Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #118, May 1987: Taking Point Position on Star Trek: The Next Generation

Probably one of the most lucrative opportunities that ever came along to the Starlog publishers was Paramount’s decision to produce a new Star Trek series in the late 1980s. Starlog was already identified with Trek from its very first issue – which had originally been intended as a Star Trek one-shot publication until distributor wimpiness forced the publishers to rethink their strategy. Even its name is a Star Trek throwback. And the magazine has covered (and would continue to cover to its dying days) every aspect of Trek – basically, every single writer, actor (including guest star), director, producer, craft services provider, etc., would get an interview in the magazine. And don’t think I’m mocking that; the magazine had enough pages to cover other topics, and it did so quite comprehensively.

But then Star Trek: The Next Generation was on another level altogether. Not only did the show perform spectacularly well for Paramount (it was originally intended to be the flagship program of a Paramount network – as Voyager would be years later – but the network didn’t materialize, and Next Generation instead became a syndicated program; in fact, it became the number-one syndicated television program for years. So, not only did it do well for Paramount, it was a godsend for Starlog. It provided an opportunity to feature the popular program on its cover and within its covers issue after issue, thereby boosting sales. It gave the magazine the opportunity to have former columnist David Gerrold return, a la Susan Sackett’s Star Trek Report, to chronicle the creation of this series. And Starlog won the licensing rights to publish the official Star Trek: The Next Generation magazine, which it would produce for the full run of the series (and for successor programs Deep Space Nine and part of Voyager). Licensed magazines were a very important contributor to the Starlog Group (aka O’Quinn Studios) bottom line, and I’d hazard a guess that the Next Generation magazines were the single biggest source of cash from that business line.

This issue, Starlog #118, features the first of Gerrold’s behind-the-scenes Next Generation columns, offering an exclusive look at the designs, characters, story ideas, and personnel of this groundbreaking TV series.

Starlog #118
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

In Starlog company news, David McDonnell announces that he’s no longer overseeing sister magazine Fangoria’s editing chores. Those have been assumed by junior editor Anthony Timpone, who would hold onto the reins for almost a quarter century. They’re also starting to mine the merchandising possibilities of that magazine, with the launch of the Fangoria Poster Magazine, modeled on the successful Starlog Poster Magazine. In staffing news, Eddie Berganza and Daniel Dickholtz (the writer of much comics-related articles) move up the staff box to be listed as contributing editors.

The rundown: The cover photo is Star Wars’ C3PO and R2D2 (posing with a giant rodent), getting in one last cover appearance before Star Trek: The Next Generation takes it over. In his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn heralds the new Star Trek: The Next Generation series; Communications letters feature a bumper crop of letters commenting on recent coverage of Japanese anime, plus letters on the future of Star Trek, Kerry O’Quinn’s liberty editorials, and more; the Medialog section includes Patrick Daniel O’Neill’s report on the renewal of Doctor Who without the lead actor (Colin Baker), plus David McDonnell’s comprehensive roundup of genre news (such as, oh, let’s see, a note that there’s nothing firm about a Lost in Space reunion movie: “However, insiders maintain it’s very unlikely that such a revival will ever take place”).

In his inaugural Generations column, returning champion David Gerrold offers a first inside look at the planning for Star Trek: The Next Generation and he ends it with a suggestion that now’s a damn good time to renew your Starlog subscription, so you stay informed; another veteran returning to the Star Trek fold for Next Generation, Dorothy Fontana, is interviewed by Edward Gross; in his Booklog column, Chris Henderson covers the latest genre book releases; Steve Swires talks with actor Rod Taylor, who discusses Outlaw, TV’s Masquerade, and more; Tom Weaver interviews actor Jeff Morrow (This Island Earth, Kronos, Captain Lightfoot); Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman profile Blake’s 7’s “cowardly safecracker” Michael Keating; the Fan Network pages include an update on Star Trek fan clubs, answers to readers’ questions (such as, “Is the two-hour, European-version of Ridley Scott’s Legend with Jerry Goldsmith’s music available on video?”), and more; William Shatner talks about spoofing Trek on Saturday Night Live, the Trek movies – including his first thoughts on directing Star Trek V – and The Next Generation in an interview with Ian Spelling, Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier.

In another three-writer teamup, Bruce Gordon, David Mumford, and Chris Tietz explore Disneyland’s Star Tours, a Star Wars-themed attraction (plus a fourth writer, David Hutchison, chimes in with a sidebar on George Lucas’ involvement with the Disney enterprise); author George R.R. Martin is interviewed by only one writer, Daniel Dickholtz, and he discusses Nightflyers; Dickholtz also pens the Comics Scene column, looking at Retief, a comic about a 29th-century diplomat; David Hutchison’s Videolog looks at some on-sale genre videos; Marc Shapiro checks in with special effects designer Bill Stout and his illustrations for Masters of the Universe; a special Tribute section features the obituraries of five people: Scatman Crothers, Ian Marter, Elsa Lanchester, Keenan Wynn, and Roger C. Carmel; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column, where he deconstructs his editorial writing style, imparting some tidbits of news along the way.
“I think it is a mistake. To call a series Star Trek that doesn’t have the cast and the ship in it is an error. The error seems to me to be overexposure of the Star Trek name and the possibility of not having the Star Trek quality we’ve become accustomed to. It remains to be seen. [Should The Next Generation fail,] the whole thing is unnecessary jeopardy. ... It’s unnecessary to take that kind of risk. I don’t know how much money they’re going to make. I suppose it’s going to be considerable, but it can’t be more than the grosses they would make from the films. I don’t understand their reasoning. I’m not connected with this TV series at all.”
--William Shatner, actor/director, interviewed by Ian Spelling, Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier: “William Shatner: Captain’s Log: Star Trek V
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.
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