The making of Blish's novelizations

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Neopeius, Dec 30, 2021.

  1. Neopeius

    Neopeius Admiral Admiral

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    Hello!

    I am reading the very first Blish novelization, since it comes out January 1967, and noting how different they are from the episodes as aired. I've heard several reasons including that he was going off scripts rather than the show and that he never even saw the show.

    Certainly, turning a four act show into a 10-20 page sf story involves a lot of adaptation. I do note, however, that in his novelization of "The Naked Time", Uhura's reply to Sulu's "Fair maiden" is "sorry, neither" as in the show, which I understood had been an ad lib.

    Anyway, any light that could be shed on this would be much appreciated! :)
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    It used to be that novelizations weren't expected to be exact duplicates of the work being adapted. The whole reason they were done was because there was no home video and so people might not ever see the original again to compare it to the adaptation -- or might never have seen the original at all, so the adaptation is the only version they know. So adaptors often reinterpreted and rewrote the works to fit their own style and preferences. For instance, Isaac Asimov's Fantastic Voyage novelization added a lot of new material to fix the film's wonky science, even changing the ending to fix a huge logic hole.

    So Blish's approach in the first few volumes was not to copy the episodes exactly, but to retell their stories in his own way. Yes, he was working from early script drafts, but he also made his own embellishments. He added details that improved the science like Asimov did (I've always liked his explanation for the polywater infection in "The Naked Time"), and he put in references that implied that Star Trek took place in his own Cities in Flight universe (e.g. the "Miri" adaptation claims that Miri's world is an Earth colony founded by refugees fleeing the "Cold Peace," an oppressive era in the history of CIF's Earth).

    In later volumes, coming at a time when TOS was in constant reruns, Blish got complaints from readers when he departed too much from the episodes, so he started making them more faithful adaptations -- and eventually I think his wife J.A. Lawrence was ghost-writing most of them anyway as his health failed. So they got more exact as time went on, which I found disappointing, because they no longer added the interesting new details and interpretations that we got in the early volumes.
     
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  3. Kor

    Kor Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I thought he had some interesting ideas in the earlier volumes. For instance, there was some remark in Balance of Terror about how "Vulcanoid"-type species weren't uncommon in that region of space, or something like that.

    Kot
     
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  4. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The Blish books were a different experience from the episodes, but they could evoke a feeling of reaching back into the Star Trek universe when the show wasn't on. Before the concept of home video was even on our radar, that was a big deal. We needed a fix and this was it.
     
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  5. Neopeius

    Neopeius Admiral Admiral

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    http://galacticjourney.org/february...stic-voyage-and-samuel-r-delanys-empire-star/. Indeed, knowing what he fixed from the movie, I never bothered to catch the movie.

    For sure. I'm enjoying the embellishments, too. I'm just wondering what the terms of the deal were (i.e. how much freedom he had) and if the rumors that he NEVER WATCHED THE SHOW are accurate, how did he get "The Naked Time" adlib in there? (unless it wasn't actually an adlib...)
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2021
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Oh, Fantastic Voyage is certainly worth seeing. Sure, it has some scientific errors, but what movie from that era doesn't? It's a cool adventure movie with very imaginative production design and visual effects and some engaging performances. And it's got Raquel Welch, the most amazing special effect of all.


    I don't think the content of the adaptations was micromanaged to the extent of specifically telling him how far he was allowed to go. It's not like now when movie studios are so paranoid about leaks that you practically have to sign the Official Secrets Act to be allowed to novelize a film. As long as you produced something readable that they could market alongside the film or TV show, that was probably good enough. I mean, look at the Gold Key Trek comics, or the jigsaw puzzles with a vividly green-skinned Spock shooting at carnivorous vines on the Planet Klingon. Nobody cared that much about accuracy in the subsidiary merchandise. As long as it got the show's name out there and attracted attention and made money, that was what mattered.

    And there's nothing unusual about a novelizer having to work without having seen the show or movie. In fact, that's normally the case, since novelizations usually come out at the same time as the things they adapt; indeed, up through the '80s it was common to release novelizations before the movies or shows came out to help generate buzz for them. That's why science fiction TV shows -- which were much more rare in those days than they are now -- tended to recruit big-name SF authors like Blish for Star Trek or Murray Leinster for The Time Tunnel, in hopes of using their cachet to get the SF audience interested in the shows.
     
  7. Neopeius

    Neopeius Admiral Admiral

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    Sadly, Leinster is past his prime by the 60s. It's a pity since his stuff was some of my favorites earlier than that. Indeed, my Kitra books owe a lot to his Med series (I want a Murgatroyd!)

    Fun fact: Leinster's granddaughter pinged me the other day.
     
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  8. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Blish wrote in his diary that he considered the Star Trek books to be "hacking." He did not write them beyond the sixth book--Judith Blish and her mother were the largely uncredited authors after that. His biographer (David Ketterer) does not pin this on health issues but on Blish's disdain for the material.

    Flipping quickly through the book, I cannot find a confirmation of my memory that Blish did not watch the series. But based on his contempt for the adaptations, I doubt he was a regular viewer.

    Dorothy Fontana, incidentally, wrote a memo when she was on staff complaining about Blish's adaptations not being faithful to the shooting scripts.

    There will be a Fact Trek piece on this eventually. One is sort of half-written, but it hasn't been looked at in close to a year.
     
  9. Neopeius

    Neopeius Admiral Admiral

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    Oooo! That will be fun to read. As someone who would have been pretty deep in the fan community (though West Coast) it'd be stuff I might be privy too in '67.

    So, was "sorry, neither" an adlib or not?
     
  10. Maurice

    Maurice FACT TREKKING across the universe... Premium Member

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    <cracks whip>
     
  11. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    Definitely scripted. The notion that it was an adlib is a myth that refuses to die.
     
  12. Daddy Todd

    Daddy Todd Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    You hit it in one. The June 28, 1966 "Final Draft" teleplay incudes the "Sorry, neither" line. It's not an ad-lib. (ETA: sniped by Harvey while I was drafting my reply!)

    Blish adapted whatever version of the script he was given, and in some cases it was a very early draft. I'm pretty sure I read in the Ketterer biography that Blish didn't watch Star Trek until it started running in the UK in 1969, where he moved in 67 or 68. So, his first four Star Trek titles (Star Trek, Star Trek 2, Star Trek 3 & Spock Must Die!) were all written without benefit of watching the show.

    Just wait until you get to the adaptation of "Operation: Annihilate!" in Star Trek 2. It's a very, VERY different story.

    I used to think that Blish had changed the storylines, but then I started reading through http://www.orionpressfanzines.com/articles/unseen.htm, and discovered that Blish was working off early drafts, not rewriting them to suit his fancy. Apart from an occasional "easter egg" gesturing at his original fiction, Blish faithfully adapted the scripts he had access to, with allowances for how much he chose to leave out.
     
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  13. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I did like the idea in Blish’s adaptation of “Operation—Annihilate” that the Enterprise tracked the path of parasites back to their home planet and destroyed it. But thats a very different ending to the aired episode.

    It’s also quite counter to the idea of respecting diverse life forms no matter how different and dangerous. Even so those things were deadly.
     
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  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm pretty sure that's the most extreme case of Blish working from an early script draft that was different from the final episode. Really, the version Blish used makes a lot more sense than the dumb episode we got, with Dr. McCoy somehow leaving out ultraviolet when he tests the whole spectrum, and Spock not remembering he has inner eyelids.
     
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  15. alchemist

    alchemist Captain Captain

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    1. The shooting script for "Operation -- Annihilate!" was the Second Revised Final draft.
    2. Blish worked from either the Final draft script or the (First) Revised Final draft script. It's hard to say for sure because there are change pages which bridge the two versions. Blish's adaptation is fairly faithful to either of these versions (and especially the Final draft which is the version that I suspect he received along with some change pages) until he starts writing about Kirk ordering the Enterprise to the Orion sector to look for the parasites. This action doesn't appear in any script version all the way from the First draft to the shooting script. Thus, it appears Blish fabricated this ending.
    3. Using light as a means of killing the parasites is in every script version but the details vary. For example, in the first draft it is Kirk who is blinded.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2022
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  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Oh, that's surprising. He didn't make such radical changes in any other case. He must have really disliked the ending.
     
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  17. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Commodore Commodore

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    I thought Spock Must Die sucked. That Blish didn't know the characters.
    Now I know he didn't care for the characters.
     
  18. PCz911

    PCz911 Captain Captain

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    I, personally, never cared for the Blish novels. But the Alan Dean Foster versions of the animated shows I thought were superb. Maybe because I wasn’t as familiar with the source material.
     
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  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I was familiar with the source material, and I liked Foster's adaptations just fine. His additions and interpolations enriched and deepened the material, which matters more than whether the two versions agreed in the exact details.
     
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  20. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Commodore Commodore

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    When I was a teenI absolutely loved the Blish adaptions. Couldn't wait until each volume made it into my bookshop (aside from his original Star Trek novels and "Amok Time"). I absolutely love Blishes other books.In retrospect I would have liked more details - a little more expansion of the chracters motivations. But I realise how difficult that would have been for Blish creativity and practical wise. They weren't his characters. He'd be perhaps stepping on other author's work. Even Vonda McIntyre couldn't help put her slant on the movie novelisations. Which gave us some of the extra details we craved. Now we have streaming and DVDs and Chakotay transcripts novelisations seem redundant unless they add extra information.
     
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