Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Star Trek The Next Generation: Technical Manual

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The Star Trek: The Next Generation® Technical Manual, written by Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda, the technical advisors to Star Trek: The Next Generation, provides a comprehensive schematization of a Galaxy-class starship. From the bridge to the shuttlebays, from the transporter room to crews' quarters, this book provides a never-before-seen glimpse at the inner, intricate workings of the most incredible starship ever conceived.

Full of diagrams, technical schematics, and ship's plans, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual also takes a detailed look at the principles behind Star Trek®'s awesome technology -- from phasers to warp drive to the incredible holodeck.

Although the success of Star Trek's many incarnations -- from the 1966-69 Original Series, the 1979-2002 feature films, and the four television spin-offs -- is due to the humanity of the characters (even the alien ones!), it's the various starships that have taken the captains, crews and, of course, the audience on incredible journeys across the galaxy. After all, where would James T. Kirk be without the USS Enterprise, or Kathryn Janeway without the USS Voyager? For many Star Trek fans, it's the starship that is the true star of the series, with Kirk (or Picard, or Janeway, or Archer) and Co. as the human "supporting cast" that represents the dreamers who want to "boldly go where no one has gone before."

Although dedicated fans and role-playing game designers had written, illustrated, and even published unofficial Technical Journals of Star Trek's primary starships, Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda's Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual was the first really detailed "owner's manual" to the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) "done by folks who actually work on Star Trek." Published in October 1991 (halfway through The Next Generation's seven-year run) and featuring Gene Roddenberry's last published words in his special introduction, the Technical Manual is the first volume of a trio of "official" Star Trek references that include The Star Trek Chronology: A History of the Future and The Star Trek Encyclopedia.

The Technical Manual's conceit is that it is a 24th Century reference work, perhaps as a Starfleet public relations publication or in-house orientation manual. The tone the authors adopt (with the exception of the "out-of-the-Star-Trek-scenario footnotes, which are insightful and often humorous) is very similar to a NASA shuttle operator's guide, matter-of-fact, dry, and -- of course -- like a technical journal. Starting with "1.0 USS Enterprise Introduction" and ending with "17.0 Conclusion," this 183 page book tells the reader everything he or she wanted to know about a Galaxy-class starship, but was afraid to ask.

Want to know, for instance, about the Enterprise-D's warp drive and the theory of warp propulsion? It's all there in "5.0 Warp Propulsion Systems." Does transporter technology turn you on, as it were? "9.0 Transporter Systems" tells you how and why a transporter works, complete with a three-page list of every detail of the five seconds that elapse between autosequence initiation and the signaling of a successful transport. All of the familiar operations we have seen on the show's many episodes and the Enterprise-D's final appearance in 1994's Star Trek: Generations are explained in "authentic" detail.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual is generously illustrated with ship's blueprints, deck charts, line drawings of equipment, operations panels, readouts, and weapons. There is even a chart showing the five Starships Enterprise with a brief (one paragraph) history of each incarnation of the NCC-1701. (Star Trek fans who purchased this book when it hit the bookstore shelves in October of '91 got their first hint about the plot of Star Trek VI; the entry for the Enterprise-A not only reveals that the starship had once borne the name USS Yorktown and renamed after the Whale Song crisis, it also mentions the Khitomer conference, "which had such a profound impact on the political climate of this part of the galaxy.")

Star Trek fans -- either "old hands" who were Trekkies in the 1960s or "rookies" just catching up to Next Gen on the Spike Channel -- will probably enjoy this book...assuming it is not already on their bookshelves!

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