Over the years, Star Trek non-fiction literature has amassed numerous famous authors whose works are adored by fans the world over. Without doubt, two of the greatest are Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann. Terry and his wife Paula have had a long and distinguished career writing Star Trek non-fiction. Some of their highlights include the iconic Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, Star Trek: Action!, The Secrets of Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: The Original Series 365.
On the eve of the release of their latest tome, Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, we caught up with Paula and Terry to talk about their beautiful tribute to TNG in it's 25th Anniversary Year.
Paula M. Block & Terry J. Erdmann: TNG 365 Interview, Part 2
Interviewed by Adam Walker for TrekCore.com
TrekCore: For both of you – do you have any personal favorite photos in the book, or stories behind them?
Paula & Terry: There are so many! Terry’s favorite is a shot that the show’s science consultant Naren Shankar offered us of the “young guns”—four now-famous/then-novice writers locked in a slightly goofy, brotherly embrace, with “I-can’t-believe-I-do-this-for-a-living” expressions on their happy faces. Paula’s is one of those Eric Alba shots—a gorgeous close-up of the lit hero Enterprise model in all of its glory. We believe neither of them has ever been published before. We love all of the behind-the-scenes shots we found: Troi reading “Women Who Love Too Much” on the bridge, Locutus “assimilating” the script from an upcoming episode, Gene Roddenberry and actress Jean Simmons sharing a quiet moment during “The Drumhead.” And we finally found the shots that prove Mick Fleetwood was an Antedean! That was quite a coup! Paula had looked for shots of him without the rubber head for years—and she finally found them, buried in a stack of old black and white contact sheets!
TrekCore: With your strong connection to DS9 (through the famous “DS9 Companion”), is there a chance that you could start work on “DS9 365” in the near future?
Paula & Terry: We’d love to. It depends on how well this book does—and how much fan interest there might be in Deep Space Nine. DS9 was never as popular as its two predecessors, although it arguably was a more critically acclaimed series. Publishing a full-color book of this quality is an expensive proposition, so there needs to be evidence that the fans will be there to welcome it to their shelves. We hope it happens, but we read so many comments from fans that say they never got into DS9 because “it was too dark,” or some such, that we’re not holding our breath. It’s a shame; we suspect most of those commentators didn’t give the show a chance, so they don’t know the wonders that they missed.
TrekCore: Ronald D. Moore wrote a beautiful introduction to the book about how he first came to write for TNG, and “TNG 365” itself is peppered with wonderful quotations from the people behind the show. Could you give our viewers an idea of the different creative people you spoke to whose interviews make it into the book?
Paula & Terry: Isn’t Ron’s intro great? He has gone on to write and produce lots of prestigious shows and he’s very respected in the industry—but he still wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to Star Trek. He didn’t think twice when we asked him if he’d write the intro.
We set out from the beginning to make TNG 365 different from the classic TNG tomes that went before. As we contemplated the show’s upcoming anniversary, we reflected on all of the talented people who’d been interviewed over the years—and we decided to concentrate on the ones who hadn’t. The dozens of men and women who’d labored behind the scenes: the scribes; the artists; the designers and tinkerers; the technicians and toilers; the directors; the assistants. Collectively the show couldn’t have existed without this group, and we wanted to pay homage to these behind-the-scenes people, as many as we could, within our limited span of page spreads. Plus we gave a special nod to the work of the actors who went on to direct episodes, especially Jonathan Frakes, who got the ball rolling in that regard. We didn’t get to everyone on our “wish list,” but we feel we put together a pretty comprehensive study of how much work—and fun—went into producing that hour of television each week.
TrekCore: Some of my favorite shots in the book are the candid behind-the-scenes photos of the filming and direction of TNG. Were these shots taken by official photographers? How on earth did you find such candid shots – they seem like such rare treasures.
Paula & Terry: As we mentioned above, the studio’s television publicity/marketing department sent a photographer to the TNG set—but only for one day per episode. The photographers caught the action during filming—and sometimes they caught what was going on behind-the-scenes. These photos are treasures, but they aren’t as rare as you’d think; they just haven’t been used before. We were thrilled to have access to them.
TrekCore: Do you have many excess images that ultimately didn't make it into the book? How hard was it to make those decisions of what makes the final cut?
Paula & Terry: Mostly just the opposite. There weren’t that many excess interesting images—generally, just a couple good ones and a bunch of ho-hum ones. For example: there might be 27 shots of Marina Sirtis walking down a corridor, but only one or two where she’s wearing a fleece jacket because it was cold on the set during rehearsal. She looked cute in the jacket! Or we’d find a bunch of standard shots of the actors hitting their marks prior to shooting—and just one from that sequence where Jonathan Frakes sticks his tongue out at the photographer. Those were the ones we wanted—and used.
And then there were the episodes where the photography didn’t tell the story. There were countless photos of comedian Joe Piscopo for “The Outrageous Okona”—he was popular at the time—but only a couple of Okona himself (Billy Campbell). We like Billy Campbell, but there was no way to do him justice. There were no photos at all of Minuet (Carolyn McCormick) from “11001001”—the photography was all of the Bynars—and most people think of her as a pretty important character. That was frustrating. And then there’s “Home Soil.” For some reason, a photographer was never assigned to that episode—so there are literally NO still photos.
TrekCore: Was the standard format of the book in some ways limiting, as TNG has many more episodes than TOS?
Paula & Terry: We had limited space to work with—there are 178 hours of TNG, and we had just 365 spreads to fill. For the first book we were able to allocate up to four spreads per episode because there were only 79 episodes. Here, we quickly realized that assigning just one spread per episode would take nearly half of our page count. So we were very careful about how many spreads we gave each episode. Obviously we gave more spreads to the more important episodes, like “The Best of Both Worlds” and “The Inner Light.” At one point we actually considered putting two of the less important episodes on a single spread here and there—but we quickly gave up on that idea. Each episode deserves its own spread. In the end, we think we did them all justice.
TrekCore: You mention in your foreword that you've used screengrab technology with the DVDs for shots where photos don't exist. Do you wish you could have had access to HD quality images from the remastered episodes of TNG (like you did with the HD screenshots for the TOS book)?
Paula & Terry: As we mentioned above, we’d have loved to have more of the remastered images,but it wasn’t possible. And by the way—there were no framegrabs or “screenshots” in the TOS book. Most of those wonderful TOS photos that had never been seen before came from a very expensive project that the licensing department conducted many years ago. In order to find new images for the licensees, the department struck new 16-millimeter copies of the TOS masters—which were then carefully cut up, frame by frame, and mounted into slides. Once again, Marian scanned them for us. They were beautiful—you could actually see things like how the phaser effects were hand-painted over a series of frames. But, as mentioned, it was very expensive. It would have been impossible to do that with all the episodes of TNG.
TrekCore: Please tell us about the projects you working on at the moment! Do you have any other Trek related works in the pipeline for the future?
Paula & Terry: At the moment, we have only one writing assignment—as the entertainment columnists for our small town newspaper. It’s really fun. We get to review anything we want, from “Downton Abbey” to local rock concerts to the release of the TNG Blu-ray sets. Plus, from time to time, we consult on various writing projects. And, of course, we’re always to open diving into new books.
TrekCore: You’ve both devoted a huge chunk of your professional lives to Star Trek. What keeps bringing you back to the franchise, and how do you feel it has affected you personally?
Paula & Terry: We’re fans—we admit it. We met at a science fiction convention nearly thirty years ago. Gene Roddenberry’s altruistic dreams of the future are as attractive today as they were when they first hit the airwaves. Some people wonder if we’re getting a little bored, or even too old for our fannish predilections…but heck—you know that resistance is futile!
Go to Part:
My thanks to both Paula and Terry for taking the time out of their busy schedules to talk to us. Be sure to order your copy of TNG 365 today through Amazon, just click on the links below.
We'll be publishing our full review of TNG 365 shortly, so stay tuned for our verdict!
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