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New Podcast! Enterprising Individuals – “Gimme Some Mooney”

I am always thrilled to get a chance to talk about Star Trek with other fans, so I was thrilled at the invitation to join the wonderful Aaron Coker on Enterprising Individuals to talk about That Which Survives. The main feed episode went live last week.

However, our conversation tended to be a bit broader and a bit more wide-reaching than that, so we talked about everything from the recent release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to the completion of the Rebuild of Evangelion series. It was a discussion that managed to cover everything from Quibi to workers’ rights to the future of Doctor Who. It was a fun chat, and I hope that you enjoy.

You can listen to the episode here, back episodes of the podcast here, click the link below or even listen directly.

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Star Trek (DC Comics, 1989) #35-40 – Tests of Courage/The Tabukan Syndrome (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.

Captain Hikaru Sulu occupies a very special place in Star Trek lore. Given the amount of spin-off material that Sulu’s command of the Excelsior has generated, Sulu often seems like the Star Trek spin-off that never quite materialised. The idea of Sulu commanding the Excelsior has inspired novels and comics and audio books, and was even featured in Flashback, one of the episodes produced to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the franchise.

While Sulu’s command of the Excelsior is open-ended, it is interesting to consider the various origin stories that might apply. As with Khan Noonien Singh, there are multiple tie-in stories that cover the same ground. Published in late 2007, the novel Forged in Fire, for example, offers one account of Sulu taking command of the Excelsior – assuming command from Captain Styles during a high-pressure diplomatic crisis. However, this was not the first time that the story had been told.

Crossing swords...

Crossing swords…

A year following the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, author Howard Weinstein wrote Tests of Courage. A six-issue arc set during the earliest days of Sulu’s command, Weinstein had originally hoped to collaborate with George Takei on the comic. Unfortunately, the two could not work out their schedules, forcing Weinstein to write the comic without Takei’s input. However, Takei did provide a glowing and enthusiastic foreword for the collected edition of the comic published two years later.

Tests of Courage is a fantastic piece of work, a suitably epic Star Trek comic that tells a suitably epic story – one with breadth and scope and drama and conflict that demonstrates just what a wonderful storyteller Howard Weinstein is.

Ships of the line...

Ships of the line…

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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.


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Star Trek: The Lost Era – Serpents Among the Ruins by David R. George III (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 Neutral Zone.

The first year of Star Trek: The Next Generation was a little rocky when it came to continuity. Skipping roughly a century on from the adventures of James T. Kirk, there were times when it seemed like the writers weren’t entirely sure what had happened during that gap. Early on, for example, it was suggested that the Klingons had joined the Federation, a decision reversed by the show’s third season. Even within the first year of the show, it seemed like the writers hadn’t quite cemented the wider Star Trek universe. In Angel One, we discover that the Romulans are threatening war, only to hear in The Neutral Zone that they’ve actually been absent from galactic affairs for quite some time.

Serpents Among the Ruins is an attempt to explain that absence established in 1988, and contextualise it against the eighteen years of Romulan stories that would follow from the early appearances in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country through to the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and beyond.


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Star Trek: Mirror, Mirror #1 – Fragile Glass (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second season. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

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 benefits and the curses of tie-in material is the ability to connect the dots – to tie together two parts of continuity separated by time and space, filling in the blanks in some character or plot arc. Often, this feels extraneous at best. In order for the televised stories to work, there must be enough information conveyed effectively to the audience so they can make their own leaps. Trying to plug imaginary and unnecessary holes is seldom satisfying.

On the other hand, there are occasionally gaps that are worth exploring. These are gaps that have been explained on the show, but which are still large enough that creators can fit their own interesting stories between them. The divide between Mirror, Mirror and Crossover is one such gap, as we go from the original Star Trek‘s version of the mirror universe to the very different iteration seen on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Tom DeFalco’s Fragile Glass attempts to sketch in some of the details around this gap. While it’s not entirely satisfying as either a missing link or a story in its own right, it does offer some nice pulpy fun and gets considerable mileage out of the “Spock vs. Kirk” premise.

I am not Spock...

I am not Spock…

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Star Trek – The Ashes of Eden by William Shatner et al (DC Comics) (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.

The Ashes of Eden is effectively professionally published Star Trek fan fiction, written by William Shatner. The actor gets some assistance from veteran Star Trek writers Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, but it’s clear that Shatner is the driving force behind The Ashes of Eden. Indeed, an astute reader will spot quite a few thematic overlaps with Shatner’s much-maligned directorial effort, only without the rest of the cast around to temper his efforts to make this a story about Kirk and Kirk alone.

Still, The Ashes of Eden isn’t as bad as it might be. After all, just because something is fan fiction – professionally published or otherwise – says nothing of its quality. The story is probably best read as an exploration between Shatner and his alter ego, but it holds together quite well, providing a much more solid (if still far from perfect) exploration of the themes hinted at in Shatner’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

The dusk of an era...

The dusk of an era…

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Star Trek – This Side of Paradise (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.

Star Trek always had a curious relationship with the hippie movement in the late sixties. On a surface level, you’d assume that the series would have a great deal of empathy for the idealistic and pacifist movement. After all, the show embraced counter-culture in a fairly significant way, offering none-too-subtle criticisms of American foreign policy in episodes like A Taste of Armageddon, and harbouring some very serious concerns about authority in adventures like Dagger of the Mind. What was The Naked Time but an embrace of fin de siècle anxiety mere months before “the summer of love”? After all, the nineteenth century European fin de siècle period had produced Der Wandervogel, considered one of the predecessors to the hippie movement.

And yet the show never seemed entirely comfortable with the youth movement. This would be much more obvious third season’s dire The Way to Eden, but the show’s sense of unease is quite palpable here, as Kirk finds himself trying to deal with a crew that have sampled some mind-altering vegetation and are now embracing free love.

Flower power...

Flower power…

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Star Trek – The Naked Time (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.

Star Trek is, by its nature, an inherently optimistic television show. I seem to keep mentioning that in these reviews, as the first season of the show subverts and plays with the notion of an idealised future. However, despite the suggestion that evil is necessary in The Enemy Within or the death of the last of a species in The Man Trap or the suggestion that man’s next evolutionary phase would be truly horrifying in Where No Man Has Gone Before, Star Trek is still a hopeful vision of a possible future. It’s a story about a world where mankind hasn’t wiped each other out and where we can go (relatively) peacefully among the stars. It’s a world without racism or classism. There is sexism in Star Trek, but I’ll give the producers the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s not intentional.

So The Naked Time feels a little weird, being – as it is – a story about the collapse of civilisation at the end of a world. Not our world, mind you, but there’s a very clear sense of social collapse mirrored in the literal collapse of planet Psi-2000.

How logical...

How logical…

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Star Trek – Where No Man Has Gone Before (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.

In a way, there’s a very clear divide between The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before. It’s clearer than the strange new actor sitting in the middle of the Bridge or the fact that Spock is suddenly a lot less casual. In a way, each is perfectly positioned in popular consciousness. The Cage was produced in late 1964, but wouldn’t be shown on television until 1988, after spending years touring the fan circuit. It remains a strange bit of Star Trek history, sitting simultaneously outside any of the five television shows, and simultaneously a completely inexorable part of the franchise’s evolution. It’s where it all began, but not where the first Star Trek began.

In contrast, Where No Man Has Gone Before feels more like the pilot episode of Star Trek. Sure, the fashion changes a bit in the episodes to come, the entire cast has yet to be assembled, but this is recognisably the same ship and the same show as The Corbomite Manoeuvre or The Man Trap. It’s more than the actors filling roles, the consistent characterisation of Spock or the fact that it actually aired on television in September 1966. This is what the next three years of Star Trek will be like. It’s an aesthetic or an approach to storytelling that is markedly different to the way that The Cage tackled many of the same themes and ideas.

While The Cage laid down many of the philosophical underpinnings of the broader Star Trek universe – including the classic show – it is also a lot less physical and visceral than the classic Star Trek. Indeed, The Cage featured the Captain of the Enterprise reasoning with an advanced bunch of god-like aliens, appealing to human virtues. The action sequences felt a bit extraneous. In contrast, Where No Man Has Gone Before sees the Captain of the Enterprise punching a god-like being repeatedly in the face while hitting on the same themes.

I think that’s perhaps the most dynamic difference between not only The Cage and Where No Man Has Gone Before, but between Star Trek and its spin-offs.

All the old familiar faces...

All the old familiar faces…

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