Book Review: The Fifty-Year Mission – Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman

fifty-year missionTitle: The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years
Author: Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman
ISBN: 9781250065841
Pages: 576
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: History, Nonfiction
Source: Publisher


The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years is an oral history of the first 25 years of Star Trek—from the beginnings of the original series through Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.


I go back and forth on whether I actually like oral histories or not—they live or die by the way they are organized and who participates—but when I heard there was an oral history of Star Trek, I immediately knew it was something I had to read. I’ve been a Star Trek fan for most of my life, and when I love something, I like to learn about it in all its nitty gritty detail. While I’d heard quite a few of the stories and anecdotes shared in The Fifty-Year Mission, there were many, many more perspectives and stories I wasn’t aware of, and quite frankly, I found it fascinating.

The main reason I loved The Fifty-Year Mission is because I think the oral history format is uniquely suited to such a complex endeavor as Star Trek. We’ve all heard stories about how Shatner was difficult and overbearing or how there was tension on the set of The Original Series, but this time, you can hear it directly from the people involved in what was happening. You get to see multiple perspectives and points of view and understand that, in the end, these people were only human, no matter how large their legends are. The authors did an extraordinary job organizing the information and presenting a coherent story, and the breadth of people they’ve spoken to over the years (many now deceased) is simply astounding.

I was a bit worried that The Fifty-Year Mission would feel tawdry and gossip-y; after all, it’s exposing old wounds and weaknesses, putting them on the page for anyone to see. But thankfully, the book didn’t feel that way at all. It is frank—”uncensored,” as the subtitle puts it—and you really come to see how the various large personalities clashed all over the place, but it never feels cheap. Instead, it feels honest, like these people are finally getting the chance to tell their side of the story. But because the authors talk to so many people, there are many different sides presented, and it never feels like anyone is being vilified unjustly.

The second I finished The Fifty-Year Mission, I was ready to pick up the second volume. It’s not out until the end of August, so it gives all you Trekkies (Trekkers? Let’s not get started on THAT debate) a chance to devour this book first. Even if you’re not a die-hard Star Trek fan, if you’re interested in the way television and movies get made, or just interested in pop culture history, you should give this book a chance. The oral history format means it’s easily readable, and it just captures your attention from the very first page.

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