Doctor Who: The First Doctor Handbook

Doctor Who: The First Doctor HandbookBuy this book in StoreStory: Television pioneer Sydney Newman joined the BBC in 1962, creating numerous projects, including a children’s science fiction serial about an eccentric, time-traveling professor. The show was expected to last all of several weeks, despite the amount of effort put into its concept, but thanks to the efforts of producers, writers, special effects technicians, a talented cast, and a dedicated young producer (one of the first women to hold that title in the U.K.), Doctor Who thrived – and its legend continues nearly four decades later. This is the story of the era of the show during which William Hartnell, the original actor, played the part, as well as the story of the months of development leading up to the show’s final concept.

Review: The Howe-Stammers-Walker Handbook series is, hands-down, the best-researched history of Doctor Who ever put on paper – it’s just a pity that one has to track down seven books, at least a couple of which are now out of print, to complete the series! Read More

Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series

Star Trek Phase II: The Lost SeriesOrder this bookStory: This outstanding and surprisingly thick tome tracks the progress of the attempt to revive the original Star Trek series in the 1970s which eventually mutated into something we now call Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Review: Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, the authors who brought us 1994’s wonderful “Making of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine”, have truly outdone themselves with this book, which follows the inception, development and pre-production of the second Star Trek series which never was, as well as the studio decisions which caused its metamorphosis into the first of many feature films. The book stops short of following Star Trek’s evolution to the big screen, though the authors drop a hint that they might be working on such a volume. I’ll be among the first to buy it if they should do so, based on their work here. Read More

Star Trek Movie Memories

Star Trek Movie MemoriesOrder this bookStory: Star Trek’s own William Shatner sits in the captain’s chair once more, this time holding court and spinning tales of the lean years after Star Trek’s cancellation, as well as its unexpectedly successful return via the big screen. These are his voyages.

Review: Despite the relative immunity that biographers and/or autobiographical writers seem to have when telling their side of their respective stories, I’m amazed that Shatner didn’t incite so much as a single lawsuit with his first book, “Star Trek Memories”. It was in that volume that Shatner alleged everything from Nichelle Nichols’ now-well-known affair with Trek creator Gene Roddenberry to Grace Lee “Yeoman Rand” Whitney’s various addictions. That a lot of Shatner’s gossip turned out to be at least partly true in the end was surprising. No doubt his co-stars would’ve had the opportunity to carefully bury these facts when the time came for their own autobiographies. Read More

The Making of Star Trek

The Making of Star TrekOrder this bookStory: The first book ever written about the making of Star Trek – published while the series was still in production – this is still one of the best non-fiction Trek books that has ever been published. Several things factor into this. It’s a relatively unopinionated look at the development of the story of Star Trek. Such elements as production design, budgets, difficulties with actors, and other hassles are touched upon, but at least the first half of the book concentrates on the various changes that the show’s original premise underwent. This book’s material dates back to the time when the Enterprise’s captain was going to be named Robert April.

Review: My trust in this book’s information stems from the fact that it dates back to Star Trek’s original broadcast life span, before Gene Roddenberry (whose comments appear throughout the book IN ANNOYING ALL-CAPS TO SET THEM APART FROM EVERYTHING ELSE) set about reinventing the Star Trek universe and adjusting his own public image in the 1970s. Read More

Inside Star Trek: The Real Story

Inside Star Trek: The Real StoryOrder this bookStory: Herb Solow, a Paramount executive who helped to get Star Trek off the ground, and Robert H. Justman, the original series’ co-producer and confidant of Gene Roddenberry, dish every available particle of dirt in this well-illustrated and well-written book, brimming with copies of memos and behind-the-scenes photos.

Review: I’ll say this upfront – I liked this book a lot. I’m just saying this first to dispel any opinions to the contrary as I launch into my many misgivings about this kind of book.

It’s fascinating, and at the very least, it does have the ring of verisimilitude to it. Bob Justman has long been known as one of Star Trek’s fondest founding fathers, though he’s never been afraid to criticize the weaknesses of the series. Or, in this case, the other people who worked on it. Read More

I Am Spock

I Am Spock, hear me roar!Order this bookStory: Leonard Nimoy, who certainly needs no introduction, backtracks to his earliest days as an actor, the series of coincidences and connections that led to his most famous role, and the continuiation of that role – and his new role as a prominent director – on the big screen.

Review: In the 1970s, Leonard Nimoy’s first autobigraphical book, I Am Not Spock, aroused equal parts curiosity and ire among the burgeoning Star Trek fandom that was rising during the show’s post-cancellation syndicated run. Nimoy backpedals a lot in the early part of this book, trying to explain that, at the time, he was desperately trying to outrun his famous character’s shadow and prove that he was capable of many other things creatively. Read More

The Apollo Adventure

The Apollo AdventureOrder this bookStory: Jeffrey Kluger’s insightful volume on the Apollo program from inception right through to the end is another treasure trove of information on that most daring era of Ameircan space exploration, focusing on other aspects that just the flight of Apollo 13.

Review: When I saw the blurb in the back of Apollo 13 nee Lost Moon for a trade paperback companion book, I figured it would be a kiddie item that really ought to be given away with Hardee’s Apollo Burgers. Wrong again. Read More

Creating Babylon 5

Creating Babylon 5Order this bookStory: This reprint of a book originally released in Britain the previous year is a fascinating look behind the scenes and between the lines of the premier science fiction series of the 1990s. The book includes brief interviews with each of the cast, including the unjustly oft-forgotten Michael O’Hare, as well as several key players behind the scenes. It looks at a day in the production life of Babylon 5, and examines in cursory detail many of the episodes. And there are a lot of colorful pictures.

Review: And that’s about it.

Not trying to get down on this book or its author – the comments from J. Michael Straczynski and the cast are very insightful (particularly one discussion with JMS on pages 27 and 28 in which B5’s creator encapsulates the entire meaning of the show), and the pictures are very nice…but there’s not much else. Perhaps, like Blake’s 7 or Doctor Who, Babylon 5 needed to make its exit before it could be analyzed properly. Read More

Babylon 5: The Wheel of Fire

Babylon 5: The Wheel of FireOrder this bookStory: In what is apparently the last of Jane Killick’s behind-the-scenes books about Babylon 5, the author examines the making of the show’s final season, beginning with The Deconstruction of Falling Stars, which technically capped off season four despite being produced by TNT. The guide then tackles everything from No Compromises through Sleeping In Light, though I admit to being very disappointed with the final episode’s coverage – it starts out with “What hasn’t already been said about this episode?” as an almost up-front announcement that you’re not going to get much out of this section. The Babylon 5 magazine coverage of Sleeping, and – quite frankly – Joe Nazarro’s liner note insert in the episode’s soundtrack CD, were more informative than this.

Review: What really makes Killick’s book isn’t necessarily her material, but the reminiscences of the actors, and some of season five’s key players – namely Tracy Scoggins and Robin Atkin Downes (Byron) – haven’t talked much about their B5 work in the past, so their comments here, though sparse, are refreshing. On the flipside, most of J. Michael Straczynski’s quotes are lifted from his Usenet postings – but unlike Hal Schuster (author of unauthorized – and, to be completely candid, unauthored – guides to nearly everything), I’m sure Killick had JMS’ permission to reprint these. Read More

Babylon 5: Point Of No Return

Babylon 5: Point Of No ReturnOrder this bookStory: Leaning heavily on interviews with series creator J. Michael Straczynski and the main cast members, Jane Killick continues her analysis of Babylon 5, this time covering the show’s much-loved third season. Topics of interest include the tightening of the show’s story arc as the Shadow War looms, how the plot threads in War Without End might have been resolved if Bruce Boxleitner hadn’t taken over as the show’s leading actor the previous year, and the increasing reliance on computer generated visuals.

Review: If I wish one thing could’ve been different about Jane Killick’s excellent and informative series of Babylon 5: Season By Season books, it would’ve been devoting less space to episode guides (which can be found elsewhere) and more space to talking to the cast and crew. Read More