The passing of Leonard Nimoy last week understandably put me in a Star Trek mood. It had been quite awhile since I last caught an episode of the Original Series (TOS). As I wrote on my Facebook page, Spock was the first alien I can remember. Thus, Spock and Nimoy’s portrayal of him hold a special place in my memory, and I have lots of great memories of Star Trek and Mr. Spock.
I wasn’t even born yet when the show debuted in 1966, but I was well aware of it in 1979 when the first movie hit the theaters. Through constant reruns, I knew the character of Spock well enough to shed tears in 1982 when he sacrificed himself to save the Enterprise. I cheered when he was resurrected in 1984 and laughed when he and his friends traveled back to 1986 in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Even as he guest starred in The Next Generation episodes and cameoed in the 2009 Star Trek reboot, Spock was always there.
The year that gets lost in the shuffle is 1973. That is the year that Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) debuted. While there was some canonical discussion in the 1980s whether or not TAS should be considered part of the wider Trek canon, it’s now more or less established that these 22 episodes constitute the fourth and fifth years of the Enterprise’s original five-year mission.
Here’s the funny thing: back in the day, I never got to see any of the episodes. Not sure why, but the animated features never saw reruns here in Houston. These stories were a giant black hole, with wonderful possibilities. Now, those shows are freely available on the internet as well as DVD.
But I have read their adaptations, written by Alan Dean Foster and published under the title of Star Trek Logs (to differentiate them from the adaptations of TOS by James Blish). Where Blish slimmed down TOS episodes to make them short stories, Foster expanded the 22-minute episodes into novella-length stories. There are ten Star Trek Logs that cover the 22 episodes. The first six volumes include three novellas each. In the last four volumes, Foster expands the episodes into full-blown novels. He brings all of his gifts as a storyteller and explainer of scientific fictionalities to the fore. In short, he makes the Trek universe believable.
And this makes all the difference. His descriptions put Trek in a real universe with real machinery, not the charming-but-cheesy backlot sets of TOS. But what I really took away back in the late 70s when I originally read these books was the sense of wonder you get from the pages. Back then, without an internet or cell phones that looked like communicators, the young boy I used to be really thought that a ship like the Enterprise could really be in our future.
Bringing this back to Nimoy, Star Trek Log One showcases the first three episodes. If you needed any more proof of the impact Spock had on popular culture, the second episode, “Yesteryear,” focused exclusively on him as a young boy. In this episode, the second novella in this book, Spock must travel back in time (with the assistance of the Guardian of Forever, first glimpsed on the famous TOS episode “City on the Edge of Forever”) to help his younger self. In this novella and the others, Foster spends the time to get in the heads of this famous crew and to give these animated shows much more depth and gravity.
I’ve since seen most of the animated episodes. They are available on the internet or on DVD. But when I have a desire to revisit these stories, it’s Foster’s Star Trek Logs I pull down from the shelves.
It was my exposure to Foster via these Star Trek Logs that led me to start reading his own works and, from there, other SF and fantasy books. From there, well, I guess I boldly went…
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