Life Signs: The Biology of Star Trek

Robert Jenkins, Author, Susan Jenkins, Author, Susan C. Jenkins, Joint Author HarperCollins $22 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-019154-2
Books with this subtitle may soon be more numerous than tribbles. Following Athena Andreadis's To Seek Out New Life (Forecasts, Mar. 16), and in the manner of Krauss's The Physics of Star Trek, the husband-and-wife Jenkinses--he a molecular geneticist, she a psychiatrist--set out on a simple mission: ""to entertain, to teach, and to share some favorite Star Trek moments."" Their compact but informative book succeeds in all three tasks. Each of the nine chapters takes on a related set of biological issues raised by the Star Trek TV series and films, explaining how the world created by the Star Trek writers meshes with that of our own. A discussion of the differences in mating habits among Vulcans, Klingons, Ferengi and Trills, as well as a host of other aliens, leads to an interesting discourse on complications arising from human sexuality, with distinctions made among genetic sex, phenotypic sex, core gender identity and sexual roles. Similarly, an examination of the ""puppet-master parasites"" (parasites that appear in a number of episodes and that have the disconcerting ability to take control of their hosts' minds) segues into a review of how the human brain functions. Other topics covered include aging, telepathy, genetic engineering, human evolution and the possibility of noncarbon-based life forms. A final chapter on biological bloopers incorporated into the shows is most entertaining. While the book will delight die-hard Trekkies, it is less philosophical and wonderstruck than the Andreadis book, and its lack of depth on any given topic is likely to leave those searching for serious science a little disappointed. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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