Monday, November 28, 2016

Memory Bank: The Star Trek Compendium (1981)

All this year, I have been celebrating Star Trek's 50th anniversary, and today I want to continue doing so by taking a look at another beloved collectible (or artifact) from that history.

It was Christmas, 1981, I believe, when I visited my aunt Patty and uncle Bob at their house in Summit, New Jersey.  

I was eleven years old, and absolutely obsessed with Star Trek

In part, that obsession had been super-charged by the premiere of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), which I found to be a challenging and beautiful cinematic experience.  Basically, I lived and breathed Star Trek, and was desperate to see all the episodes of the original series again, because our local station, WPIX, always seemed to air the same handful of episodes ("That Which Survives" seemed to be on the air every other week, for some reason.)

Anyway, Patty and Bob presented me with a Christmas present, and one which absolutely inspired me: Allan Asherman's Star Trek: Compendium (Wallaby/Pocket Books), which was described on its cover as "the most thoroughly researched and complete Star Trek reference work ever published."

First, I have to say, I loved the look of the book cover. This was a crucial part of the experience. It was very futuristic, colored in metallic blue and silver. The Star Trek logo was that of The Motion Picture vintage, in golden or yellow lettering.  Future editions of the book lost the metallic sheen and the futuristic feel, I felt, though added photos from the TV series in its place.  The lettering also changed back to the sixties TV show logo style.

The Star Trek Compendium -- which has indeed been reprinted and updated four times since the early eighties -- featured fascinating information on (according to the back cover): "photography and production," "technical matters," "series concept and continuity," "symbolism and trivia," "episode titles, dates of production and discussion of plots," and "career and biographical information of actors and production personnel."

In short, it was a treasure trove of information about my favorite TV series (and favorite new movie, too).  The Compendium lived up to its description on the back cover as a "gold mine" of information about Star Trek.

I read, re-read and then read again The Star Trek Compendium, and basically it with me wherever I went. I read it in the car on shopping trips.  I read it before bedtime. I read it with breakfast, the next day. 

Sadly, the book came apart from the heavy usage, by about 1984. I continued to read it, even with pages falling out.  I finally got a new copy at a used book store sometime later, but it was one of the later editions, and didn't have the same feel/look of that first edition.

Today, thirty-five years later, I still remember unwrapping this book at the holiday season, and thrill of leafing through the pages of the Star Trek Compendium for the first time.  For me, it was a magical time, and a magical book too.


  1. I had much the same experience with Bjo Trimble's STAR TREK CONCORDANCE in '76.

  2. John wonderful thoughts on your receiving the gift of Star Trek Compendium. Reading this brings back fond memories from my boyhood, back then too, receiving other Star Trek publications.


  3. John,
    I have almost the same exact experience, only with Bjo Trimble's Star Trek Concordance. Received as (I believe) a Christmas gift, that book stayed with me wherever I went, was read at every chance, and eventually fell apart due to continued use. I'd held on to the copy even though it was only just held together by a prayer, and eventually found another one in near-mint condition at a local used bookstore, for only 5 bucks!! I've seen copies at Amazon for $50 or more.
    Those were truly great days. Thank You for sharing your stories.

  4. Count me among those who had this experience with the Concordance! Jeez, I had to get my brother to take me downtown to the only bookstore that did special ordering, but first I had to get the reference librarian's help finding the ISBN at the public library because the old lady at the bookstore was the kind of stickler who wouldn't look up these things by title (throwing up barriers was her way of determining if you were serious). Then I had to put down half the price at order because Bookstore Lady was errrrr, um, well . . . you know. Every book, every periodical I wanted, I had to jump through hoops and run through fire . . . boy, when that Concordance came, I lived it. Lost it in a cross-country move in 1999, along with a collection of Starlog and Cinefantastique issues. Dammit.

    1. Sheri,
      I can't even imagine. You must be made of stronger stuff than I. Not only dealing with the evil book lady, but losing half your collection. Much of my childhood was tossed in the bin when my Mom moved from her house and I wasn't there to salvage anything. That's life...You can't take it with you, I guess. It just piles up and piles up and the next thing you know, you're featured on Hoarders.
      At least we still have the memories!