Pocket, 1997, 357 pages, C$21.50 tpb, ISBN 0-671-56839-6
I was a teenage Star Trek fan.
But I’m much better now.
Science-Fiction is a terribly pernicious addiction. When you begin, everything is good stuff, regardless of actual value. But as one increases one’s level of SF literacy, some things don’t appear so hot. Clichés, déjà-vus, staleness begin to creep in.
This is where most non-prose SF (Media-SF) doesn’t hold up. Most of the time, it rediscovers concepts that were introduced, explored, and discarded years before by written SF. (And, usually do them wrong!) Add to that the unsatisfying nature of episodic SF and…
The epitome of Media-SF is certainly Star Trek, whose history is now the source of countless legends, and almost as countless spin-off products. A fascinating case in itself, Star Trek is one of the only TV series to successfully re-invent itself, nearly twenty years after its first diffusion. The Original Series mutated in The Next Generation, and the rest is TV history.
But the path from TOS to TNG included one surprising attempt at a Star Trek sequel, starring most of the cast from The Original Series. The name, Star Trek II. The time: 1977.
While the tale had been quickly sketched elsewhere, most notably in George Takei’s autobiography, Star Trek Phase II presents the “official” history of the aborted series.
In a series of event roughly paralleled in 1994 with UPN and Star Trek: Voyager, Paramount announced in 1977 that it would launch a new network of its own, using a revived Star Trek series as its flagship. (pun; ha-ha) Actors were signed, scripts were written, sets were constructed… but funding was lacking, so the series was scrapped and the pilot episode transformed in STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE.
Star Trek Phase II is divided in four parts. The first, -by far the most interesting- is a journalistic account of Star Trek II’s creation and downfall. Informative and even entertaining, this is the heart of the book. The second part presents the series “bible”; an exceptional document for Star Trek completists and TV series students. The third part contains the original story treatment by Alan Dean Foster and the first draft script by Harold Livingston for what would become STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. This section is of interest mainly for ST:TMP fans, if any are left (see below). The fourth part is nothing less than a few of the initial ideas for episodes of STAR TREK II. Notable are works of Ted Sturgeon, Norman Spinrad, and the complete script of the ST II episode that was eventually remade as the ST:TNG episode “The Child” The interest of this last section is highly variable: Most of the time, the story outlines made references to characters (Illia, Xon, Decker) unfamiliar to the casual reader.
Star Trek Phase II is definitely for the confirmed Trek fan. Other will want to read something… fresher.
Addenda: The very same day that I put down the book in question, I was zapping through channels when a familiar name in a familiar font attracted my attention: “Executive producer: Gene Roddenberry.” Three bars of music later, I was sitting down for three hours. ST: TMP had begun.
I used to consider this movie one of my favorite (for the slickness of the production alone) but sadly, my memories don’t match up to the actual film. It’s long, it’s almost plot-less and by goodness, the then-much-lauded special effects are now almost ridiculous!