The Eleven Coolest Things in Starlog #004: Fantastic Stinkers in 3-D, David Gerrold Gets Critical, and Starlog Wants Your Stuff.


The fourth issue of Starlog came out on January 13, 1977, the first of the eight-times-a-year issues. There are more advertisers, more words and more angry nitpicks from the readers.

As always, if you’d like to read along at home, the full run of Starlog is available over at the Internet Archive, and here are the previous installments of this series.

1. Circus Magazine Wants You To Rip Them off.


After the back cover KISS ad in the previous issue (which also adorns the back of this issue), Starlog‘s rock cred continues apace. Still, ignoring for the moment that it’s not strictly a magazine’s fault when people stop reading – people have had short attention spans since long before MTV allegedly ruined everything – Circus doesn’t make itself sound all that different from Rolling Stone, beyond the fact that Rolling Stone would not have invoked the Beach Boys to attract readers in 1976. Still, talk about trying to cover as much ground as possible with lots of arbitrary capitalization by involving Star Trek and the King Kong remake, with “a two-part article on Abortion” in the middle. Yikes! I guess if it were a one-part article on Abortion, we wouldn’t take them seriously.

2. In Other News…

From the “Log Entries” section:


Y’know, sort of fly the Enterprise. Just not in space. I imagine someone had to be behind the wheel (stick? yoke?) during the shuttle Enterprise‘s test runs in Earth’s boring ol’ atmosphere, but nobody would ever get to fly the Enterprise in space, and I’m apparently still bitter about that. Are you still an astronaut if you don’t actually go in space, especially by 1976? Maybe that’s why it’s called the “Astronaut (pilot) Candidate Program, or Astronaut (mission specialist) Candidate Program” – the devil is in the lowercase (parenthetical) details.


An early instance of what would become desktop publishing: one of the first fanzines done on a computer. Also important is that The Pacific Communicator was by Michael Okuda, who would go on to be responsible for the look of the props and especially the computer screens for every Trek series from Next Generation onwards; when we think of Trek computers and readouts, we usually think of Okudagrams.

The fact that he was a fan before he got professionally involved with the show is probably why he and his wife Denise (also a Trek designer) are have always been so generous and supportive of fan sites like Ex Astris Scientia and TrekCore..

Sadly, Okuda’s Pacific Communicator fanzine has never found its way online, at least not as far as my Google Fu can detect.


Bubble Gum Cards, exciting enough for an exclamation point! The full run of the cards and their text can be seen on Wixiban’s Star Trek Trading Cards Guide, and though there are certainly nits that can be picked – Sargon, Zargon, whatevs – I’d say that Starlog contributor Gary Gerani did a pretty good job, considering that a lot of it was probably done from memory and unofficial sources (like The Pacific Communicator, perhaps).


Getting there! Wookieepedia has a comparison between the book (ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster) and the final film. Fun fact: this novelization is the first time the word “Sith” is used, in that the word is never actually spoken aloud in the film. It’s all over the stage directions in the script, sure, but people watching the movie aren’t reading the script. As a fairly casual Star Wars fan, I wasn’t even aware of the word “Sith” until I saw The Phantom Menace – not the best introduction, all things considered. (I discuss the “Sith” question a bit more in my article about the original Star Wars trading cards.)

3. Mr. Gerrold Has Some Things to Say.


David Gerrold’s monthly column begins with a rumination on that lowest form of life, the critic.


(Little did he know how much that plethora would grow in the coming decades.) Never one not to turn the awesome power of his Deprecation Ray on himself, Gerrold then describes his new role at Starlog:


And speaking of the power of words…

4. Stop Saying Things how I Don’t Want You to Say Them!

A reader has an urgent complaint:


I can only imagine how much her teeth gnashed when the Sci-Fi Channel became “SyFy” a few years ago. (Probably as much as ours did.)

People had been writing in to complain about things in Starlog for the few issues that there’d been a Starlog to complain about, and the editors tended to respond in very diplomatic, thanks for pointing that out!-type responses. For this one, though, a degree of oh, you cannot be serious weariness leaps right to the front.


Or, to put it in a parlance that wouldn’t be invented for another thirty-four years:


5. Star Trek Galore Makes You Crane Your Neck

The cover story was about Richard Anderson, who played the cyborgs’ boss Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman; his character was the forerunner to The X-Files‘s Skinner or Fringe‘s Broyles, particularly in how popular he became. (Broyles is popular, right? It’s not just me?) This is the first mention of those shows that doesn’t shoehorn Bigfoot into it, but what’s important is this ad, which appeared halfway through the article.


It’s the only such vertical ad I’ve come across so far, one where you had to turn the magazine to read it. (Topless Robot and Voice Media Group accept no responsibility for whatever might happen if you try to rotate your computer.) For such a boldly placed and oriented ad, it’s rather passive in its pitch; it’s merely “like” across the board, no “love” for Trek and/or Galore. Therese’s TrekkerScrapbook has an easier-to-read Galore ad, including a listing of their actual merchandise. There are tribbles, naturally. Everyone was selling tribbles in those days.

6. The Third Dimension is…


Though it would never match its heyday of the 1950s, nor come as close to mainstream respectability as it did in the early 1980s – if Amityville 3-D, Jaws 3-D and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone can be said to qualify as mainstream and/or respectable – 3-D experienced a brief resurgence in the 1970s, mostly on the porn / grindhouse circuit. See: The Lollipop Girls in Hard Candy or Wildcat Women. On second thought, don’t see them, because they’re pretty lousy.

As this article explains, older films like The Creature from the Black Lagoon and especially It Came From Outer Space were being re-released to theaters in 3-D, but the real excitement was Paul Morrissey’s newer, 3-D-for-the-heck-of-it Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (aka Flesh for Frankenstein) being paired with an unreleased 1966 film called The Bubble, now subtly retitled Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth. It was dusted off by the mildly disreputable Monarch Releasing Company, whose president Allan Shackleton here displays an astonishing ignorance about the nature of film, both as a physical media and as a cultural object.


Granted, film preservation wasn’t quite the concern in 1976 that it is now, but yeesh, there’s a lot wrong with that statement. In any event, he promises that the original film has not been altered in any significant way – y’know, other than changing the title from The Bubble to Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth. Changing movie titles for re-release was still a common practice in 1970s, back when there was no public Internet and it was much more difficult to get called on it.


Courtesy of the fine folks at the 3 -D Film Archive (who now own the copyright to the movie, curiously enough), here’s the original teaser trailer for The Bubble. Quite frankly, there’s almost no way the movie itself could be as entertaining as this hyperbolic, echo-heavy trailer. Note that the line “It’s newer than television” doesn’t actually appear on the screen.

And here’s the trailer for the retitled reissue in the 1970s.

“SPACE-VISION!” Whatever the title, this looks like a silly, fun movie that I’d see in 3-D if the opportunity arose, but there’s no way that a 1976 audience wouldn’t find the very 1966-ish nature of the film off-putting. A movie made in 2003 could probably be released in 2013 and audiences would roll with it, but far too much had changed between ’66 and ’76 for that to work. Also, Norman Dresser of the Toledo Blade called it one of the “stinkers of all time,” which I’m sure totally hurt its box office grosses in the northwest Ohio. (Then as now, whether it’s Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth or The Lone Ranger, whatever movie just came out that you don’t like is THE WORST MOVIE EVAR; to his credit, he acknowledges this trope in the opening paragraph.)


(By the way, THE WORST MOVIE EVAR is Michael Bay’s Pain and Gain. Just throwin’ that out there.)

Back to Starlog, there’s a filmography of 1950s 3-D, limited to American feature productions. Included in this list is a movie very familiar to Ben Burtt, who was surely still working on the sound effects for Star Wars when this issue hit the stands:


Charge at Feather River is famous as being the source of the “Wilhelm Scream,” itself made famous by Burtt’s use of it in Star Wars. Feather River is not the scream’s true origin (and plenty of movies used it before Star Wars), but it was the first time a character it was associated with a character with a name, so “Wilhelm” stuck.

7. “Arena,” With More Bulging Pecs (And Less Shatner)

Fredric Brown’s page-filling short story “Arena,” the basis for the Star Trek episode of the same name, is reprinted. The header image is by famed artist Boris, and is every bit as muscle-y and nekkid as the rest of his work. His Star Trek novel covers lack the nudity, but even just the way he does faces is disturbing to me. They’re oddly muscle-y.


In fairness, both the nudity and the blobby monster are directly from the story itself. The rest of the illustrations are by the similarly mononymous Rene, including a talking lizard that would eventually become the Gorn…


…and a scar examination that’s strangely reminiscent of the Photoshop Disasters blog.


8. Do Not Attempt to Adjust This Magazine.


For its time, the sci-fi anthology series The Outer Limits was no less iconic than the just-departed The Twilight Zone, but it’s comparatively forgotten now. I think part of the reason is that The Outer Limits lacked a memorable theme song. Oh, the show’s intro is memorable in every other way, but lacks that all-important “dee-dee-dee-dee-dee”-style earworm. (The Twilight Zone didn’t even have that familiar music in its first season, but when the song was introduced, it stuck.)

The other reason The Outer Limits doesn’t have The Twilight Zone‘s longevity (as I write this, SyFy is running its annual Zone marathon) is Limits‘ unfortunate reliance on a monster-of-the-week format. They dropped that somewhat in the second season, but the net result is that the 49 produced episodes, half of them feature very silly-looking creatures. 49 episodes is far shy of what’s considered desirable for syndication, so that didn’t help.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t a few stone-cold classics in there, including the third episode:


“The Architects of Fear” was the episode referenced in the Watchmen graphic novel, and depending on who you believe, the climax was either a coincidence or an outright lift. I have no comment on the matter, nor on the way the ending was changed for the movie.


And, having nothing to do with Watchmen or Ellison:


Everything comes from somewhere.

9. Starlog Needs Content, Please!


“Alura Aloysius & Samuel Starford,” you say. The reference to skits implies that it’s theatrical, and after a bit of further digging on WorldCat I’ve found a book by a 1975 book on Carlton Press called All the World’s a Stage by Phil King. The contents include “Starford’s Modyssey” [their spelling, not mine]and “Aloysius’ Odyssey,” but I still have no idea what the heck’s going on. Anyone wanna swing by the University of Colorado at Boulder and take a look?

Meanwhile, as Starlog prepares for the eight-issue-a-year grind, here are some of the things they want: Puzzle & trivia quizmakers who know science fiction, professionals ONLY; professional writers with detailed knowledge of any subject related to science fiction films or TV; and rare COLOR Slides (chromes) of early SF movies (especially George Pal), professional SF illustrations, TV shows, etc. Get cracking, people!

10. The Robots (and Ships) of Silent Running.


In the issue’s closing spread of robots (robots!), Bruce Dern is seen with Huey and Louie in Douglas Trumbull’s great tree-hugging picture Silent Running.

It’s another one of those semi-forgotten yet hugely influential movies; the robots are very proto-Star Wars, and anecdotal belief on the Internet holds that Universal sued Twentieth-Century Fox because Star Wars stole the droid idea from Silent Running. (I have yet to find any primary sources confirming this, so I’m considering the lawsuit to be an unsubstantiated rumor.)

More importantly, the greenhouse ships turned out to be surprisingly durable.


Durable in that they were re-used as the Agro Ships in the original Battlestar Galactica


…and then were directly homaged via pixels as the Botanical Cruisers in the Galactica reboot.


If Bryan Singer’s Battlestar Galactica reboot movie ever happens, hopefully he’ll continue the proud tradition.

11. Sure, It Was Used on the Back Cover of Issue #003 As Well…
But it’s still KISS, so this still rules. (Issue #005’s back cover will feature a different, far less familiar band.)


Coming Up in Starlog #005: The Shuttle Enterprise backlash begins,Star Trek vs. censorship, and why all the Space: 1999, anyway?