Star Trek FAQ
Mark Clark (Applause Theatre and Cinema Books 2012, Trade Paperback) 413 pages, illustrated and indexed $19.99 cover price
Like a whiskey-voiced drunkard rising from his seat at the back of his first AA meeting, I hereby confess to this room of readers that I am in fact one of Them. My name is Hubert and I'm a Trekaholic. Except for the last of the five Star Trek TV series, Enterprise (which for some God only knows reason seemed to feature crew members lathering up and giving each other hot oil massages every episode) I have seen every episode broadcast probably at least twice. I know I've seen every one of the feature films at least twice and the ones featuring the original Kirk and Spock crew many times more than that, although I think I've kept the numbers in single digits. If I add up an estimate of all those hours -
What are you crazy? If I added up all those hours, inevitably I'd start comparing them to: Hours Not Spent Writing Great Novels, or Hours Not Spent Solving the Middle East Crisis, or even Hours Not Spent Watching The West Wing. My self-image is a fragile mirror and it would never withstand such a battering. Not even with shields up and photon torpedoes locked and loaded.
Mark Clark promises in the introduction to Star Trek FAQ that, 'I'm convinced you'll find the results (of his book) exhilarating whether this is the first Star Trek book you've read or the fiftieth.' I'm more in the latter category - more hours spent Not Perfecting Hollandaise Sauce. Yet, I've had a helluva lot of fun being a Trekkie, a term Clark eschews.
To digress for a moment (how usual of me), I've never quite understood why Trekkies blanch at the term; as though Trekker was somehow different. Is the er sound so much better than the ee sound? Fan, as many a pedant has noted, is short for fanatic; follower implies that one is not a leader; buff sounds like you're naked and aficionado is utterly pretentious. If anyone ever says to you that he is an aficionado of something, ask him the results of his most recent bullfight.
The Trekkiness of being a Trekkie can affect one's life in various mirthful ways. As a high school student in the Dramatic Arts program it came time for us to make masks in the grand Greek tradition. First, I slightly cheated by using a hockey goaltender's mask as the frame on which to glop all that Plaster of Paris dripping tissue rather than ever-popping balloons. I barely got that one past teacher's dark gaze, but that early embrace of technology gave me two weeks free to read and generally make a nuisance of myself with fellow students. Oh, the final touch was to build up Vulcan eyebrows and I made a nifty set of pointed ears.
There are reasons I have never performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company. That was one of them.
On the other hand, decades later when I was running my own repertory company and performing the works of Chekhov (Anton, not the Beatle-haired fellow who kept saying, 'Kiptin! Kiptin!') to delighted audiences of close friends, maiden aunts and comped-in homeless people, we discovered that there was a good dollar to be made performing as Star Trek characters at fairs, libraries and local conventions. And yes, I was Spock. If you can't be cool, play cool.
That all became a bit of a drudge and came to a head one drizzling afternoon during the annual Christmas Parade. We'd tarted up the back of a pick-up truck as the Enterprise - we were all high as kites after painting the warp engine nacelles in an unventilated basement the night before - the operative word being 'after'. In any event, it did rain in December in northern Canada and so we were nicely soaked after the two and a half hours; two and a half hours of listening to one of my dearest friends, Mike Kearney waving from the captain's chair as Kirk, smiling happily while muttering, 'Worship Satan, Kiddies!' When Mike went to see the movie Star Trek:Generations, he stood in the theatre and applauded when James T. Kirk died at the end. I think he was tired of being typecast.
Getting back to the book at hand, Clark has written what I like to call a Perfect Bathroom Companion. There is absolutely no need or purpose for the reader to be all dull and linear about it, starting at page one and clopping along in order. Rather, release your wild side ya krazy lug!, and just dip away. A general flipping and stopping will land you at a chapter named Obsession. (A Chapter Named Obsession - pity Tennessee Williams never thought of that one). There one can learn about the Conventions, the Fanzines, thankfully not the erotic fan fiction, and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's attempts to re-create Star Trek's success with The Questor Tapes. What, you don't remember that one? No worries, no one else does either.
Star Trek FAQ is completely about the original series, which is fair enough. One, smart authors always leave themselves room for a sequel. Two, were Clark to start including backstage shenanigans, commentaries on great episodes, and smiles and chuckles derived from bloopers and gaffes in four more series this book would make Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples look like a Haiku.
And besides, many things are great but few are classics. Star Trek as it was from 1966-1969 was one of the latter. It scarcely matters that it only ran for 79 episodes with declining ratings; The Honeymooners ran for just 39 half-hours in one season and ended up at number 19 in the ratings. Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner series went to start to finish in 17 broadcast hours in the 1967-68 season and is still the smartest thing I've ever seen on television.
Getting back to Clark's original promise of exhilaration; yes he succeeds. I for one certainly don't mind the bitchy anecdotes of supporting players aimed at William Shatner, or the howling rants of Harlan Ellison damning Gene Roddenberry to hell. The book, like the whole Trekkie experience, can be neatly summed in Kirk's final words, the ones that lifted Mike Kearney out of his seat:
Be seeing you.
(To order your own copy of this entertaining read, order it HERE.)