I have always been a big Star Trek fan. I’m old enough to have faint memories of the original series in its original run, but most of my obsession was born in the endless reruns that started soon after. I also read all the James Blish novelizations of the original series episodes back in high school and when I stumbled across this book recently, I realized I had to read them again. What surprises me is how bad the writing in these short stories is. There are two main problems, and I suspect that both were caused by a requirement that they stay within a certain word count.
The first problem is that rather than engage with the action as the series does, these stories depend on a lot of recap of how the crew got to where they were. For example, in the television episode, “Arena”, the action began with Kirk and a few red shirts landing on a planet to meet an old friend and coming under sudden and unexpected attack. People die (that’s why they’re called redshirts) before Kirk is rescued and the Enterprise begins to chase an alien ship through uncharted space. Then Kirk is snatched off the bridge and put on a planetoid to fight the Gorn commander. All of that action is covered in a couple of paragraphs in Blish’s version that frankly steals the dramatic tension out of the story. And this happens again and again in each of the tales.
The second problem is that scenes are cut from the short stories, again at the cost of cultivating dramatic tension and greatly shortening the stories. This leaves us with these stories serving more as reminders of the original episodes than true novelizations of them. That’s a shame, because they could have been so much more. Still, they’re Star Trek, which is always a lot of fun.