Phasers on Stun! by Ryan Britt

January 11, 2024 Book Reviews 4 ★★★★★

Phasers on Stun! by Ryan BrittPhasers on Stun!: How the Making (and Remaking) of Star Trek Changed the World by Ryan Britt
Narrator: Ryan Britt
Published by Penguin Audio on 5/31/2022
Genres: History, Nonfiction, Science Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: gift
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Chirp
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Written with inside access, comprehensive research, and a down-to-earth perspective, Phasers on Stun! chronicles the entire history of Star Trek, revealing that its enduring place in pop culture is all thanks to innovative pivots and radical change.

For over five decades, the heart of Star Trek's pro-science, anti-racist, and inclusive messaging has been its willingness to take big risks. Across thirteen feature films, and twelve TV series--including five shows currently airing or in production--the brilliance of Star Trek is in its endless ability to be rethought, rebooted, and remade.

Author and Star Trek expert Ryan Britt charts an approachable and entertaining course through Star Trek history; from its groundbreaking origins amid the tumultuous 1960s, to its influence on diversifying the space program, to its contemporary history-making turns with LGBTQ+ representation, this book illuminates not just the behind-the-scenes stories that shaped the franchise but the larger meaning of the Final Frontier.

Featuring over 100 exclusive interviews with actors and writers across all the generations, including Walter Koenig, LeVar Burton, Dorothy Fontana, Brent Spiner, Ronald D. Moore, Jeri Ryan, and many more, Britt gets the inside story on all things Trek, like Spock's evolution from red devil to the personification of logical empathy, the near failure to launch of The Next Generation in 1987, and how Trekkie outrage has threatened to destroy the franchise more than once. The book also dives deep with creators like Michael Chabon (co-creator of Star Trek: Picard) and Nicholas Meyer (director, The Wrath of Khan). These interviews extend to the bleeding edge of contemporary Star Trek, from Discovery to Picard to Lower Decks, and even the upcoming highly anticipated 2022 series, Strange New Worlds.

For fans who know every detail of each Enterprise bridge, to a reader who has never seen a single minute of any Star Trek, this book aims to entertain, inform, and energize. Through humor, insight, archival research, and unique access, this journey through the Star Trek universe isn't just about its past but a definitive look at its future.

Informative, entertaining, and delightful

As a lifelong Star Trek fan, I found Phasers on Stun!: How the Making (and Remaking) of Star Trek Changed the World both very informative and highly entertaining. The book covered things I already knew (for example, how Martin Luther King, Jr., told Nichelle Nichols that she had to remain on the show) , but also went into depth on things I hadn’t known (like the extent to which Nichols was instrumental in getting NASA to diversify the astronaut program, and her subsequent recruiting on NASA’s behalf.)

Like me (and my husband, Mr. Bookwyrm), Ryan Britt is a fan not only of Trek in its many iterations, but also of the ideals and underlying beliefs of Star Trek: its optimism; its vision of a future where all intelligent beings are respected and included regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or even species; and its preference for diplomatic resolution of conflicts (although Starfleet is willing to fight to defend its member planets when necessary.) Britt looks at how those ideals have been represented throughout the various series of Star Trek, from the original series (TOS) to Strange New Worlds. The shows haven’t always lived up to those ideals—it wasn’t until Discovery that a Star Trek series featured openly LGBTQIA+ characters as regulars, for instance—but from the beginning, the Enterprise crew, and by extension Starfleet and Star Trek itself, was diverse in terms of race, gender, and species. (I suspect the original Enterprise crew would have included more alien crew members if the show could have afforded them.) And while Star Trek’s example of embracing diversity is very much aligned with the liberal and Quaker values with which I was raised, TOS and ST:TNG both had a profound effect in shaping my worldview.

In telling the history of the shows and how they impacted and interacted with popular culture and real-world events, Britt includes quotes and stories from a number of Star Trek luminaries, from writers and showrunners to actors. Some of these are drawn from interviews conducted for various articles Britt (a sci-fi and pop-culture journalist) has written over the years; other interviews took place specifically for this book. The interviews and quotes give an insight into the experiences and motivations of the people who made and remade Star Trek, and continue to do so to this day.

Whether you grew up watching one of the Star Trek shows, came to the fandom as an adult, or simply want to understand the wide appeal of the Star Trek universe, I recommend reading or listening to Phasers on Stun! It’s a warm, loving, but not uncritical look at a pop-culture phenomenon that, at over 50 years old, is still relevant, influential, and dynamic.

Challenges: (does not count for 2024 challenges because I listened to most of it in 2023)


4 Responses to “Phasers on Stun! by Ryan Britt”

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I’m absolutely with you on the importance of accepting/embracing diversity. And if you love any of the various Star Trek series, I highly recommend the book.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Oops! Thank you; I’ll fix that. Sometimes Ctrl-C on my keyboard fails to actually copy what I think I’m copying, and then when I do a Ctrl-V, it pastes whatever the previously-copied thing was.

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