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Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion

Battlestar Galactica: The Official CompanionOrder this bookStory: With complete access to the cast and behind-the-scenes crew of Sci-Fi Channel’s new version of Battlestar Galactica, author David Bassom traces the story of the making of the series, from the first murmurs of a revival series under the auspices of Bryan Singer (ultimately abandoned) through the fan reaction to the first season.

Review: It’s hammered home numerous times that Ronald D. Moore wanted nothing less than to reinvent the science fiction genre on TV with this show, and while it can be argued rather easily that he has succeeded in doing just that, “Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion” spells out his plans for doing so and how he put hose plans into action with this show. From the pitch to sell the re-imagined show through the series bible through material distributed to the cast, a Moore-written document about a less stylized, more naturalistic approach to SF is mentioned. If anything, it’s actually one of this book’s biggest omissions that, as many times as that document is mentioned, it isn’t reprinted anywhere. That aside, it’s at the heart of Galactica’s reinvention. Continue reading

Trek Navigator

Trek NavigatorOrder this bookStory: Former Sci-Fi Universe editor/Cinefantasique Trek reviewer Mark Altman teams up with ex-Starlog/Cinescape writer Edward Gross for this exhaustive (and yet already terribly obsolete) series of reviews of every Star Trek adventure committed to film.

Review: Hey, it seems like a good idea, but is it worth the cover price? I’m not sure. Despite the fact that the authors are some of the best SF-oriented journalists in the business, their lightweight Siskel & Ebert schtick wears a little thin at times. And since both are diehard Classic Trek worshippers, they tend toward the viewpoint that even the biggest Kirk-era stinkers have something to recommend them over most decent episodes of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Babylon 5: The Coming Of Shadows

Babylon 5: The Coming Of ShadowsOrder this bookStory: This book chronicles the making of the second season of J. Michael Straczynski’s groundbreaking SFTV series Babylon 5, which was also the last season to feature scripts written by anyone other than Straczynski for over two years. Interviews with actors, writers, directors and JMS himself run throughout the book, with a special section on how the show managed to stay on budget and a great deal of focus on the arrival of new leading man Bruce Boxleitner.

Review: One of the things I’ve always been curious about when it comes to Babylon 5 is: when did J. Michael Straczynski receive the divine inspiration (or head trauma) that told him that he needed to write damn near every episode for the rest of the show’s run? And whatever happened to story editor Larry DiTillio, who was Straczynski’s right-hand man in the Captain Power days but disappeared after B5’s second year on the air? Continue reading