Power Records Star Trek Audio Adventures
With all the movies and serials and cartoons I’ve been commenting on, we’ve fallen behind on audio adventures. We’ve got a bunch of doozies today.
We’ll largely listen to Star Trek — though probably not the Star Trek you were expecting. We’ll listen to what Memory Alpha rather generously calls, the “Peter Pan Records Star Trek Audio Adventures.”
In the mid-1970s, Power Records subsidiary Peter Pan Records produced a series of records for children. As was common at the time, such records were cheaply-produced. The assumption was that children wouldn’t know the difference.
These varied in quality, but the best were written by Alan Dean Foster. At that time, Foster had novelized Star Trek: The Animated Series. He’s gone on to write dozens of excellent original novels, winning a string of awards in the process. He’s recently novelized the Kelvin Timeline Star Trek novels.
I’ve included only episodes written by Foster, as they’re well-written. They include characters such as Lieutenant M’Ress, a feline alien so far unique to Star Trek: The Animated Series. There is a deep understanding of Star Trek lore, consistent with Foster’s obvious knowledge.
You’ll notice that some of what we know as Star Trek canon is occasionally contradicted. This is because in the mid-1970s, the only Star Trek in existence was 79 episodes of The Original Series and 22 of The Animated Series. The Klingons and Romulans had never been fleshed-out, so the stories reflect Star Trek canon at the time.
The episodes are reasonably well-done. At least some of the voice actors attempt to sound like their television counterparts. It doesn’t have a narrator, though there’s a reliance on characters explaining things rather than ingenuous use of sound effects.
Music and sound effects bear no relationship to their TV counterparts. Sometimes it’s incredibly jarring. While they probably had access to the show’s sound effects, the effort wasn’t made. Again, they assumed children wouldn’t know the difference.
We noticed the difference — even those of us who were only ten. We found it very difficult to get around the voices and sound effects. Only now, when there’s far more Star Trek, can I look at them a little more objectively.
The sound effects, dialog-rather-than-sound-effects, and some of the voice actors leave everything to be desired. However, Foster’s genius shines through — particularly given the constraints he was under.
These adventures were intended for children. Foster simply couldn’t write about numerous subjects. He couldn’t put the Enterprise into space battles nor even fire a phaser. The assumption was that small children would emulate the records with real guns.
Those were only the least of Foster’s constraints. It’s a miracle that he was still able to write good stories.
The episodes speak for themselves and there’s no commentary, so I won’t bother with introduction. I’d just ask that you look past the cheaply-made nature of the stories.
However, if you want something really terrible …
Some of the albums included a comic book adaptation. They’re bad — really, really bad. They sometimes portray Sulu as black, Uhura as white, and Lieutenant M’Ress as a green Orion.
If you’d like to read along, I’ve collected all the comics at:
Mixed-in with Star Trek are two episodes of Dimension X. I’d promised to try and do one every week, and I’m very, very behind.
As regards Dimension X, remember that it was the early 1950s. Almost nothing that we consider entertainment existed. There were movies, TV, radio, and personal pastimes such as reading, participation in local organizations and charities, participation in local sports teams, etc.
While TV was just starting to come into its own, programming wasn’t quite what it would become a few years later when the Golden Age of Television began in earnest.
At that time, radio was still king. The programming was the same as we’d expect of today’s TV: dramas, comedies, sit-coms, rom-coms, soap operas, news, commentary, westerns, detective shows, cop shows, fantasy, and science fiction.
In the early 1950s, the best science fiction show on the air was Dimension X. It’s stories were adapted from Astounding Stories, the most prominent and influential science fiction magazine in SF history. Its pages were filled with names like Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury.
As was custom for certain types of shows, Dimension X was an anthology series. The closest TV analog is The Twilight Zone. There were no continuing characters nor stories. Each episode contained a self-contained story adapted from short-stories from Astounding.
Today, aspects of Dimension X occasionally seem goofy. Much like the Star Trek adventures, you needs to look past them and remember the era. Science fiction — even good science fiction — was considered the stuff of children. Fans didn’t typically talk about it to ‘danes for fear of ridicule.
If you’re unfamiliar, a “‘dane” is fannish slang for “mundane” — i.e. a non-fan.
This week’s line-up:
- Star Trek: “Passage To Moauv“
- Star Trek: “In Vino Veritas“
- Dimension X: “Report On the Barnhouse Effect“
- Star Trek: “The Logistics of Stampede“
- Star Trek: “A Mirror For Futility“
- Dimension X: “No Contact“
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- Cameos from Ralph Hinkley and the anchor of Galactic News Network!
- There are approximately 1.3 bajillion science fiction Easter Eggs throughout my monologue!
(Ten points if you know what they all are. Unfortunately, everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. Yes, the points are like clothes to a green Orion slave girl: they don’t matter.)