Monday, November 23, 2020

Book Review: "The First Star Trek Movie: Bringing the Franchise to the Big Screen, 1969-1980" -- by Sherilyn Connelly

            Connelly does a first-rate job of presenting the fruits of her research.  She sifted through tons of newspaper articles and other media.  She did a lot of work at the Margaret Herrick Library.

            That’s good.  What just about ruined the book for me was Connelly’s authorly intrusions.  I came across one online mention of this book as “scholarly.”  Not completely.  In my English major’s opinion, “scholarly” does not include snark, much less not-cute-but-trying-to-be plugs for another of the author’s works.

            EXAMPLES of author intrusion ...

  • ·         page 62, referring to the probably terrible Roddenberry film Pretty Maids All in a Row: “like most Vadim films it was rather vile”
  • ·         page 65 contains a seven-lines-long plug for a previous Connelly book evidently about My Little Pony fandom
  • ·         another self-aggrandizement on page 87 takes up “only” three lines of text
  • ·         page 92 contains a whole paragraph of how the intrusive author likes Susan Sackett for giving the intrusive author something to ramble on about, intrusively
  • ·         page 131, “I again recommend my book ...”
  • ·         page 160, another intrusion to plug it
  • ·         page 171 – I submit that nobody cares when, or how often, the author saw Apocalypse Now

             My problem is this stuff has no place in a “scholarly” book.  Connelly did tons of research to make this short book a gold standard of reference about the road to Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  It really hurts my brain to trip over a smelly pile of authorial self-plugging or an unhip “for reals” (inserted in a comment about Nimoy) comment in the middle of otherwise right-on narrative about my favorite franchise.

            I would be remiss in my typical book-reviewing nitpickiness without pointing out some actual errors:

  • ·         On pages 65, 66, 93, 124, and 199 (note 27) Connelly misspells the last name of Trek designer Matt Jefferies as “Jeffries.”  What makes it really grating is that on page 130, she gets his name RIGHT!
  • ·         On page 65 and frequently thereafter, she describes the Franz Joseph Star Trek Blueprints as “fanon”—that is, add-on fannish inventions which are taken as authorized by other fans, but aren’t really “official.”  What’s wrong about that statement?  The drawings by Franz Joseph Schnaubelt began as “fan canon”—until Schnaubelt mailed them to Roddenberry.  The Great Bird of the Galaxy went ga-ga, and in 1973 the “Franz Joseph” drawings were published by Ballantine and licensed by Paramount.  That MAKES THEM OFFICIAL.  You can read about this here:
  • ·         Page 105 discusses an unfilmed story for “Star Trek Phase II” by Worley Thorne.  The title is given as “Are Unheard Memories Sweet?” but the actual title for this creepy tale is “Are Unheard Melodies Sweet?”
  •             And don’t forget her wish to sell hot chocolate to bleary-eyed STTMP line-waiters, if she only had a time machine—but “the first I’d do would be to kill baby Hitler ...” (page 156).  What the heck does either part of this comment have to do with otherwise fine reporting?

            This is what I don’t get:  Why would anybody dilute a really stunning assembly of research by sticking in a bunch of sucky attempts at snark and/or humor?  

            By the way, other people think that the book (and Connelly’s writing style) are simply marvy—Psychobabble, for one.

            Go ahead and decide for yourself, if you are prepared for a simpering authorial tone which clashes with an otherwise serious treatment of history.

See you on Thursday!

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