Sunday, September 4, 2011

The View from Star Trek's Bridge

There are a lot of Hollywood memoirs out there, and most of them are, well, junk. “Written” by a star of the moment, they convey carefully market-researched, harmless or deliberately “controversial” stories designed to make you buy not only the book, but whatever other products the star is shilling.

The View from the Bridge, Nicholas Meyer’s 2009 account of his involvement in Star Trek, is different.

That’s mainly because Meyer himself is different. He was a novelist before turning to filmmaking; his breakthrough Sherlock Holmes pastiche, The Seven-per-cent Solution, remains one of the best of that questionable genre. He also had no prior interest in Trek, which makes it ironic that he wrote and directed two of the best (II: The Wrath of Khan and VI: The Undiscovered Country) and co-wrote the most successful (IV: The Voyage Home).

Meyer describes his life leading up to Trek in quick strokes, including his directorial debut, Time After Time (a neat film in which HG Wells pursues Jack the Ripper to modern San Francisco). When he gets to Trek he settles in to describe the process in detail, from working with an established cast to changing the very core nature of Trek itself. He doesn’t diss, and he doesn’t dwell on gossip, but there’s definitely a sense of how difficult it is for someone with his own vision of things to operate in an established universe. Some things don’t quite ring true (his claim that he had no knowledge of the influence of CS Forester’s Horatio Hornblower on Gene Roddenberry’s original creation), but overall he doesn’t let himself off the hook for mistakes big and small (he owns up that David Marcus’ preppy sweater at the climax of Wrath of Khan was ill-advised).

He’s also, at all times, thoughtful about what he’s done. There’s a fascinating passage late in the book where he re-evaluates the conspiracy at the heart of The Undiscovered Country in light of the events of 9/11.

The View from the Bridge is unique in the annals of Trek memoirs for being extremely well-written by its actual subject (no “with” credit appears after Meyer’s name). It’s also a clear, easily-understood and fun description of how movies get created. Teen male readers who are into Trek will love it.

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