Book Review: Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics, Volume Three (1972-1979)

I have no doubt that when he created Star Trek: The Original Series Gene Roddenberry was hoping for a smash success. But there is no way he could have known it would have spawned the enormous multimedia empire that continues to this day, some 51 years later. While The Original Series didn’t even manage to finish its “five-year mission,” it did spawn an animated series, five other live-action TV series, six films starring the original cast, four films from The Next Generation, and three films in the rebooted series plus books, comics, magazines, games, and a cultural phenomena.

The Original Series ran from 1966 to 1969 in the U.S. It only started airing in the UK in 1969. Six months before the show hit British airwaves, a new comic series was introduced. It ran in a variety of weekly magazines, two to three full color pages at a time. They were unavailable in the U.S. for many years but recently The Library of American Comics has been binding them in large books for American release (read our reviews for Volume One and Volume Two). This third volume covers the years 1972 – 1979. It contains seven full-length stories plus four annuals, and two specials. Also included is a one-page gag in which Kirk teases Spock about him looking like Satan, a cover gallery, assorted licensed tie-ins and a lengthy encyclopedia of all things Trek (only Part II is included in this volume as Part I was included in Volume Two.

The stories are surprisingly good. However, they do not strictly stick to the Star Trek mythology. They don’t carry the lofty ideals of the series and they don’t always stick to the show’s core principals (and you can forget about anything approaching continuity). It’s mostly an action strip set in space, but it’s well written and a lot of fun to read. Each story lasts about ten pages or so, which makes them real easy to digest in a single setting. The stories aren’t revolutionary but they get the job done. I very much enjoyed reading them. The art in the main stories is quite good. They make full use of the full page’s spread, changing the shape of the panels as needed, creating some really interesting and beautiful drawings. However, the art in the annuals and specials takes a definite step back. It gets a lot more cartoonish and less detailed. For some reason, the Summer Special of 1972 is in black and white.

I loved The Original Series as a kid. I watched the syndicated reruns everyday after school. But I’ve only seen a few episodes since then. I got into The Next Generation for a brief period, but that wound down after a couple of seasons. I’ve seen all the movies but none of the other series. So while I like Star Trek, I am not at all a super fan or what you’d call a Trekkie. I liked this book a lot more than I expected to.

I can’t imagine there will be a whole lot of people who aren’t fans that will be reading this book, but if they do, they’ll be able to jump right in without any trouble. As it was intended to give UK audiences an introduction to the television series, it doesn’t get deep into the lore and introduces its story with enough background to keep everyone up to speed. Hardcore Trekkies will enjoy reading new stories as long as they can get past its less than hard adherence to the greater mythology.

With Christmas nearing, this would make an excellent stocking stuffer (if your stockings are shaped like oversized hardback books, that is) and a wonderful addition to any nerd’s bookshelf.

Mat Brewster

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