REVIEW: “On Board the USS Enterprise”

Cover Art for On Board the USS EnterpriseStar Trek: The Next Generation - On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D

Denise & Michael Okuda
Published by Barrons Educational Series & Carlton Books • Hardcover
48 Pages / Bonus CD-ROM

  

The "Okuda" name has become synonymous with the crème de la crème of non-fiction Star Trek literature - Mike and Denise have a whole gamut of successful publications under their belts, including the much heralded Star Trek Encyclopedia and  Star Trek Chronology. Naturally, when On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise first popped up on our radar, I was full of anticipation and excitement that we would finally have an updated and revised version of the epitome of Star Trek virtual tours - the Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual. Published in 1994 by Simon & Schuster, and written by Mike Okuda and Rick Sternbach, the technical manual used the latest (at the time) Quicktime VR technology to allow fans to fully explore sections of the Enterprise-D, play with control panels, fire photon torpedoes - everything a fan could dream of. Unfortunately, On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise doesn't quite live up to the hype surrounding it... but it comes close.

The Book

The book will be perhaps best received by the younger fan, or those who are not as familiar with the intricacies of Star Trek: The Next Generation's 25 year legacy. With that in mind, it serves as a colorful and engaging introduction to the show. Each double-page spread takes on a different aspect of the Enterprise - from Tactical Systems to the Holodeck - and is laid out using graphics from the Okudas' famous LCARS design. Two fold-out gatefold sections of the book boast brand new high-resolution CG renders of the Enterprise and nicely show the exterior detail of the ship alongside cutaways allowing you to easily visualize and locate the key systems at a glance.

Gatefold section from 'On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise'

However, those looking for the level of detail you can find in either the book or CD-ROM version of the Technical Manual will be left disappointed. This is very much an introductory text for readers either discovering the series for the first time or of a younger age. For the ardent fan who already owns the Okudas' back-catalogue of reference titles and has more than a passing interest in the show, this book won't bring anything new to the table.

The CD-ROM

Before even opening the book, I was itching to give the bonus CD-ROM a spin and take a look at the new "interactive tour". The CD contains just over 100 MB of files which you are instructed to copy to your computer and then open in your internet browser of choice (all the major ones are supported - Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari...)

A total of 7 locations are profiled in the tour:

  • Main Bridge (4 viewing points, including turbolift)
  • Captain's Ready Room (2 viewing points)
  • Sickbay & Dr. Crusher's Office (3 viewing points)
  • Main Transporter Room (2 viewing points)
  • Corridor Intersection (1 viewing point)
  • Main Engineering (4 viewing points)
  • Cargo Bay (1 viewing point)

The newly rendered CG sets are surprisingly convincing. Tobias Richter has done a great job accurately rendering the ship's interior. It's a delight to see intricate textures applied to walls, ceilings and floors - this boosts realism ten-fold. As noted by some of our readers already, a few mistakes have slipped through (the Observation Lounge door being labeled as a turbolift for example), but all-in-all Tobias and his colleagues have done a wonderful job here.

The newly rendered Main Engineering from the Interactive CD-ROM

That said, the tour left me feeling flat. I wish the project had had a higher budget and more time to allow other locations to be profiled. I was left desperate to get in the Observation Lounge, go up a few levels in Engineering, check out Ten Forward or the Crew Quarters or go grab a shuttle in the Shuttlebay. Alas, it was not to be. Also sadly missing is the "interactive" element. While it's nice to take a few 360 degree spins around the viewing points, what I really wanted to do was start pushing buttons on the beautifully rendered consoles (as we could in the Interactive Technical Manual), or hop on a turbolift between the locations.

The Bottom Line

On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise will be a popular buy for those people getting to know Star Trek: The Next Generation for the first time, or indeed for the younger fan. That's not to say it doesn't have anything to offer for the more seasoned uber-fan. The interactive tour is wonderful eye-candy which you can immerse yourself in to your heart's content. The book - as a concept - has huge potential, so it was somewhat disappointing that it didn't realize it as well as I had hoped. I can't help but think how awesome it would be if a publisher took the leap and invested on a fully-featured large-scale interactive tour of something like the Enterprise. The technology is certainly there, as are the rendering skills (I adore Tobias' work) ... it's just a matter of finding the right people to fund the project. After all, I don't think there's a Star Trek fan alive who hasn't dreamed of freely roaming the corridors of the Enterprise and exploring every 24th century nook and cranny.

On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise is published by Barrons Educational Series in North America and Carlton Books in Europe. Order your copy using the links below:

Order On Board the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D



  • http://www.randomtuesday.com/ Aatrek

    I too was disappointed by the lack of interactive features on the digital content. I wanted to pick up PADDs or activate the bridge consoles, but nothing was built to respond to users, aside from a purely visual aspect. Too bad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Djames1701 David James

    Yeah, the rooms we DO get to see are beautifully rendered (especially love seeing the Bridge from the Captain’s chair), but there are just too few of them. And why they wasted time rendering a boring cargo bay instead of something cooler like Ten Forward or the Main Shuttlebay, I’ll never understand.

    And I was really hoping for more of a behind the scenes perspective from the Okudas as well, instead of just a dry listing of rooms and objects from the show.

  • daniel

    Crowdfund a COMPLETE digital version of the enterprise! Walk where ever you want, push all the buttons you want…Should be possible!

    • archer9234

      It is possible. But would take years. And a lot of planning. I’ve studied the fully detailed deck blueprints by Probert and Zemora. There’s thousands of rooms to be modeled. Some areas are hugely intricate. The Mall especially. Then you have the Turbo lifts and jeffries tubes to deal with. The main shuttle bay is 3 decks with like 20 shuttles in total. Huge undertaking.

      • http://www.facebook.com/justin.olson.3388 Justin Olson

        I would be content with them only modeling areas that were seen on the show — other spaces like the casino and mall would be behind locked doors and therefore inaccessible. And only the main crew would get their rooms modeled. The rest would be just miles and miles of repetitive hallways, turbolifts and Jefferies Tubes. I wouldn’t even care if it wasn’t completely accurate to the blueprints — just that it gave the illusion of accuracy. I could totally live with that… and Tobias is already ahead of the game in creating the standing sets. He just has a couple dozen more spaces to do, many based on the same sets that were re-dressed.

  • cj

    When there’s a version I can roam the ship freely, and visit Cetacean Ops or the Main Shuttlebay or cool places like that we didn’t get to see in the show…THEN I’ll buy it.

  • Stephen Daniels

    I was very disappointed with this book. More of a hardback magazine, with no new info, everything was just sound-bites, and the CGI interactive CD was far from “breathtaking”.

    I was really hoping someone would take the photos from the original TNG Technical Manual CD ROM ship VR and up-res them for this issue, but alas no – just an average CGI job. Where was Ten Forward? Where there the crew quarters? Where was the Observation Lounge?

    I requested a refund from Amazon, and they gave me it telling me I needn’t bother sending the book back to them. That about summed it up for me.

    1 star.

  • Donald Aehl

    Just received my copy. The VR images are very nice, but far too few to be really interesting. Ten Forward, Crew Quarters, Battle Bridge, Stellar Cartography, Shuttlebays, maybe even a Shuttle itself. All missing. What a wasted opportunity.

    Even worse, check out the Master Systems Display in Main Engineering. It clearly says NCC-1801/D. WTF!!!

  • oscar Tirrell

    are they putting star trek the next generation on blueray dvd because i thought they where doing please found out okay Oscar Tirrell

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000244153442 T.j. Ackermans

    Wish they would just update and re-release the “INTERACTIVE TECHNICAL MANUAL” and maybe “CAPTAINS CHAIR”