Universal . . . Make it So.

So, the rumor all over the web a few days ago was that Universal is considering building a Star Trek-themed area at their parks in Orlando.

Art from a proposed Las Vegas attraction.

I think it’s a no-brainer.  BUILD IT . . . AND THEY WILL COME.

Disney is milking Star Wars for every cent they can get out of it.  Paramount and CBS, who divvied up the Star Trek properties a few years back (Paramount got the movies; CBS got all the TV series), have allowed the franchise to grow stagnant.  With the prospect of two new Star Trek films on the horizon (one directed by Quentin Tarantino), the debut of the new Star Trek: Discovery series on TV, and the rumors that Paramount and CBS are in meetings to bring the Star Trek mediaverse back together, Star Trek needs to take command once again.

While Star Wars delivers entertainment, the best examples of Star Trek have always offered an optimistic blend of both entertainment and knowledge.  We’ll soon be able to live a Star Wars dream at the Disney Parks.  I hope that an expansive Star Trek dream at Universal will bring us the wonders of life at the edge of the Final Frontier.

I’ll be first in line.

Take a Good Look at the Last Trek

I’ve had it.
Seriously.  I have to draw the line somewhere, and this is it.
One of my guilty pleasures, along with cheesy ’70s horror movies and comic book superheroes, has been Star Trek.  All things Star Trek.
I attended the 2nd ever Star Trek convention in NYC in 1974.
I saved all my magazines and comics and posters.
I read and collected all the books, from the first tv show adaptation —
— to the first original Trek novel —
— to the first original Trek novel (1981) after Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1978 —
 — to the 1979 limited edition of the movie’s novelization, signed and numbered by Gene Roddenberry (although the real writer was Alan Dean Foster, uncredited).
In all that time, decades of Trekking, never ONCE have I loved a Star Trek novel.  Never once have I sat back and said, “Damn, that was a good book.”
But I have, on occasion, kicked a Star Trek novel across the room because it was so bad.  And I have, in the past, told myself that I will never buy a Trek novel again because they are never any good.  They’re not even fun any more.  The worst are tedious and dull.  The best are…tedious and dull, because there is no best.
But, because I’m innately optimistic, because I’m a born reader, and because I am a Trek guy in my soul, I have held out a hope, a glimmer of optimism, that a good novel would come along and surprise me.
I hereby, officially, pronounce that that sense of hope is dead, killed by phaser fire while wearing a classic red shirt.
A paperback just came out that gave me hope — a story about the early years, classic Kirk, Spock and McCoy.  I read the first paragrahs and skimmed the first chapter…and I gave it a chance.
It toyed with me.  And now I hate it.  It tasks me, and vengeance will be mine.
I recommend A Choice of Catastrophes in order for anyone even remotely interested in either science fiction or Star Trek to read, read the whole thing, devour the brain-dead son of a bitch, and learn — learn exactly how good science fiction and good Star Trek stories can be absolutely ruined by dull writing and by padding — that is, stretching a story out interminably with the literary equivalent of bullshit.
I gave it a shot.  I read the whole damn, misbegotten thing.
And it has moved me.
Now, of course, if Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Jack McDevitt or any single good writer were to write a Trek novel — if you could reanimate the corpses of Hemingway and Steinbeck and Fitzgerald and Asimov and Burroughs and Heinlein and get their zombified husks behind a keyboard —
I WOULD NOT BUY IT.  Now, I might borrow it, get it from a library, or even steal the thing from Barnes & Noble after I rip the magnetic strip out, and then ask it to do it’s magic on me; and if any of those writers were to write a Trek story, I can guarantee you it would fill your mind with the wonders and magic of a night sky in the spring, no moonlight, just a velvet drape of darkness filled with tiny pinpoints of light, around which circle an infinite number of worlds where people like us could be looking at our own little star, dreaming…
Pocket Books, do you understand?
You have screwed a Trek lover, a Trek loyalist, for the last time.  You have given us dreck, you have given us formula, you have given us endless exposition and mind-numbing, repetitive space opera that has no worth, no merit.
My phaser is on kill, and I’m aiming for the Trek shelves.
Star Trek novels must die!


The real star wasn’t Kirk or Picard or even Spock.

The real star received more fan mail than all the actors combined.

The real star of Star Trek was and still is the Starship Enterprise — and what she represents to the earth-bound viewers who dream about sailing on her across the seas of space.

The first official book (official meaning licensed by Paramount) was the Star Trek Starfleet Technical Manual, which blew away Trek fans when it appeared 36 years ago.  It was filled with diagrams and schematics of the original Enterprise of Kirk and Spock, cutaways of tricorders, phasers, McCoy’s medical equipment, Uhura’s earpiece . . .  In short, the book filled a void in the years between 1969 and 1979, when original Star Trek stories were few and far between.

published in 1975
We’ve had many other books and products since then.  The original Manual is now looked at as apocryphal and completely unofficial.
This title, however, was just released, and it struck me because of the packaging and the concept’s sense of humor.
I worked retail at Waldenbooks way back when — when malls were the big thing — and I remember the shelves of Haynes repair manuals for Mustangs and VWs and even Pintos.  The people behind this newest Trek book have done a good job using the Haynes template as a base and evolving the rest of the contents for the 24th century starship fan.  The graphics are excellent, including cutaway diagrams and CGI that fill the book with beautiful and — okay, I’ll say it — fascinating — color illustrations.
The book covers all the starships called Enterprise, and even though a lot of the material here is available elsewhere, the graphics are what make this book perfect for casual Trek fans and completists.
It’s just fun — and . . .

The Link Between "Star Trek" and the Newspaper Crisis

Actually, there are two links.

The first is in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. After the crew of the USS Enterprise time travels to 20th century San Francisco, Admiral James T. Kirk states: “They still use money. We’ll have to get some.”

If you’ve ever been curious about cash in the universe of Star Trek, this movie makes it clear that money isn’t used by the Federation. They don’t need it. In their 23rd century world of replicators, money is unnecessary — a holdover to the bygone eras of greed and corruption. Just ask any Ferengi.

The second takes place in the new Star Trek film which, as this article explains, traces its roots back to today’s economic, online and technological advances, and a theory by economist Paul Romer.

And just what does any of it have to do with newspapers — especially in light of today’s “discreet” meeting of newspaper execs to settle on ways and means to charge for their “intellectual” content?

To some people, the implications of Romer’s work are all too visible in the restructuring of the music industry and news business. Anything that can be digitally copied is nonrival and very difficult to exclude. So anyone whose job depends on the processing or delivery of information is feeling a great deal of stress right now about the difficulty of devising business models that thrive in a nonrival, nonexcludable operating environment.

Are we are at the beginning of an economic and worldwide adventure — a world without money?

As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”

Spock (Leonard Nimoy) clowns around with handcuffs and a gun. The newspaper headline reads “Spock Gets 2-Year Prison Term, Fine … for Anti-draft Activities” — referring to the June 1968 conviction of controversial pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock (the verdict was later reversed on appeal).

Good Movie; Lame-Ass Book

They’re almost never as good as the movies, themselves, but novelizations of current films have been published since the 1920s; and the latest novelization on the stands is quite interesting . . . but not in a good way.

Alan Dean Foster has spent a large part of his writing career writing film and tv adaptations, and he has been a player in the Star Trek sandbox since the early ’70s. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was based on a story Foster wrote for Gene Roddenberry, and the rumors persist that Foster ghost wrote the 1979 novelization under the Roddenberry name. He’s also written Trek audio stories and ten novelizations adapted from the animated Trek series.

His latest trek into Trek is the novelization of the current blockbuster that’s revitalizing the franchise, J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek. Unfortunately, the novelization is nowhere near as exciting, nor as interesting, as the film itself. With this one, it seems like Foster wrote the book in his sleep, took the money, and moved on.

The writing is especially limp. The frenetic energy on the screen is barely captured by Foster’s prose, whereas in his own, original fiction, his sentences usually snap with precision and propel the reader into Foster’s universe. Foster can write well — I would put any of his ten Star Trek Logs up against this novelization, and the weakest of the animated novelizations would win. The culprit here may, of course, have been Paramount. I’m betting they gave Foster a very small window to churn this book out and return the top-secret screenplay to them. He probably wrote it inside a month to meet the deadline — and it shows. There are few character nuances, and no expansion of background or scenes. This is the movie, almost line by line, transferred to the printed page with no depth at all.

That’s a shame. One of the best novelizations was the very first film adaptation, which — if Foster did write it — was slow, but extremely intelligent and thoughtful, and it expanded on the universe of Star Trek and making it more real than the cheesy sets of 1960’s tv ever did.

Arguably, the best novelization was the one that accompanied what most critics think (and I agree) was the best of the Trek films, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. Vonda McIntyre was allowed the opportunity to expand on characterizations and add transitions and expositionary scenes so that the movie became even more fleshed out. Watching the film for the first time, I remember shaking my head in disbelief when Kirstie Alley as the Vulcan Saavik cried when Spock died. Only in the book was it explained that Saavik was half Vulcan, half Romulan. (That aspect was subsequently left out of the next film with Saavik, but has been explored in the series of novels and comic books since.)

I just got back from Barnes & Noble, where I exchanged Star Trek for a book by Tom Davis on the first and best years of Saturday Night Live. I couldn’t finish the Trek book. Three chapters into it, I gave up. It’s a shame this new universe of Star Trek could not have been further explored here. I’m sure it will be eventually, but I suggest that if you want more depth and understanding of this new Star Trek timeline, go pick up Star Trek: Countdown, the prequel story published last month as a graphic novel. It starts in our timeline and shows all the events that lead up to the very first scene in the film, and makes the whole new Trek a much richer experience. It also brings back a very dead character from the time of the Next Generation, and makes him very much alive and well in the center seat of the Enterprise-E.

Star Trek lives!

Chesterfield’s Non-IMAX Experience

I thought it was me.

The anticipation of seeing Star Trek on a giant 70 ft. IMAX screen, and with the incredible surround sound, was completely diminished when I entered the new Chesterfield 20 IMAX theater to see Trek. The screen was small. WAY too small. Then the movie started; but it looked okay, and the sound was definitely incredible.

The movie was good enough that I let it sucker me in.

But I did not come away thinking I had an IMAX experience though — it looked just like any other movie in a theater.

Turns out — according to Harry — it’s one of the “fake” IMAX theaters that are going up around the country. And now we have one right here in Chesterfield.

Here’s Harry with the story.

Star Trek Lives

It’s a winner. As a certified Trek fan since the show was first telecast on NBC, this is massive. It’s a game changer.

And it’s good.

Purists may hate it, for many reasons: it creates an alternate and non-canon timeline that changes a great many established things in the Star Trek universe; it destroys — literally — a great many things that Trekkers hold dear; and, most importantly, it’s not very smart.

Sure, it’s a clever movie, and fun. It’s a thrill ride — exactly the injection of energy that the Star Trek franchise desperately needed.

But it isn’t intelligent at all. It’s pretty well thought out, but there is one big plot hole about the time traveling thing. No spoilers here — go see it, and we’ll talk in private.

The most interesting thing to both my wife and me is that the least interesting character in the movie is James Kirk. He could possibly be the (actor) character that most young moviegoers will respond to, but the characters that resonated were, finally, the supporting members of the Enterprise command crew. The new Uhura is beautiful and romantic (and her first name is finally established); Sulu kicks ass; Chekov is a 17-year old genius; Spock is portrayed naively and sweetly by Heroes‘ Zachary Quinto; but it’s Karl Urban as McCoy and Simon Pegg as Scotty who steal the show with their dead-on interpretations of the original incarnations.

So: I’ll watch it again on DVD with the extras. Good, exciting, fun, but not as intelligent as Star Trek: the Motion Picture, nor as engaging as The Wrath of Khan.

It’s not Roddenberry’s Trek. It’s Trek for the 21st century.

But damn, Star Trek is back. And like we said in the early ’70s: