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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Masks by John Vornholt (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.

Generally, I’ve been looking at novels and tie-ins that are specifically or thematically related to specific episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s a valid approach to writing about the show, searching out material that expands or develops themes and concepts and characters lightly touched upon during the episode in question. However, some times it is also worth taking time out to look at what was happening in tie-in fiction at approximately the same time.

Obviously, the scripts written by writers working on the show were the result of a careful creative process drawing input from the writers in general, the producers and the studio. They were crafted with a key eye to shaping the future direction of the show, by the people working on the show. Looking at official tie-in material from the same time allows us to venture a bit outside that circle, and to get a glimpse of what The Next Generation might have looked like to a creator outside the writers’ room as it was going to air.

Masks was published in July 1989, after Shades of Grey had aired and the second season had limped off the screen. While author John Vornholt obviously could not have seen the whole season on submitting his novel, it is interesting to get his view of the sci-fi spin-off in its sophomore season.

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Star Trek – Spock Must Die! by James Blish (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.

Spock Must Die! is notable for being one of the first Star Trek novels published. Indeed, it is the first original novel published by Bantham Books. (For trivia hounds, the young adult original novel Mission to Horatius was actually published during the show’s run.) It’s written by James Blish, the British author responsible for those Star Trek episode novelisations I have been sporadically quoting over the past month or so. Blish was a published science-fiction author before he worked with Star Trek. Reading Spock Must Die!, you can definitely sense the writer’s fondness for high concepts and metaphysical quandaries.

Indeed, one of the defining attributes of Spock Must Die! is that Blish seems more preoccupied with the logic and implications of the show’s pseudo-science (and his own elements building on that) than he is with the characters themselves. It’s not necessarily a fatal flaw, but Spock Must Die! is more interesting and intriguing as a curiosity than as an expansion or examination of the Star Trek franchise.

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