures. It fulfils my ideal kind of ‘Making Of…’ book by showing the design next to the scene used in the film so you can see how close they are. The fact that they allowed material that was filmed but not used to be shown can also be seen as a means to scotch rumours that would bound to pass around the Trek network although I still think it’ll get circulated sooner or later. If anything, what is more surprising is the lack of a follow-up book for ‘Countdown To Darkness’. Instead, like me, you’ll have to savour this book.

GF Willmetts

August 2013

(pub: Titan Books. 160 page large hardback. Price: £24.99 (UK), $29.95 (US), $37.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-84856-620-0)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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