Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Shatner Revival: The Starlog Project, Starlog 199, February 1994

William Shatner never really went away, of course. Before Star Trek, he had a long and varied career that included Shakespeare and more; after Trek, he acted in other movies (Trek and non-) and even starred in another prime time television show in the 1980s called T.J. Hooker. But in the mid-1990s, Shatner came back in a way that established himself as an immortal, or at least someone who clearly was going to be around a long time.

When he launched his Tekwar books, they were always likely multimedia candidates, and this issue Starlog highlights the Greg Evigan-starring television movies (it had already been translated into comics). Before the Tek wave had gone, it would also spawn a short-lived TV series and a video game.

There are lots of actors and other creative folks who have late-career resurgences; their rediscovery by the general public generally lasts a cycle and then recedes. But Shatner’s is still going strong in 2012, having conquered TV, social media (he’s got more than 1.4 million followers on Google+), dot-com success (Priceline), and yet more books, TV series (winning two Emmys for his Denny Crane portrayal), and videos.

But, as I noted, Shatner never really left. Even during that time that I tend to think of as his wandering through the desert phase – the 1970s – he was busy with stage shows, films, animated television, game shows, and commercials. Yet for all of that, it is fair to consider his Tek success as the birth of Shatner as multimedia entrepreneur, a role that he continues to play with much success today.

Starlog #199
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

This month, Starlog publishes its official statement of ownership, management and circulation. The total paid circulation for the issue closest to the statement's filing deadline is listed as 265,192 (a giant increase over the previous year's 164,886), including the number of paid subscriptions of 9,350 (little changed from 9,675 in the last year). Why did Starlog’s circulation take off like that? Part of it might have been a distribution strategy by the publisher; the total copies printed was a whopping 610,000 (more than twice what it was in previous years), which means there were way more than 330,000 returns unsold from the newsstand. As wasteful as that seems, it was possibly driven by the new newsstand competition Starlog was preparing to face from upstarts Cinescape, Sci Fi Universe, and Sci Fi Channel magazine (later renamed Sci Fi Entertainment), all of which would debut later in 1994. Control of the newsstands was something Starlog Group was experienced in.

Random classified ad under the “Miscellaneous” banner: “HOLLYWOOD WILL BE KILLING OFF STAR TREK – BUT! Hollywood has read our ‘strong support’ petition letter and – Hollywood says yes! This particular letter would definitely ‘force’ them to reconsider – if they are flooded with them! Please sign this letter and mail it back now! Or Star Trek is dead. To receive yours, enclose a S.A.S.E. within an envelope to …” It does make you think Starlog should have raised its classified ad pricing for each additional exclamation point used.

The rundown: This month, the magazine breaks with its usual photographic cover treatments and runs the illustrated image from the Shatner epic Tekwar; meanwhile Nana Visitor in Bajoran garb takes over the contents page. In his Medialog column, David McDonnell reports that “There will be another Star Trek TV spinoff, also following the adventures of a spaceship, one with a smaller crew complement than the Enterprise (and including a Vulcan, a Klingon, and possibly some Next Generation characters.” Which reminds me of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring Laserblast, in which Mike saves the SOL by taking on Captain Janeway’s persona (and clothing) and saying at one point, “I’m responsible for the lives of 148 crewmembers aboard this ship, 144 of which we never see.”

Michael McAvennie reviews MechWarrior, Traveller, Magic: The Gathering, and more in his Gamelog column. The Communications letters from readers include a super-long letter defending Star Trek: The Next Generation, among other letters, plus Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile featuring the Mummy. Books reviewed in Booklog include Star Wars: The Truce at Bakura, The Far Kingdoms, Majyk by Accident, Growing Up Weightless, Turning Point, The Longing Ring, The Callahan Touch, ViraVax, When True Night Falls, Harm’s Way, The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall, Down Among the Dead Men, Out of Time, Crashcourse, Shroud of Shadow, The Cygnet and the Firebird, Catfantastic III (yes, a collection of short stories featuring “tales … of magical, mutant and mundane cats" – it’s what people did before LOL cats websites), Into the Green, and The Well-Favored Man: The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Nephew. In Videolog, David Hutchison reports the latest video releases, including Highlander, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and a Twilight Zone boxed set. And in Fan Network, there’s the usual listing of conventions and directory of Trek fan clubs and publications (including Star Fetch: The Fun Fan Magazine, published in my home state of Wisconsin).

Ian Spelling, Starlog’s go-to guy for Star Trek reporting, interviews Nana Visitor, one of the stars of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Her role of a Bajoran officer aboard the space station was originally going to go to Michelle Forbes, who portrayed Ensign Ro on Next Generation, but Forbes reportedly wanted a movie career rather than being tied to a series. So Visitor stepped in. Craig W. Chrissinger talks with Ashley McConnell, a novelizer of Quantum Leap stories. She gives some interesting insight into the how-tos of writing licensed novels, such as negotiating her contract almost by accident, or how much freedom the writer has to write the stories (a lot, in her case). And Bill Warren profiles actor John D’Aquino, who portrays Lt. Ben Krieg on seaQuest DSV. (My favorite pullquote from the issue is in the D’Aquino article: “I was such a boring kid that I would memorize TV Guide.”)

Veteran film scorer John Barry tells writer Tom Soter about his work on James Bond films, The Black Hole, Howard the Duck, and more. Soter writes:
[Barry] remembers 1986’s Howard the Duck with a shudder and a chuckle. “I had just finished Out of Africa with the same company, which wound up a hugely successful movie; it won all the Academy Awards. I got this mad phone call [from the film company, Universal Pictures] and they said, ‘It’s George Lucas’ movie,’ and I thought, ‘Well, a cartoon death wizard, a ridiculous thing, it just might be fantastic.’ So I said, ‘OK,’” Barry scored sequences without seeing the special FX, recalling that “I went blindly, with confidence, and I thought that [Lucas] was going to be taking care of all that. That never worked out. I still don’t know what happened. It was such an unbelievable disaster. And I never met George Lucas.” 
Peter Bloch-Hansen previews the TekWar telefilm. John Vester interviews the seemingly tireless Star Wars novelist Kevin J. Anderson. Joe Nazzaro takes a look at Sylvester McCoy, who recalls his work as Doctor Who. Pat Jankiewicz continues Starlog’s eternal quest to interview every person ever involved with the Trek franchise, this time talking to actor Jan Shutan, who guest starred as Scotty’s girlfriend in “The Lights of Zetar.” Tom Weaver profiles Billy Benedict, co-star of the Adventures of Captain Marvel serials in 1941. In his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn highlights Mario, a friend who explains his inspirations for pursuing a film career. Mark Phillips interviews Robert Hamner, who discusses his writing credits in Star Trek (original), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and others. And in his Liner Notes, editor David McDonnell lays down the law about what Starlog’s staff can and can not do for you (hint: Don’t send them your fiction stories and don’t ask them to forward a letter to your favorite actor).
“I think, for sure, all the women who came before us made a difference in how our roles were destined. I’ve been in relaionships where you’ve tried to get a man to marry you, but he’s resisting the relationship. You figure he is just not the marrying kind and you leave him. Two months later, you find out he got married to the next woman he met. That seems to be a common pattern. He needed to be comfortable with [marriage], so he could finally do it in a fresh environment. I think, maybe, in a sense, that’s what happened with Star Trek. Marina [Sirtis] and all the other women had an effect on what Terry [Farrell] and I get to do on Deep Space Nine. And I’m very grateful to them.”
–Nana Visitor, actor, interviewed by Ian Spelling, “Major Player” 
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.


Jerome said...

I am so happy you continue this project

jzipperer said...

Thanks, Jerome. More to come. Issue #200 is next.

Jerome said...

Does a project exist on the internet for "Fantastic Films" or 'Cinefantastique" with the same kind of comments ?

jzipperer said...

Good question. I've searched for them but not found any. There are a couple attempts to do this for Fangoria, and I have done it for Starlog's sister publication Future Life [ ]. If anyone reading this knows of an issue-by-issue chronicle of FF or CFQ, let us know.

jzipperer said...

Actually, you might check out this site for Cinefantastique and other mags -- it's not as extensive as the Starlog Project, but it does at least let you know what's in each issue: