Book Report: Star Trek 5 by James Blish (1972)

Book coverI already reported on this book in 2005, which probably makes it one of the earliest book reports on the blog. Well, certainly early in the almost 1,800 on the blog. I basically said then what I’ve said in a lot of the more recent reports on the Star Trek books: They’re short story recreations of episodes from the original Star Trek series by a British science fiction author who had not seen the show–so it lead to some early blunders like calling Vulcans Vulcanians and whatnot. The books came out in the years when the show was off the air (which was before VCRs, so book form was the only way to catch it if you weren’t sitting in front of the television when the syndicated repeats aired). I also mentioned, as I always do, that I originally read these books in the middle 1980s, so the books were fairly new and although the motion pictures had begun, Star Trek: The Next Generation had not.

So, as I mentioned previously, Blish is not working in airdate order or stardate order–he’s basically writing up the episodes that fans say they want to see next.

At any rate, this book contains:

  • “Whom Gods Destroy”, the one where a shapeshifter takes the form of Kirk to try to hijack the Enterprise. I don’t know if I remembered this one, but it’s a lot like “The Dagger of the Mind” (in Star Trek) and “Turnabout Intruder” below.
  • “The Tholian Web”, the one where the alien spaceships build a stellar net and the one where Kirk gets trapped between dimensions in his space suit. I remembered both from the episode, but not that they were the same episode.
  • “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, the one with the heavy-handed race relations metaphor where a guy with one side of his face black and the other white is rescued from a damaged, stolen star cruiser, and he has been pursued by a guy with the opposite coloration for a thousand years. One wonders how the writers would feel about disintegrated race relations fifty years later.
  • “This Side of Paradise”, the one where the spores make everyone, even Spock, happy. A similar story would later be included in the film Star Trek: Insurrection.
  • “Turnabout Intruder”, the one where a jealous ex-flame of Kirk uses an alien technology to swap bodies with him and try to hijack the Enterprise.
  • “Requiem for Methuseleh”, where the Enterprise meets a strange genius on an out-of-the-way planet, and Kirk tries to steal his girl.
  • “The Way to Eden”, where a bunch of hippies led by the carrier of a deadly plague try to hijack the Enterprise to go to a planet names Eden.

One thing that’s becoming clearer is how much the stories kind of mirror each other. We have four stories in this book where someone tries to hijack the Enterprise. We’ve got two stories with dopplegangers of one sort or another. Other books have had the time travel stories that kind of mirror one another.

Which is probably why when I watch or read about The Twilight Zone, I’m inspired to write speculative fiction, but I don’t get that same impulse from Star Trek.

Still, a bit of enjoyable nostalgia. And perhaps I should space these books out a little more, but they’re so quick to read, and I’m only at 19 books this year, so I need to pad the accounts.

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1 thought on “Book Report: Star Trek 5 by James Blish (1972)

  1. “Battlefield” was a mediocre episode and an even worse sermon. When we look at Roddenberry’s later preachy tackiness, we can find its roots in episodes like this.

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