Friday, March 26, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #28, November 1979: Stuck with Buck

Decades after this issue was published, longtime Starlog editor David McDonnell would commiserate about life back before cable TV brought us a surplus of science-fiction and fantasy television shows. Back in the late 1970s, SF fans felt compelled to support even weak shows such as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. How else can we explain its featured spot on the cover of issue #28?

Starlog #28
68 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $1.95

It's another fall SF-TV preview, so prepare yourself for a reminder of just what genre television was like more than 30 years ago.

Just because Buck's on the cover, it doesn't mean that Starlog's going to treat the time-travelling hero with kid gloves. Though the behind-the-scenes contents page photo (David Houston snapped Gil Gerard getting a quick shave between scenes) is kind of a neat touch, publisher Kerry O'Quinn takes a mallet to Buck Rogers, mourning the jokey, campy aim of the new show and wishing that O'Quinn's friend Gil Gerard would be given the chance to play the character as a real hero. Letters in the Communications pages include a notice that Starlog will be publishing an Official Starlog Communications Handbook, which would become one of the magazine's unique reader-service products of its lifetime, as well as letters from France, Sweden and even the exotic land of North Carolina; Log Entries short items include the completion of filming of Beyond Westworld, the Starlog staff has a picnic, production news of Altered States, the cancellation of plans for an Atlas Shrugged mini series, and more.


David Houston previews the new Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series from Glen Larson; Alan Brender visits the Universal Studios' Galactica amusement ride; David Gerrold explores "The Cracker Jack Theory of Storytelling"; Susan Sackett's Star Trek Report covers the wind-down of the movie's production; David Houston visits Don Post Studios, a famous mask maker; Samuel J. Maronie tells us how The New Adventures of Wonder Woman was done in by Diff'rent Strokes, and he provides an episode guide to the show's ABC and CBS seasons; Sam Maronie's back with an interview with The Incredible Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno; Jonathan Eberhart -- though it's not listed as being his Interplanetary Excursions, Inc., column -- nonetheless visits "Venus: Veil by Veil"; Gerry Anderon gives the scoop on his Five Star Five movie; Alan Brender interviews Herb Jefferson Jr., who played Lt. Boomer in Battlestar Galactica; Al Taylor and David Hutchison profile Les Bowie, "The Father of British Special Effects" in the SFX section; David Houston's Visions column explores the origins of Buck Rogers (and thought he touches on it, I don't think he quite nails just how mind-bogglingly racist the first Buck Rogers stories were back in the early 20th century); and, finally, Howard Zimmerman's Lastword column talks about reader praise for his Alien comments and about dealing with mundane journalists who don't understand science fiction.
"The reason we will see a buffoon instead of a hero [in Buck Rogers] is really the subject for a longer article, but it has to do with the way television executives guess at what the public wants to see. In my opinion, the network people have an incredibly low and inaccurate opinion of their viewing audience. So, I will not only be disappointed this fall; I will also be insulted by implication."
--Kerry O'Quinn, publisher, From the Bridge: "Buck in the 20th Century"
To view previous Starlog Archive issues, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below.
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