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Star Trek – The Changeling (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 Changeling, an episode so good that they made it twice.

Sarcasm aside, The Changeling is mostly interesting for reasons outside the episode itself. It is the first contribution from John Meredyth Lucas, who would become the show’s producer towards the end of the season. Lucas took over from Gene L. Coon and is notable for being the first production staff member on Star Trek to direct an episode from his own script, with Elaan of Troyius in the show’s troubled third season. The Changeling arguably had an even bigger influence on the franchise, serving as a template for the first feature film.

Probing problems...

Probing problems…

Okay, “template” may be a slight exaggeration. However, you can definitely feel the influence of The Changeling on Star Trek: The Motion Picture. However, that may simply be because the script to The Changeling hits quite heavily on some of Gene Roddenberry’s pet themes. It has a villainous robot outwitted by emotional humans, Kirk besting a god-like entity, and larger philosophical questions about religion and theology.

Even outside of the themes that resonate specifically with Roddenberry, The Changeling hits on a variety of other classic Star Trek tropes – from a threat leaving nothing but dead star systems in its wake through to an abundance of dead red shirts. There’s an argument to be made that The Changeling is one of the most archetypal Star Trek episode. If you were to bake a Star Trek episode from a stock list of ingredients, it would look a lot like this. For better or worse.

Melding metal...

Melding metal…

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Star Trek – Untold Voyages (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.

There’s something of a continuity lacuna that exists between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Although the movies were released three years apart, more time appears to have passed for the characters themselves. Some of the changes are quite startling. After fighting so hard to get the Enterprise back in The Motion Picture, Kirk has retired to Earth once again at the start of The Wrath of Khan. After putting the Enterprise back in action in The Motion Picture, it has been converted into a cadet cruiser in The Wrath of Khan.

A lot of stuff has happened, and the gap is relatively under-explored by tie-in material. In contrast, the gap between The Turnabout Intruder (or The Counter-Clock Incident) and The Motion Picture is filled with all sorts of material designed to offer the show the type of closure that it never got on television. The same is true of the gap between The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before, with books and comics eager to offer accounts of Pike’s time in command and the transition to Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Star Trek: Untold Voyages is a five-issue Marvel Comics series published in 1998 designed to bridge The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. Although it wallows a bit in continuity and references, writer Glenn Greenberg uses the series to make some very clever and introspective points about Star Trek as a franchise – in effect, cleverly transitioning from Gene Roddenberry’s “future humans are the best” attitude toward Nicholas Meyer’s more reflective and introspective take on the characters and their world.

Shining star...

Shining star…

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Star Trek – The Entropy Effect 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.

The Pocket Books Star Trek line has to be one of the most stable and successful tie-in book ranges in the world. While the comic book license has bounced from publisher to publisher, Star Trek prose has remained firmly rooted at Pocket Books through the highs and the lows of the Star Trek franchise. This is undoubtedly because Pocket Books is a subsidiary of Simon and Schuster, which has been owned by the company that has owned Star Trek since 1975.

As such, from 1979 until the present day, Pocket Books has produced an incredible amount of tie-in material to support the Star Trek franchise. From reference material through to novels set within the fictional universe, the line has published a wealth of material across all the shows and all the time frames. Indeed, Pocket even launched their own separate spin-off brands run by authors like Peter David or Keith R.A. DeCandido.

While Gene Roddenberry’s novelisation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was the first official Star Trek novel published by Pocket Books, and the line had published a number of reference books in the interim, Vonda N. McIntyre’s The Entropy Effect is the first original novel published by Pocket Books. In many ways, the influence of McIntyre’s work is still being felt, as she demonstrated how best to approach a Star Trek tie-in novel.

theentropyeffect

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Star Trek: The Newspaper Strips – Called Home (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.

It’s amazing how diverse and expansive the history of the Star Trek franchise is. Even odd little curiosities like the Gold Key Comics and The Newspaper Strips endure in one form or another – passed down over the years and lovingly maintained. There really are no truly forgotten pieces of Star Trek out there, and one of the great things about IDW’s management of the Star Trek license has been their willingness to dig into the annals of Star Trek history to produce some striking pieces of work.

(I am really hoping that their reprint programme extends at some point to include the British Star Trek comic strips, which were wonderfully dynamic pieces of work that were never properly reprinted outside the United Kingdom. However, given how thorough the reprint programme has been, it seems almost inevitable that those strips will see the light of day in some form or another.)

The Newspaper Strips were launched in 1979, débuting four days before the cinematic release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The strip only ran for until 1983, cancelled due to the fact that the market was crowded out with more popular science-fiction comic strips like Star Wars or Flash Gordon. Still, despite the ignominious finish for the strip, it is a fascinating piece of Star Trek history, an example of one of the many ways the franchise survived during its long hiatus from television.

tos-calledhome

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Star Trek (Marvel Comics, 1979) #1-3 – The Motion Picture (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.

What better way to announce the arrival of Star Trek at Marvel Comics than with an adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture? Initially published as a giant Marvel Super-Size issue, the adaptation was subsequently split across the opening three issues of Marvel’s ill-fated Star Trek monthly.

It is worth noting that the franchise’s initial association with Marvel was relatively brief, with the Star Trek monthly series only lasting eighteen issues from 1979 through to 1982. In 1982, the Star Trek comic book franchise moved to DC Comics, where it remained until the nineties. Things became a bit more complicated at that stage, but it was a long-term relationship.

Still, in 1979, Marvel became the second company to publish monthly comics based around the Star Trek license. However, they were a substantially more impressive operation than Gold Key Comics, the previous license-holder. For example, this adaptation of The Motion Picture comes from some very talented creators, and its publication was treated as something of an event.

The light at the end of the tunnel...

The light at the end of the tunnel…

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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.

st-tmp-roddenberry

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Star Trek: Phase II (1978) – In Thy Image (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.

It’s interesting to imagine what might have happened if Star Trek: Phase II had actually made it to television.

The aborted attempt to produce a sequel live-action television show in the late seventies was ultimately scuppered by the success of films like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Prompted by the success of these big-screen science-fiction epics, Paramount pushed for the franchise to move to the big screen. Star Trek: Phase II was abandoned and the pilot – In Thy Image – was reimagined as the script for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Many, including Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, have argued that this was for the best. They wonder whether Phase II could have competed in the saturated science-fiction market of the late seventies. After all, one of the factors that lead to the decline of the franchise in the late nineties was the abundance of similar material out there. Given that the plan was to use Phase II to launch a television network, the obvious point of comparison as Star Trek: Voyager, which is not a favourable comparison.

Still, despite all this, it’s hard not read In Thy Image and wonder at what might have been.

st-iti7

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