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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Space Between

Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Space BetweenOrder this bookStory: A series of loosely connected adventures traces the Enterprise crew’s infrequent brushes with a slowly-unfolding mystery that points toward a shadow faction of Starfleet whose actions could endanger the Federation’s peaceful agenda.

Review: Published in six issues in 2007 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “The Space Between”‘s six discrete stories are so tenuously connected that one could be forgiven for not realizing that there’s connecting tissue at all. But that’s not really a problem, since “The Space Between” also happens to consist of some pretty good stand-alone stories that feel absolutely authentic to the “eras” of TNG that they portray.

The first story, “History Lesson,” is a nifty little mind-bender that would’ve done Brannon Braga proud in the show’s later years of Mental Possession Plots Every Third Week, and yet this one seeems almost fresh, set during the first season with an interesting artistic take on the characters and Tasha Yar kicking ass like she seldom got to do on TV. “Captain’s Pleasure” builds on the notion of Picard taking leave from the big chair to go on archaeological digs (see also The Chase, Gambit part I), and as with the television episodes where that happened, there’s not only an archaeological mystery but a murder mystery to solve, along with the unlikely sight of Beverly Crusher getting down in a Studio 54-style holodeck disco.

“Strategy” fast-forwards to season 7 and, amid a plotline about recurring attacks by a mystery vessel possession Federation, Romulan and Borg tech, addresses the Worf-Troi-Riker love triangle more adeptly than the series ever got around to doing. “Light Of The Day” is an odd duck, almost like a Star Trek take on a zombie story – which, of course, IDW later did across all of its licensed ranges with its Infestation miniseries. With zombies about as overexposed in horror fiction as vampires are these days, this was the least interesting story to me, though it did at least bring Ensign Ro back into the fold (I’m guessing somewhere in season six, since no stardate is given), and features some fascinating visual effects for the view from Geordi’s VISOR.

The in-jokey title of “Space Seeds” (playing off of Space Seed, the original Trek episode that introduced Khan) is set during season 2, and features an interesting agricultural sci/tech mystery (yes, you read that right) in which Wesley Crusher plays a vital role (you read that right too) and even kicks butt (you’re still reading that right). It’s almost my favorite story in the book, with one exception: without the restriction of having to track down a specific actor or meet the approval of producers making a current Trek series, why no Doctor Pulaski?

The end of “Space Seeds” abruptly sets up the final story, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which would seem to be a TNG nod to Section 31 (a concept introduced in Deep Space Nine and later revealed to have been around as far back as The Space BetweenStar Trek: Enterprise). Admiral Nechayev is brought back and cast in a rather sinister light – we still don’t know whose side she’s on by the end of the story. (Maybe she doesn’t know either, explaining her eternal crankiness.)

Writer David Tischman – who scripted all of the disparate adventures – betrays a little bit of love for the last Star Trek spinoff to hit TV to date; Picard’s archaeological team finds a long-lost Starfleet shuttlepod from the starship Columbia (NX-02), while “Strategy” revives the notion of Romulans deploying remote-controlled ships. The TNG characters are written pitch-perfect – perhaps too pitch-perfect, as there are a few places where I rolled my eyes at a couple of seemingly over-the-top characterizations before reminding myself that the TV series, a creature of the ’80s that just happened to live on into the ’90s, would likely have done exactly the same things. For good or ill, Tischman’s scripts evoke the series perfectly.

Casey Maloney’s artwork improves throughout the story cycle, though this may be a case of other inkers (Maloney draws and inks the early stories) bringing their own style to the table and enhancing his already impressive artwork. By the time the final story kicks in, it’s one of the best-looking Trek comics I’ve ever seen. And thank goodness for the lovely cover artwork on the trade paperback: the individual issues had three covers each – an “A” cover (usually very nicely done artwork), a “B” cover (always an execrable photo-montage of well-worn publcity shots) and retailer incentive covers, which zig-zagged between both styles. The cover on the TPB is the best of one world, thank you very much.

This was IDW’s first foray into the Next Generation license, and in many ways it’s still my favorite.

Year: 2007
Writer: David Tischman
Pencils: Casey Maloney
Inks: Casey Maloney, Aaron Leach, Stacie Ponder
Colors: Leonard O’Grady
Letters: Robbie Robbins, Neil Uyetake, Chris Mowry

Publisher: IDW
Pages: 144

The Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2011

The Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2011Order this bookStory: A mashup of fiction, behind-the-scenes fact and a treasure trove of photos, the Brilliant Book covers Matt Smith’s first season as the Doctor. Profiles of the show’s stars and creative staff include looks at the production of the 2010 season and glimpses into the history of the show. The Dream Lord put in an appearance to drop vaguely spoilery hints about the 2011 season, but those hints are wedged in between lots of misleading red herrings and other total fabrications.

Review: When I was a kid and Doctor Who was on the cusp of being in vogue in America in the 1980s, Doctor Who books usually shared many qualities – they were nifty hardbacks with nice cover art, they had gobs of information about the show’s past that you were unlikely to find anywhere else in the days before the web and the commercial availability of every complete story in existence, and they also usually happened to be compiled by the late Peter Haining (I hesitate to use the word “written” because Haining made an art form out of collating essays and other content that was written by others). Not unlike the show that inspired it, Haining’s books were wordy and progressed at a very leisurely pace (even for non-fiction), and contained lots of exlamation points!

By contrast, “Doctor Who: The Brilliant Book 2010” changes topics, typographical/layout styles and authors every few pages – a sort of printed representation of the breakneck pace at which the Doctor’s adventures unfold in the modern series. Continue reading

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 2

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 2Order this bookStory: Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner (1980-1990) relates the story of his tenure as the longest-serving producer of the series, virtually guiding it through the entirety of the 1980s until the BBC quietly cancelled it. In this volumes, he takes listeners, episode-by-episode, through his work on the show, starting halfway through 1986’s Trial Of A Time Lord, and then covering the tumultous unseating of leading man Colin Baker, the casting of his successor Sylvester McCoy, and the making of McCoy’s three seasons as the Doctor. Nathan-Turner’s continuing association with Doctor Who, even after the show was no longer being made, is covered, as are his thoughts on the show’s future (a few years before Russell T. Davies’ new series was announced) and some of its more vocal fans.

Review: A bit closer to what I was hoping to hear from The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, the second volume of the former Doctor Who producer’s audio memoirs still comes in for a landing wide of the mark. Like the first volume, this one concentrates too much on story-by-story anecdotes in a way that doesn’t pause for breath and doesn’t allow for a more elaborate exploration of JN-T’s opinions of any particular event. Continue reading

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 1

The John Nathan-Turner Memoirs, Volume 1Order this bookStory: Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner (1980-1990) relates the story of his tenure as the longest-serving producer of the series, virtually guiding it through the entirety of the 1980s until the BBC quietly cancelled it. In this volumes, he takes listeners,episode-by-episode, through his work on the show, starting as a studio floor assistant in the Patrick Troughton story The Space Pirates, through his work as production unit manager, through his rise to the position of producer at the end of Tom Baker’s reign. At the end of the second disc, “JN-T” discusses the 1985 cancellation/hiatus crisis and the beginning of production on The Trial Of A Time Lord.

Review: I’ve had both 2-CD volumes of the late John Nathan-Turner’s memoirs sitting on the shelf for some time, but they sat there until a recent listen to fellow Doctor Who producer Barry Letts’ memoirs spurred me to listen, contrast and compare. As with the two wildly different epochs of Doctor Who itself, trying to compare the two showrunners’ memoirs is an exercise involving apples and oranges. Continue reading

Who And Me

Who And MeOrder this bookStory: Doctor Who producer Barry Letts (1923-2009) narrates the story of his own beginnings in TV and theater, from second-string actor to writer to producer of one of the BBC’s most popular series during its first seasons in color starring Jon Pertwee. This first volume, featuring Letts reading his own memoirs, covers his early career, his first Doctor Who directing gig (Enemy Of The World starring Patrick Troughton) and his eventual ascension to the chief creative mind behind the series. Jon Pertwee’s first two seasons are covered in depth, including many remembrances of Pertwee himself and his co-stars, the introduction of Roger Delgado as the Master, and more.

Review: I had Who And Me sitting on the shelf for a long time before former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts died in October 2009, but I just hadn’t listened to it; Letts has already been interviewed, and has written up anecdotes about his time working on Doctor Who, and has done enough DVD commentaries…I wasn’t sure there was anything new to tell. Who And Me proved otherwise. Continue reading

On The Outside, It Looked Like An Old-Fashioned Police Box

Story: Presenter Mark Gatiss revisits a now-bygone era of Doctor Who appreciation – in the pre-video, pre-DVD days when Target’s compact, economically-worded novelizations of past television stories were all that younger fans had to rely on for knowledge of the show’s early years, and got a great many young people hooked on reading into the deal. Interviewed guests include Terrance Dicks (writer of the majority of Target’s Doctor Who books), frequent cover artist Chris Achilleos, Philip Hinchcliffe, Russell T. Davies and Anneke Wills.

Review: An affectionate overview of the origins of the Target Books Doctor Who novelizations of the 1970s and ’80s, On The Outside, It Looked Like An Old-Fashioned Police Box is a good “introductory essay” to the phenomenon that has now sadly faded into a specific period: to the modern generation of Doctor Who fandom, Target’s novelizations, seldom exceeding (or even approaching) 200 pages, are more likely to be something younger fans have read about than read first-hand. Continue reading

Dirty Harry #11: Death in the Air

Death in the AirOrder this bookStory: Detective “Dirty” Harry Callahan, investigating a series of subway attacks, finds himself caught up in a rogue government program.

Review: As always with these kinds of things, whether you like it or not will be directly linked to your feelings towards the ‘Dirty Harry’ films series. If you find them tedious, this book is not going to change your mind. But if you enjoy a bit of low-grade cop drama, this isn’t a bad choice. Continue reading

Star Trek: Countdown

Star Trek: CountdownBuy this book in theLogBook.com StoreStardate 64333.4: A threat to Romulus is detected by a mining ship commanded by a Romulan named Nero. A supernova with unique properties is consuming everything in its path. Ambassador Spock, now the Federation’s formal ambassador to Romulus, urges the Romulan Senate to treat this threat with the utmost severity, but his pleas fall on deaf ears – at least at the highest levels. Spock’s proposal of a means to stop the all-consuming supernova captures Nero’s imagination, and Nero is willing to pledge the resources of his mining ship to gather the decalithium Spock’s plan requires. This also means leaving his wife – about to give birth to a son – on Romulus, but Nero is swayed by Spock’s promise of help. Despite interference from Reman pirates – a situation which is resolved in Nero’s favor by the timely arrival of the U.S.S. Enterprise and Captain Data – Nero’s crew gathers the material necessary and heads for Vulcan. But both Nero and Spock are unwelcome on Vulcan: the Romulan is considered a security risk, and Spock is considered a traitor, until Ambassador Jean-Luc Picard steps in to clear the obstacles in their path. But even Picard’s influence cannot sway the Vulcan Science Council: they give the supernova threat no more credence than the Romulan Senate. Nero races back to Romulus to evacuate his family, only to see the planet destroyed before his eyes. Enraged, Nero decides that the trip to Vulcan was a Vulcan/Federation plot to delay his mission to save Romulus, and when Nero’s ship, the Narada, recovers surviving members of the Senate, Nero kills them, feeling that they too betrayed the Romulan people with their indecision. Using information acquired from the Senators, Nero takes the Narada to a top-secret Romulan facility called the Vault, where he acquires adaptive technology for the Narada and sets forth on a mission of vengeance. Ambassadors Spock and Picard, Captain Data, retired Commander Geordi La Forge and Klingon General Worf combine forces to try to stop Nero’s unquenchable thirst for revenge, as well as the spreading supernova threat. Only one of these goals can be met – and though Spock succeeds in preventing the supernova from spreading further, he finds that the resulting cosmic energies unleashed may have given Nero a way to take his quest for revenge into the past. Spock pursues the Romulan into the past, knowing that it can only be a one-way trip.

Review: Considered the “official prequel” to J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film, “Countdown” sets up Nero and Spock as we see them in the movie, and gives us a taste of the future from which they hail. The story also shows us where the TNG characters are in relation to all of this, and helps to tie the movie’s story in to the existing franchise. As is typical of material in the “expanded” Star Trek universe, there’s no indication that IDW was under any pressure to pay any attention to what’s going on in the increasingly cataclysmic post-Star Trek: Nemesis novels by Pocket Books, and some readers may be just fine with that. The comic even ties off some of the developments introduced in Nemesis itself, and in some cases it minimizes their impact or erases it altogether – again, perhaps not something that anyone will mourn. Continue reading

Star Trek: The New Voyages

Star Trek: The New VoyagesOrder this bookStory: A collection of short stories about the journeys of the starship Enterprise and her crew.

Review: It’s hard to realize nowadays, when fan fiction is so prevalent (some would say invasive) but in 1976, the idea of finding a broader audience for fan fiction (outside of the meager readership of fanzines) was a fantastic notion. Without the all-powerful, all-seeing Internet, the only hope for fanfic writers would be the outlandish idea that Paramount themselves would allow a professionally published collection of such stories. But that’s just what Paramount did. They were about to launch the regular series of Star Trek novels with “Spock, Messiah!” and, perhaps, “Star Trek: The New Voyages” was an easy way to get material out to the public while the more professional work was being finalized. (They also upped the ante by getting Gene Roddenberry and the principal cast to write introductions, maybe as a way to take the curse of fanfic off.) Whatever the reason for the book’s publication, it’s good to know that this isn’t the first properly published Star Trek original fiction (having been preceded by junior novel “Mission to Horatius” and James Blish’s “Spock Must Die!”) as it is one of the most embarrasingly amateurish collection of nonsense ever to get the “official” stamp of approval. It basically proves that fan fiction hasn’t changed all that much in thirty years: it stinks. Continue reading

Star Trek: Voyager – The Farther Shore

Star Trek: Voyager - The Farther ShoreOrder this bookStory: With Borg assimilation slowly spreading in viral form on Earth, and Voyager’s holographic Doctor accused of having a hand in a violent “holorevolution,” suspicion is cast on Voyager’s crew. Admiral Janeway is already putting plans into action to free the Doctor, Seven of Nine and Icheb, in the hopes of not only clearing their names, but putting them to work solving the Borg mystery. With help from Lt. Commander Data, who has ostensibly arrived to provide legal counsel in the Doctor’s fight for recognition as a sentient, Janeway and her reunited crew retake Voyager and prepare for the fight ahead, when a shocking discovery is made: a new Borg Queen is behind the assimilation virus, and has been working on it for years – from within Starfleet itself.

Review: Picking up from the end of “Homecoming” and barreling toward the story’s conclusion without pausing for breath, “The Farther Shore” continues to complicate the immediate plotline for Voyager’s crew, but is clearly setting up problems for them to tackle down the road. Continue reading