From the beginning, Star Trek attempted to raise filmed science fiction above the level of more pulpy fare like Captain Video or Flash Gordon.
Depending on who you ask, its occasional failures were the result of budget constraints, studio interference, or the viewing public’s never ending appetite for middle of the road fare. Its successes were seized upon like chum in a shark tank.
Still, despite a self-serious streak and the near-Pollyannish ideals of its creator, one thing Star Trek has always done well is have fun. The Captain Proton stories on Star Trek: Voyager are just that. Proton is the star of a series of holonovels on the ship’s holodeck, a character in the vein of the swashbuckling space heroes of 1930s and 1940s movie serials. He provides an outlet for a little ironic fun for Lt. Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeil) and Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang), and his adventures typically coincide with “something’s wrong with the holodeck” episodes of the series. The characters revel in the pulpy stories which helped birth Star Trek, and the writers play with the audience’s expectations by having the Captain Proton segments appear in black and white.
This book is presented in the style of an old pulp magazine, with a painted cover and the text arranged in columns throughout. Like the holodeck, it creates a world within a world for the reader to explore. In fact, the holodeck is the perfect vehicle for Summer Challenge. It allows all who enter to build a better world, even if it’s only an illusion. Still, seeing that world come to life brings it one step closer to reality, just as Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a more peaceful, enlightened version of humanity guides us into the future.