STAR TREK LOG ONE by Alan Dean Foster:

The first episode of Star Trek I ever saw was “The Tholian Web.” I cannot swear it was first run, but I think it was. If so, I would have been four years old at the time. If it was a summer repeat, I would have been five. The “ghostly” image of Captain Kirk kind of creeped me out (I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I didn’t not believe in them, either), plus I didn’t really understand it. My brother was a fan of the show, and he introduced me to one he thought I’d like better: Lost in Space.

That worked, but by the time I was nine, I was a fan of Star Trek, too. I am sure of this fact because the first episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series debuted in September of 1973 and I can remember eagerly anticipating it. (I also remember eagerly anticipating The $10,000 Pyramid which reunited William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy for the first time since Star Trek, so that must have been before TAS.) I watched every episode and was disappointed when it was not renewed.

When I was still in elementary school, I worked my way through all the James Blish television adaptations. (It seems odd, even to me, that in the days before VHS etc. fans had to resort to paperback books to experience their favorite episodes “on demand.”) After that, I moved on to Alan Dean Foster’s Star Trek Log series, which adapted the animated episodes, but also fleshed them out and truly “novelized” them, stringing together usually three episodes per book.

When I was in college, ST:TAS was on TV Saturday evenings at 6:30. Unfortunately, I worked every Saturday night, but I was able to set up my VHS to record them. When I got a good number of them, they started showing repeats and I found myself continually rewinding to tape over an episode I had earlier on the tape. (I never did get them all.) Fortunately, the entire series was eventually released on DVD and I did buy that.

My ongoing project for 2019 will be to read a Star Trek Log, then watch the episodes from each book. I was pretty sure I had read the Log series only once before, way back when, but when I recently re-read the first one, I found myself anticipating what was going to be in the next paragraph. I think I had this same idea back in college, and re-read the first three stories (“Beyond the Farthest Star,” “Yesteryear,” “One of Our Planets is Missing”) in this manner, but as the episodes I had on VHS were way out of order, I found the project to be too difficult and abandoned it.

But now I’ve got them on DVD and can call up any episode I want with a minimum of fuss. I just finished re-reading the first Log book and re-watching the first three episodes. I don’t plan to read all ten in a row (I’ve already ,moved on to something else), but every once in a while throughout 2019 I do plan to read another and watch another three.

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I can understand why The Menagerie would have been difficult to adapt. In prose form the reader has time to think about what is happening and why, whereas on a TV show the action is happening quickly enough that the viewer doesn't notice the sometimes illogical twists and turns that crop up in order to make the story work.

Speaking of The Menagerie, I've got a couple of quibbles with that one. First of all, it is the death penalty for contacting Talos IV. Granted, it is the only death penalty left on the books, but that doesn't jibe with Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future (although he himself must have approved that detail). Second, when Pike suggests some sort of trade or mutual cooperation, one of the Talosians replies, "Your race would learn our power of illusion... and destroy itself."

Huh? How is the power of illusion something one can learn? I have long held a theory about that. The Talosians are telepaths, sure, but those cells are really holodecks, left by the Talosians' ancestors which they have forgotten how to repair. But that still doesn't explain the death penalty. That's where Section 31 comes in. When they found out about the holodeck technology, they clapped a lid on it by imposing a "death penalty" to keep people away while they reverse-engineered it. It took them another 100 years, but by the 24th century holodecks were regular features of starships. 

The illusions being created mechanically rather than mentally makes a lot of sense.

I've read a few of the James Blish Star Trek novels, back when I used to care about Star Trek. I've also got at least one of the photo novels, The Trouble With Tribbles. It makes a great companion piece with David Gerrold's book about the making of that episode -- the first TV script he ever sold -- which I've read several times. 

I read that Gerrold book. It was back in the mid-90s when Ellison's original script for "City on the Edge of Forever" (and his vitriolic commentary) was published. I was discussing it with a co-worker who loaned Gerrold's book to me as a counterpoint. It was a good read. I'll have more to say about David Gerrold as this discussion progresses. 

BEYOND THE FARTHEST STAR:

Children's television was terrible in the '70s, just awful. That was primarily the fault of a woman I will not name and her do-gooder organization Action for Children's Television. ACT was responsible for sucking all of the fun and imagination from Saturday morning cartoons and replacing it with pablum designed to carry some sort of "lesson" or "moral." ACT was even responsible for making Tarzan and the Lone Ranger boring and unwatchable. But every rule has its exception, and the exception to ACT was Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS).

Let's just dispense with the usual discussion of whether or not TAS is canon; it is. It's produced by the same people who produced the live action show, acted by the same actors and written by the same writers. There's another misconception I would like to dismiss as well: the idea that TAS was "too sophisticated" for its intended audience. That's bull$#!t. If anything, with only 24 minutes (not including commercials) per episode, the scripts had to focus on action (which is not to say the stories weren't intelligent; the series did win an Emmy after all). Although the purpose of this discussion is to emphasize the differences between TAS and Alan Dean Foster's (ADF from now on) Star Trek Log series of adaptations, I suppose some seepage of TAS content is inevitable.

Returning to my first point, if the episodes themselves are pared down to fit in a half-hour time slot, then ADF takes advantage of the medium of the mass market paperback to flesh out some of the details necessarily omitted from the teleplay. The first script, BTW, is written by Samuel A. Peeples, who wrote the (second) pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before," which launched the live action television series. Peeples wrote a very Arthur C. Clarke-like story of an ancient, space-faring civilization and the malevolent entity which they stranded, a plot later "borrowed" (and watered down, IMO) for the fifth Star Trek feature film. 

When it comes to TAS, the answer to the question of production order vs. airdate is: neither one. ADF adds scenes which make the stories sequential, so I prefer to experience them in Log order. [The DVD presents them in Log order as well, with the (non-sequential) production numbers off to the left of the menu.] For example, at the beginning of "Beyond the Farthest Star," the Enterprise is on its way to the so-called Time Planet, which is the second story. 

One aspects of the Logs I always appreciated was that they were credited to James T. Kirk, Capt., USSC, FS, ret. It was that "ret," that hung me up when the movies came along and he was promoted to admiral. Then he got demoted, bring all the Logs back into continuity again!

I have been watching so much "reboot" Star Trek lately (rebooted television shows, rebooted movies) that I had forgotten how good Star Trek could be when done right. I started this same TAS/Log project in 2019, but I got only one paperback/three episodes in before I moved on to something else. I wasn't in the mood to read all ten Logs in a row then, and I'm not now, but I am very enthusiastic for this project. I think if I madify my pace from 1 paperback/3 episode to a 1:1 Log/TAS correspondence, interspersing them with other things, I should be able to stick with it longer. 

Star Trek: The Animated Series (or rather the failure to renew TAS for a second season), is what drove me away from Saturday morning cartoons in the first place (or maybe it was the insipid Tarzan/Lone Ranger Adventure Hour). I continued to watch some live action shows (Land of the Lost, Shazam!), but by the time of the Return to the Planet of the Apes cartoon show, I was gone completely. I never saw an episode of that until it came out on DVD a couple of years ago. 

TAS was particularly suited for animation (even "limited" animation) because it was able to present episodes which could never have been produced for live action TV given the limited SFX budgets of the day. Even so, they did pull some tricks to cut corners (such as positioning communicators directly in front of characters' mouths so they wouldn't have to synch up lip movement with dialogue) as cost-saving measures.

TAS gave the bridge a second turbo-lift in case the first one failed (a feature later carried over to the films). Apparently this was a concern raised by fans, but I personally was more curious about the location of the head (which is located in an alcove starboard of the main viewscreen according to the Starfleet Technical Manual). Also, in "Beyond the Farthest Star," the away team wore forcefield-projecting "lifebelts" which provided not only oxygen but artificial gravity as well. 

"Trekkies" vs. "Trekkers":

"...back when I used to care about Star Trek."

"Back when I used to care about Star Trek," I used to make a big deal of identifying as a "Trekkie" rather than a "Trekker." (I didn't care about Star Trek for a long time; now I do again.) When I first came into fandom, the term "Trekker" hadn't even been coined. The first time I heard it (late '80s), it sounded strange to my ears. It still does. I apply "Trekker" to fans who came to the show after TNG, whereas fans of TOS are "Trekkies."

When I was a kid, I didn't know anyone who read comic books, but everyone watched TV. My two best friends and I were definitely Trekkies, and we each had our favorite catchphrase from the show (TOS or TAS). Mine came from "Beyond the Farthest Star," Bob's from "The Changeling" and Todd's from "Charlie X." When we "talked Trek," we inevitably eventually broke into a chorus of...

"OBEY ME!"

"I AM NOMAD! I AM PERFECT!"

"I WANNA STAY!... Stay!... stay!..."

ACT:

Before I move on to "Yesteryear," I've been stewing about Action for Children's Television since I mentioned it earlier this week. I'll probably delete this post after 24 hours, so read it while you have the chance. The woman behind ACT was watching cartoons with her son one day in 1968 and became offended. Judging from the ads for Saturday morning television which appeared in the comics of the time, it would have been shows such as The Herculoids, Space Ghost and Birdman that she had a problem with. Also judging from those ads, it wasn't until the following year that began watching Saturday morning television.

I didn't know anything about ACT but, by the time I was in elementary school, I knew that new network Saturday morning programming sucked, and sucked hard. Luckily, in addition to the three networks, my television market had two independent stations (plus PBS), and I could always find good cartoons from years past on the local stations. Kids hate being preached at, and the lectures being shoveled by the network shows very extremely preachy. 

Just to illustrate how open-minded I used to be ("in my younger and more vulnerable years," as Fitzgerald put it), when I first heard of ACT I gave its founder the benefit of my doubt. "Too bad she didn't see Jonny Quest," I thought, the greatest cartoon show of them all. It was educational in the best way. It introduced kids to science and geography and history and zoology without making them feel as if they were being lectured. The first episode alone had the Sargasso Sea ("sargasso" is the Portuguese word for "grape," and Columbus sailed through it for days) and a scientific explanation of a laser, not to mention loads of action (and that's from memory).

I thought Jonny Quest may have flown in under ACT's radar because it originally aired four years before their crusade began, but I found out after their founder died that Jonny Quest was, in fact, one of the shows that upset her. It was also around that time that The Herculoids and Birdman & The Galaxy Trio became available on DVD and I was saw them for the first time and discovered how good they were. What fun, imaginative shows! And they totally lacked the preachy, moral lessons ACT espoused. Plus, it was Space Ghost which inspired Steve Rude to (co-)create Nexus, so how bad could it be? 

I often wonder what 1970s children television would have been like without the influence of do-gooders such as ACT and their ilk. 

I am so glad I grew up on the cartoons of the 1960's before the ACT took affect. By the early Seventies Star Trek The Animated Series was the only show I was still tuning into on Saturday mornings.

A couple of posts back I mentioned Shazam!, but that one was kind of preachy, too. (I bought it on DVD a couple of years back, but only for the kitsch/nostalgia value.) After TAS, the only thing interesting on Saturday morning TV was Land of the Lost

Jeff of Earth-J said:

ACT:

Before I move on to "Yesteryear," I've been stewing about Action for Children's Television since I mentioned it earlier this week. I'll probably delete this post after 24 hours, so read it while you have the chance. The woman behind ACT was watching cartoons with her son one day in 1968 and became offended. Judging from the ads for Saturday morning television which appeared in the comics of the time, it would have been shows such as The Herculoids, Space Ghost and Birdman that she had a problem with. Also judging from those ads, it wasn't until the following year that began watching Saturday morning television.

(*SNIP*)

I thought Jonny Quest may have flown in under ACT's radar because it originally aired four years before their crusade began, but I found out after their founder died that Jonny Quest was, in fact, one of the shows that upset her.

That figures because the networks wouldn't have necessarily had a lineup of all-new shows that year, or any year. Saturday morning cartoons were rerun FAR more frequently than primetime fare; where a prime time show would make something like 20-25 episodes a season (in the old days, sometimes as many as 39), an animated show might do maybe 13, and rerun them incessantly.

For example, The Jetsons had ONE season of 24 new episodes (albeit in prime time), and was rerun on Saturday mornings for the next TWO DECADES, at one time or another on ABC, CBS and NBC. Hanna-Barbera added to those in 1984.

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