the Little Red Reviewer

Guest Post: Where No Writer Has Gone Before

Posted on: January 15, 2013

Today’s guest post is brought to us by Jim Black from Science Fiction Times. Jim’s blog is jam packed with all my favorite things – science fiction of the last hundred years, graphic novels and comics, Doctor Who, Convention news, thoughts on the genre, and how his experiences with science fiction have evolved over the years. He and I also share a fondness for the original Star Trek series. Please give a warm welcome to Jim!

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Where No Writer Has Gone Before, by Jim Black

Everyone remembers the first time they hear those magical words These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise… spoken during the opening credits of Star Trek (the original series). Let’s take a short journey back to the time I first discovered this legendary series.

I fondly remember running from the school bus into our house, tossing my books on a chair, and turning on the television to channel 5 out of Washington D.C. My parents had just made the big switch from antenna to cable television. Now we could watch half a dozen channels instead of the old two that we could pick up with the antenna. By accident I had discovered a show that came on at 4PM. This fantastic show dealt with explorers traveling the universe in search of other races. Every weekday, channel 5 would show another episode. Four o’clock became my favorite time to watch television. What made the original series so great? It was a combination of many things (in no particular order).

The Enterprise. I was addicted to reading science fiction by this point in my life but this was the first time I was able to see a spaceship in action. The Enterprise was almost another character on this show. It carried the crew wherever they wanted to go. With Mister Scott in Engineering, it was always able to go a little faster than any other ship in the Federation.

USS_Enterprise_(NCC-1701)_at_galactic_barrier

The cast. Between the writers, the directors and the actors these people became your friends. It did not take long to get to know people like Captain Kirk, Mister Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty, Uhuru, Sulu, Chekov, and many others. Kirk was the best leader, passionate about his crew, and a reckless devil-may- care never say die attitude. It was balanced by the analytical mind of Spock. McCoy wore his emotions on his sleeve. Scotty was the brilliant engineer who loved his ship. Each contributed to the overall quality of the show.

It is easy to focus on the cast and the technology but I discovered that one of the most important elements of Star Trek’s success was the writers. Many science fiction authors were brought in to contribute to Star Trek.

Theodore Sturgeon

Theodore Sturgeon

1. Richard Matheson. The most recent adaptation of his work to the big screen was the movie “I Am Legend”. He is listed as one of the influences of Stephen King and Anne Rice.
2. Robert Bloch. A writer with over 30 novels to his credit. His most famous book that was adapted for a movie was “Psycho”.
3. Theodore Sturgeon. Writer of the classic science fiction novel “More Than Human”. He became famous for “Sturgeon’s Law” (“Ninety percent of science fiction is crud, but then, ninety percent of everything is crud”).
4. Frederic Brown. Best known for his short-short stories (1 to 3 pages in length). He wrote two classic science fiction novels-“What Mad Universe” and “Martians, Go Home”. Considered to be one of the influences of Philip K. Dick.

Norman Spinrad

Norman Spinrad

5. David Gerrold. In the science fiction literature field, he was best known for “When HARLIE Was One” (in which he introduced the term “computer virus”) and the time travel classic “The Man Who Folded Himself”. He is also the writer of a very good movie called “The Martian Child” about his experiences as a single adoptive father.
6. Norman Spinrad. To put it mildly, Spinrad is one of the more controversial sf writers of all time. Best known for his books “Bug Jack Barron” and “The Iron Dream” (in which Adolf Hitler writes a fantasy novel).
7. Jerome Bixby. Well known short story writer. His stories were adapted by “The Twilight Zone” and he co-wrote the story that became the movie “Fantastic Voyage”.
8. Harlan Ellison. Writer of over 1,700 stories. He has become as well known for his controversial behavior as for his writing. Despite his poor behavior, he is still considered one of the best science fiction short story writers of all time.

Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison

I believe that Gene Roddenberry made a brilliant move by bringing in so many science fiction writers to work on the scripts. Instead of using the writers of westerns and detective shows, Roddenberry stepped outside the box and wanted to make this a real science fiction show. And I think he succeeded. With another movie being released this year, I think it is time to go back and watch the classic shows that are the foundation of the Star Trek franchise.

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7 Responses to "Guest Post: Where No Writer Has Gone Before"

Great post Jim! Love reading and talking about Star Trek. I don’t recall when I first came across it as a child but I do remember that it was always paired with The Muppet Show in syndication on Saturday nights and my brother and I loved watching it. As much as I truly think Deep Space Nine was the best overall series (yes, throw your flaming darts now!) I am most fond of and will always be most fond of the Original Series.

I knew some of those authors had penned Trek episodes but did not know about all of them, so thanks for that list. It is no wonder we are so enamored of this show so many years later. It stands up well despite the hammy acting and cheap sets and special effects because the writers told good stories and the actors made us care about the characters. And you are indeed correct, the Enterprise is very much a character in the series and a beloved one at that.

Originally Star Trek was on at night, not in the afternoon, so Jim must have been watching it in syndication. I remember watching every episode week by week when the show was new. Wonderful fun, and I agree about the SF authors who did the teleplays.

Carl, not a flaming dart, but having watched every episode of all the series, I continue to believe STNG is the best of the bunch.

No worries, we each have our own favorites. I admittedly have only watched the final three seasons of Next Gen (but my wife and I are rewatching the series now) but for me Deep Space Nine was just a special one, which I wrote a HUGE blog post about a couple years ago after watching the series on DVD.

Well, how could you not love Star Trek! I loved this series. Totally. Great post.
Thanks for making me think about it all over!
Lynn :D

When Jim sent me this article, I had a goofy grin on my face for hours. I watched TOS in syndication in the late 80s and early 90s, and I felt very subversive because the show ran at midnight and I had to rebelliously stay up very late to watch it. thems were some happy days, that is for sure! My first exposure to science fiction was through tv and movies, and Star Trek was a huge part of my childhood and teen years and had a big influence on me. For years and years, my Dad and I had a standing date that we saw the Star Trek movies together at the movie theater, opening weekend. Didn’t matter that some of them sucked, didn’t matter that Dad fell asleep 20 minutes in. So a huge thanks to Jim, for bringing all these wonderful childhood memories to the front of my mind!

Also, I’m with Carl. DS9 is the best series. So long as you can get through the beyond awful pilot and pretty choppy first season, you are in for some incredible story arcs!

I think I need to take some time to enjoy a nice drink and some classic Star Trek. How many episodes does Kirk take his shirt off in? ;) Voyager is one of my favorite series. Great post.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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