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Star Trek – Crucible: McCoy – Provenance of Shadows by David R. George III (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.

The classic Star Trek was not really a character-driven show. Of course, everybody recognises Kirk, Spock and McCoy, but the show seldom took the time to really dig into their history or origins. We’d occasionally find out that Kirk had some overlap with the villain of the week. He had served on a starship that had been the victim of a vampire space cloud, or lived on a colony during a brutal massacre. These details added up to something, along with the occasional reference to (and eventual death of) his brother Sam.

Spock got a bit more development, probably due to the fact that he was an alien. After all, developing Spock meant developing an entire exotic alien species, and offered some insight into how Vulcans must live. We’d also get occasional factoids or tidbits (Vulcans can mind meld, they have inner eyes, they had a schism millennia ago) that help to give a concrete picture of the where the character came from and where he might like to go.

McCoy, on the other hand, was a bit of a blank slate. Everybody knows McCoy. He’s the irritable surgeon on the ship, prone to insulting Spock and complaining about the fact that he’s flying through space in a ship filled with mechanical doo-hickeys. However, we never really get a sense of McCoy’s past. We never learn much about his family on-screen, except when the writers wanted a bit of dramatic fodder in the penultimate movie featuring the original cast, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. But we don’t talk about that.

So David R. George III’s Crucible: McCoy – Provenance of Shadows is an interesting book. Not only because it is a book completely devoted to the least-developed of the iconic leading trio, but also because this relatively under-developed character also gets one of the longest Star Trek tie-in books ever written. And without too much focus on his past.

tos-cruciblemccoy

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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 Return of the Archons (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.

It is really hard to believe that this is the first time we’ve really had one of these plots, with the Enterprise visiting an alien civilisation, meddling thoroughly and freeing the population from oppression. Of course, that’s probably because the universe seemed so vast an empty in the first few episodes. The only planets seemed to be either lifeless rocks or human colonies. From this point on, the galaxy is going to seem a whole lot busier.

Return of the Archons is a little bit like an expansion of the archetypal Star Trek plot established in What Are Little Girls Made Of? The Enterprise visits an alien world following up on the disappearance of Federation personnel. When they arrive, they discover sinister plans afoot involving evil artificial intelligences that plan on stomping out free will. Kirk promptly uses his humanity to talk the machines into destroying himself.

However, Return of the Archons deals with a whole civilisation trapped in the midst of this sinister robotic plot. Kirk and his crew aren’t strolling through an alien graveyard. This is a living, breathing society. And this is the first time that Kirk would save an entire civilisation.

Some men just want to watch the world burn...

Some men just want to watch the world burn…

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Star Trek – Charlie X (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.

It really is incredibly difficult to divorce Star Trek from the sixties. I know that this has become something of a (very obvious) theme in these daily reviews, but Charlie X is the kind of Star Trek episode that could only have been produced for television in the sixties. It isn’t necessarily the presence of a single factor, it’s more the package as a whole. While the general concept (“The Day Charlie Became God”, to quote Roddenberry’s succinct synopsis from his 1964 Star Trek Is… pitch) could easily be adapted for any of the spin-offs (and Hide & Q clearly plays on the same idea), the execution is so firmly anchored in the sixties that it’s very hard to separate and parse.

Part of it is the weird use of coloured lighting on the mostly grey Enterprise sets, something that Inside Star Trek suggests was down to the fact that NBC was owned at the time by RCA, a major manufacturer of colour television sets. Part of it is the somewhat confused sexuality that is a weird mix of liberated and outdated. Part of it is the fact that the show features an impromptu musical and dance number. The idea of Charlie X might be fairly simplistic, but the execution is very clearly and very distinctively Star Trek.

Screaming to the Evans...

Screaming to the Evans…

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