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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1984) Annual #1 – All Those Years Ago…

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

It’s weird to think that the original cast of Star Trek didn’t get a proper on-screen origin story until JJ Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2009. The show produced two pilots – The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before – and even the pilot episode that wound up airing was broadcast as the third episode of the first season. Given the realities of sixties television, it’s probably not too surprising. Rather famously, Gilligan’s Island scrapped its origin story pilot, reworking some of the footage (along with re-shot footage) into a later episode – deciding to skip the story of how everybody got here and just get to the meat of the story.

And you can understand why this approach worked with the original Star Trek. Structurally, the series was a product of its time, largely episodic. Sure, there were recurring alien races and even a few recurring guest stars outside the senior staff, but there was a sense you could jumble the viewing order of most of the episodes up and not notice anything strange.

At the same time, the lack of an origin leaves a vacuum. After all, each of the four following spin-offs opened with a two-hour special about putting the crew together to take their place on the final frontier. In hindsight, having had years to grow old with these characters and watch their friendships (and personalities) deepen and broaden, it occurs to us that we never really say them come together for the first time.

All Those Years Ago... isn’t nearly as elaborate or as sophisticated as Vonda M. McIntyre’s Enterprise: The First Adventure, but it does hint at a growing curiosity about how the team came to work together.

Second star on the right...

Second star on the right…

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Star Trek – The Movies (Review)

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

It’s interesting how radically different the Star Trek feature films were from the show that spawned them. All were anchored in the classic science-fiction series. Star Trek: The Motion Picture felt like it was heavily influenced by The Changeling. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan obviously drew on Space Seed. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock evoked The Menagerie. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home featured the same plot device (and time travel technique) as Tomorrow is Yesterday. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier had Kirk defeating one final god-like being. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country had the crew finally make peace with Klingons.

However, they were quite clearly a very different animal from the original television show. Which makes a great deal of sense. After all, there’s a world of difference between a fifty-minute adventure produced for weekly television and a big theatrical event. However, what’s interesting about these changes is that they weren’t necessarily in the direction you might expect. The television show was a collection of episodic adventures, but what’s really striking about the films is that most of them have a reasonably clear serialised arc.

startrek-themotionpicture

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Star Trek – Music of the Spheres by Margaret Wander Bonanno (Review)

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

Music of the Spheres is something of a legend in Star Trek circles. It’s not quite a ghost story, spoken of in hushed whispers. Indeed, author Margaret Wander Bonanno has made the manuscript available to interested fans via her website, and has used it to raise money for a variety of worth causes. She’s documented the difficult story of how her original novel warped in Probe in a wonderfully wry and insightful essay, offering a glimpse at the inner workings of Pocket Book and Paramount towards the end of the eighties.

It’s a rare peek behind the curtain, with Music of the Spheres serving as a compelling vehicle to explore just what was going on inside Star Trek licensing in the late eighties and early nineties.

startrek-voyagehome8

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Star Trek – The Pandora Principle by Carolyn Clowes (Review)

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

It’s amazing to think how much tie-in material the character of Saavik has generated, considering that she only appeared in three Star Trek films. There are regular characters who have never attracted the same degree of attention as Saavik. There’s probably a reason for this. After all, Saavik was introduced as an important character in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. There’s even some speculation that she might have been originally intended as a replacement for Spock, had Leonard Nimoy decided not to return to the franchise. As such, she was introduced as a surprisingly developed character with a background rife with storytelling potential.

It’s a bit of a disappointment, then, that she was first re-cast as Robin Curtis in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and then she was quietly shuffled off-stage at the start of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, never to be seen again. Perhaps that squandered potential is at the root of the fascination with Saavik. The Pandora Principle, the only Star Trek novel from author Carolyn Clowes, offers us an origin and a history for the character, building off hints and character attributes that were never even mentioned on-screen.

startrek-thepandoraprinciple

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1984) #7-8 – Saavik’s Story (Review)

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the movies with tie-ins around (and related to) the films. We’ll be doing one of these every week day. This is one such article.

Star Trek comics are an interesting way of catching a glimpse at the franchise one-step away from the heart of production. While there are other forms of tie-in media, comics are produced on a monthly schedule. While scripts need to be written and art needs to be drawn, there’s less lead-in time required, meaning that contemporary Star Trek comics are often able to react dynamically to on-screen events. While novels might take up to a year from original pitch to the time they hit the stands, there’s something rather more urgent about tie-in comic books.

This is an issue for many tie-ins comics. For example, the syndicated Star Trek newspaper strip launched shortly before the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture made a point to feature Ilia as a bridge officer on a relaunched USS Enterprise. She rather suddenly disappeared after those involved actually saw the movie and realised that she didn’t quite survive the adventure. Similarly, when it came to detailing the adventures of Kirk and company in the wake of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, writer Mike W. Barr moved the crew over to the USS Excelsior, in accordance with writer Harve Bennett’s original plan.

That said, Mike W. Barr’s comic book origin story for Lt. Saavik holds up rather well, fitting quite comfortably with Carolyn Clowes’ origin for the character offered in the superb 1990 book The Pandora Principle. Of course, Barr’s origin sketches the broadest of outlines, and is clearly more preoccupied with crafting a pulpy space opera adventure.

Saving Saavik!

Saving Saavik!

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

In many respects, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan represents the franchise’s first true “reboot.”

There have been various points in the history of the franchise when the show has undergone a reinvention of some description, a radical shift from what it was into what it would be. The third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation represented such a dramatic update, a shift turn-around from the show’s first troubled two seasons. The third and fifth seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did something similar. Star Trek: Enterprise tried to affect some radical shift, but only managed to accomplish it in the third season. JJ Abrams’ recent summer blockbuster represented its own dramatic alteration to what Star Trek was or could be.

However, The Wrath of Khan represents the show’s first massive shift, the first point at which the franchise effectively evolved into something markedly different from what it had been before.

You Khan do it!

You Khan do it!

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek – The Motion Picture

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture has a lot to recommend it. It’s big, thoughtful science-fiction, ripe with ideas and high-concepts tying directly into the root of the franchise. It gives both Kirk and Spock clear character arcs. It looks and sounds amazing, demonstrating just how far special effects had evolved in the decade since the show went off the air. However, it suffers from a pace that might best be described as “glacial”, and a sense that – for all the grand ideas – we aren’t really boldly going anywhere that new. Elements of the film can’t help but recall both the 1968 science-fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey and even the show’s own episode The Changeling.

While it’s easy to admire The Motion Picture, it’s a lot harder to enjoy it.

Strange new worlds...

Strange new worlds…

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