BOOK REVIEW: Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years

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Title: Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years

Author: Various

Publisher: Titan Books

Published: 9th September 2016

RRP: £24.99

To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek TV series, CBS Consumer Products have commissioned a series of art pieces to celebrate moments, characters, storylines and episodes from the franchise. Artists from around the world as well as famous fans have contributed lovingly made posters, photos, sculptures, comic strips, textiles and much more to commemorate this beloved institution. The resulting art show launched at San Diego Comic-Con in July and is currently enjoying on an international tour.

What better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek – one of the most culturally important and iconic TV shows of all time – than with an original piece of art work for every one of those 50 years. Feast your eyes on Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years.

What we have here is a stunning and somewhat tall book all fans of the series should get their hands on. The headline is a work of Warhol-esque photography by the great Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy. This particular work is a collection of 9 coloured versions of the Vulcan gesture for ‘live long and prosper’. The rest of the art in the book is a collection of well-known and some lesser known artists presenting what Star Trek means to them in a variety of mediums, from illustrations to oil paintings, from digital art to sculpture, from spray paint to photography. Another star name in the latter category is The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik, who is photographed by Christopher Ryan Ross as Kirk, Spock, Rand and Data. Intriguing…

Each double page spread of this book contains a huge image of the artwork, a mini-biography of the artist in question, and some interview questions and answers. So not only do you have a feast for your eyes, but also some interesting background on the artist and their inspiration. The opening question asks the artist to describe their piece. They’re also asked about their favourite Star Trek series and characters. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority state that either Spock, or the triumvirate of Kirk, Spock and Bones, are favourites. It makes you feel a little sorry for both Voyager and Enterprise as they are under-represented here. Even DS9 only gets an occasional nod. But then this is a fan-favourite book and if the artists are fans of the original series or The Next Generation then that is how the book should be.

The works themselves are vastly different in style and content, and not just in the artistic medium. There are depictions of scenes from particular shows, such as Jonathan Bergeron’s classical ‘Encounter at Farpoint’ and Marie Bergeron’s intricate stand-off between Kirk and the Gorn, along with Matt Ferguson’s interpretation of the same image. There are homages to particular series; Dusty Abell manages to depict a representative from each of the original series’ 79 episodes. Posters and variations are common. My favourites include Patrick Connan’s fantastically bold ‘Revenge is a dish that is best served cold’, depicting of course The Wrath of Khan; Joe Corroney’s delicious recruitment poster; and Dan Mumford’s creepy-looking ‘First Contact’.

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Portraits of crews and individuals pepper the book too. J.K. Woodward’s ‘Klingons’ is pretty spectacular. Mick Cassidy has produced some pop-art comic book frames from the original series, which are great fun – I’d like to see him do an original series comic. Other artists have thought about all the shows and their legacy, so Derek Charm has drawn 50 aliens from across all the shows. Ulises Farinas has put the major characters into a pictorial representation of chaos, order, emotion and logic. Guess who is in the middle? Ships also get nods in various formats, such as Tom Whalen’s ‘USS Enterprise Spec Sheet’. One style that is fairly prevalent is the illustration, exemplified by Josh Lane’s simplistic but effective rendition of the aforementioned favourite threesome and Ty Mattson’s black, blue and white drawing of Spock. I suspect, without counting, that Spock is the most common character depicted here.

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Finally, a nod must go to Mattel, who have representation via a Borg ship made entirely of Hot Wheels and a very cool sculpture of Spock leaning up against a 1964 Buick. And to the US Postal Service for their commemorative stamps too.

My absolute favourite is Gary Pullin’s portrait of Spock(s) from Mirror, Mirror. Bold lines for a bold show! And that’s the thing with art. It’s massively personal. The styles are so varied and the content so rich, that there will be something for every fan. Some of the art doesn’t work for me, and it won’t for you. But that’s fine. That’s how art is. Fans of Voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise might be a tad disappointed but I don’t think too much…

There is no excuse for any fan of Star Trek not to find something to enjoy in this glorious book. It is a proper celebration. Quality paper, well bound, vibrant images and plenty of interesting asides too. I’ve flicked through it for days now. It even includes an interesting foreword by Nicholas Meyer. Good job, Titan Books, good job.

 

Rating: 4.5/5

Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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