As Star Trek: The Next Generation’s 30th anniversary approaches later this month, there is a new book out for the TNG fan to own that highlights not only aspects of the show but offers a surprisingly personal look at a fan’s life as well. That book is A Field Guide to the Aliens of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Put together by editor Zachary Auburn, the Field Guide is a collection of zines written by “Joshua Chapman” throughout the years, beginning in 1990 running through the final season of the series. Joshua named and rated every alien that appeared throughout the show’s run as well as reviews of each alien from Betazoids (he wasn’t a fan) to Ligonians (slightly stereotypical). No topic is seemingly off limits in Joshua’s reviews of each alien: from his home life and school troubles to addressing the Star Wars versus Star Trek debate.
On the design front, you get to see a few font changes throughout the seasons. He goes from the first season in cursive into the typed zines, making it easier to read while bluntly ranking each alien based on aesthetic, how much of a jerk they are, and whether any solid qualities could make them entertaining.
The guide is organized by season, and while it gives you a look at the aliens from a fan’s perspective, you get more insight into Joshua’s life and what draws him to the show. According to the introductions at the beginning of every season, what began as a creative writing project for Joshua quickly grows into a form of escape from the issues he faced growing up.
We learn immediately from his “Aliens of the Enterprise” section that he is a big fan of Data and not a fan of Deanna Troi…at all (something that is clear throughout the guide). His reviews of aliens like Data and Troi throughout the seasons makes it clear exactly why he prefers one over the other. It’s Data lack of emotion that seemingly makes him Joshua’s favorite.
The frankness and sometimes uncomfortably personal details you would find in password-locked blogs these days or diaries make it a more intimate look at the series and add a level of relatability that fans going through tough times may understand. Sometimes television shows offer a character to relate to or some place to escape to, and you hold onto it to get through those tough times. That was what Joshua found in The Next Generation and what happened with these zines while also supplying an extensive database.
I honestly did not expect to find such a blunt, at times heartbreaking, and personal deep dive when I first picked up the Field Guide. But after reading through each review and ranking and the added recent interview with Joshua Chapman himself at the end, I can understand as a fan how it worked out that way.
If you are a TNG fan, this is definitely a different but interesting guide for you. A Field Guide to the Aliens of Star Trek: The Next Generation is out now and is available on Devastator Press’s site.
Law student by day (and night), Brianna spends her time away from books, briefs, and outlines watching TV and writing about it at TwoCentsTV, TheTVAddict, and now here at FanFest. Superheroes and a crime-fighting zombie currently rule her DVR. All other nerdy musings 140 characters or fewer at @WhenWatchingTV