Mark Clark’s Star Trek FAQ is no episode guide. It does not provide you with blueprints and schematics of the Starship Enterprise or the equipment therein, and it certainly will not teach you to speak Klingon. It does, however, offer you something far more useful and culturally-relevant. Clark’s FAQ provides a chronicle of the original series’ history, augmented by insightful cultural and industrial analysis along the way with chapters devoted to the series’ gender politics and its various representations of religion. What’s more, the Star Trek FAQ pursues biographies of the series’ cast and crew, which ultimately detail the negative effects the series had on many of their lives prior to the resurgence in Star Trek’s popularity in the 1980s (Clark is saving the material on the series’ resurgence for his upcoming sequel to the Star Trek FAQ).
Clark obviously intends the Star Trek FAQ to be the only book on Star trek you’ll need to own. The book offers much of the same information found in the countless other Star Trek books on the market, but condenses this information down to only the most interesting, salient bits. As Clark rightly relates in the introduction to his book, by reorganizing this previously dispersed information into a single text, he is able to offer new insights into Star Trek that makes his book a unique and fresh read, even for those who’ve read a score of books on the subject before.
Star Trek FAQ deals exclusively with the original series: its production, cancellation, resurrection by the network after a massive fan write-in movement, its life in reruns throughout the 1970s, and the announcement in 1978 of Star Trek’s return in the form of a feature film. For me, the most fascinating section of the book centers on the period between the series’ permanent cancellation in 1969 after its third season and the announcement of the Star Trek film. In addition to detailing the projects undertaken by the series’ cast and crew during this period, Clark explores the ways in which the series stayed alive in syndication, in cartoon form, and through the actions of the devoted Star Trek fan base. Although I had previously read much about the series’ history, I’d surprisingly read very little about the Star Trek fan activity. In this section, Clark discusses how the series’ extremely high ratings in syndication made it a network mainstay, and how the fans organized around the series in the 1970s with conventions, fan fiction, and a slew of fanzines, totaling an astonishing 458 by 1977. Clark respectfully gives credit where credit is due, with regard to the revival of Star Trek, by situating the fan activity as instrumental in shaping Paramount’s decision to produce a Star Trek feature film.
Clark’s companion piece, Star Trek FAQ 2.0, currently slated for 2013, will cover the resurgence of Star Trek in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when it reached the “pinnacle of its popularity and cultural influence,” as Clark puts it.