Story: Once upon a time, Starfleet Headquarters was a vast space station floating in the space between two of the galaxy’s spiral arms. Starfleet tug ships hauled enormous cylindrical spaceliners, loaded with passengers, from destination to destination. Dozens of Constitution-class starships roamed the final frontier, while the next big design on Starfleet’s drawing boards was a triple-warp-engine dreadnought designed to better protect Federation interests from the Klingons – just in case the Organians blinked. Oh, and tricorders were full of big honkin’ transistors and capacitors, too – so long as you happened to be looking at the declassified 23rd century documents that wound up in the hands of a 20th century publisher after a mysterious time-travel mishap.
Review: The first professional publication of its kind (and certainly of its scope), Franz Joseph’s “Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual” extrapolated the future of Kirk and Spock based on the information available at the time. Which, in 1975, was 79 hours of television, and a couple dozen animated stories. Though Paramount Pictures and Gene Roddenberry were quietly ramping up their efforts to bring Star Trek to the big screen that year, it would be a long and torturous process – and nothing that the public would hear about for at least another two years.
And though a great many of this book’s “facts” were rendered obsolete within the first reel of Star Trek: The Motion Picture almost exactly four years later, this book was gospel for the longest time. (And according to some very interesting archival material at Trekplace.com, Roddenberry was impressed enough with both this book and the same author’s set of Enterprise blueprints that Franz Joseph was employed on one of Roddenberry’s next projects – though under somewhat disquieting circumstances where due credit and pay were concerned.)
The interior blueprints and specifications for locales such as the main bridge are the real meat of the “Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual” – official or not, given the number of times that episodes of modern Star Trek have called for at least partial reconstructions of the Enterprise bridge, you can bet that this book has been referred to by the shows’ production teams. And while all of this painstaking detail may be passÃ¨ in the age of Adobe Illustrator and various CAD and 3D programs, it’s worth noting that the author of this book had to draw and lay out every page by hand – the bulk of the book was handed in to the publisher as camera-ready art. When one considers that this is still the thickest Star Trek “technical” document on the market, it’s easy to appreciate the impressive attention to detail and imagination that went into it.
As we head into a different kind of final frontier – one where the Star Trek franchise will, for the forseeable future, be steered by professionally published print fiction and other, non-film media after the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise fades to black – this book serves as a reminder of some of fan-written/fan-illustrated fiction’s best possible applications, filling in the gaps when there seemed to be nothing on the horizon that would contravene those inventions, and yet leaving enough gaps of its own open to serve as a springboard for the imagination. The “Starfleet Technical Manual” is fantastic example of that – anyone looking to do something like it in the future would do well to look back on it as an example, despite those instances where it has been rendered obsolete.
Author / Illustrator: Franz Joseph
Pages: 190 pages