Are you ready to open the Star Trek Vault? If so, author/comic-book writer Scott Tipton -- with an assist collectibles expert and StarTrek.com blogger James Sawyer -- is ready to help you do so. Tipton has penned the expansive Star Trek Vault: 40 Years From The Archives, a comprehensive compendium that looks back at and chronicles each Star Trek series and the first 10 features. It's an engaging read -- what with 32,000 words spread across its 128 pages -- but even better, it's an interactive experience, one filled with removable repoductions of everything from trading cards and a vintage t-shirt transfer to blueprints for Captain Picard's chair and a wrap-party invite. Abrams will release Star Trek Vault on October 1, and it will be available in the U.K. beginning October 6 from Aurum Press. StarTrek.com recently caught up with Tipton and Sawyer for an exclusive joint interview in which they previewed the book and covered a lot of other interesting ground as well.
How did both of you get involved in Star Trek Vault?
Scott: The best possible way for a freelance writer: They asked me. When the editors were looking for someone to write the book, they asked if CBS had any suggestions, and the licensing folks recommended me based on the strength of my work on Star Trek projects over at IDW Publishing, where my brother David and I have written a sizable portion of the Trek comics since they got the license a few years ago. I put together a proposal, and the rest is history.
James: Scott and I had been online buddies for about a year before talks began on the Vault book. I knew him from his work on IDW’s Star Trek comics, and he knew me from my Trek merchandise blog, apieceoftheaction.net. When the deal for the Vault book came through, Scott was nice enough to get the publishers in touch with me for my input.
Scott: James really knows his stuff, and I knew it would be valuable to have someone else looking at things who's as much of a Star Trek "expert" as I am. Plus, James has things in his collection I'd never even seen up close, so I knew this was a guy I wanted to have in my corner.
Basically, Scott, this is your baby, and James, you lent a major assist. Does that sound about right?
James: Definitely. Scott did the lion’s share of the work on this. I just helped out with selecting and photographing merchandise for the TOS and feature film sections of the book.
Scott: This project pretty much consumed my life for months, between watching and re-watching the episodes and films, poring over stacks and stacks of secondary sources, spending days exploring the Trek archives at CBS, which, to be honest, was a huge part of why I wanted the job in the first place. I mean, I held Gene Roddenberry's original writer's bible in my hands! And, of course, the actual writing itself. It's the single biggest project I've ever tackled on my own, and I’m really proud of it. I should also take this opportunity to thank John Van Citters and Marian Cordry at CBS, my personal tour guides through the archives, and the angels on my shoulder throughout the writing process.
Give us a preview of what's in the Vault, which spans from TOS to the first 10 features. What can fans expect to see and read?
Scott: The book covers all the television series --including The Animated Series, of which I'm a huge fan -- and the films, and provides for each a brief production history, some critical commentary, the cultural impact, and a look at the merchandising, and does so in a fun, conversational fashion, accompanied by tons of photos and illustrations and reproductions of some of the rarest and most interesting pieces of Trek memorabilia we could find. Of course, with over four and a half decades of history to cover, this book could never be completely comprehensive -- and I'd never be done writing it -- but I tried my best to capture what's really important. If nothing else, I really hope that what comes across is that this book was written by a guy who's loved Trek his whole life, and by the end of it has made the reader want to go grab a stack of DVDs and start watching from the beginning all over again. At least that's what happened for me…
James: I also think the fans are going to be really jazzed with some of the selections we made for the book. With 45 years of history, there is a lot of merchandise to choose from. The Vault takes that long history and filters it all into one beautiful tome, with neat little pull-out items and pictures to supplement Scott’s engaging prose.
For you guys, as Trek fans, what are you most excited to have found/discovered, that can now be shared with Trekkers out there?
James: For me, it’s probably some of the 1960s Lincoln Enterprises stuff. Much of that stuff has never been seen by newer fans of the franchise. And for older fans that were around during Trek’s original run, it should provide a nice trip down memory lane.
Scott: I love the strange stuff. Like the freezer pop molds that allow you to make your own freezer pops in the shape of Captain Kirk's head. Who wouldn't want that? I only wish we could have included one of those in every copy of the book. My favorite still might be the item that James brought to my attention, the official Star Trek V Marshmallow Dispenser. That actually happened. It's the perfect mix of being completely goofy and yet absolutely movie-authentic. Seriously. Go watch the campfire scene again. Plus, for me, so much of my Trek fandom as a kid was powered by my love of the Star Trek Mego action figures of the 1970s. The fact that photos of those same Mego Trek figures of mine are actually in the book makes me endlessly happy.
James, you're the TOS historian. What else did you chase, that you knew about and were determined to include in the Vault?
James: Well, besides the Lincoln Enterprises stuff, I really pushed for the inclusion of some of the quirkier items from Trek’s history. The Leaf trading card set from 1967, a lot of the Azrak-Hamway toys from the 1970s, and one of the TOS coloring books. All of those were things that I really wanted to see included in the book.
Scott: Man, I loved those coloring books as a kid.
James: I actually gave my kids a batch of fresh ones not too long ago that are all now fully colored. They are just awesome.
Scott, a lot of Star Trek fans think of you as a comic book guy. What were the challenges in writing a non-fiction, fact-based book like the Vault?
Scott: Well, the good thing was, though most Trek fans may only know my comic-book work, this wasn't at all my first experience in pop-culture historical prose. My first book, COMIC BOOKS 101, written with my longtime collaborator Chris Ryall, tackled the history of comics, the characters, the companies and the creators. It’s still available at Amazon.com and for the Kindle and the iPad, if you'll forgive the shameless plug. And I still offer weekly history lessons and commentary about the world of comics at my Web site, www.comics101.com. So taking this same approach and applying it to the Star Trek universe was like second nature to me.
James: Yeah, I didn’t envy Scott’s task in trying to condense all of this into one volume, but they really couldn’t have picked a better guy for the job. Scott really knows his stuff.
In the writing, how tricky a task was it to craft copy that would speak directly to longtime fans while also embracing the newcomers who may now be in the Trek fold --and just now encountering the older shows and films -- as a result of the J.J. Abrams film?
Scott: I tried to serve both audiences. My goal was to tell the story of Star Trek in an engaging, entertaining way so as to make it approachable for readers just coming into the world, but still provide enough new insights and critical commentary that longtime Trekkers could enjoy it just as much. It's very similar to the style I use in COMIC BOOKS 101 and my web site, and my fan mail there is a pretty even split between lifelong fans and newbies, so I'm hoping for the same response here.
The Vault is about as interactive as a book can be. How integral an element is the memorabilia? And which items do you think are the coolest in there?
James: I love the Vault format. As a kid, I loved pop-up books. The Vault books are like amped-up versions made for adults. They take a great read and turn it into an experience. The reader gets to hold and examine the subject material in a way that the standard book format just can’t achieve. Take for example the included coloring book reprint, which happens to be one of my favorite things in there. Other guide books would simply offer a picture of the coloring book. Star Trek Vault gives you a reprint that you can actually pull out and go to town on with your Crayolas!
Scott: I'm a sucker for this kind of thing: replica props, replica memorabilia, anything that brings you inside the behind-the-scenes world of your favorite show, or gives you a chance to own rarities you never thought you would, even if they're only copies. If you're a film buff, we've got storyboard and script pages. More of a collector at heart? How about replica trading cards, or even a groovy iron-on T-shirt transfer straight out of the 70s?
OK, let's get to the speed round -- and have a little fun. Your favorite TOS episode?
James: This one is really hard for me, as there are so many great episodes to choose from… but I have to go with “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
Scott: Yeah, I have to say "The City on the Edge of Forever," too. No other episode combines some of the sharpest humor and the most crushing tragedy, as well as offering what I think is Shatner's best performance in the series. Although I have to mention "The Changeling" as a sentimental favorite, as my first memory of Star Trek is my father and I doing our impressions of a melting-down Nomad. "Error… error!"
James: You know what always bothered me about “The Changeling”? Uhura’s mind-wipe. Nomad erases her entire memory, yet after just a few days, they completely re-educate her. Huh!? If it only takes a few days to bring a person from baby level all the way to the point where they can be a communications officer on the Enterprise, then why even bother to go to Starfleet Academy? Seems like a waste of time to me.
Scott: Maybe Bones is just a really good teacher.
Your favorite Trek feature?
Scott: There's no getting around it. Wrath of Khan, baby. You could start me off with any line of dialogue from that movie, and I could probably recite the rest of the film by memory. And as fantastic and career-defining as Ricardo Montalban's performance is, I think it kind of overshadows a real star turn by Shatner, who gets to be a matinee idol in a way he never did before.
James: Love them all, but I also have to give it to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Your favorite TNG character?
Scott: Picard, especially as a writer. Every chance I got to write Picard dialogue was a dream; I could just hear Patrick Stewart's voice in my head. It practically wrote itself.
James: Data for sure, though Riker is a close second.
Your favorite DS9 episode?
James: Being a TOS guy, I have to go with “Trials and Tribble-ations.”
Scott: "In the Pale Moonlight." Sisko goes places we've never seen a Starfleet Captain go before. A morally murky and challenging episode.
Your favorite Voyager character?
Scott: I know he only appeared once, but can I say Tuvix?
James: Tom Paris… though it is mostly because Robert Duncan McNeill also starred in the 1987 Masters of the Universe movie, of which I am a huge fan.
Your favorite Enterprise alien?
James: Again, my TOS-bias is going to come into play here. Even though they weren’t created for Enterprise, I really love what that show did with the Tellarites.
Scott: I totally agree: I think Enterprise was at its best when it breathed new life into some of the established TOS aliens that never had much development, like the Andorians.
Rumor is you guys like to debate the merits of Star Trek V. Please elaborate.
Scott: Heh. I don't think it comes as a surprise to anyone if I make the suggestion that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier might be the least well-received of the feature films. As I was writing the chapter about ST:V, I called James just to see if he had any thoughts about the approach to take, only to have my jaw drop when he replied "Yeah, I love that movie!" In fact, James, not to call you out for your answer above, but I think you even said ST:V was your favorite of the movies. You don't forget hearing something like that.
James: I think what I actually said was “Star Trek V is my favorite Trek film… that featured marshmallows.” The way I remember it was Scott calling me and saying “James, how can I say good things about Star Trek V?” and I replied “I think the better question is how can you not say good things about Star Trek V?” I truly believe that Star Trek V does a better job of showcasing the Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationship than any of the other films. Plus, it feels more to me like an original series episode than any of the other features… including the less-than-stellar special effects.
Scott: I gotta say, James kinda turned me around on it. There are still a lot of problems with it, but the campfire scene is surprisingly effective from a character standpoint.
What's the most-prized possession in your personal Star Trek memorabilia collection?
James: I own one of the Tribbles used in the original series episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” I plan on sneaking it into my casket with me when the time comes.
Scott: My beat-up, Scotch-taped-together Mego Enterprise Bridge holds a special place in my heart. And then last year at Comic-Con I found a mint copy of the MOTION PICTURE PUNCH-OUT BRIDGE book, which I wanted desperately as a kid and never managed to get, so I intend to build my cardboard Bridge one of these days. And brilliant artists like David Messina and Elena Casagrande, who illustrated some of my Trek comics, have been generous enough to give me some of the original art from my stories, which means a lot to me personally, to have those Trek moments I came up with hanging on my wall.
What's our unopened bottle of Romulan Ale worth?
James: Oh, that stuff? That’s not worth much. In fact, you might as well just send it over to us and we’ll get rid of it for you.
Scott: On the rocks, in a tall glass.
Lastly, what do you do for an encore? What else are you guys working on at the moment?
Scott: Like any freelance writer, I have a whole lot of projects at various stages in the production process, but at this particular moment, I can't really mention them yet. But readers can always head to my Web site comics101.com to catch up with what I'm up to, as well as get my weekly lessons in comic-book history. Oh, and also, November will see the release of the Star Trek 100-Page Spectacular from IDW, which reprints several of my Trek comics, as well as Angel: The End, which features my final tale in IDW's chronicles of the Angelverse, for any of you Whedon fans out there.
James: Well, I’m always continuing my Trek merchandise love over at my site, apieceoftheaction.net. Aside from that, I have another property in mind that I’m trying to convince the publishers is worthy of the Vault treatment. If that ever happens, I would love for Scott to be a part of it. I had such a great time working with Scott on this project that I am looking for any opportunity to make it happen again.
Scott: If the property you're pitching is what I think it is, count me in!