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The Trek Nation - A Paper Universe

A Paper Universe

By Amy Hightower
Posted at September 28, 2000 - 9:16 PM GMT

The Paper Universe.
By: Andrew Pang
Publisher: Pocket Books
RRP: $13.95 US

Initial impressions: Star Trek origami? Someone has *way* too much time on their hands.

The Nitty Gritty: I often wonder what I'm getting into when I agree to do these things, but Star Trek origami? I mean, come on… Is this a case of commercialism taken one step to far? Or is it a completely legitimate new way for fans to express themselves? Probably the former… or maybe both. But who cares, really?

'The Paper Universe' is a somewhat unusual and rather effective little time waster that is quite likely to see you winding up ankle-deep in misshapen balls of paper that were meant to be the USS Enterprise. The premise of the book is simple enough – Andrew Pang, a member of both the British and Chinese Origami Societies and a keen Trek fan to boot, attempts to teach his fellow trekkies (or trekkers if you prefer) how to fold paper in interesting shapes, with the bonus option of ending up with something that looks like the Enterprise (original, A, D or E), the Defiant, DS9, Voyager, a couple of shuttle craft (types 6 and 9) or various alien ships (including a Borg Cube, Ferengi Marauder and ever-popular Jem'Hadar attack ship). All in all, there are about 15 ships to choose from. Unfortunately, origami is one of those things that is very difficult to learn out of a book and I found it to be an incredibly frustrating experience.

I have no previous experience whatsoever when it comes to origami – the closest acquaintance I've had with this art form was primary school art class, those little pick-a-number fortune-teller things and my own special brand of paper air plane that I always thought looks remarkably like a stealth bomber and does really great tricks – so, when I first opened this book, I wisely decided to start by learning the various ways in which to fold paper, of which there are many. The basic folds are, well, basic, and I had no trouble doing them, but the 'bases', in particular, the Starbases, require a little more effort – in fact, after several days of attempting it, I have still failed to actually succeed in making 'Starbase II' at all.

Having thus tackled most of the basics, I set out to try some of the actual models. I began with the 'Borg Cube', which is by far the easiest one in the book – in fact, it's really just one of those paper 'beachballs' some of my friends used to make and play catch with. I did that in under five minutes and, while not exactly as cubic as it should have been, it was passable. Emboldened by my early success, I ploughed forward… and ran straight into a brick wall. I attempted the Enterprise E – and failed spectacularly on all of my first five attempts. This was closely followed by the USS Defiant, the Klingon Bird of Prey and the Ferengi Marauder. I finally met some limited success with 'Voyager' after three attempts, managing to complete all the steps involved and even wound up with something vaguely Voyager-shaped. I had even better luck with the Cardassian Galor-class Warship, which looked surprisingly correct right up until step thirty-one of 46, after which time things started getting messy.

My biggest gripe with the book, and the source of most of my frustration with it, is the lack of clear instructions and primarily 2-dimensional illustrations. For example, several of the models require you to 'Inside reverse fold both legs upward'. While the Inside Reverse is one of those folds easily mastered at the beginning of the book, working out exactly how to apply it to the situation at hand isn't an easy task, especially when the drawing you're trying to emulate shows you only what it looked like before, followed by a picture of what it should look like when commencing the next step, with no stop-offs in between. It can take a heck of a lot of fiddling before it looks right, and even then, without being able to see the model from all sides, you can't really be sure you've done it correctly. While I know there is a limit to what you can show in a book, two dimensions really just don't cut it when you're dealing with a three dimensional art-form. The second big gripe with the book was just how small the models ended up being, even with standard-sized computer paper. While this, of course, is easily remedied by going out and buying several over-large sheets of paper, a warning would have been nice that you're likely to end up with a Defiant as long as your middle finger.

On the plus side, I do think this is a somewhat fascinating book in itself and even find myself somewhat in awe that people can sit down and work out how to do these things. I also find it slightly scary, but that's beside the point. Also worth noting is that, as with many things, it does get easier the more often you try - practice, in this case, does make perfect. And the finished models shown certainly don't look all that bad – in fact, some of them are pretty darn good, especially when you consider they're made of two bits of paper, so the potential is there, if you have the patience, which I'm afraid I don't.

The bottom line – if you're familiar with origami methods and have some free time, as well as a hankering to decorate your room with Birds of Prey instead of Cranes, then 'The Paper Universe' could be just the book you're looking for. On the other hand, if you're a rank novice like me, this may not be something you'd want to spend hard-earned money on unless you're looking for a challenge, in which case bring a ruler, a pencil, some scissors, a stanley knife and a *lot* of patience. The good news is, however, that you do improve with practice. In a few weeks from now, who knows? I may graduate on to the DS9 model that looks so complicated.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Amy Hightower is one of the two editors of the Trek Nation, as well as of Andromeda site SlipstreamWeb.