As a long time Star Trek fan, I have somehow managed to get this far in life without reading any biographies from the show. So when contacted about Lance Parkin’s The Impossible Has Happened, due out from Quarto Publishing Group USA on August 2, I didn’t have any expectations except maybe I would learn a few things about the ever-exalted Gene Rodenberry. Parkin’s presentation of Rodenberry is absolutely well-researched, unbiased, and thorough. However, after a few hundred pages of “well, actually” in response to just about every mythos claimed as fact within the Star Trek fandom, I started to feel like the unfortunate soul stuck listening to a bitter ex drunkenly complain about how they’re “so over” someone, except they’re clearly not because they’ve spent the entire night talking about them. You know what I’m talking about. They overanalyze miniscule moments and interactions in an effort to make some kind of point that got lost, like, an hour ago. Which, as I understand it, is how a lot of Trekkies feel about Rodenberry.
Parkin spends (what feels like) a lot of the book using specific Star Trek episodes and lines of dialogue to explain why Rodenberry’s picture of things–his life, his production work, the people around him–was not reality. It’s an interesting approach to use a creator’s work as a lens to view their life but as the Star Trek franchise is a varied, expansive, many-headed cultural beast, this method means that Parkin’s argument frequently gets off track. For example, a section on gender equality in Rodenberry’s writing begins by describing the female characters included in the show and quickly derails into 4 pages describing an assault one woman faced at the hands of a never-named studio executive before vaulting off into Rodenberry’s many affairs and loose views on fidelity. I can see some loose threads tying back to a point here…somewhere…but if you’re going to bring in a cast member’s trauma I would hope to see that point made clearly, confidently, and with the gravity it both deserves and requires.
What Parkin does well in The Impossible Has Happened is collect a complete picture from otherwise fractured sources. He quotes from various articles and books written about the show as well as the biographies of some of its biggest stars–including William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols–bringing several differing perspectives into one place. I managed to learn a lot about Rodenberry that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. And while I don’t know that Rodenberry’s time working on the short-lived The Lieutenant was worth an entire chapter, Parkin’s discussion of Rodenberry’s personal life and its unequivocal entangled relationship to Star Trek was fascinating.
Overall, I don’t know that I’d necessarily recommend The Impossible Has Happened to someone looking to read up on Star Trek for a first time, especially since the show prevails as a science fiction classic despite the ridiculousness of Gene Rodenberry. I know some die-hard fans that’ll devour this sucker whole, however, and to them I say you can have my copy.
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