October 16, 2016

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: “Where No One Has Gone Before!” Part 1

Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City in August 2016 (to which I was invited and had a friend pay my membership! [Thanks, Paul!] but was unable to go (until I retire from education)), I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #2153. The link is provided below…

50 Years of Star Trek Part 1: How has Star Trek changed and developed as a franchise. Everything from writing styles, special effects, characters, ethics, social norms, toys, and more will be considered. Dave Creek, Randy Henderson (M), Ms. Melinda Snodgrass, David Gerrold, Shanna Swendson

Dave Creek – an ANALOG regular

Randy Henderson (M) – an experienced fantasy author

Ms. Melinda Snodgrass – REALLY??? She wrote several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation while serving as the series' story editor during its second and third seasons!

David Gerrold – REALLY??? This is the name I remember immediately after Gene Rodenberry’s when it comes to script-writing. Not DC Fontana or any of the others. THIS one!

Shanna Swendson – an experienced fantasy writer

So, the panel was possibly dominated by comments from the most relevant comments from Gerrold and Snodgrass, but I’ve no doubt that in the others chimed in.

Onward, then. The subject: “How has Star Trek changed and developed as a franchise? Everything from writing styles, special effects, characters, ethics, social norms, toys, and more will be considered.”

I don’t know that you could possibly have any discussion regarding the special effects…the difference between painting phaser beams on celluloid and tipping the camera for returned phaser fire and filming glitter dropping through water and Computer Generated Images boggles the mind and is more an historical curiosity than anything else. I won’t bother with that.

As for writing styles, TOS used “real” science fiction writers several times. Later series less so – Harlan Ellison (famously and legendarily!); Richard Matheson, Theodore Sturgeon, Peter S. Beagle, Robert Bloch, Norman Spinrad, JeromeBixby, Diane Duane, David Bishoff, Nick Sagan (both author and son of astronomer Carl Sagan), Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and even Larry Niven. The novels – that’s a different story. According to Amazon, there are some 3000 paperback STAR TREK books from authors both famous and unknown, like Vonda N. McIntyre, Alan Dean Foster, James Blish, Joe Haldeman, Jack C. Haldeman II, James Gunn, Pamela Sargent, Keith R. DeCandido and Greg Cox – to someone named Tony Isabella who co-wrote one book.

These are wildly different, ranging from the weak to the fantastic.

The characters…well, those are endlessly debatable, appealing to different people at different times. Most universally loathed was Wesley Crusher (as far as I can tell); most universally adored (again as far as I can tell) would be Q and Jean-Luc Picard. I still think they should have a movie where Q is the villain/hero.

Ethics, social norms, and toys…whew. There’s a lot here. I suppose that’s why they needed different parts to cover them. I’ll vent on ethics and social norms next time. As far as “toys” go, I will only mention here that I made countless TOS phasers out of wood and I have the sound-effects page in one of favorites files. I still thrill to the sound of TOS photon torpedoes launching!

(This entry took me two hours to write because I got totally lost in the websites finding the information above – looking at the writer lists for all the show episodes…)

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