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Star Trek Voyager: A Vision of the Future Paperback – April 1, 1998
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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A Vision of the Future thoroughly documents the step-by-step creation of Voyager, from the first inklings of a plan for a series to follow TNG, through the initial broadcast of the first episode "Caretaker." Poe does a great job of showing just how seat-of-the-pants the creation of a TV series is, from adjusting to last minute cast changes (and hair changes), to having to deal with directives from on high that force a guerilla re-structuring of a story already in production, because the number of commercial breaks has suddenly been changed.
We get to follow Poe, doing what we'd all have loved to do: wander around backstage without getting accosted by set security. We can vicariously talk to the crew putting everything together and find out the preposterous hours they work, see how things get put together behind the scenes, and find out why this or that thing was done the way it was. It really puts a human face on what can all too easily be looked at as a monolithic studio making just another piece of The Franchise.
If I'd had this book early on in the series run, I'd probably have been significantly more forgiving toward Voyager than I was at the time. (I've since become rather more fond of Voyager than my initial reaction back then would have suggested... Maybe I'm just getting old?) Perhaps Voyager would have gotten a bit more warm welcome from the fans if this had been available on time. It's tough to say.
The book being released three years into the series did allow the author to add a brief look at the addition of Seven of Nine to the cast and the effect that had on things, but that's really just an aside, not even a full chapter. As I mentioned, this book is really about the creation of Voyager the series, and Caretaker specifically, and it's extremely effective at that.
(I also quite like the scattering of set blueprints that are reproduced in the book. After seeing the layout of the corridor set for example, it's somehow bizarrely entertaining to see how the cast keeps walking past the same sections again and again even in a single conversation -- and the fact that I never noticed it before speaks volumes about the quality of set design and cinematography!)
The good news is that the pre- and first-season information can be interesting. I didn't know that Chakotay's character was based on Moby Dick's Queequeg. The best part of the book is its account of Genevieve Bujold's disasterous day-and-a-half of filming as Captain Janeway, particularly when she was to launch the new shop for the first time. "...(R)eaching the point where Janeway gives the 'Engage' command ... Genevieve solemnly walked over to the chair, sat down, folded her hands in her lap, closed her eyes, and said in a small soft voice, 'Engage.' Stunned silence."
The bad news is most everything else. The book is copyright Paramount Pictures, so you know there isn't anything negative about anyone who was still on the payroll. The author's deification of the executive producer is particularly creepy: "Complex, driven, with an unquenchable thirst for perfection, Rick Berman is precisely what Star Trek needs. It is highly unlikely that anyone else on the planet would be willing to devote the extraordinary amount of time and energy required to do what he does." No one else on the planet? Really?
The reader gets to meet the crew the same way we meet game show contestants -- who they are, how they got here, and a sentence of two about family or hobbies. We get that over and over again; there are a lot of people in the crew. There's also some sanitized behind-the-scenes info about call sheets and costume designs and exactly what sets are on what stages.
In between there's a lot of filler with the author pontificating on the affect of the Star Trek franchise on society, usually expressed in awkward sentences. "One example is the subject of diversity -- a hot topic only recently discovered by cultural and sociological pundits and politcos of every persuasion. Yet, one need only look at a single episode -- any episode -- of The Original Series (now more than thirty years ago) to see the evidence of diversity in action on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise."
In sum, this is an early history of Voyager as put together by a high-school yearbook committee, with some nice pictures, pleasant information, writing of erratic quality, and a disappointing amount of insight into what happened. If you really miss Voyager, well, here's that yearbook.