Friday, 9 September 2011

It's worse than that, he's 45, Jim!

I'm trying to play on the quote: "It's worse than that, he's dead, Jim" - it sort of works, I reckon. *grin*  But don't worry, Star Trek is way too old now for it's midlife crisis - which may have started with the original motion picture starring TJ Hooker (back in '79)...

It doesn't seem that long ago that the only definitive information on the web were actually about Star Trek, and proper "old" Star Trek to boot. The original series of Star Trek turned 45 yesterday dated to the first airing of the episode "Man Trap". Of course, that's without acknowledging the Captain Pike pilot episode, which was not aired and turns up in tiny bits in The Menagerie (as does Pike)... but it didn't get shown, so fair enough.  Pike packed some proper looking rayguns, I mean "phasers" (ahem, correction, Captain, "PHoton mASER"s -later revised to "PHASed Energy Rectification"), which is probably why Star Trek handguns are differentiated by type and number, or maybe it's just that the big ones with the handles were Type 2s and the tiny ones were Type 1 (?), but then there's the Mk 4, etc.

Erm... I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about ... it's Friday evening and I need my tea, which was probably about the same time I watched the repeats of Star Trek as a kid.

I knew it wasn't a exactly Star Wars, and slightly later I found that fans who defended of the original series and condemned Star Wars more than a little bit scary.  My first awareness of sci-fi conventions was through laugh-at-the-nerds biased media reports about beige tops, false ears, red miniskirts, homemade tricorders, but somehow the Trekkies came over as more dedicated than the minority who dressed up as Tom Baker in Doctor Who.  Cool scarves though.  The Star Wars kids just hadn't grown up enough by then to be booking out the community halls and setting up stands covered in collectable toys.  Naturally that came later ... Anyhow, for me as a kid, Star Trek was ace because it had spaceships, planets and aliens and occasionally someone or something got shot, possessed, turned to into a pile of dust or snogged (ew, kissing should be forbidden on starships!).

Back then I never realised that the name "Trek" was linked to Westerns, despite the fact that the town, prison sets and desert locations may have been recently occupied by stetsoned-wearing actors.  I'm sure those locations were economic as opposed to a series like Firefly which actually has cows in the opening titles - I mean that really is a Western In Space.  Kirk my have brawled like he was in a saloon but he was certainly not a cowboy (he didn't wear a hat or ride a horse or chew or spit or ask for sarsaparilla).  Okay, well, there was a bit of fast-drawing going on...  Oh dear god, Star Trek may have been much more Bonanza-like than I have ever wanted to have admitted to. Don't destroy my childhood!  :o

But I digress.

There's a whole history of Star Trek in board games, figures, computer and RPGs, not to mention direct influences on other non-official games, which I will leave that to other experts and cataloguers.

However, in the spirit of this birthday I will share with you the following links to not-quite-but-very-like-Star-Trek products.


Starships and Spacemen
-Lulu soft cover-

(If link is broken go here)
Goblinoid Games reprint of the 1978 edition of Starships and Spacemen. I haven't tried out the mechanics of this game but it's a genuine delight to read, especially when you know that it was written a couple of decades prior to ST:TNG, it lacks that post-modern cynicism and takes it's source material seriously, but not with fervour.  It is a aware of many of the contrivances like time-paradoxes and teleportation  in Star Trek and converts them with grace into controllable game plot devices and hooks. It's also absolutely not GDW Traveller - the main sci-fi RPG from the time. 
(Check out JM's observations on Grognardia)

Recent sci-fi RPGness on DriveThru:
Cosmic Patrol  - I know this is more Flash Gordon than Star Trek and that there's probably quite a few sci-fi games on DriveThru which more closely resemble 60's-70's sci-fi TV, but when I think of Kirk slugging it out with the lizardman (a "gorn"?), and ogling Orion Slave girls or dreamy romantic nurses, sci-fi pulp doesn't seem a light-year away.  Certainly when you separate Star Trek from the very serious efforts to link it to hard science, and strip it down another couple of layers, there's a hero brawn vs. mad scientist (or artificial/alien intelligence) one week, followed by near zenophobic defence of civilisation from the machinations of devious Huns and Mongols (Klingons).  So just for purposes of this paragraph, Star Trek is pulp adventure - where the insides of rocket-ships look like submarines (which in Star Trek they did, sort of ...) and planets are populated by primitive Amazonian beauties.

Talking of Amazonian ...

Here's a two picture slide show of Fighting Fantasy: Starship Traveller via an Amazon widget.

This book, for me (computer games aside) is one of the closest experiences I've had had actually being in Star Trek.  Actually, the circumstances the crew of Voyager find themselves in is pretty similar to the background Starship Traveller, basically lost on the wrong side of the galaxy, trying to find a short route home.  When I was playing the other Fighting Fantasy books I found Starship Traveller was a bit too much to manage, but more recently I've found myself enjoying steering the crew and spaceship, choosing who gets beamed down - with some of the crew being definitely more disposable than others. ;)
By the way, I have a couple of battered copies of the Puffin editions (not currently listed on my second-hand game books page) which I'll part with for a handful of credits or a mug of Romulan ale.  No seriously, email me at billiambabble(at) if you really want to play Starship Traveller.

Recently spotted in blog-land:

The fast play "Far Trek" RPG beta rules are now available at Sword & Shield - which I haven't analysed thoroughly yet, but it looks like a lot of fun! :)   
Go Boldly!

My energy-banks are now low.  Switching to emergency life-support and returning to Starport.

This post was mostly illogical.

Thanks for reading!

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