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Star Trek – The Fearful Summons by Denny Martin Flinn (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

One of the great things about a franchise as expansive and as well-documented as Star Trek is that no idea is even completely lost to history. The franchise is sprawling enough that episodes and films inevitably end up lost to history. Scripts are written and re-written, with ideas changing dramatically from original conception through to the final released version. Even Star Trek: Phase II is well accounted for, affording fans a glimpse at how things might have gone for the franchise.

It’s interesting to imagine the possibilities that exist at given moment for the franchise – how radical things might be now had a particular event gone a different direction. Imagine Bryan Fuller and Bryan Singer bringing Star Trek back to television with Angela Bassett in the big chair. Or Spock on the grassy knoll. Or Oscar nominee Geneviève Bujold as Janeway. Or a first season of Star Trek: Enterprise set primarily on Earth during the development of the warp five drive.

So much of the franchise is discussed and analysed that ideas like this tend to bubble through. Occasionally, the franchise allows an echo of what might have been to break through. Star Trek: The Next Generation adapted two aborted scripts from Star Trek: Phase II into The Child and Devil’s Due. Harlan Ellison’s original script for The City on the Edge of Forever is being adapted into a comic book. That is to say nothing of writers like D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold working with fan productions.

However, Denny Martin Flinn’s novel, The Fearful Summons, is a particularly interesting glimpse at what might have been. It’s essentially a novel based around his original idea for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It’s a rather bizarre and occasionally awkward glimpse at what might have been for the franchise.

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Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry (Review)

This June, we’re taking a look at some classic Star Trek movie tie-ins and other interesting objects. Check back daily for the latest reviews and retrospectives.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is heavily influenced by Gene Roddenberry. It’s a piece of work that serves as an example of Roddenberry’s vision of the franchise – what he felt Star Trek should look like in the late seventies and beyond. Much like the first and second seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, there’s a sense that this is the perfect distillation of Roddenberry’s later-day version of Star Trek, distinct from the versions that existed before and afterwards.

Although Roddenberry doesn’t have a writing or story credit on The Motion Picture, his influence is keenly felt; right down to hiring a bona fides science-fiction writer (Alan Dean Foster) to provide the story. (After hearing pitches from other authors like Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and Theodor Sturgeon.) This was in keeping with his work on the early seasons of the show, where he tried to convince published science-fiction authors to contribute to Star Trek.

While Roddenberry doesn’t have a writing credit on the film, he did write the novelisation of the screenplay, which serves as a direct insight into how Roddenberry approached the franchise and how he saw Star Trek in 1979.

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Star Trek – Sarek by A.C. Crispin (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

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

One of the more interesting things about the expanded Star Trek universe is the diversity. It is possible for supporting characters and guest stars to carry their own narratives and stories within the grand sweeping tapestry of the Star Trek universe. Despite his importance to the mythos, Mark Lenard’s Sarek only made a handful of appearances across the history of the franchise. He only appeared once in the entire classic Star Trek television show, in Journey to Babel.

It is a testament to Mark Lenard’s dramatic abilities and D.C. Fontana’s writing that Sarek would recur across Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation and even the original Star Trek movies. The character – despite only appearing in a supporting role across four televised episodes and four feature films – remains one of the most intriguing supporting characters across the franchise.

A.C. Crispin’s Sarek offers a fascinating glimpse at one of the show’s most compelling guest stars, even if the novel does suffer a bit trying to “fix” some of the problems that the author seems to see in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – I, Q by John deLancie & Peter David (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

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

I, Q is John deLancie’s second attempt to write a story featuring his popular and iconic Star Trek: The Next Generation character. As with The Gift, he is teamed with an experienced Star Trek tie-in writer to help bring his vision to life. While Michael Jan Friedman’s collaboration with deLancie for the first annual of DC’s first Next Generation series was a less than promising debut for the actor-turned-writer, I, Q works a lot better.

It’s hard to tell if this is because deLancie works better with Peter David as a collaborator, or that his style works better in prose, or simply that he has developed as a writer in the years since that first comic was published. I, Q is far from the perfect Star Trek novel, but it’s an enjoyable enough read – it captures the voice of its celebrity author quite well, and breezes along inoffensively. There are moments when the novel seems to bask a little too heavily in its central character’s filibustering, but it’s a perfectly serviceable read.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Reunion by Michael Jan Friedman (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films. This is one such entry. This is actually supplementary to the first season of the Next Generation, specifically the episode The Battle.

The Star Trek expanded universe is so large and so expansive that it has its own particular phases of history, its own important and divisive figures, its own grand context for things. With the announcement of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the late eighties, the focus of expanded universe shifted a bit. Ever since the original Star Trek had gone off the air, novelists like John Ford, Vonda McIntyre, Diane Carey and Diane Duane had been free to carve out their own little corners of the shared universe.

There was a sense that the novels existed to expand the Star Trek universe outwards, with certain authors even developing their own recurring casts and delving into the history and culture of various fictional races in a way that simply wasn’t possible as part of a television episode or feature film. In the late eighties, this changed rather dramatically, with Richard Arnold becoming something of a “gate-keeper” of the expanded universe.

Although Diane Carey would write the first Next Generation tie-in novel, Ghost Ship, this represented something of a changing of the guard. The focus of the novels became a bit different, and the authors driving the line began to change. Michael Jan Friedman’s first published Star Trek novel was Double, Double in April 1989. Since than, he has written more than thirty different Star Trek tie-in novels, a few short stories and ninety-one issues (including annuals and specials) of the nineties Next Generation tie-in comic.

In terms of influence in the Star Trek expanded universe of the nineties, Michael Jan Friedman is a defining figure.

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Gideon’s Daughter (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

Stephen Poliakoff’s companion piece to Friends and Crocodiles, airing just a month after that original drama film, Gideon’s Daughter feels like it owes a lot to a bunch of fascinating central performances. While Robert Lindsay provides the only on-screen evidence of a link between the two projects, reprising his role as an embittered old writer here, Poliakoff’s two stories are thematically linked, as the author focuses a lot of his frustrations on meaningless celebrity culture. This time, however, he sets the stories in the late nineties, allowing him to explore what he undoubtedly sees as the vulgarity of the millennium celebrations and to subtly examine the national outpouring of grief offer the loss of Princess Diana, while telling a rather simple story of a father and his daughter.

All tied up...

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Science Fiction by any other name…

I’m genuinely excited about The Road, the adaptation of the novel from Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy. despite a shakey production history, it looks like the Weinstein might be able to mount a successful Oscar campaign for this science-fiction tale. Oops. I shouldn’t have mentioned that hyphenated word. Pretend you didn’t hear it – maybe the Academy hasn’t heard it either. In fact, given the way that people talk about the book and the film, you’d be lucky to hear that ‘tag’ even within the same paragraph. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.

A nice father-son day out...

A nice father-son day out...

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