Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Star Trek: The Fotonovel

Hey gang, I seem to be back. Hopefully it won't all go Kaplooie again. Now, where were we? Well, Marty was good enough to mention in the comments there that Frederic Brown's Arena was actually semi-adapted into an episode of the original Star Trek, which I didn't know. Which reminded me of this little beauty.

Fotonovel's were great, weren't they? Long before Blu-Ray, DVD's or even Video's, if you wanted a souvenir of your favourite film / TV show, the best you could hope for was the ' official novelization '. Then came the fotonovels, bizarre, spliced together pseudo comic books with ' over 300 full colour scenes '. For a while they were a real craze, and there seemed to be fotonovels of everything, from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers to CHIPS. I think I'm right in saying this was the very first one though, the original in a series of 12 Star Trek books; City On The Edge Of Forever. Don't remember this episode? Yeah, you do, it's the one where Kirk falls in love with Joan Collins.

City ( the original episode ) was written by one H. Ellison, and the book starts off with a quick interview with Harlan. ( Always loved that ' Mr. Ellison was my father ' line. )

Then for the 4 people who've never seen the show, we get an introduction to the characters.

And away we go. On the bridge, Bones has just treated Sulu with a dangerous, experimental drug he just happens to be carrying around with him, when the inevitable happens.

The drug instantly turns the good doctor into a bug-eyed, kill crazy maniac, capable of chewing scenery at a hundred paces.

Escaping the bridge, Bones somehow manages to teleport himself down to the mysterious planet below. Natch, everybody beams down to bring him back, a point they all soon forget about when, upon landing, they come across this mysterious arch.

The arch is a being called, rather grandly, The Guardian Of Forever, and as it shows the gang all the myriad time periods it allows the viewer to travel to, McCoy ( who everyone's forgotten about ) seizes his chance.

Realizing that they must go through the arch, and travel back in time to locate McCoy, Kirk & Spock jump in feet first, and find themselves on a studio backlot in the Depression of the 1930's, about a week before Bones is supposed to show up. Stealing some clothes, we get an amusing little bit of business, as the pair try to explain Spock's ears to an unsympathetic oirish cop.

Escaping into the basement of the local mission, the two are discovered by angel of mercy Edith Keeler / Joan Collins. Kirk, to the surprise of absolutely no one at all, falls instantly in love.

Settling down at Edith's boarding house, our heroes attempt to rebuild Spock's tricorder, in order to discover exactly when & where McCoy will appear, and what he's going to do to alter history. They also spend a lot of time behaving like an old married couple.

In the middle of this, there's some actually quite sweet and well written stuff between Edith and her mysterious new friends, as she falls deeper in love with old ' a girl in every episode ' Kirk.

Eventually, they get the tricorder fixed, and find that Edith is the focal point in time they've all been drawn to, and that in order for history to be restored...

Meanwhile, Bones has finally shown up, now down from his cordrazine high, and the time currents have swept him to the mission too. Tragedy, inevitably, follows...

Rushing back to the mission, Kirk ( and everybody else ) forgets about Edith...

So Edith dies, history is restored, and Kirk's heart is broken ( at least until next week ).
It's very easy to mock Star Trek, mostly because of it's fanbase. But even though it's never been as important to me as it is for some people, like most of us, I do still have a residual childhood affection for it, which is obviously why I bought this book back in 1977.
And City is a genuinely good story, even in this surreal format, where narration & thought balloons are clumsily inserted, seemingly at random. Is it a comic? Well, technically it's fumetti, so yeah, it is. Of a sort. Actually it's a pretty good comic. The new movie though? I dunno, there's something weird & creepy about that. Or is it me?


  1. Holy Royal Romulan Jelly Batman! I So-oooooo want one of these! Where did you get it? I am a voracious collector of all things 70's, a Trekie, and a comic-con regular so I am just stunned I never knew this existed. Curse the god's.... will my quest never end? Thanks for the neat-o post!

  2. Beyond the fact that there were 12 of these things ( I've also got 'Where No Man Has Gone Before' and I know the episode with the Tribbles was also done ) I actually know next to nothing about these. All I can suggest, Mike, is head for ebay!

  3. I got almost the whole set at a con a few years ago. Just missing 2 and 3. It was back when Wildstorm had the license for Star Trek and I was thinking about doing a Trek comic. Off to see the film in a few hours...

  4. I bought all of these when they came out, and it was the next best thing in the world to having it on video, which was not much of an option back then. I would put on my cassette tapes of the shows and go through the book at the same pace as the tape played. I would have posted some on my blog, but I couldn't bring myself to ruin the binding by folding back the pages to scan. So, I'll just link to you!

  5. P.S.

    One question... where's the last page? Not that I couldn't open mine and read it...