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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier by J.M. Dillard (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.

In many respects, J.M. Dillard is a safe pair of hands.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was released at a point where Star Trek was shifting. Star Trek: The Next Generation had returned the franchise to prime time television after an absence of almost two decades and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had been an unqualified box office success. Gene Roddenberry was welcome back at Paramount after parting ways following the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, even if the production of Star Trek: The Next Generation was already slipping through his fingers.

There was a much tighter editorial approach to tie-ins and to spin-offs. Whereas the writers of the early Pocket Books novels and DC comics had been given considerable freedom, that freedom was being reigned in around the release of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The monthly comics series was launched with any elements not matching the “on message” approach to the franchise scrubbed out. All the original characters were gone. All the references to Star Trek: The Animated Series were gone.

The shift at Pocket Books was also palpable. Authors were suddenly getting asked to do ridiculous re-writes, or simply having their own material re-written at will. Margaret Wander Bonanno’s much-mangled Music of the Spheres is perhaps the most infamous example, going through several different ghost writers before finally being released as Probe, a book that Bonanno has relentlessly disavowed. Publishing Star Trek tie-ins was more like making sausages than it ever had been before.

So, in this context, it makes sense that author Vonda N. McIntyre would not return to do the novelisation of The Final Frontier. Her adaptations of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home were clever and thoughtful stories that built freely off the source material, finding room for asides and tangents that were not possible on film. Her novelisation of The Search for Spock hits the movie’s opening scene almost a third of the way into the book.

As such, McIntyre’s unique style was unlikely to be a comfortable fit for this new tie-in environment. J.M. Dillard, on the other hand, would be.

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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by Vonda N. McIntyre (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.

Gene Roddenberry novelised Star Trek: The Motion Picture. While there’s some lingering discussion about whether Roddenberry actually wrote the novelisation, the book reads like the work of a screenwriter turning his hand to prose. It’s more of a manifesto than a novel – an excuse for Roddenberry to expand on his utopian vision for the franchise.

In contrast, Vonda N. McIntyre was hired to write the novelisation of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Unlike Roddenberry, McIntyre was an experienced and professional novelist. She had been writing since the mid-seventies, and had a wealth of experience in both media tie-ins and her own original work. In fact, McIntyre wrote The Entropy Effect, the book published directly after the publication of The Motion Picture, and only the second Star Trek book published by Pocket Books.

All of this is a very round-about way of explaining that The Wrath of Khan is very much an adaptation in a way that The Motion Picture simply was not.

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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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