top of page

Book Review of Star Trek Designing the Final Frontier by Dan Chavkin & Brian McGuire 


"What I will take credit for is, I surrounded myself by very bright people wo came up with all those wonderful things. And then you can appear very smart." - Gene Roddenberry

As both a Star Trek TOS fan, and an admirer of midcentury modern design, I was thrilled when Insight Editions sent me a copy of this book! And what a gorgeous book it is! It truly surpassed my expectations! 

While watching episodes of the show, no matter how many times I have seen each one, I always find myself admiring the furniture and art on the sets, (and costumes!) I absolutely love the futuristic look, and this book has caused me to really consider how it was mid-century modern designers that gave us this view of the future.

Inside this beautiful volume is a deep look into various episodes of the three seasons of Star Trek TOS. Images of the show are shown along with the particular items the authors have identified and researched. The items are also shown on their own oftentimes so you can get a clearer look. Even more awesome is the production sketches included that are shared throughout the book, and which show exactly the look and details for the set that was wanted for each scene. Throughout the book there is also some biographical information on the individual set designers, art directors, set decorators and as well, a matte artist who did several of the matt paintings used in the series. Along with biographical information on many of the designers of the furniture and art as well.

There is a wonderful section of the book on futurist architecture that details out the problem of needing to show the “strange new worlds” in the series, and that was solved by one of three ways. Either filming with a modernist building as a backdrop, building a key structure on a sound stage, or a matte painting used as a backdrop. There are several examples showing these techniques in action. I found this incredibly interesting! 

Another chapter of the book is about brutalism and how it also shaped the look of the future, showing a very contrasting vision with the starkness of brutalist sculpture in more harmonious settings. I hadn’t ever thought about the brutalist items in the show, I noticed them, but that was about it. Now that it has been pointed out to me, I can see how clearly they influenced the mood of a scene. And I can understand better my attraction to the brutalist style, it somehow holds that very interesting futuristic look, partnered with a sense of honesty and simplicity. 

Before reaching the end of the book there are some fun old adverts to view (there are also wonderful adverts throughout the book, showing items from the show as they were advertised to the public). And finally, something that really delighted me, a “catalog of objects”! Being a chart over multiple pages that list out each item they identified and researched, it’s designer, manufacturer, country of origin, era, and episode of the show. Making it that much easier to Star-Trek-ify your own home if that may be your desire! If you can afford to that is. Midcentury modern design is really popular now, and genuine items are quite sought after so prices can reflect that. Still, some items are available as replicas or reissues and may be more affordable.  

I would obviously recommend this book to fans of Star Trek TOS and midcentury design, but I also think any Star Trek fan even without an interest in design would find it interesting. Alternatively, I think admirers of midcentury design not particularly interested in Star Trek might also find the book interesting.

Thank you Insight Editions for sending me this book, I absolutely love it! And a huge thanks to the authors for their hard work putting this book together!

 Published by Weldon/Owen 2021/08/03 



bottom of page