Star Trek The Bantam Years

The 1970s.

Star Trek had finished its original run, and was garnering cult status in syndication, and fans were clamoring for more. This was a long time before Star Wars came along, and even longer before Paramount learned what a hot property that had.

The short-lived animated series aired in the 73 to 74 season, before that Bantam books had adapted episodes of the classic three season series into small volumes penned by James Blish, which featured some great cover art.

But beyond that there were no new sanctioned adventures of our beloved crew. There was a void which needed to be filled.

While a tv series would be expensive to produce, novels could take people to planets and species that budgets could never afford to show.

The series lived on in the imagination of the readers and the fans.

But even in that regard, Paramount was slow off the mark. The first novel penned by James Blish, Spock Must Die! came out in 1970 before the animated series and just following the original run.

With no knowledge that future series were in the offing, or even feature films, Blish wasn’t bound to any real cannon but for the events shown in the original series, which gave him a lot of leeway.

It also gave the writers who followed the same leeway, though they would occasionally reference one anothers’ stories.

Still after that first novel in 1970, fans had to wait three years for the animated series, and after the solo season, they had to wait until 1976 for any further adventures

There were short story collections, and a couple of new novels as rumors of a motion picture for the big screen, though initially pitched as a new series (Star Trek: Phase II) began to make rumblings through the fan culture.

Still, there was no real canon for what hadn’t been created yet, the stories took the characters in new directions.

In one story Kirk is marooned in the 1950s, a victim of the Klingon mind-sifter, and an escape through the Guardian of Forever, where he is slowly losing mind in an insane asylum.

He’s gone for a full year!

Spock takes on the role of captain!

Some of the stories you can see fitting them into the canon of the Star Trek Universe that now exists, but some of them you just have to file them under alternate realities.

In the end Bantam published 13 novels, and two collections, not including the episode adaptations, with the last one, Death’s Angel, arriving in 1981. Pocket Books had published the adaptation of the Motion Picture in December of 1979, and then after the release of Death’s Angel in April of 81, Pocketbook launched the first of their still-running in June of the same year.

Currently I am only on book two of the series, Spock, Messiah! and once again while looking back on it with over 30 years of canon and with four more series, and a slew of films, they don’t always work…

BUT…

if you can put yourself in the mindset of not knowing that all these things were still in the future for you in 1976 (Star Wars still hadn’t come out yet) then you can get a great measure of enjoyment from them (though none of them have engaged me as much as Ex Machina did, reawakening my love of Star Trek novels – which is what I think I will be watching for the next little while I think).

And while reading them, with our knowledge of canon that even the most basic fan has nowadays, you can smile, and shake your head, and say to yourself, “If only you knew how wrong you were…”

At their heart, no matter how many of them seem to want to focus on Spock stories they are true to the original spirit of the series.

They are all about exploring the outer reaches of space and meeting new species, while we continue to learn about who are, where we’re going, and that we as a species are going to be ok.

The Human Adventure was taking its first steps, and this time it was in the imaginations of the writers and the readers, both of who were fans.

Set course… Warp factor one.

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