Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In the Wake of Gene Roddenberry: The Starlog Project: Starlog #175, February 1992

On October 24, 1991, Gene Roddenberry passed away of heart failure at the relatively young age of 70. But you can read all of that on Wikipedia. This February 1992 issue of Starlog explores at length the impact that Roddenberry had while he was alive, particularly in terms of his creation and shepherding of Star Trek, which was, after all, the namesake and inspiration for Starlog magazine itself.

Starlog’s staff pulls out all of the stops for a 20-page salute to Roddenberry that includes contributions from many of the actors, writers, directors, and other artists who worked in the Trek universe, bookended by editor David McDonnell and former publisher Kerry O’Quinn, who knew Roddenberry well. In essence, it’s a print version of a wake for the man, and though it’d be overkill in most other magazines, it seems entirely appropriate in Starlog.

I do not remember who said this, but it has always stuck with me: The 1960s Star Trek series got worse as it progressed and creator Gene Roddenberry’s involvement was limited; however, Star Trek: The Next Generation got better as it progressed and Roddenberry’s involvement was limited. By noting that – and that I agree with it – I do not intend to slight Gene Roddenberry. If anything, it shows that the greater control he had to create Next Generation was reflected in having a staff and fictional creation that could thrive even as Roddenberry’s health declined.

Starlog #175
100 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $5.95

Okay, the cover promises a “special 25-pg. tribute celebrating” Roddenberry, but by my count, it’s closer to 20 pages (starting on page 41 and ending on 60), but there are a few other Trek articles in the issue, so they might’ve been counting those. Maybe they counted the letters pages. Not sure. (Also, in this issue, the mag replaces its usual two-page back-issues ad with a one-page ad that compiles all of the past issues of the magazine featuring Star Trek articles. Talk about knowing your audience!)

However you do that math, this edition is still a special 100-pager with a high-for-its-time $5.95 price tag; but, hey, it’s only £3.50 if you’re in Britain. Next issue, the magazine returns to its regular size but boosts its usual cover price from $4.50 to $4.95, where it will stay (with a very minor variation) for almost a decade.

The rundown: The cover copy of “Is this the end of Enterprise?” over a photo of the starship is meant to refer to the new film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, but it ties in nicely with the Roddenberry obit this issue; between the exhaustive coverage of the film and the death of its creator, readers should be able to answer with a definitive “No” after they’re done reading. Meanwhile on the contents page, a photo of hook – just a metal hook – illustrates this issue’s coverage of the Steven Spielberg film Hook.

It’s an abbreviated Medialog column from David McDonnell this month, but he does manage to tell us that Tri-Star is planning Taking Liberty, a film about the hikacking of a space shuttle; Dan Yakir profiles William Shatner on his expected Trek swan song, Star Trek VI – little did they know, you can’t kill Jim Kirk – and Pat Jankiewicz contributes a sidebar chat with Jon Vitti, who discusses Shatner’s famous “Get a life” skit from Saturday Night Live; the five-page Communications section is devoted to letters eulogizing Gene Roddenberry, plus Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features Frankenstein’s monster; the Fan Network pages include Lia Pelosi’s fan club and publications directory, plus the convention calendar; David Hutchison’s Videolog column announces the release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, plus other genre releases; and Booklog reviews A Bridge of Years, Mirabile, Dawn for a Distant Earth, The Emancipator I: The Pharoah Contract, The Time Patrol, Voyage to the Red Planet, Dream Baby, and Lunar Descent.

Ian Spelling interviews actor Michael Dorn, who plays the best Klingon ever, Worf; Kim Howard Johnson and Hank Kanalz preview the new Star Wars comics from Dark Horse Comics; Ian Spelling next checks in with actress Nichelle Nichols, who discusses Trek classic and new; Kerry O’Quinn kicks off the Roddenberry section with his column, “My Friend, Gene,” which recounts how they became friends and delighted in sharing ideas with each other; Lee Goldberg profiles the late producer in “The Creator’s Tale”; a four-page article, “Celebrating the Creator,” collects statements about Roddenberry from George Takei, DeForest Kelley, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Wil Wheaton, Carel Struycken, Whoopi Goldberg, Mark Lenard, Ralph Winter, Michael Dorn, LeVar Burton, Ray Bradbury, Brandon Tartikoff, and Gates McFadden; “The Creator’s Legacy” features writers from the Star Trek franchise: Howard Weinstein, Carmen Carter, Peter David, J.M. Dillard, Robert Greenberger, Diane Carey, A.C. Crispin, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Brad Ferguson; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column by noting the impact of Roddenberry’s life and death on the science-fiction universe.

In non-Trek news, Lynne Stephens interviews Hook designer John Napier; Marc Shapiro talks with Hook’s production designer, Norman Garwood; Will Murray visits the set of Freejack and talks with director Geoff Murphy; Karl Shook chats with actor and former Avenger Patrick Macnee about The Avengers, Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., Sherlock Holmes in New York, and more; Jean Airey interviews actor Nickolas Grace, who portrays the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin of Sherwood; and the dinosaur stampede is beginning (to be increased in future years), as Marc Shapiro reports on the TV revival of Sid and Marty Krofft’s Land of the Lost.
“The last time I spoke with him was a few months ago. I called Gene [Roddenberry] at home one Sunday evening with some questions involving philosophy. ‘We’re just going out to dinner,’ he said, and I quickly replied, ‘Let me call you at a more convenient time.’ ‘No, no – let’s talk,’ Gene insisted. ‘I’m so delighted to hear from you.’ And in that single, sincere sentence, Gene summed himself up. He showed that he wanted, always, to be available to his friends – that despite the marvelous aliens who emerged from his head, he cherished above all the companionship of humans.”
–Kerry O’Quinn, columnist, “From the Bridge: ‘My Friend, Gene’”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

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