On the Star Trek Peter Pan Records of 1975-1976

People who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s will likely remember Peter Pan Records (and its imprint Power Records), which published original audio stories featuring licensed properties during this time.

Peter Pan Records actually got its start in the late 1940s and enjoyed great success during the 1950s publishing 7″ children’s records. Peter Pan produced popular recordings of songs like “Frosty the Snowman” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

In the 1970s, Peter Pan began producing book-and-record sets, with a 7″ record tucked into a comic book. The recording would be an audio story, using multiple voice actors, music, and sound effects. Most were narrated by “your Peter Pan storyteller.” The book would adapt this same story so that kids could read along. Typically, when the record reached the end of a page in the printed adaptation, a bell would chime to signal that it was time to turn the page.

The company’s Power Records imprint focused on stories based on licensed characters. These included both DC and Marvel Comics, plus several TV- and movie-based licenses, such as Space: 1999KojakThe Six Million Dollar Man — and yes, Star Trek.

The quality of the comics varied but was often rather high. Major comics creators, including Neal Adams, worked on the comics. For a lot of kids, this was their first exposure to these creators’ work. It’s easy to think of this format as a substitute for home video, which wouldn’t become commonplace (in the VHS tape format) until the 1980s. In lieu of such technology, book-and-record sets were a way of combining audio with pictures in the home. And because most of the audio was repeated on the printed page, these could serve as an aid to literacy.

Still, it’s hard to imagine the pleasure of reading Batman in a comic book, accompanied by what was really an audio play. The combined effect really helped make the story come alive.

There were 12″ LPs with several stories and no accompanying book.

In the case of Star Trek, Peter Pan produced eleven original stories over the course of 23 different records. These fall into two periods: 1975-1976 after the animated series had concluded, and 1979, in time for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The First Seven Stories (1975-1976)

In fact, Foster had already worked on the Star Trek Logs books, which adapted and expanded animated episodes into prose, and he’d go on to write a few Star Trek novels for Pocket Books.

After those first two 12″, five of these stories got 7″ singles, two of which came with books.

The artists for the four stories that got comics adaptations, however, weren’t nearly as familiar with the two shows. The most obvious discrepancies were Sulu and Uhura, the two human characters from the show most identified as being of a race other than Caucasian. Oddly, Sulu was depicted as a black man in a blue (science) uniform, while Uhura was a blond white girl! Clearly, something had gone seriously wrong with the colorist.

But the comics art has that wacky, early Star Trek comics feeling that’s also seen in the Gold Key comics and the British comics strips.

“Passage to Moauv”

“Passage to Moauv,” the first track on the first 12″ record, wasn’t the first 7″ single; it was the third. But that single was the first to come with a book, making this the first story to get a comic-book adaptation. The audio play times out at 16:51, and the comic runs 20 pages.

In the story, the Enterprise has to transport an alien ambassador’s exotic pet, called a waoul, back to the ambassador’s planet, Moauv. The waoul escapes and the crew soon begin to growl, feel panicked, and even turn violent. The waoul is telepathic, and it’s projecting its fearful state onto the crew. Kirk and Spock personally hunt the waoul but fail. All is resolved, however, when Lieutenant M’Ress — who’s a feline humanoid — casually takes the waoul into her arms. In the end, the Moauvian ambassador informs the crew that the waoul is pregnant and expecting kittens.

The story is notable for its fidelity to the original series and its animated continuation.

Spock also refers to his pet seat, which he did in the original series episode “Journey to Babel.” The sealant was seen in the animated episode “Yesteryear” (in which Spock used the Guardian of Forever to visit himself as a child on Vulcan; widely seen as the finest animated episode).

But the story has stronger ties to the (then-just-canceled) animated series. The feline Lieutenant M’Ress had been added to the crew for the animated show, although she rarely had much to do. Here, she gets to solve the main plot! It’s a nice gesture and another reason why the episode fits so well as a continuation of the animated series.

However, M’Ress isn’t drawn or colored the way she was in the animated series. On the show, she looked obviously cat-like. In the story, she looks completely different, and this works against the ending, in which her connection with the feline waoul is key to the story. But this is only a problem for the comic book, not the audio play.

“In Vino Veritas”

The audio play runs at 15:47.

The story introduces a trickster named Coriolanus Quince (vaguely of the same type as Harry Mudd). He disrupts a conference between the Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans by spiking the ceremonial wine with a truth serum. (Hence the title, Latin for “In Wine, Truth.”) Much of the amusement comes from hearing diplomats, including Kirk and Spock, speak with cruel frankness.

But such errors weren’t unknown in the original series.

“The Crier in Emptiness”

“The Crier in Emptiness,” the final track on the first 12″ record, was the fourth single, right after “Passage to Moauv.” And like “Passage to Moauv,” “The Crier in Emptiness” got its own comic-book adaptation. The audio play runs at 11:54, and the comic runs 20 pages.

At first, the phenomenon is mysterious, then charming. But after days, it presents problems. The ever-present sound is preventing sleep and starting to frustrate Bones, in particular. Could the crew go deaf?

Any possibility of communication risks misinterpretation and retaliation. As Spock points out, “It might find a blast of artificial sound challenging, like another of its kind.”

It’s all a fascinating study of the implications of the fantastic — one of the things the original series did so well.

He responds to the sounds the entity is making and turns to sad tones, trying to communicate the ship’s distress.

The comic book is particularly notable for its use of interesting perspectives and its architectural precision. It looks like Kirk and crew are on acid, but it’s visually quite effective at addressing the problem of representing sound on the page.

In the climax, Connors looks like a mad piano player, his Romantic enthusiasm taking a very physical toll.

The simple story has a lot of poetry to it, playing off the idea of music as a universal language. Spock ponders whether music really is a language, and yet the internal logic of music — which seems to appeal to Spock — is evident in the climax.

And of course, there’s the title: “The Crier in Emptiness.”

Of course, it would. It’s a lovely story, all around — and very much a classic Star Trek tale.

If there’s one problem with it, it’s the use of Connors, who’s a navigation officer. He speaks with an accent much like Chekov’s, and he’s an obvious Chekov stand-in. So essentially, the character’s Chekov, but not by name.

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