Michael Okuda has been part of the Star Trek art department since he designed bridge monitor displays for the NCC-1701-A for the final scenes of Star Trek IV The Voyage Home, released in 1986, his wife Denise since Star Trek Generations in 1994, though they had previously collaborated on such projects as the Star Trek Encyclopedia (and later its digital cousin, the Star Trek Omnipedia) and the Star Trek Chronology, and both were visual effects producers on Star Trek remastered project for CBS digital, have provided text commentaries for all ten films, and are consultants on the Blu-ray Remastered project of Star Trek The Next Generation for CBS Paramount.
While perhaps not within the inner circle of executive producers or key writers on the show but certainly with involvement that spans over half the history of the show and predates the birth of Star Trek The Next Generation in 1987, it would seem that the Okudas would be the ideal choice to create an intimately detailed and knowledgeable tour of the vast and complex interior of the Galaxy class flagship of the United Federation of Planets, the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, a ship that featured in 178 episodes and one feature film before meeting an untimely demise on the surface of Veridian IV, more screen time than any other Starfleet vessel. Unfortunately this is not that book.
It’s difficult to envisage the target market for this disappointing stroll along the corridors of the vessel that welcomed a new generation of Starfleet officers and fans to the strange new worlds of the final frontier; while the slim large format hardback is plushly illustrated, the choice of photos is unimaginative, the crew being represented by stock publicity shots seen many times down the decades, though the fact that Wesley Crusher’s introduction features larger than either Data or Worf’s is an indication.
The text captions are minimal and generic, often doing little beyond stating the incredibly obvious to anyone who would consider themselves an aficionado, and are certainly beneath the expectations of anyone who would purchase this book and the abilities of the Okudas. While there are foldouts of the exterior of the ship, there are no cutaway views nor are their deck plans indicating how the different areas relate to each other.
Included with the book is a CD which boasts that it “will take you on a virtual 3D tour of the ship,” allowing the user to “wander around the engineering room, check out the sickbay, crew quarters and other famous locations.” In fact, no crew quarters are included, and while the other promised locations do fulfil the expectation of the bridge and the transporter room, the others are in fact a cargo bay and a corridor; no relaxation in Ten Forward nor the arboretum, no stellar cartography to plan an excursion nor any of the three shuttle bays to execute it, no Jefferies tube for maintenance when things go wrong, no torpedo bays nor battle bridge, and certainly no exterior flybys. Surely there was an interest in more than six solitary environments within the 42 decks of this magnificent ship?
As if it was not bad enough that the virtual recreation of the ship is smaller than the original sets that were constructed during production of the show, more akin to the representation created by Beverly Crusher when trapped in the collapsing warp bubble of the episode Remember Me, worse is that we can neither “patrol the sickbay” or “see what’s happening in the famous transporter room” as the digital environments are entirely static, observable from fixed viewpoints with only the ability to zoom or pan. There is no ability to explore the areas, there are no hotspots to click on to obtain extra information or animations to enhance the experience. If this is a tour of the USS Enterprise, it is as experienced by Captain Christopher Pike, confined to his wheelchair and unable to reach out beyond the confines of his thoughts.
The timing of the release is also an oddity; the 25th anniversary of first broadcast of the show was last year, and while the ongoing Blu-ray release schedule will be snapped up by existing fans, the show is unlikely to be generating new fans of the correct age group to be enticed by this underdeveloped tome, which genuinely feels as though it belongs in another age before iPads made interactivity commonplace, which approaches neither the depth of the Star Trek The Next Generation Technical Manual written by Rick Sternbach and, ironically, Michael Okuda, nor the entertainment value of the CD-rom Captain’s Chair (1997) or, despite the bug riddled nature of the program, the immersion of the Star Trek The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual (1994).
On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise is now available from Barron’s