Wednesday, 3 October 2012

TNG 365

Star Trek The Next Generation 365 is out now! To celebrate the launch of the book the authors, Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann, have done a feature on StarTrek.com and interview with TrekCore. A few choice extracts follow, along with preview images from the book posted on its very own Facebook page and TrekCore.


Just as an editorial project the book was a daunting task, with much more to cover than the previous TOS volume:
TNG has a hundred more episodes than The Original Series. Given the publisher’s established format of 365 spreads, we’d have very little room to delve into the average episode. For the TOS 365 book, we’d allotted three to four spreads to each one, which still left us room to cover the development of the show and iconic fan moments. But we’d have no such opportunity here. Even allocating just one spread per episode would eat up nearly half of the page count. And obviously many TNG episodes deserved more than one measly spread. We realized we’d have to be… creative. Yes, we’d make sure to give the really popular episodes their moment in the sun with multiple pages. But the others… Well… Perhaps you remember when Kodos the Executioner had to make a decision about which 4,000 colonists would be sacrificed for the benefit of the other 4,000 (in TOS’s “The Conscience of the King”). We wouldn’t be quite as brutal as that, but we must admit, we suddenly had a tad more appreciation for Kodos’s dilemma!

Finding all the images, and trying to find ones never seen before required lots of digging in the archives:
The studio’s publicity/marketing department assigned photographers to do still coverage of TNG while the series was filming. We knew the studio had binders and binders full of imagery; the licensing department had provided many of those images to licensees for use in their products over the years. Paula was familiar with what had been used and she worked very hard to steer us away from the ones that had been seen over and over again. In the hopes of finding something new, she took an especially close look at the black and white photography. The licensees had always requested color shots. So while many of the color images repeatedly appeared in books and magazines over the years, very little of the black and white photography was used at all. On any given day on the TNG set, the assigned still photographer would shoot both color and black and white film, generally using one or the other to cover different angles, or even different scenes. It was in the black and white where we found many of the rarest behind-the-scenes shots, like early versions of costumes and hairstyles, cast and crew indulging in unscripted and rather unorthodox behavior, and actors attending script readings and rehearsals in non-regulation attire.

And there’s another reason why these rare photos didn’t surface earlier—back when the show was in production, the studio didn’t like to release too many “behind-the-scenes” images because they felt that it would give away “the magic.” They wanted people to focus on the show, not on how the show was made. These days, no one worries about that. The magic has been transformed into nostalgia.

They also went to great efforts to find images from other sources among the production team:
We interviewed dozens of people who’d worked on the show, and asked if he or she had any unique personal photos hidden away in a forgotten box or two. Production designer Richard James provided some great sketches, and visual effects producer Dan Curry gave us free access to his storyboards from the show, as well as some fantastic paintings. Prop making company MEL gave us a lot of material, shots of the props under construction or completed. And effects associate Eric Alba unearthed a treasure trove of candid photos that he’d taken while he was working on the show. We really appreciated it when artists Andrew Probert and Rick Sternbach—who established many of the iconic visual elements of the show—provided us with beautiful color sketches and paintings. And whenever we were stuck for an idea, scenic artist Michael Okuda stepped right in with an inspiration.

Unfortunately the new remastering on bluray came too late for them to include new HD screencaps, or much of the newly discovered behind the scenes stuff, but they did manage to get a little in:
We heard about the Blu-ray remastering project while we were writing and hoped we could get a few images for the book, but our timing was off. We did get one really cool image late in the game—a shot of Denise Crosby’s stand-in modeling the actual hairclip that inspired Geordi’s visor.

Looking forward the writing pair aren't nearly as optimistic about the chances of a similar DS9 book as they were when taking the step from TOS to TNG:
DS9 was never as popular as its two predecessors, although it arguably was a more critically acclaimed series. Publishing a full-color book of this quality is an expensive proposition, so there needs to be evidence that the fans will be there to welcome it to their shelves. We hope it happens, but we read so many comments from fans that say they never got into DS9 because “it was too dark,” or some such, that we’re not holding our breath. It’s a shame; we suspect most of those commentators didn’t give the show a chance, so they don’t know the wonders that they missed.
You can read and see much more on StarTrek.com, TrekCore, and Facebook. Or indeed, the book itself! You might also want to check out Eric Alba's Flickr album of behind-the-scenes Trek photos; he appears to have gotten some into the book, but has much more online, including images from DS9 and Voyager production.





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