Myriad Universes: The Star Fleet Universe
The idea of doing licensed products for Star Trek in the gap between the Animated Series and the film series was, let’s admit it, a strange one. It’s not like today, where any genre fiction work is seen as a potential massively lucrative (and desperately needed) franchise and is milked for everything it’s worth from the moment it hits the scene no matter how paper-thin the source material is or how niche the fanbase. Back then, there were definitely properties that made money and were popular and those that weren’t, and you didn’t tend to get merchandise out of properties that weren’t.
Star Trek itself fell into an interesting space on this spectrum: It was certainly well-known, but, as far as an entire generation of people were concerned (and momentarily discounting the few die-hard fans who had remained obsessed with the show all this time), it was likely a show they hazily remembered that hadn’t been relevant in almost a decade. But there was also that contingent of new viewers who were just now getting exposed to the show through the syndicated reruns: This was the first exposure to Star Trek they had, and they didn’t have things like Mr. Spock’s Songs from Space anymore. This alone probably explains the longevity of things like the Gold Key comic series and the Pocket Books tie-in novel line, but it also led to some things that were, in retrospect, a little weird. Considering the audience Star Trek had was now firmly established as a niche one, and given the backdrop of the late-1970s this is happening against, what we wound up with was a situation where there was clearly a fanbase that could be served, but one that was comparatively small enough to justify not actually making serving it a serious priority.
Because this was happening in the days before a Disney-style obsession with brand uniformity took over the mindset of ever single producer and executive in the entertainment industry such that every sci-fi property has to be closely monitored and kept “official” (partially out of necessity it must be stressed: Hollywood, and really the entire industry, is in a deeply perilous position as of this writing), we get really odd and fun little artefacts like Star Trek: The New Voyages, which was a rather unprecedented direct contact between a very small production team and the fanfiction community, which is something that plainly couldn’t happen today. Should Marvel or Lucasfilm (both really Disney) or Doctor Who (really the BBC) attempt something like that for any of their properties today, it would first have to be fed through about a million different marketing committees and sub-committees before being hastily abandoned for fear the fics wouldn’t be “on message” (which, in the case of The New Voyages, they *absolutely* weren’t, and that was *wonderful*).
But Star Trek’s weird liminal position allows for things like this: In those days, if you wanted to license a Star Trek work, you wrote up one dude at Paramount studios, told him or her what your idea was, and they’d say “Sure.…