Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sci-Fi TV Arises: The Starlog Project, Starlog #201, April 1994


Starlog called this a special "Robots Issue," but it's really a special TV issue, and a good reminder from a point in history when SF TV was really establishing itself in a very big way. In early 1994, science fiction series are beginning to flourish on the small screen, especially in the syndicated market but also in the network world, where Chris Carter's The X-Files is starting its groundbreaking run.

A few months before The X-Files premiered, I was able to see the first episode thanks to a friend of mine who worked at a large advertising agency. She got a preview cassette of a different new TV show, which was what we really wanted to see; The X-Files was also included as an afterthought. I don't even remember what the other show was or if it lasted long before cancellation. But after we watched The X-Files premiere episode, we both looked at each other with surprise and said, "That was really good." And we were correct. It was.

We should note that on the upper left-hand corner of the cover, right above the "SPECIAL ROBOTS ISSUE" headline, is a photo of Star Wars' C3PO, who isn't featured in the issue. Oopski.

Starlog #201
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

The last two pages of this issue reprise a humorous if odd thing from issue #191: Fake trading cards of Starlog correspondents. This issue features Tom Weaver, Ian Spelling, George Kochell, Lynne Stephens, and Michael Wolff, who, when asked about "what he wants to be when he grows up," replies, "The dim face spotted at the end of a dream. Why? Because the shadows are blessed and there's treasure in a secret." Okay.

The rundown: Richard Eden, the newest actor to be RoboCop, graces the cover, while the contents page features Robert Llewelyn as Red Dwarf's Kryten. David McDonnell's Medialog rounds up the news bits, including the tidbit that RoboCop's Paul Verhoeven "may end up directing Starship Troopers," which of course happens and results in a film that in my humble opinion is far better than RoboCop. In his Gamelog column, Michael McAvennie reviews Absolute Entertainment's Star Trek: The Next Generation and others, including GURPS War Against the Chtorr, based on author (and former Starlog columnist) David Gerrold's well-received series of novels. And the Communications section ranges from a letter that almost single-handedly previews the entire SF TV landscape, to a complaint about the Sci-Fi Channel's hacking-up of genre series, as well as the final installment of cartoonist Mike Fisher's Creature Profile, this one featuring Dr. Cyclops. (In his end-of-the-book editorial column, editor McDonnell reveals that genre expert Tom Weaver provided some assistance during the 40-issue run of this comic feature.)

CBS/Fox Video unleashes some more Doctor Who episodes, according to David Hutchison's Videolog. A brand new column debuts from an old Starlog hand: former editorial staffer David Hirsch returns to the fold with Audiolog, reporting on records and CDs from SF media. Among Hirsch's many accomplishments during his years at the magazine was editing the Space Report column, which was written by producer Gerry Anderson (Space: 1999, Thunderbirds), so it's either very fitting or a case of astonishing coincidence that right next to Hirsch's inaugural column is an ad for a science fiction convention featuring Gerry Anderson. The Booklog department includes reviews of The Voyage, The Positronic Man, Under the Eye of God, The Fabulist, Nevernever, The Stalk, Brother to Shadows, Orion and the Conqueror, The Disinherited, The Woods Out Back, Firedance, The Broken God, The Outcast, Martin the Warrior, The Armageddon Inheritance, Eternal Light, The Legend of Nightfall, and Nimbus. The Fan Network pages include Marc Bernardin's listing of fan organizations, some comics, and the usual convention calendar. And former publisher Kerry O'Quinn uses his From the Bridge column to talk about NASA's attempts to regain its lost luster by creating a space station.

In another of his speculative genre overview articles (that's a category, right?), Michael Wolff sticks to the "Robots Issue" theme by looking at robotic characters in SF film and TV; illustrations are by George Kochell. One of the most famous television robots, the aptly named Robot from Lost in Space, was brought to life by actor Bob May, who tells interviewer Tom Weaver, "There was one requirement I had to meet in order to play the Robot: The outfit was almost completely built, so therefore I had to fit into it—there was no way around that!" And one of the most famous cyborgs (well, they're part robot) from television was the young Borg Hugh from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Pat Jankiewicz chats with Jonathan Del Arco, the actor who brought Hugh to life on the show as a guest star, having been unsuccessful in his screen test to portray Wesley Crusher.

Cover boy Richard Eden tells Peter Bloch-Hansen about his new gig bringing RoboCop to TV life every week. The British TV series Red Dwarf is updated in a report by Joe Nazzaro. Ian Spelling does the same for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine by talking with Siddig El Fadil. The magazine goes further back in time with a profile by Joe Nazzaro of Colin Baker, one of the 3 million British actors who portrayed Doctor Who. Tom Weaver's second article this issue is a Q&A with Kathleen Crowley, who starred in Target Earth, Curse of the Undead, Flame Barrier, and other films. Kyle Counts checks in with producer Chris Carter, who unveils his new Fox TV series The X-Files. And in his Liner Notes column, editor David McDonnell says goodbye to exiting managing editor Maureen McTigue, who's heading over to DC Comics and who was featured in the previous set of Starlog contributor trading cards. Circle of life.
"I have not read a tremendous amount of science fiction. … I wouldn't call myself a science fiction fan; when I go to the library, I don't gravitate toward the SF section. I was never a huge Star Trek fan. But I'm interested in certain types of science fiction, what people oftentimes call science fact. I prefer books that don't talk about a world in the future but rather that take human situations and play with them in a fictionalized, scientific way."
–Chris Carter, X-Files producer, interviewed by Kyle Counts, "Scientific American" 
For more, click on Starlog Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.
Post a Comment