Star Trek 2 by James Blish
Posted by Tracy Poff on November 21, 2014
James Blish’s novelizations of Star Trek episodes continue in Star Trek 2, published in February 1968. This volume includes novelizations of “Arena”, “A Taste of Armageddon”, “Tomorrow is Yesterday”, “Errand of Mercy”, “Court Martial”, “Operation–Annihilate!”, “The City on the Edge of Forever”, and “Space Seed”.
Each short story is typically quite similar to the episode being adapted, though there are some differences. Notably, the ending of “Operation–Annihilate!” is very different. In the episode, they expose Spock to a massive blast of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light, and believe that they have blinded him. Upon discovering that the visible light was unnecessary, they regret that they have needlessly blinded him. In the end, though, he recovers, and they save the planet using the same procedure, on a larger scale.
In the short story, the Enterprise instead seeks out the central concentration of the mind-controlling creatures and destroys it with missiles, which leaves the creatures directionless and easily dealt with.
I like the writing in this volume better than that in its predecessor, though I couldn’t point at a definite reason why. It still suffers from the problem that the episodes on which the stories are based relied heavily on the visual element, and so are somewhat lacking as short stories. They don’t generally have any big ideas behind them, and if they do they don’t explore them very thoroughly.
I do think that some of the stories here have merit. Not much can be done for “Arena” or “Court Martial”, but I can certainly see “A Taste of Armageddon” being worked into something more substantial and interesting, and of course that has already been done for “Space Seed” in Greg Cox’s Eugenics Wars series, not to mention Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Not to be too negative, I did have a pleasant surprise when reading “Tomorrow is Yesterday”. After their time-traveling adventure, Spock comments, “And so we have revised Omar.” Upon Kirk’s request for clarification, he specifies that he means “the verse about the moving finger.” This refers to The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, as translated by Edward FitzGerald:
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all they Tears wash out a Word of it.
I’ve only just read the Rubáiyát about a year ago (highly recommended, incidentally), so seeing this reference by Spock is a treat. Sadly, I don’t recall him being quite so literary in the episode.
Given its general improvement over its predecessor, I can recommend Star Trek 2 to fans looking for a quick read, or another perspective on the episodes, and the new ending to “Operation–Annihilate!” and the incorporation of content from Heinlein’s original script in “The City on the Edge of Forever” provide a little added value.