One more dip into the my Star Trek archive and we’re done.
After its cancellation in 1969 the original Star Trek television series began a long and successful run in syndication, where its popularity began to steadily grow. As the show’s fan-base began to increase manufacturers became keen to cash-in on the show’s growing celebrity, and licensed merchandising for the show began to appear – everything from board games to prop replicas, model kits to action figures. Publishers got in on the act too with Bantam Books cornering the market in quality paperback adaptions based on the show.
Even before the show’s cancellation Bantam had began publishing softcover collections of Star Trek episodes adapted into prose by science fiction author James Blish. In late 1977 they augmented this collection by releasing a series of paperbacks featuring individual episodes – but instead of text adaptions Bantam went a different route and the Star Trek Fotonovel was born.
Combining colour stills from the show with speech balloons, thought bubbles and captions Bantam created a kind of photo comic, with each book featuring one entire Star Trek episode. With two or three stills per page (the books cover’s boasts 300 in total) Bantam, in collaboration with Mandala Productions, created a unique way for fans to revisit an episode. In a world predating home video by several years, where the only way you could watch an episode of Star Trek was to catch a repeat on TV, Bantam’s Fotonovels feel like forerunners of video tapes, with the added bonus of DVD-style extras; here were some of your favourite Star Trek episodes available for you to ‘watch’ anytime – all you had to do was add your imagination.
Along with the adapted story each book also featured interviews, readers letters, a cast list with photos, a multiple choice quiz based on that particular episode, a glossary of terms used and an double page advert for the next book in the series.
There were 12 Star Trek Fotonovels in total as well as adaptions of Star Trek The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan published by Pocket Books.
First off, here are the Bantam editions with annotations:
Star Trek Fotonovel #1: City on the Edge of Forever
Published by Bantam Books November 1977
Episode originally broadcast 6th April 1967
The book features an introduction from Mandala Productions and interview with the episode’s author Harlan Ellison
Star Trek Fotonovel #2: Where No Man Has Gone Before
Published by Bantam Books November 1977
Episode originally broadcast 22nd September 1966
The book features an Introduction from author Shelly Katz
Star Trek Fotonovel #3: The Trouble with Tribbles
Published by Bantam Books December 1977
Episode originally broadcast 29th December 1967
Features the first part of an interview with James Doohan
Star Trek Fotonovel #4: A Taste of Armageddon
Published by Bantam Books January 1978
Episode originally broadcast 23rd February 1967
Features the second part of an interview with James Doohan
Star Trek Fotonovel #5: Metamorphosis
Published by Bantam Books February 1978
Episode originally broadcast 10th November 1967
Features an interview with Elinor Donahue,
who played Nancy Hedford
Star Trek Fotonovel #6: All Our Yesterdays
Published by Bantam Books March 1978
Episode originally broadcast 14th March 1969
Features an interview with Mariette Hartley, who played Zarabeth. The quiz is absent from this book.
Star Trek Fotonovel #7: Galileo 7
Published by Bantam Books May 1978
Episode originally broadcast 5th January 1967
Features letters from readers. The quiz is again absent.
Star Trek Fotonovel #8: A Piece of the Action
Published by Bantam Books June 1978
Episode originally broadcast 12th January 1968
Features an Introduction by Antony Caruso, who played Bela Okmyx. The quiz returns!
Star Trek Fotonovel #9: The Devil in the Dark
Published by Bantam Books July 1978
Episode originally broadcast 9th March 1967
Features more letters from readers
Star Trek Fotonovel #10: Day of the Dove
Published by Bantam Books August 1978
Episode originally broadcast 1st November 1968
The book features an interview with Micheal Ansara,
who played Kang.
Star Trek Fotonovel #11: The Deadly Years
Published by Bantam Books September 1978
Episode originally broadcast 8th December 1967
Features even more letters from readers
Star Trek Fotonovel #12: Amok Time
Published by Bantam Books October 1978
Episode originally broadcast 15th September 1967
The book features an introduction by DeForest Kelly
After an absence of ten years Star Trek’s popularity had grown to such proportions that the show’s return was inevitable. But the series wouldn’t return to TV, instead Paramount Pictures green-lit a big-budget theatrical release in 1979: Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The film was so successful it spawned five sequels but only the first two movies received the photo novel treatment, this time released by Simon & Schuster imprint Pocket Books. Sadly these editions didn’t exhibit the same creative flair or attention to detail of the Bantam editions. Each book was rebranded as a ‘Photostory’ with no extras while Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, in an attempt to cut printing costs, was printed in black and white.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture Photostory
Published by Pocket Books April 1980
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Photostory
Published by Pocket Books (in the UK by Methuen) 1982
I was a huge fan of these Fotonovels when I was a kid – hell, I still am. The later movie adaptions are OK, although I clearly remember being bitterly disappointed that Wrath of Khan, my favourite Star Trek film, was printed in black and white. On the other hand the original Bantam editions are terrific. Out of the 12 episodes nearly all are favourites of mine, although it’s revealing than only two episodes from the show’s troubled third season received the Fotonovel treatment. The print quality of the books is top-notch and the colour stills were reproduced very clearly. The design of the pages also deserves praise: unlike the movie editions, where the images are laid out in a fairly uninspired grid, the stills in the Fotonovels are different sizes, with many overlapping into other panels – very reminiscent of a comic book.
Happily, second-hand copies of the Star Trek Fotonovels are readily available on ebay and Amazon, and quite reasonably priced too. Most fans will already own the episodes on DVD or Blu-ray but anyone in the mood to relive those old episodes in a slightly more unusual and unique way could do worse than root out a copy.