The Starbird
I’ve already said that Doctor Who has been an influence on my writing from the beginning. One of the first stories I began to write was The Challengers – The Cyberman Factor. It featured an early incarnation of Troy Star named Troy McGloskey and Sandy Berckley. The name of the series came from that of the space shuttle Challenger.

All of The Challengers stories were written in pencil on notebook paper, much to my parents chagrin. One of the first stories was called The Horror of Darkon and it was on paper that was folded in the middle. If I had been thinking ahead I would have realized that I would eventually run out of paper.

I made the mistake of lending The Horror of Darkon to a friend to type it for me. That was about 1982. I never saw it again. I eventually rewrote it. I do not remember if the second book bore any real resemblance to the first.

I created Troy Star when I was about 9 or 10 years old. He was made up on the playground of Wesson Attendance Center as an imaginary friend. Troy’s name was originally Troy McGloskey and he was huge. Troy was over 7 feet tall. I don’t remember how tall exactly or how much he weighed. I can’t remember really what he looked like in my mind. The first time I used the name Troy Star for a character name was in the second version of The Horror of Darkon. By then, he had gotten smaller in stature.

The Cyberman Factor also had one of the Doctors (4th or 5th) and two companions (Sarah and Harry or Tegan and Nyssa). I don’t remember if I finished it, but I threw if away when I found out that I could get in trouble for using characters and ideas that weren’t mine without permission. I was about 11 years old.

In The Challengers series I used a space-time travel machine called a TSM (Time-Space Machine) that is bigger inside than out and can change its shape to blend in with its surroundings. It dematerializes from one place and time and rematerializes in another, ergo, a TARDIS. I think at one time I outright called it a TARDIS before hearing the word “plagiarism.” The TSM had been a tool shed at one time. I don’t remember what else. This was in The Mission. For the second version of The Horror of Darkon, the primary transport was the Starbird spaceship.

The Star Bird is a toy space ship I had when was a kid. I was about 9 or 10 years old and I had it for several years. Milton Bradley made it in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. There was a later variation called Star Bird Avenger.

There are many elements in The Challengers that can be traced back to Doctor Who in some form. The Amrids are my version of Daleks, Drymiss are more or less Cybermen. Time Kings are directly from Time Lords. Darkon, however, is not the Master. Darkon is mine and the name comes from combining the words “Dark One.” The ring used in The Ring of Death can be compared fairly to the Tissue Compression Eliminator that the Master used in Doctor Who. And while these elements aren’t mine, the story ideas are. I used the characters in situations where they hadn’t been used before and the characterizations were somewhat different.

I wrote the second version of The Horror of Darkon before I wrote The Mission and it seemed like the series needed an introduction. The characters of Troy Star and Joanna Berckley had already been established but needed to be introduced to each other. The Mission provided much needed background on these characters. It also set up the idea that Troy Star wasn’t who he claimed he was, that he was in fact Prince Starrius Tromas.

The Robots of Destruction takes elements of the Daleks but the story is mine. In it, the character Joanna leaves and a new character named Nikki comes on board the TSM/Starbird. Nikki becomes central to the next story, The Ring of Death.

The last story, The Scetza Invasion, was the only one that I was ever disappointed with. It didn’t turn out quite the way I had intended and was much shorter that what I’d had in mind. The Robots of Destruction is still the longest story and has, by far, the best storyline.

The Scetzas are my creation, as are all the alien races and planets and cultures used in The Challengers. The names of some of these come from some unusual places, though. Scetza is Aztecs spelled backwards, as the planet Arbegla is algebra spelled backwards. Amrid is from Dirma, which is from where I can’t remember. Same for Drymiss. It’s an anagram but I don’t remember from what.

I created five different logos for The Challengers over the years. The first two are pictured here.


After writing a few things other than The Challengers, I tried to re-create the series in which Troy Star and Starrius Tromas were two different people, Troy without Starrius. Aquarius was a successful attempt in which Starrius is his own person. The second Challengers series started and ended with a story called Exodus, which featured four people in a spaceship called Starfire Avenger. It was written under the name Allen Turner. The series logo is this one.

The third series was intended to be a compilation of shorter stories rather than novels. It was intended to have Flight of the Alpha, The Horror of Darkon, and The Robots of Destruction. It was the second time the Palace of Le Fluer had been used in my writing, the first being in the original The Challengers series. Falling back on the idea of Starrius Tromas being a prince and using many of the ideas from The Mission, this story had nowhere to go, really. I had lost interest in it as well. This was written under the name V. Allen Turner. The logo changed to the one that is pictured here.

The fourth incarnation of The Challengers was the last under that name. For this, I used the name V. Allen Turner. It features Troy Star as his own person, no Starrius, as did Exodus. While this story eventually became Flight of the Starbird, the beginning of this story was one that I didn’t like. The logo changed again to the one that is pictured bellow.

The next story to use Troy and the Starbird was Flight of the Starbird. It features Troy as his own person and has elements from the original series such as the Scetzas and mentions the Amrids. For all intents and purposes, it is the final incarnation of The Challengers.

Troy Star
The Aquarius Coin
Doctor Who
The Challengers