Friday, July 2, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #135, October 1988: Here’s Looking at You, Kid

Star Trek writers and producers like certain things besides science-fiction. Gene Roddenberry had a liking for Shakespeare, and it showed up in many storylines and allusions throughout the original series and movies. But mysteries were another favorite, and through the magic of the holodeck on Star Trek: The Next Generation, they managed to build in a mystery series-within-a-series by creating a fictional detective holo-novel with which Captain Picard was infatuated.

I’m not sure why writers who create stories set in the far future would also have a soft spot for detective stories set in the 1940s, but they do. Dixon Hill is the character they created, and the role Picard assumes in the holodeck. And he assumes it on the cover of this issue, alongside the android Data.

As an aside, here’s a conundrum: Considering how effective and entrepreneurial Starlog’s publishing company was (as founding editor David Houston noted in his guest editorial in #100) in identifying and exploiting and dominating magazine market niches (science fiction, soap operas, horror, comics, wrestling, boxing, African-American women, astrology, automobiles, teenagers, country music, music videos, classic movies, etc.), it is a surprise that the company never to my knowledge attempted a mystery magazine. It has many of the same attributes as science fiction or horror: a devoted fan base, lots of books to cover, authors to interview, movies and television programs on which to report, columnists to entertain and intrigue. I mean, come on. Starlog Group published an entire special magazine devoted to spring break. But mysteries weren’t tempting enough?

That in itself is a mystery ...

Starlog #135
92 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.95

There’s no end-of-year 100-page special issue this year. Instead of a November 100-page issue, Starlog produces this 92-page October issue. It’s interesting that it’s priced at $3.95, the same price it’s been charging for years for its 100-page issues. Were they testing the $3.95 price point? The answer will come in half-a-year. (For the record, the company’s licensed official Star Trek: The Next Generation magazine was priced at an unusual $3.75. You rarely see any magazine priced between $3.50 and $3.95.) Interestingly, the letters pages start off with a reader complaining about the cover price and suggesting that “None of us will be able to afford to buy Starlog in the future.”

The rundown: Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner are the cover boys this month. In his From the Bridge column, publisher Kerry O’Quinn draws on Ayn Rand to call out the positive aspects of science-fiction fandom; Communications letters include readers complaining about the loss of Next Generation's female cast members, reacting to recent films (Willow, Robin of Sherwood, Who Framed Roger Rabbit), exploring controversies spawned by RoboCop over graphic violence and censorship, and more; Medialog includes Edward Gross chatting up Walter Hill about the Alien III film, Gary L. Wood getting Louis Gossett, Jr.’s thoughts on Enemy Mine, Ian Spelling interviewing Meg Ryan about Innerspace, and David McDonnell announces the new syndicated TV series Superboy, along with other genre media news.

Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman continue their exploration of everything Blake’s 7, with an interview of actor Steven Pacey; Randall Larson checks in with film composer Alan Silvestri about his work in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future, Clan of the Cave Bear, and more; the Fan Network pages include Kevin Provost on some replicas of the Green Hornet’s car Black Beauty, Laurie Morris on more fan ideas about Star Trek model designs (apparently this was a raging controversy back in the day), an extensive conventions listing, and answers to reader queries (such as, “Whatever happened to Ethan Hawke, who pllayed Ben Crandall in Joe Dante’s Explorers? Will there be a sequel?”); Steve Swires interviews actress Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner, Who Framed Roger Rabbit).

Tim Soter explores the classic mind-games TV series The Prisoner, quoting many of the show’s creators, including Patrick McGoohan (who chimes in with this anti-intellectual nugget that would make the current Right happy: “There are people who know something about every subject under the sun, but they are just a reference library. Learning too much stuff, that is closing up your mind. You’ll find that all the great inventors – Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell – I can’t think of one who was highly educated. The explorations of their minds weren’t surrounded by too much education. The mind is set free. The innate power of creation was there.” Yep; that's our biggest problem today, we're just using our thinkers too much; that’s why all of our great inventions and new philosophies come from the Ozarks.) with a sidebar by Daniel Dickholtz looking at The Prisoner in comics; Edward Gross interviews Next Generation director Joe Scanlan, who talks about killing off Tasha Yar, and more; Adam Pirani profiles actress Jean Marsh (Willow); Bill Florence talks with 91-year-old actor Ian Wolfe about Star Trek’s “All Our Yesterdays” and George Lucas’ THX-1138.

Mike Clark interviews actress Marta Kristen about her role in Lost in Space; Will Murray interviews actor Van Williams about the Green Hornet TV show, and he learns that co-star Bruce Lee accidentally beat the crap out of a number of coworkers in their fight scenes; Ian Spelling talks with Willow co-star David Joseph Steinberg; Frank Garcia profiles actress Susan Oliver about her time as an alien on Star Trek (original series); in the first of a multi-part article, Edward Gross interviews TV writer Jerry Sohl about working with such legends as Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling, and Gene Roddenberry; Juanita Elefante-Gordon profiles Doctor Who actress Sophi Aldred in “Companion in Punk Leather”; new releases from Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton are noted in David Hutchison’s Videolog; and David McDonnell gives some background on Starlog interviews.
“It was 20 years ago this past summer that American television audiences first viewed Patrick McGoohan’s controversial, 17-part fantasy series, The Prisoner. It was a show that took paranoia seriously, and in the process inspired fan clubs and debates as well as adulation from followers as diverse as Isaac Asimov and Mick Jagger. It is a spy story and an allegory, Franz Kafka blended into John Le Carre, with just a dash of H.G. Wells. The Prisoner has been called brilliant and inspired, simple-minded and old hat. No one has dared call it dull.”
–Tom Soter, writer, “Uncaging The Prisoner
To read 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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