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Star Trek (Gold Key) #1 – The Planet of No Return! (Review)

The first Star Trek pilot, The Cage, was produced in 1964. To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, this December we are reviewing the second season of the original Star Trek show. You can check out our first season reviews here. Check back daily for the latest review.

The Star Trek comics published by Gold Key are somewhat infamous additions to the Star Trek canon. The company began publishing comic book tie-ins in July 1967, in the gap between the first and second seasons of the original Star Trek show. They continued to publish those tie-ins until 1978, when the license passed to Marvel. These early comics have become the source of much derision over the years, with fans dismissing them as hollow cash-ins produced by people with little understanding of the franchise itself.

However, recent years have seen something of a reappraisal of these early comic books. Once IDW Publishing secured the rights to produce tie-in Star Trek comic books, they devoted considerable effort to archiving and releasing classic and little-seen material from the franchise’s history. They released the Star Trek newspaper strips in a two-volume set, before turning their attention to the classic Gold Key comic books. It is a very worthwhile attempt to provide fans with a glimpse of oft-overlooked chapters in the franchise’s history.

Plant life...

Plant life…

The Gold Key Star Trek comics are messy. A lot of the criticisms hold true. There are all manner of continuity errors in the production of the comic. Artist Alberto Giolitti takes quite some time to figure out what Scotty looks like, and the colourists take a bit of time to figure out what uniforms various cast members should be wearing. The writing is similarly clunky, with characters sounding a little out of sort as the basic plot details seem to stand at odds with still-relatively-small Star Trek canon had been established by the closing credit of Operation — Annihilate!

And yet, despite all these considerable flaws, these comics do make for an interesting time capsule. They don’t feel quite like Star Trek so much as an impression of what Star Trek would look described to somebody who has never seen it, filtered through the lense of fifties and sixties science-fiction comics. The early issues feel like three blind men describing an elephant, and it is glorious.

Branching out...

Branching out…

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Star Trek – Season 1 (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

That came together rather well, didn’t it? With the current success of Star Trek as a blockbuster movie franchise, it’s fun to speculate about the show possibly returning to television. Being honest, I would be nervous about that. In this cut-throat age where ratings need to solidify (or start rising) almost immediately, I wouldn’t trust the first season of a Star Trek spin-off to rope in viewers quick enough. None of the Star Trek spin-offs, from The Next Generation through to Enterprise, had what could be considered “strong” first years. Occasionally there were a few classic episodes buried in there, as with Deep Space Nine, but it always seems to take a Star Trek show some time to find its “space legs”, so to speak. Time that I am not sure it would be afforded in the current market place.

Which makes it all the more spectacular that Star Trek itself started out so phenomenally. The first year of the show (and the franchise) is not only the best first season of any Star Trek show ever, it’s also in the running for the best of the thirty seasons of television that the franchise has produced. Not bad at all, considering that it seems like nobody had any idea what exactly they were doing when they started out.


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Star Trek – The Final Reflection by John M. Ford (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry.

The Final Reflection was written in 1984. Development on Star Trek: The Next Generation would only be announced in 1986. Sure, there were a bunch of successful movies being produced, but these only amounted to a couple of hours of Star Trek once every few years. And, even then, the movies were aimed at a much broader audience, without the same development and continuity that a television show could offer. Not that Star Trek ever really had that tight a sense of continuity, of course, but it must have seemed unlikely that things could ever go back to the way they had been. Certainly, in 1984, nobody could have anticipated the eighteen-straight years of Star Trek running from Encounter at Farpoint to These Are the Voyages.

As a result, fans had to look to other avenues to expand and develop the rich Star Trek universe. The novels were one such avenue, although they developed slowly. Mission to Horatius had been published while the show was on the air, but it was very clearly aimed at a younger audience. Spock Must Die! would be published in 1970. However, the spin-off fiction developed relatively slowly. Star Trek had yet to become a massive franchise with tie-in multimedia commercial opportunities.

Perhaps because the Star Trek novels had not quite turned into a massive franchising opportunity, and they weren’t under the same level of publicity or scrutiny that they would be in the years to come, writer John M. Ford was able to do something quietly revolutionary with his first Star Trek novel, The Final Reflection. He was able to venture away from our core cast of iconic characters and instead develop the Klingon Empire.

More than that, though, he was able to paint the Klingons as the good guys.


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Star Trek – Miri (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It is amazing how Star Trek manages to deftly balance the absurd with the horrific, the bizarre with the terrifying and the camp with the truly haunting. It’s something that’s really unique to the first iteration of the show, that deft ability to go completely for broke, willing to look completely ridiculous without any hint of embarrassment or modesty. Any of the spin-offs would be too conservative and too dignified to attempt anything quite as insane as Miri, with the failure of episodes like Move Along Home demonstrating that it’s impossible to replicate the freedom and the enthusiasm of the original show.

As a result, Miri is a wonderfully weird hour of television, one which is – on just about any level – incredibly wacky. And yet, despite that truly “out there” approach, it’s also a strangely compelling and engaging example of Star Trek.

Feels like going home...

Feels like going home…

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Star Trek – Mudd’s Women (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

I think it’s fair to say that Star Trek had some gender issues. I say that as a fan of the show, and as a person with an immense fondness for the ensemble. It’s tempting to write off those sexist moments and decisions as attitudes that were socially acceptable at the time. After all, the sixties are almost half a lifetime away at this point. However, that doesn’t account for the fact that many of the same gender issues plagued Star Trek: The Next Generation in the late eighties, which lost two of its three female leads in its first season, and opened its second year by subjecting the remaining female lead to The Child.

Even disregarding that, though, there comes a point where even the time when a work was produced can’t excuse certain attitudes or approaches. Star Trek doesn’t feature too many strong female characters, relegating recurring female characters like Uhura and Janice Rand to the background. This is dodgy enough, but the show’s problems with gender become a lot more obvious when a show throws sexuality into focus. Mudd’s Women is such a show. It famously introduced one of the few recurring non-crewmember characters, and it plays into the “Star Trek as space western” theme, but it is also very sexist. Very, very sexist.

Mudd-ying the waters...

Mudd-ying the waters…

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