TIE IN TUESDAY: DOUBLE FEATURE Star Trek 1 & The Angel Chronicles

Da da daah! Tie In Tuesday is back!

I’ve been a little less than active on the blogging front lately, but super active active on the reading front, so I’ve built up a small backlog of tie ins for review. Thus, I’m pairing these two together, for, despite being written thirty years apart, they share many similarities.

Star Trek 1 by James Blish is the first Trek novel I’ve written about and, as it’s rather unimaginative name will tell you, it’s also the first one that was ever published. Much like the Buffyverse, I’m trying to read the tie ins alongside the series as I make my way through the series, in this case for the first time (although I was a die-hard baby Voyager nerd in primary school). To complicate things Trek is a massive multi-series franchise with several novel-only series – cue expansive colour-coded novella-length Google Doc that will hopefully guide me in the right order. No matter what though, this is going to take me years and years to make my way through, especially as there’s more released every year.

(By-the-by, while I hope to eventually tackle the Buffy comics once I reach them, I don’t plan on doing the same for Trek. The novel-only material is daunting enough and it’s a pain in the arse to find copies of the comics and work out how the various series fit in the publication chronology. There are a few ‘best of’ type omnibuses that I may check out, but those’ll likely be out of order.)

This first book, released in 1967, features a series of short novelisations of episodes from the beginning of Star Trek‘s run. The Angel Chronicles are all based on episodes prominently featuring – you guessed it – Angel, everyone’s favourite broody, velvet-jacketed neighbourhood blood-sucker, a choice no doubt linked to his upcoming 1999 spin-off.

I’ll admit novelisations are not my favourite kind of tie in. Generally, I like them to provide some extra insight that the episode didn’t cover, whether that’s a better insight into characters’ thoughts and emotions from seeing their point of view or additional details and scenes that were cut from the broadcast version. For this reason, I was looking forward to The Angel Chronicles because I figured the novelisations would be from his perspective, an opportunity for plenty of bonus material considering his relatively supporting role in the series. Unfortunately, this is not the case and as a result the collection is a bit disappointing, especially as ‘Reptile Boy’ and ‘Lie to Me’ don’t really scream out for the novelisation treatment. Golden and Holder’s grasp on the Buffy characters remains strong, but it’s not enough to make this an essential read. Unless one of your favourite episodes is in the mix here this is a pretty skippable entry to the expanded universe.

Star Trek 1 is a little more interesting. It’s the earliest tie in novel I’ve ever read, and stylistically it’s quite different – it reminds me a lot of other mid-twentieth century American novels I’ve read which makes for an intriguing combination when paired with the futuristic setting. However, the stories are much shorter than those in The Angel Chronicles, leading to what feel like rushed or simplistic conclusions.

Honestly, I found Star Trek 1 most fascinating as an artefact of fan culture. Star Trek is arguably the first modern fandom (originating popular terms and tropes like ‘Mary Sue’ and the now ubiquitous ‘slash’), but books like these show how much fandom has changed with the technological innovations of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The creators of Star  Trek  couldn’t concieve of communicators more advanced than flip phones, but today we have phones that can stream TV live and on demand wherever we like. I have the entire back catalogue of Trek avaliable at my fingertips on Netflix but back in ye olde days of the late 60s when the show first aired, the only way to rewatch an episode or catch one you missed was to wait until it came round again through syndication. Even the 90s audience of  Buffy would need clunky and expensive VHS tapes at the ready to capture a permenant version of their favourites. Star Trek 1 and The Angel Chronicles are essentially the answer to DVD box sets before such a thing was conceiveable (even Captain Kirk was still stuck with tapes).

As someone who loves the history of fan culture I find them valuable for that reason, but in literary terms they leave something to be desired. Both Buffy and Trek include many more of these short novelisation collections, and while I will be reading them I don’t think I’ll be doing reviews unless they truly stand out to me.

Ratings: 

Star Trek 1: 3/5 starships – entertaining but none of the stories stands out.

The Angel Chronicles: 3/5 doomed human/vampire romances, G&H are still the Buffy tie in dream team, but they have nothing new to offer here.

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