On June 28, 2016, The Fifty-Year Mission: Volume One: The First 25 Years, the first part of Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’ unauthorized Star Trek oral history, hits shelves, featuring stories from the people who were there when it all began: cast, crew, producers, creators, directors, makeup artists, costume designers, and more. Seth MacFarlane, of Family Guy and Ted, wrote the foreword.
Below, EW has your exclusive cover reveal for The Fifty-Year Mission: Volume One: The First 25 Years, and a Q&A with the “Trekspert” authors.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you first discover Star Trek?
EDWARD GROSS: I have three memories of my discovery of Star Trek. The first, during the show’s original run, I remember “playing” Star Trek on the streets of Brooklyn with my friends. I was McCoy, armed with a Tiger water gun that served as my phaser. Then I attended the first convention in Manhattan in 1972, where I realized that there was something different about Star Trek to have precipitated this kind of gathering. Then I began watching the nightly reruns at 6PM on WPIX and became absolutely hooked. It would be impossible to overstate the show’s impact on my life.
MARK A. ALTMAN: One can’t escape the inexorable gravitational pull of Star Trek, much like the Beta Nairobi nova. I know I haven’t. Ever since Sept. 8, 1966, I’ve always had a very special connection to the Star Trek universe. It might have something to do with the fact we both made our respective debuts on this planet the same year. I’m not sure exactly when I first discovered Star Trek, but I do have vivid recollections of obsessively watching the series every weeknight at six o’clock back on WPIX in New York (“Oh no, not ‘The Way to Eden’ again!”) and lashing out at the television when a self-professed Trekspert on The $100,000 Pyramid responded dumbfounded to a question about the name of the ship that was destroyed in “The Doomsday Machine” (“The Constellation, you moron!”). Yes, I loved Star Trek… a lot.
What surprised you most after doing the research and interviews for the book? Anything major you didn’t know?
EG: A significant section of this book is the one devoted to the period between the cancellation of the original Star Trek in 1969 and the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture 10 years later. Flash forward several decades and so much of that time has been reduced to historical footnotes, i.e. reruns of the show broke syndication records, conventions drew tens of thousands of people, the phenomenon grew to unprecedented proportions, Paramount wanted to bring the show back, but couldn’t figure out how; and so on. The greatest surprise for me over the course of our writing The Fifty-Year Mission was actually speaking to the people who make up those “footnotes.” The ones who were in the trenches, as it were, fighting for the future of Star Trek. And what amounted to truly the greatest revelation for me was coming to realize how integral each and every one of them were. Without them, Star Trek would have faded into history. Their stories deserve to be acknowledged just as much as those of Gene Roddenberry, Gene L. Coon, William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy’s. And, in this book, we do. The unknown men and women who saved Star Trek get center stage and, to steal a phrase, it’s “fascinating.”
MA: Ultimately, the real story of Star Trek is a Shakespearean drama with far more betrayal, skullduggery backstabbing and tragedy than any episode of “Game of Thrones.” It’s a story that’s never been told and I’m thrilled that we were finally able to unearth the real story behind the making of these beloved shows and speak to many of the behind-the-scenes personalities who have never spoken about their experiences before. Ultimately, it’s a celebration of 50 years of Star Trek, one of the greatest and most optimistic television series ever aired.