Steeped in the legends and lore of the expansive “Star Trek” franchise, veteran journalist Ryan Britt has been enamored with the sensation of space opera since dressing up as the pint-sized Spock for Halloween. as a third year student.
Britt’s New Retrospective Guide, “Phasers on Stun!: How the Creation (and Redesign) of Star Trek Changed the World,” (Plume, 2022) arrives May 31 and cuts a wide swath through the heart of the entire “Star Trek” universe to address the myriad manifestations of creator Gene Roddenberry’s original “Wagon Train to the Stars” and examine the gender mainstreaming.
The guide is written in an airy, absorbing style, and Britt’s love for the iconic sci-fi property shines through on every page, revealing insightful truths and little-known facts surrounding the making of every feature film and TV series. “Star Trek”. and animated shows, from the original “Star Trek” series to the “Star Trek: Discovery” spin-off “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” You can check out our Star Trek streaming guide to see where to watch them all to be ready for Britt’s book.
Related: The ‘Star Trek’ movies, ranked from worst to best
“Phasers on Stun!” traces the evolution of “Star Trek” from its formative years on the small screen in the late 60s to its role as a telling mirror that reflects the social and political issues of 21st century Earth. Intensely researched with nuggets of pop culture shining on every page, Britt’s entertaining tome has something for fans at every stage of the “Star Trek” obsession.
The book’s 400 pages feature more than 100 exclusive interviews with actors and writers from across the “Star Trek” spectrum, including Walter Koenig, LeVar Burton, Dorothy Fontana, Brent Spiner, Ronald D. Moore, Jeri Ryan, and a constellation of key creators. whose dedication has illuminated the franchise for more than five decades. “Phasers on Stun!” also visits Michael Chabon (co-creator of “Star Trek: Picard”) and director Nicholas Meyer (“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”).
Space.com spoke to Britt about this engaging valentine for “Star Trek,” to find out how this all-encompassing book came to be and why it’s a refreshing addition to the dozens of previously published “Star Trek” books. which should enlighten Trekkies of all persuasions.
Space.com: What was the genesis of this project, and why did the world need another “Star Trek” retrospective?
RyanBrit: I’m friends with a lot of guys who’ve done a lot of “Star Trek” books over the years. Larry Nemecek, Mark Altman and Ed Gross are good friends who I would consider my mentors. There have been many non-fiction books about the “Star Trek” story, but I don’t think anything like “The fifty-year mission” [Thomas Dunne Books, 2016]which has become the essential bible of the unauthorized “Trek” story, is super accessible for someone to read on an airplane.
“Dream the Beatles” [Dey Street Books, 2017] is a fairly new book by Rob Sheffield that inspired me to do “Phasers on Stun!” It’s an accessible look at The Beatles that touches on a lot of stuff you’ve always heard but aren’t sure what it’s all about, and has a very specific talkative tone.
I wanted to do this kind of thing but for “Star Trek”, because it was something that I knew a lot about and had done a lot of reporting on since the new shows started. I wanted to use quotes I’ve used in previous articles and ones I haven’t used and put them all in a new context to create something that read like personal essays – something that was also for people who know nothing about the making of “Star Trek”, which is not online and does not read tweets or follow documentaries – to relay this information in a new way that was decidedly not the format of oral history. Above all, I wanted this book to be for the less visible Trekkies, the secret Trekkies.
Space.com: “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” is featured in a chapter of “Phasers on Stun!” Do you think the movie has aged well over the years, or is it still “Star Trek: The Slow-Movie theater ?”
Brit: I think it went up in rating. Every two years seems to feel like it was actually the most faithful to the original series, and I think there are some truths to that argument. There are more behind-the-scenes books dedicated to the making of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” which is funny because it was the franchise’s most maligned movie, other than maybe “Star Trek V.” “. From a financial and sociological standpoint, you can’t escape the fact that, if “Star Trek: The Movie” had been the only “Star Trek” movie, the franchise would probably be dead, or at the very least, it reportedly doesn’t sound like what we think of “Star Trek” now.
And that’s the most important point of the book: that “Star Trek” is constantly changing dramatically, perhaps more than any other narrative science fiction media entity or franchise. His sweeping changes are what define him. “Star Trek” changes the main characters and the aesthetic in this gonzo way. For me, the difference between “The Motion Picture” and “The Wrath of Khan” is one of those greatest examples. Many people who aren’t die-hard sci-fi fans or “Star Trek” fans, for them, the “Star Trek” franchise begins with “The Wrath of Khan.” Basically, every post-Wrath of Khan “Star Trek” movie has almost always incorporated an element from the movie, and I don’t mean from a sci-fi point of view but from a structural point of view.
We wouldn’t have the rest of “Star Trek” without “The Motion Picture,” and [director] Robert Wise did an amazing job. But I don’t think his influence shows that “Star Trek” was ready to change. For as risky as the movie seems, “The Wrath of Khan” was actually much more risky. It didn’t just attract people who went to “Star Trek” church every Sunday; it attracted people who hadn’t been to “Star Trek” church in a while. And it was important.
Space.com: Of all the “Star Trek” series or movies, which do you identify with the most?
Brit: I would say “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and its spinoffs, “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” – those three shows. To a lesser extent, “Star Trek: Enterprise”. The fact that “The Next Generation” even worked is shocking. This series was definitely mine. I used to write reviews of it in my diary as a kid and think about it a lot. I recently told Patrick Stewart while interviewing him for Season 2 of “Picard” that I had received his solo show audio of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and that I listened to when I was 10 years old. I became interested in Dickens because of him, and it was something very formative.
“The Next Generation” was a mood and a feeling that the original series lacked – the camaraderie and unity of these main characters, although the other cast members had it to varying degrees. But “The Next Generation” got it first, and it was truly groundbreaking.
“Phasers on Stun!: How the Creation (and Redesign) of Star Trek Changed the Worldlands in bookstores and major online retailers on May 31.