This compact, brick-thick Next Gen coffee table book is full of rare imagery, with some pleasingly quirky choices. Instead of over-familiar episodics we get behind-the-scenes shots, with cast and crew conferring over the script, getting make-up touched up, or simply horsing around. Patrick Stewart grins as he drapes his arms around a bunch of Borg; Jonathan Frakes is caught mid-stunt as he tumbles backwards onto a mattress; one leader greets another as President Ronald Reagan visits the set. There are also concept designs, storyboards, prop photos and miscellaneous ephemera, from the painting that hung in Picard’s ready room, to the order of service card for Gene Roddenberry’s memorial service, via the "dont's" guide for prospective writers.
The accompanying text is informed, witty and analytical. Whilst it does deliver a brief synopsis for every story, this is no episode guide – it’s something far better than that. It either goes into detail on a story, or uses it as a stepping-off point to discuss some aspect of production, and is never afraid to go to into minutiae; to spend a page discussing, say, how a particular scene was filmed, the casting of Data’s cat, or the practice of using hand doubles!
Many of the array of interviewees are writers for the series, who have real insights to offer. A vivid picture emerges of Next Gen 's writers’ room as a battleground for people with sometimes strongly opposing opinions – particularly when it came to Gene Roddenberry’s “rigid dictates” about how 24th century people should behave (one producer, Rick Berman, fiercely protected The Great Bird Of The Galaxy’s vision, while another, Ronald D Moore, argued against it).
Despite its 25th anniversary timing, this is no uncritical hagiography, either: Tracy Tormé is given space to grumble about the rewrites that turned his script for “The Royale” into a turkey; the authors rip into “Samaritan Snare” for its “idiotic plotting”; and co-writer Naren Shankar’s damning verdict on “Suspicions” is relayed uncensored: “a clusterfuck”!
Two petty details prevent Next Gen 365 attaining absolute perfection. Firstly, that suffix. It makes sense on entries in this long-running Abrams series (which has previously tackled everything from the original Star Trek to punk, The Beatles and the New York Yankees) which look at 365 days of a phenomenon, but feels a bit baffling when applied to seven seasons of a TV show. Given that it covers every aspect of the show, Star Trek 360° would be more appropriate. Secondly, a small percentage of the images are disappointingly poor: in the absence of appropriate stills, they've made do with screengrabbed images which simply look too soft and blurry blown up in print.
No matter, though, because in every other respect, this is a magnificent piece of work. Crammed with fascinating facts and amusing anecdotes, this is a book to keep close to the telly to consult whenever you revisit an episode, but also one which you can casually dip into at any time.
Click on "Next" to see more photos from the book, and read ten bits of trivia gleaned from it.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
TEN BITS OF TRIVIA FROM STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION 365
Producer Brannon Braga had a sign on his office door reading “The Prince Of Darkness”.
The first time incoming script editor Ronald D Moore met Patrick Stewart, the actor told him Picard, “didn’t do enough screwing and shooting”.
In the writers’ room, the process of various hands knocking a draft script into a fit state for production was referred to as “gangbanging”.
Producer Michael Piller’s mother wrote the official theme song of baseball team the New York Mets.
When Ron Moore hired Patrick Massett as a writer on Battlestar Galactica he had absolutely no idea that he’d previously played a Klingon called Duras on Next Gen – a character Moore created!
The fish in the tank in Picard’s ready room was called Livingston, after production manager/producer David Livingston.
Two characters in the episode “Masks” – Korgano and Ihat – were named after Billy Corgan and James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins.
Beth Woods got the gig writing season two’s ”Contagion” partly because she managed the computer store where Gene Roddenberry got his computer.
In the first draft of “Data’s Day”, instead of doing some tap dancing with Dr Crusher, Data was going to perform the John Travolta disco routine from Saturday Night Fever , white suit and all!