Friday, April 3, 2009

Star Trek 2 by James Blish

Continuing my quixotic quest to read all the Star Trek adaptations in order, next up is the second in James Blish's books that write up summaries of the original series episodes. (It's hard to call them more than that, when you're only spending 20 pages per episode.)

This time around we have two very famous stories, "Space Seed" (the introduction of Kahn) and "City at the Edge of Forever", Harlon Ellison's legally-challenged but brilliant episode.

The copy I read even boasts about the Kahn story on the cover. Sadly, I was not able to find an image with that blazoned on the front.

However, it is those two famous stories that short the shortcomings of this style of adaptation. In his cramped space, Blish must remove entire incidents, robbing them of the careful touches that make the original Star Trek so entertaining, even after all these years. "City" has a special preface note indicating the trouble Blish had working from Ellison's script and the final episode, and it shows. There's just not enough time for Kirk's love to develop, so when we have the final death scene, it's hard to tell why he's so attached to this one woman.

A similar problem develops in "Arena", where Spock helplessly watches Kirk struggle, knowing what can save him but unable to commuicate (cut), "A Taste of Armageddon", where the dipomat is shown to be unable to recognize a true threat in a cold war allusion (cut), and "Court Marshall", where the tension of man versus machine is not cut but crammed into the space Blish was allotted.

Perhaps it's just these particular episodes being hard to place into text or I'm just getting more familiar with the formula and less interested in it, but I have to say, I wasn't overly fond of this one. I don't think it's Blish's fault--he's good with a turn of phrase and his dialog actually does snap in the places where he has room to use it--but the whole exercise is reminding me of an old professor of mine who made us write papers summarizing 200 page books in 10 pages. Yes, you learn something about concise writing, but what's the point?

I'll see if the third book is better, but I may skip ahead to the books instead if not. My advice to you is to just give this one a pass.

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