24 February 2021

Star Trek: The Destiny Era: Revelation and Dust

Published: 2013
Acquired: April 2019
Read: November 2020

Star Trek: The Fall: Revelation and Dust
by David R. George III

22 August–1 September 2385
As much as I have often been critical of Destiny-era fiction, I would say that it has all reached a basic level of competence: they are all stories about people trying to accomplish things against obstacles placed in their way. Now, this might seem like damning with faint praise... but it's praise one cannot bring to Revelation and Dust, a book where almost nothing happens for the first 250 pages.

No one is trying to accomplish anything and encountering obstacles; rather, we just get a series of dull scenes intended to establish what all the Deep Space Nine characters have been up to since they were last seen in Raise the Dawn. Sisko thinks a lot while Yates makes dinner in a replicator. Ro thinks a lot while looking at a park. Quark thinks a lot while looking at his bar. O'Brien thinks a lot while putting on his dress uniform. Nan Bacco has meetings that don't really go anywhere, but I assume are meant to set up things that will happen in later installments of The Fall. There seem to be an interminable number of scenes where people go to memorials or other ceremonies. But nothing actually happens.

A lot of the book seems to be there to set up the new Deep Space 9. There are paragraphs about things like turbolift design and the layout of Ops and what the new hospital is like and what the names of every counselor assigned to the station are. Quite frankly, I don't care what it all looks like if there's not a story it's all in support of. In any case, as long as the station gets rebuilt and replaced, there's no way destroying it could really change the fundamentals of DS9 storytelling in a meaningful way. It's like when a comic book crossover kills off a minor-but-beloved character to prove the situation is serious... it doesn't prove anything at all, because you know that the next time a writer wants to use, say, Firestorm, he'll be back, and he'll be fine. DS9 is back, and it doesn't matter if "Ops" is now called "the Hub," everything was fine.

The one exception to this is the Kira subplot. Kira was on a runabout that exploded in the wormhole in Raise the Dawn (I guess? I actually totally forgot about this), and we find out what happened to her here. First she spends her time observing a, I shit you not, 25-page line-by-line recap of every single wormhole scene from "Emissary." It is so boring. I have seen "Emissary," and whatever new spin one might gain on it is quickly drained away by the fact that Kira is way behind the reader in terms of what is happening. I have no idea what this was supposed to be in aid of.

I should have counted my blessings, because soon Kira is in the ancient past of Bajor, inhabiting the existence of someone named "Keev," and it is 100% people you don't care about with space names interacting with other people you don't care about with space names. The novel never gives you a reason to want Keev to succeed, and I quickly turned to skimming these chapters when they appeared. This is actually the third time in the DS9 relaunch there's been an extended sequence of Kira in Bajor's past (it also happened in "Horn and Ivory" and Warpath), so this is a well that's been gone to a bit too much at this point. As my friend Brendan pointed out, "all they ever feel like is a thematic crutch. Why not have Kira evolve and learn lessons based on events in her actual life?"

SPOILERS: Two thirds of the way into this book, Federation president Nan Bacco is assassinated. You might thing this would kick the book into high gear, but instead, people sit around and think about how sad they are. The investigation has little sense of urgency, and not all the actions Ro and Blackmer take make a lot of sense. (Ro announces Bacco is dead, and it doesn't occur to her that all the other heads of state might have security concerns until they contact her.)

The lack of urgency is exacerbated by the fact that at this point the Keev chapters increase in frequency, now alternating with present-day events, so every time something does happen, you're promptly jerked to something you don't care about.

I like David R. George III as a writer-- Twilight and Serpents among the Ruins rank among my favorite Star Trek books-- but his Destiny-era stuff started out feeling misguided, and seems to keep getting worse.

Continuity Notes:

  • The O'Brien family moved to Cardassia in 2376, if I recall correctly; O'Brien was then assigned to build the new Deep Space 9 in 2383. That means he lived on Cardassia for seven years... as long as he lived on the original Deep Space 9! To be honest, I just don't feel it, and I don't know if I ever will.
  • Also, why has Nog essentially been demoted in responsibility? Before his assignment to the Challenger in Indistinguishable from Magic he was chief engineer of Deep Space 9; now that he's returned, he's assistant chief engineer! And he's assistant to a guy he considerably outranks.
Other Notes:
  • Copy editing is a bit poor. On p. 45, for example, we're told Kira "didn't care much for the sport [of baseball]-- or really even understand it," and then two paragraphs later that Kira "[a]lthough she had eventually learned the rules of the sport, she had never really understood it." Yes, I got it the first time!
  • There's also some very clunky dialogue, such as a sequence where O'Brien, Nog, Bashir, and Sarina discuss how many heads of state are on the station: "'I'm not talking about worlds,' O'Brien said, 'I'm talking about empires and unions and hegemonies.' 'Don't forget alliances,' Nog said, doubtless speaking about his Ferengi origins" (p. 239).
  • To be honest, I feel like it's hard to justify Ro and Blackmer keeping their jobs. They had one station sabotaged out from under them, and then on the day the next one opened, the president of the Federation was killed! What kind of operation are they running?
I read Destiny-era Star Trek books in batches of five every few months. Next up in sequence: The Fall: The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack

22 February 2021

Doctor Who at Christmas: Twelve Angels Weeping

Originally published: 2018
Acquired: December 2020
Read: January 2021

Doctor Who: Twelve Angels Weeping
by Dave Rudden
 
This is a collection of twelve stories set in the Doctor Who universe, most having some kind of Christmas connection (however slight), most featuring the Doctor, most featuring a monster of some sort. I started reading the book on Christmas Day 2020, and read one story per day, which turned out to be a really fun project.
 
Rudden had never written any Doctor Who book before this, but alone he has more variety and invention than some Doctor Who anthologies written by twenty-five different authors. Highlights for me included a noir story about a private detective on Gallifrey hired to track down the TARDIS the Doctor stole (containing a surprising but subtle tie-in to Prisoners of Fate, a Big Finish audio dram), a story told from the point-of-view of a Cyberman, a really neat story of the Paternoster Gang, an adventure for Rory and the eleventh Doctor investigating a regicide, and a story of the Master trying to be the Doctor. There was only one I didn't really like, an overly long story of a heist that I didn't really get the point of.

The best story was "The Rhino of Twenty-Three Strand Street," about an Irish girl from 1960s Dublin, chafing in Catholic school, who discovers that a Judoon has moved in next door. Really well told and heartwarming.
 
All of the stories have a strong sense of voice and tone, short Doctor Who fiction at its very best. This is the twelfth Doctor Who Christmas book I've read, and it's the one I've enjoyed the most except for Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury.

I read a Doctor Who Christmas book every year. Next up in sequence: The Wintertime Paradox

17 February 2021

The Transformers Classics UK, Volume One (From Stockbridge to Segonus: A Doctor Who Magazine Comics Marathon, Part 3)

Collection published: 2011
Contents originally published: 1985-86
Acquired: November 2020
Read: December 2020

The Transformers Classics UK, Volume One
editorial notes and assistance by James Roberts

Written by Steve Parkhouse, Simon Furman, James Hill, and Mike Collins
Art by
John Ridgway, Mike Collins, Jeff Anderson, John Stokes, Barry Kitson, Mark Farmer, William Simpson, and Geoff Senior
Colors by Gina Hart, Josie Fermin
, Steve Whitaker, Scott Whittaker, John Burns, and Stuart Place
Letters by Richard Starkings, John Aldrich, Annie Halfacree, and Mike Scott

In the 1980s, Marvel UK wasn't just the publisher of the Doctor Who magazine, it also published its own, original Transformers strip, which wove in and out of the events of the US Transformers comic. Doctor Who and Transformers didn't cross over per se, but there were some elements that crossed from the one to the other, so I decided-- because there's no marathon I can't make more complicated-- to alternate collections of the Doctor Who strip with collections of the Transformers one up until I reach the point where they interact. IDW has collected the first few years of the UK strip in a series of volumes with commentary and interviews by More than Meets the Eye/Lost Light scribe James Roberts. They are out of print and horrendously expensive, but you can get them off comiXology for pretty reasonable prices. This volume collects issues #9-21, 29-32, and 41-44 of the UK comic (the other issues were reprints of US material), along with the 1985 Annual; the stories take place in between the US stories collected in vol. 1 of IDW's The Transformers Classics. Someday I'd like to read the US and UK stories in an integrated order,* but for now, I'm just depending on my memories of the US comic, plus Roberts's helpful editorial commentary.

As a result, it's something of an odd read-- no cohesive story, and because the stories are the work of four different writers, no cohesive vision, either, though near the end of the collected stories, one begins to emerge. First, Steve Parkhouse (writer of the Doctor Who strip during the fourth, fifth, and sixth Doctor eras) gives us "Man of Iron," a grim and serious tale of the Transformers coming to an English village; I've previously reviewed it as part of The Transformers Classics, Vol. 3 (the US comic reprinted it as a flashback story).

You don't talk to strangers, and you don't get in strangers' cars... but should you talk to car strangers?
from The Transformers #10 (script by Steve Parkhouse, art by John Ridgway)

"Man of Iron" sets a very distinct tone for a Transformers story, with the Transformers themselves often silent and mysterious, the way robots in disguise might seem to human beings. None of the other UK stories do that, being more in tune with the US style, but there is a more character focus than I remember from Bob Budiansky's US tales. This makes sense: the big events of the ongoing narrative being driven by what was happening in the US issues, the area the UK comic could really work was in expanding character moments. So we get stories that focus on Brawn, Starscream, Ravage, Grimlock and the Dinobots, Ratchet, Bumblebee, Circuit Breaker, and even Optimus Prime himself.

I always like a bit of Ratchet.
from The Transformers #31 (script by Simon Furman, art by Barry Kitson)
 
They're all pretty solid (with the exception of "Decepticon Dam-Busters!" and the two by James Hill), but the standout character for me here was Ravage, someone I hadn't really given much thought to before (though I think he did get a nice issue somewhere in James Barber's Transformers run). In some continuities (including, I think, Marvel US), Ravage is silent, but that's not true here, where he pursues his own agenda-- one of utterly ruthless loyalty to Megatron. I liked the straightforwardness of his duplicity: he will do anything except betray his leader.

Ravage might be awesome, but Windcharger is pretty meh.
from The Transformers #20 (script by Simon Furman, art by Mike Collins & Jeff Anderson)

Plus there's a great bit where Grimlock tests a replacement hand by punching out Ratchet.

The art is interesting-- based more often on the actual toys or their package art than the character models used by the US comic. In the case of some characters, this means they have the spindly look of cheap toys; supposedly strong Brawn looks like you could break him in half. But I did like the comic's weird, unique look for Optimus. And Circuit Breaker looks a lot more curvaceous than I remember! There's real talent here, of course: John Ridgway, Mike Collins (of Darkstars fame), Mark Farmer (who later worked on Alan Davis's Killraven). I hadn't even known that Barry Kitson (whose work on L.E.G.I.O.N. and Legion was excellent) was British, much less that he'd started out here! I don't think anyone would call this his best work, but still.

I liked Warparth (the tank guy) and was a bit bummed to learn this is considered out of continuity because of him (he didn't actually debut until after this supposedly takes place).
from Transformers Annual 1985 (script by Simon Furman, art by Mike Collins & Jeff Anderson)

There are also some nice pieces of backstory, like "And There Shall Come... a Leader!", which delves into Optimus's life on Cybertron. In these days, "Prime" isn't a title, but just part of his name. I also really enjoyed "Plague of the Insecticons!", where the Autobots attempt to reach out to President Reagan, but things go terribly wrong.

Like, why is his face all blue?
from Transformers Annual 1985 (script by Simon Furman, art by Mike Collins & Jeff Anderson)
 
On its own, this is a weird set of stories, maybe, but I can see how it will be the foundation for the UK's own distinct take on the Transformers mythos, and I look forward to seeing where it goes.

* For the stories contained in this volume, I suggest the following: US #1-3, UK #9-21, US #4-8, UK #29-32, US #9-12, UK #41-44. (The annual stories are outside of continuity by and large.)

This post is the third in a series about the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip and Marvel UK. The next installment covers The Tides of Time. Previous installments are listed below:

  1. The Iron Legion
  2. Dragon's Claw

15 February 2021

Dragon's Claw (From Stockbridge to Segonus: A Doctor Who Magazine Comics Marathon, Part 2)

Collection published: 2004
Contents originally published: 1980-82
Acquired: December 2013
Read: November 2020

Dragon's Claw: Collected Comic Strips from the Pages of Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly
by Dave Gibbons, Steve Parkhouse, Steve Moore, et al.

This volume transitions us out Mills & Wagner era into that of first Steve Moore and then Steven Parkhouse; at the same time, the Doctor Who magazine goes from a weekly to a monthly, and the stories decrease in length. I'm guessing this is because it's one thing to serialize a story in eight parts when that means it takes eight weeks, and another when when that means it takes eight months! Later the mag would reverse this decision-- which I think was the right call, based on this volume.

Dragon's Claw, from Doctor Who Weekly #39-43 / Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #44-45 (July-Oct. 1980)
written by Steve Moore, artwork & lettering by Dave Gibbons
This is the last of the big fourth Doctor comic stories; in a way, it feels like Steve Moore's attempt to do a Mills & Wagner, so to speak. Interesting setting, big enemy, long-form storytelling... yet this never clicked for me. I'm not sure I could say why. (Dave Gibbons actually says something similar in the intro to Iron Legion.) Maybe it's because the Doctor and Sharon and K-9 spend most of the story sitting around? For a story about ninja warrior monks (there's your RTD connection again!) and Sontarans, it's surprisingly light on action; compare this to The Iron Legion or The Dogs of Doom, which are constantly moving moving moving. The stakes feel very abstract too. I guess the emperor is threatened, but so what? Anyway it seems to me that this story marks the beginning of a slump for the strip. The Time Witch was a wobble, but could have been an aberration; this story confirms it.
from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #46
The Collector, from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #46 (Nov. 1980)
written by Steve Moore, artwork & lettering by Dave Gibbons
This one starts out pretty good: the Doctor and Sharon land in Blackcastle, but get sucked to an asteroid by a guy who's been kidnapping humans and putting them on display for centuries. Trying to get him free from a deranged computer, the Doctor accidentally gets him and K-9 killed... so he just goes back in time and undoes it, the end. Sure, there's some bafflegab to justify why he can't always do this, but it's a big cheat regardless. Plus he never actually sets the victims of the Collector free! (The bit of bafflegab is lettered in a slightly different hand, which makes me think it was added at the last minute when someone objected that the Doctor would do this all the time if it were possible.) I think it debuts a formula we'll see through the rest of Steve Moore's time on the strip: more on that later.
from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #48
Dreamers of Death, from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #47-48 (Dec. 1980–Jan. 1981)
written by Steve Moore, artwork & lettering by Dave Gibbons
The TARDIS lands on an Earth colony planet where the Doctor has some old friends; the use of alien creatures to create shared dream experiences has become all the rage since his last visit. Well, it turns out the alien creatures are evil. You probably could write an interesting story about this concept, but this isn't it; the dream stuff is abandoned in favor of the creatures merging into a giant devil-shaped gestalt creature and stomping through the city. The Doctor defeats it with a hose.

This is Sharon's last story; suddenly she's decided to start a new life with a guy she meets in the story, even more sudden than Leela falling in love with Andred, which is saying something. It's disappointing but not too disappointing because introductory story and maybe Dogs of Doom aside she's never really had much to do except stand there while the Doctor explains things. She feels a very RTD companion, like I've said, but without storytelling actually focused on her as a character, she quickly becomes generic. The idea that she could go straight from 14 to 18 raises more problems than it solves... and now she's settling down!? It's all a bit weird. (Sharon says there's nothing for her in Blackcastle now that she's grown up... yet in one of these stories, she mentioned having a father! I am pretty sure Big Finish made her into an orphan.)
from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #52
The Life Bringer! / War of the Words / Spider-God, from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #49-52 (Feb.-May 1981)
written by Steve Moore, artwork & lettering by Dave Gibbons
Here we settle into the Steve Parkhouse pattern (into which you could also insert The Collector and, to a lesser extent, Dreamers of Death): mediocre sci-fi adventures that feel like rejected Twilight Zone scripts with some kind of sting in the tail. In The Life Bringer!, the Doctor meets and liberates Prometheus. Is he the real god? At the end, Prometheus heads to Earth to make life. Is this the origin of humanity in the distant past, or its resurrection in the distant future? I feel like the end wants you to go "spooky..." but frankly I didn't care.

War of the Words is about aliens fighting over a library; it has a pretty dumb resolution. Spider-God is about a weird alien biology, where the whole story is built around a twist ending that feels like it comes from a mediocre American sf story of the 1930s. At least Dave Gibbons draws the hell out of everything!
from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #55
The Deal / End of the Line, from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #53-55 (June-Aug. 1981)
written by Steve Parkhouse, artwork & lettering by Dave Gibbons
Here is the debut of Steve Parkhouse as strip writer, who quickly makes his style known: bleak stories of an ineffective Doctor. In The Deal, the TARDIS and an alien soldier get stuck on a battlefield, and team up to get off, but the Doctor ditches the soldier and he dies when the Doctor realizes he's a monster. In End of the Line, the Doctor faces zombies in a ruined cityscape; he helps some survivors escape but the story ends with him realizing there's no place for them to escape to... and they all die en route anyway! Ouch, geeze, way to cheer me up, New Steve. The dark brooding cityscapes of End of the Line are pretty neat, though.

By this point, things that remind me of the RTD years have largely vanished from the strip... with the exception of the fact that End of the Line is about a bunch of people trapped in a dystopian urban center yearning to get out to an edenic countryside, but who need the Doctor to repair their transport system. So, yeah, "Gridlock" again!
from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #56
The Free-Fall Warriors, from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #56-57 (Sept.-Oct. 1981)
written by Steve Parkhouse, artwork & lettering by Dave Gibbons
This is like one of those episodes of a tv show where the main cast does little except meet some people who are clearly being set up for a spin-off. The Doctor's on vacation, where he meets a science fiction writer named Ivan Asimoff (!). The two of them then meet a group of stunt pilots called the Freefall Warriors (that's how it's always written in the story, though part one is called "the Free-Fall Warriors" and part two "the Free Fall Warriors"). One is a big tiger and is named "Big Cat"; another has a machine head and is called "Machine Head"; one is named "Bruce." You can tell Parkhouse put a lot of work into this. The Doctor and Asimoff mostly sit there while the Freefall Warriors thwart a raider attack in contrived circumstances. I barely get why the Doctor is in this story; the purpose of the Asimoff character is even less clear!

Like I said, it feels like the Freefall Warriors are being set up for bigger things, but if so, they didn't amount to much; Big Cat reappeared solo in the Doctor Who Summer Special for 1982, and there was a four-issue back-up strip in Captain Britain in 1985 showing how they all met. None of this material has been collected as far as I know.
from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #58
Junk-Yard Demon, from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #58-59 (Nov.-Dec. 1981)
written & lettered by Steve Parkhouse, pencils by Mike McMahon, inks by Adolfo Buylla
For the first time in my DWM journey, we have a strip not drawn by Dave Gibbons. (I know he didn't draw #17-18, but I haven't got there yet!) Mike McMahon and Adolfo Buylla have a drastically different style: lots of dark, distorted proportions, sparse backgrounds, detailed mechanics. I love their boggle-eyed Tom Baker. The story is fun, probably the best Parkhouse-written tale in this volume. Actually, the best-written tale in this volume full stop. The Doctor meets some scavengers who repurpose Cybermen as servants; one is accidentally reactivated and it steals the TARDIS, along with one of the scavengers. It's a neat, atmospheric story, slightly injured by some unclear storytelling from McMahon and Buylla; there are times I didn't follow the action right away.
The Neutron Knights, from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #60 (Jan. 1982)
written & lettered by Steve Parkhouse, artwork by Dave Gibbons
The fourth Doctor departs DWM at his most ineffectual in Steve Parkhouse's most depressing tale yet: the Doctor stands and watches as barbaric space knights invade a castle; everyone dies when Merlin overloads an atomic reactor! Wow, Steve Parkhouse really hates happy endings, huh? This one foreshadows The Tides of Time but I didn't think it really worked on its own. Which, to be fair, it's not meant to be read on its own. I might be pausing a bit before picking up my next volume, but back in the day, it was straight from this to part one of The Tides of Time in Feb. 1982!
from Doctor Who: A Marvel Monthly #60
Stray Observations:
  • I am reliably informed that The Collector features the introduction of that old Doctor Who comics convention, the use of "VWORP! VWORP!" to represent the sound of the TARDIS materializing. This is a surprisingly hard thing to research on the Internet; I found one article on BuzzFeed that clarified it dates back years... all the way to the Matt Smith era! Wow.
  • The Free-Fall Warriors features, I believe, the debut of the long-running DWM future space currency, the mazuma.
  • Weirdly, The Neutron Knights's narration captions are in the past tense. I feel like this almost never happens in comic stories (unless there's some kind of retrospective frame). I found it jarring, but I think it's just a Steve Parkhouse thing, as I noticed he did this in some of his Transformers strips as well.

This post is the second in a series about the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip and Marvel UK. The next installment covers The Transformers Classics UK, Volume One. Previous installments are listed below:

  1. The Iron Legion

12 February 2021

The Title Fonts and Logos of Star Trek, Part V: Novels and Books, 1993-Present

Continued from last month's discussion of older Star Trek books...

To understand how I came to even write this series, you might want to know how I shelve my Star Trek mass market paperbacks. (If you don't want to know this, and I don't blame you, just jump down to the break.)

In the past I have used various complicated systems (at one point, internal chronology! do not recommend), but now I just break them down by tv show: the original, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. (To date, there are no MMPBs based on the CBS All Access shows.) Then after that go all the books that tie into no particular series; these could be original-to-prose ongoing series like New Frontier and S.C.E., miniseries that span multiple series like Day of Honor and Gateways, miniseries that don't do that like Dark Passions and Typhon Pact, or standalones not based on one tv show like Articles of the Federation and Excelsior: Forged in Fire.

I shelve all my books in publication order, except that I put all the books in one series together at the point where the first was published. These books are immediately to the left of my desk and so I gaze at them a lot while avoiding work, and as I did so often, I started to realize there was a changing trajectory over time of how Star Trek books have dealt with the logos when there's no one tv show to tie into.


This is more of a sidebar, but it's worth mentioning. In Aug. 1993, Simon & Schuster released Worf's First Adventure, the first Starfleet Academy middle-grade novel from its Minstrel Books imprint. These books would jump around the timeline, filling in the Starfleet Academy adventures of Worf, La Forge, Data, Picard, Crusher, Riker, and Troi (what, no Pulaski or Yar?). It was thus the first Star Trek book to feature (I think) a four-level title: Star Trek, series, subseries, book title. For the subseries, book title, and author name, the books would use Crillee Italic, the credits font from The Next Generation. This series ran five years and fourteen installments.

It lead to two more Starfleet Academy series, one for the original (with novels featuring Spock, McCoy, and Kirk) and one for Voyager (featuring Janeway). These maintained the Crillee Italic branding even though that had nothing to do with those tv show.

As I said in my last installment, around the time The Next Generation came out, the logos of Simon & Schuster's Star Trek books finally achieved some level of show-consistency and stability. But things would soon get complicated by the fact that S&S/Pocket started publishing Star Trek novels that didn't tie into any one series. What logo would you use then?

At first, they stuck with the original-series film logo, the logo that was also being used on Deep Space Nine and (soon) Voyager. The first time this happened was with Federation (Nov. 1994), an original series/Next Generation crossover novel. As you can see, this uses the slightly simplified, more generic version of the logo that was more prominent in the 1990s.

In June 1997, S&S released a novelization of the Interplay computer game Star Trek: Starfleet Academy. Weirdly, the novelization didn't use the game's logo design, but rather used Crillee Italic, tying it (design-wise, anyway) into S&S's middle-grade Starfleet Academy books.

In July 1997, Pocket introduced its first original ongoing Star Trek series. Peter David's New Frontier took place in the 24th century and incorporated a number of popular Next Generation guest stars into its cast. In a sense, it comes across as a third "show" to run alongside Deep Space Nine and Voyager. So it makes sense that like them, it uses the movie font for its title and subtitle. One of the things that I have always liked about this logo is that it incorporates a silhouette of the hero ship, the USS Excalibur; if I recall correctly, in promotional material there was a unique "NF" symbol in that spot, but then someone pointed out it was basically the same as the logo of the National Front! In the long run of this series, though, the Excalibur would be destroyed and replaced by a new ship of a different class; it always bothered me that the logo never updated to reflect this.

Pocket released another independent novel in Feb. 1998, Susan Wright's The Best and the Brightest. This followed a group of Starfleet Academy cadets across a two-year period. The cover uses the Next Generation logo, but I think this must have been a last-minute change to improve marketability, because the title page actually just calls it "Star Trek: The Best and the Brightest." The logo used is the film one, indicating it's a generic Star Trek product, not tied to any one series. I shelve it by spine logo, though, because that looks nicer.

(An early draft of the cover, which you can see on Memory Alpha, actually used the same Starfleet Academy logo from S&S's middle-grade books, along with the generic film logo. I get why they ultimately wouldn't want to use middle-grade branding for an adult-aimed novel.)

Similarly, Strange New Worlds, a series of anthologies with short stories spanning all four (later, all five) tv series launched in July 1998, and used the movie logo.

One of my favorite logo choices, however, came with Where Sea Meets Sky (Oct. 1998), an installment in The Captain's Table miniseries. This novel focused on Captain Pike, but instead of using the generic original series logo, it used a very bland one that had previously only been used on the unaired pilot featuring Pike, "The Cage." I don't know what your average book buyer thought of this deep-cut choice, but this book buyer had a big smile on his face when he discovered the book in Barnes & Noble, and even e-mailed editor John Ordover to thank him! (I would have been 13.)

Other original series novels would move away from the standard logo, too, usually to signify the era in which they were set. Though usually original series novels use the original logo even if set in the movie era, the New Earth miniseries of Summer 2000, for example, was set in the decade-long gap between The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan, and used the film logo to signify that, meaning they stand out from the books on either side of them on the shelf.

I'm not always sure what the thinking was, though. The Case of the Colonist's Corpse (Dec. 2003) uses the Motion Picture logo but takes place during the original series. And I feel like the older logo would have better with the book's retro vibe!

On the other hand, I appreciate that Ex Machina (Dec. 2004), a direct follow-up to The Motion Picture, not only used the film logo, but used a version of it that aped the one used on the film, with long lines coming off the "S" and the "K."

There was a set of original series novels that actually used "The Original Series" in the logo, beginning with The Janus Gate (June 2002). I hate the use of "The Original Series" as a formal title (it's just Star Trek, damnit!), and I particularly don't like the way it was done here, which just looks clunky. These novels were marketed as re-telling the story of the original series from the point-of-view of an expanded cast, a sort of "TOS relaunch," but apparently no one told the authors this. After six novels in three months, the concept was quietly dropped, and future original series novels were just Star Trek once more.

The next original-to-prose series concept to come along was in Aug. 2000: the ebook-original S.C.E., about the adventures of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers. Like New Frontier, this was set in the 24th century, and like New Frontier, it used the DS9/Voyager logo as its base, but the logo used on the first three books is, like most elements of the first three covers, pretty crappy. Like, c'mon, what is even going on there? The weird downward curve on the "S.C.E." would be bad enough on its own, but the way it has to work with the periods makes it even worse.

Clearly, though, those involved recognized that, and by the fourth book (Feb. 2001), a new logo would be introduced. The font used on the subtitle (as well as in the titles of the books) is "Crillee Italic," the font used in the credits of The Next Generation, so a nice Star Trekkian choice.

May 2001 brought a major change in Star Trek publishing. The so-called "Deep Space Nine relaunch," debuting with the Avatar duology, was a continuation of the DS9 television shows, telling its own ongoing stories, mixing old characters with new. It was also the first time Pocket had deliberately chosen to not use the logo of the television show. I seem to recall editor Marco Palmieri saying the new logo, which was thicker and simpler, would work better and be more flexible on book covers. The font was an appropriately DS9-y one, though; "ITC Handel Gothic" was the font the show had always used for credits and episode titles.

There weren't many of them, but the original DS9 logo continued to be used on books set during the run of the show, such as Prophecy and Change (Sept. 2003) and Hollow Men (Apr. 2005).

The original Star Trek fiction series Challenger used the movie font, too, like to many others. It lasted a whopping one book (Aug. 2001). (Author Diane Carey made fun of script of the Enterprise series premiere in her novelization of it, and when the producers realized this had happened, she promptly never wrote another Star Trek book ever again.)

And, finally, the first two books of Star Trek: Stargazer (May 2002) used the film logo. There were any number of standalone non-series novels using it too; I'm not showing you everything! I always kind of liked this one; the sunburst in the "G" is cute.

But that would be it, because Dec. 2002's The Brave and the Bold duology would eschew the original film logo for the "Serpentine" one used on the Next Generation films. As you will recall from earlier installments of this series, this logo had debuted with 1994's Star Trek Generations, but outside of film novelizations, hadn't seen use on the covers of Star Trek books. (Serpentine was, however, used for the names of books and authors on Next Generation novels from Oct. 1995's The Last Stand through Mar. 2002's A Hard Rain, the so-called "rainbow stripe" era of cover design, exemplified by Best and the Brightest above.)

From then on, basically every Star Trek book didn't tie into a specific series (or that spanned multiple ones) would use Serpentine. Preexisting series even had their logos adjusted to fit the new Serpentine paradigm, such as Stargazer, which debuted a new look with book three, the creatively titled Three, in Aug. 2003. (Book five would introduce yet another new logo, though still Serpentine-based, and then the series would be cancelled with book six.)

Strange New Worlds would also switch over with book eight. This was published in July 2005, so it was a couple years behind on the switch.

That was nothing compared to New Frontier, though, which finally changed over in Apr. 2009. The new logo is pretty bland (I think almost all the Serpentine-based logos are, to be honest), but at least it meant the anachronistic silhouette was gone.

The best Serpentine-based logo was the one for Titan, the series about Riker's command, which began with Taking Wing in Apr. 2005. It's the one that best mimics what the films were doing: like on the poster logos for Generations, First Contact, and Insurrection, the subtitle is written in a tall narrow sans serif ("Seven," apparently). Plus a strong sense of composition (Cliff Nielsen, of course), and on the physical book, the subtle embossing on the second TITAN all combine to create a striking package.

One of the most apt uses of Serpentine, however, came with the A Time to... maxiseries that began with A Time to Be Born in Feb. 2004. This nine-book saga chronicled what the Enterprise crew had been up to between Insurrection and Nemesis, and one thing I liked was that though they were all The Next Generation novels, none of them used "The Next Generation" on the covers. But of course, neither did the films they were connecting, so it was entirely appropriate. 

Because of the logo, I opt to shelve these books with my non-series novels, because it looks nice. In fact, the stretch from Stargazer: Three to Articles of the Federation is one of the longest on my shelves of a relatively consistent logo.

There was one exception during the Serpentine era: Star Trek: Vanguard, which debuted in Aug. 2005. This was a rare original ongoing with a 23rd-century setting, and for that reason, I assume, used the original Star Trek logo as its basis. (The spine design even kind of makes it look like a Star Trek novel called Vanguard: Harbinger, as opposed to a Star Trek: Vanguard novel called Harbinger.)

This is kind of a side note, but I did really like the "livery" that was wrapped around the original series logo for the 40th anniversary in 2006. All original series novels publishes that year had it, and it looks classy as heck.

When Voyager had its own post-series "relaunch," it didn't change its logo-- but The Next Generation did. Death in Winter (Sept. 2005) began a new approach for TNG novels, following on from Nemesis, and a totally new logo. As you can see, it's a total departure from the original Next Generation logo, a pretty generic serif. It took me a while even with font-matching web sites to figure out what it was, because there are a million like it. Some say it's "Palatino," but the "T" isn't right; I finally matched the "T" to that of "Rotis Serif." (And then found an old post by editor Marco Palmieri where he said what it was.)

When it first debuted, I was in a mental mode where I had to defend all of S&S's editorial choices, so I defended this. Now though... I think it's going for "classy and elegant" and ends up coming out "bland." I mean, you could do worse, but it just doesn't look science fiction-y at all. Which I suspect is kind of the point, but that's a bad point. I get why maybe someone wanted the 1980stastic original to go, but I don't believe this was the best replacement. It wasn't just applied to "TNG relaunch" novels either, as this logo also appeared on the prequel The Buried Age (July 2007) and the mostly-set-during-the-series anthology The Sky's the Limit (Sept. 2007).

In the meantime, we got a couple other unique logos. The Terok Nor miniseries, which began with Apr. 2008's Day of the Vipers was a prequel to Deep Space Nine, and used the variant of Handel Gothic originally developed for the DS9 relaunch for a unique logo.

The Destiny miniseries (Oct. 2008–Feb. 2009) also sported a unique logo, using the same font as Generations and First Contact did for their in-film logos, ITC Benguiat. Now, this is a classy serif, and I feel like would have made a much better basis for the TNG relaunch logo. But it was only used on these four books.

After this, though, Rotis took over. It suddenly became not just the font for The Next Generation novels, but the go-to font for non-series novels, beginning with the Typhon Pact miniseries in Oct. 2010, and subsequently continuing into Department of Temporal Investigations, The Fall miniseries, and the last two Section 31. Serpentine is out! (Except that Titan has never updated its cover font.) Only the most recent Next Generation novel, Oct. 2019's Collateral Damage, has moved away from it, restoring the classic tv logo, probably because with Picard, a more casual audience is more likely to be looking at TNG novels once more. (Though what that "casual" audience would make of Collateral Damage, which pays off a fifteen-years-running subplot from the novels, I've no idea.)

I actually used Rotis to resolve an ambiguity: James Swallow's Cast No Shadow (July 2011) is just called "Star Trek." It takes place several years after The Undiscovered Country, and features Valeris from that film. So is it an original series novel? Or a non-series one? Well, given it uses a Rotis logo, we can safely assume non-series, because it looks nicer shelved between Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History and The Fall: Revelation and Dust than it would between The Children of Kings and A Choice of Catastrophes

With Jan. 2013's Allegiance in Exile, these things would become much less ambiguous, as "The Original Series" was restored to the logo again, and this time it was here to stay. Thanks, I hate it, but at least it was done tastefully this time.

William Shatner released ten Star Trek novels beginning with June 1997's The Ashes of Eden, which all followed the branding trends of their time: the original film logo for the first seven, Serpentine for the next two. However, the last one, Oct. 2007's Academy: Collision Course, used a very non-science-fiction looking logo in a generic sans serif. If there had been more "Academy" novels, I imagine they would have gone on the same, but I think they came to an end because the incoming reboot films were covering similar ground.

When S.C.E. relaunched as Corps of Engineers in Nov. 2009, I suppose it was just a bit too early for the Rotis revolution. I wonder if it would have used Rotis if it had come along a mite later, but as it was, it kept the movie font for the "Star Trek." For the subtitle, it switched to what I think is a Jeffries Extended font, the typeface used on the hull of Starfleet vessels, which was previously used as a logo on Enterprise and subsequently on Discovery. Note that the name changed because it was felt "S.C.E." was pretty inscrutable. It is, but I'm not sure putting the word "CORPS" biggest screams fun action-adventure. If they really wanted to make the series more accessible, they should have called it Star Trek: Miracle Workers!

S&S began a new Starfleet Academy series in Nov. 2010, this one tying into the 2009 film, showing what the original crew got up to during the three-year jump between Kirk enrolling in the Academy and the attack by Nero. These used the classic original series font for "Starfleet Academy"... but nothing at all for "Star Trek"! No Star Trek books have done this before or since as far as I know (except for, of course, the ones based on Enterprise).

July 2014 began another original series, Seekers. Seekers is a Vanguard spin-off, and its cover aesthetic is inspired by the old James Blish novelizations (covered in my previous post), by way of a series of tributes by artist Rob Caswell. I like the idea, but I found Caswell's for-fun tributes more successful than the actual published Seekers covers. I think it's because the cover ended up having five different typefaces on it! One for "STAR TREK," one for "SEEKERS" and the author name, one for the giant number, one for the New York Times bit, and one for the title. It just loses all sense of cohesion, and I don't get why some of those couldn't have been the same. (I am pretty sure the Seekers subtitle is Jeffries Extended again.) The original Blish covers and Caswell's original tributes have a simplicity and power this overly busy cover fails to recapture.

The most recent novel-original concept is Star Trek: Prometheus. This trilogy, begun in July 2016, was originally published in German. Its logo is, in fact, a war crime. The "STAR TREK" part is okay. It uses what I think is "Cimiez RomanDemiSerif," which has actually been used as a typeface for titles and author names on a number of Next Generation covers, including The Cold Equations trilogy and The Stuff of Dreams. But what's up with those big lowercase "e"s? And just because the mythical Prometheus gave fire to humanity doesn't justify something as tacky as MAKING YOUR LOGO ON FIRE! (Plus it's totally unsuited to the slow, plodding nature of the trilogy.)

When Titan translated the novels into English (beginning in Nov. 2017), they kept the Cimiez, but came up with some much duller for the "PROMETHEUS." I'm grateful, I suppose, but this is actually so boring I feel like they overcompensated.


 

 

 

 

And that, I think, brings us up to date! I'm sure there's some keystone cover of modern Star Trek books I've missed, but I think those are the significant font and design choices of the last two decades of Star Trek fiction. This whole five-part (and probably, eventually, six, though geeze I need a break) series is down to me noticing all the Serpentine on my shelf, so finally I got to talk about that bit!

Most cover art supplied by LibraryThing. Specifically, most of that was due to one dude, CoreyScott, who has uploaded tons of high-quality scans of tie-in book overs to LibraryThing over the years. Thanks also to the commenters on the TrekBBS for their feedback, especially user DarkHorizon who alerted me to the solicitation cover of The Best and the Brightest; I made some updates on 16 Feb. because of it, adding all the various Starfleet Academy novels.