Tuesday, March 2, 2010

1999 Star Trek Weekly Log Book

This time we are "only" going back about 10 years to revisit a Trek product; and I put the emphasis on "only" ten years because 1999 seems so recent to me, not going back very far to feature an item. But, when I was a kid and teen, the ten years from the end of the original series to the new movie, only a little over a decade, seemed like an eternity... a long stretch of desert marked by occasional mirages of revival rumors and attempts. Looking back now on the overall nearly-45-year history of Trek, from the series to now, that first ten years now seems like a short period of time indeed.

Anyway, we go back just ten years for the item on this post, a notebook-format calendar/journal that featured a different photo from the various Trek shows for each week. Since this blog is devoted to the characters of the original series, those are the only pictures I'm picking out to show. First, the cover:
(Click on images to "magnify viewscreen.")








Going back a bit further now for our "bonus" items, the front and back covers of a couple of the James Blish books that many Trekkers have good memories of. (I featured the earlier ones before in a post from The Monster Times reviewing some of them; look for the "book cover" tag to see all.) I know, these books are something most fans might still have in their collections, and it may be a bit redundant to feature them here since they were so ubiquitous; but each and every volume of these Blish episode adaptations meant so much to me, and figure so prominantly in my good memories of the time, that I felt that looking at them again now and then might bring up some good memories of your own. After all, it might have been years since you looked at these covers. My main impressions of the Enterprise, apart from the show itself, come from the paintings of the ship on these covers, starting with volume 4 (painted by Lou Feck, read more about him here) and going through 12. Be sure to click on the images to examine them in detail, larger than the actual book itself.

For years, these books were the main source of nourishment for my Trek hunger; oftentimes the only source during the early lean years. The brief adaptations, often little more than extended plot synopses, whetted my appetite to actually see the episodes, which in many cases would be years later. Volume #5, below, reminds me of when I bought it at the Ft. Lauderdale high school bookstore where I went in 1973 while in the 10th grade. I got many of the books that were so important to me there: "The Making of Star Trek," The World of Star Trek," "The Trouble With Tribbles," and several of the Blish novels. I would save up my lunch money by skipping lunch and buying the books I had ordered when they came in. I really desired my books more than food back then, and I remember that year as especially exciting as I absorbed the thick making-of books.


This next bonus item below goes back to 1972, from second issue of "The Monster Times." The article is looking forward to the historic New York ST convention, (the very first) happening January 21-23rd at the Statler-Hilton hotel. Were you there?
And lastly, another item from TMT, continuing my posts of the regular feature "Trek Talk," from issue #38, published January of 1975. This time, there is little actual news, in favor of basically re-printing a press release from Paramount to promote their new special effects system "Magicam" (read the Memory Alpha entry here). It was touted as the solution to a less-expensive way to revive the series, but ultimately not used by the time the movie came out (although the company did build the refit Enterprise miniature). It's a good thing, too; can you imagine how cheesy the revived show would look today had Magicam been used on a new TV version back in the mid 70's? It's use on "The Starlost" proved it to be ineffective at creating believable effects. I was skeptical about it even when reading this back in 1975. Still, it's part of Trek history and the efforts to being it back, and that's why I post these Trek Talk segments.

New link added to the links list: Veteren director Ralph Senensky is blogging now, in part about his role in Trek history, and it's all interesting reading. Visit it at Ralph's Trek and get the inside scoop on TOS production!

11 comments:

Jay said...

Magicam was, I suppose, a pre-digital version of what became standard procedure in the digital age - shooting actors against green screen and putting them into completely artificial environments. I imagine the Magicam version as looking about as believable as the old chromakey technique that allowed weatherman to stand in front of a weather map, but maybe it would have looked more convincing.

Also, as I may have said previously, I love the off-model art work on the old Bantam Star Trek novels and the pulp quality they give to the Trek universe. Its a trip to see Kirk holding something that looked like an old-fashioned ray gun and Enterprise crewmen schlepping around in bulky '50s-style spacesuits. That long decade between the series' cancellation and the first movie yielded some of my favorite Star Trek "stuff" because it was imaginative and so non-corporate. You know there wasn't someone at Paramount directing every aspect of every piece of merchandise. There was room for interpretation and a degree of artistic license that I really like and enjoy.

david_b said...

Jeez, you just described my childhood, '73/'74. I 'hunted' for these books (10-11yrs old) at all bookstores, LOVED the ultra-cool cosmic covers of the Blish series..!

I remember a friend and I both getting 50cents for snacks; he got potato chips, I bought a comic, and he laughed at me thinking I was wasting my money on 'that stuff'; course I sold others for $100, but still have that comic.

As mentioned, I 'hunted' for ALL Trek books (Blish, Animated Series Foster series) which came out that time, I lived/breathed the 'Making of', 'World of', 'Making of Trouble with Tribbles', etc..

Frederick said...

David,

Thanks for commenting! It's great to hear from someone that shared the excitement and delight at finding nuggets like these back in the days of our youth. It's amazing the impact this show could have on our young lives, and the good memories it helped us make.

I was of the same mind when it came to spending my money on things like that versus food or snacks; the snacks would be gone soon but the item we could keep and treasure.

david_b said...

Jay, VERY good points on 'corporate' merchandising ("THE franchise" of the 90s). Yes, it's generated lots and lots of cool stuff, especially great posters, pics, figures, etc.., but when the saturation came by '98, a lot went to the bargin bins. The stuff from the 70s had a coolness all it's own, when Cons were just starting to register with vendors that there was indeed legitimate interest.. I'm still hunting for the Trek beach towels my friends had, even for the first issue Mego figures still in package.

It's the first film (ST-TMP) I always enjoy the most out of all the films, both the film itself, AND because despite the recent Star Wars explosion, merchandising was still experimental at best. Just the excitement over 'THE reunion', watching the cast on Tom Snyder (which I still have on my iPod now..) back in '76, it was all more exciting than when the Franchise took over. The film seemed more than any of the later films, to actually 'reach' for something, rather than just be about the characters.

Again, as for the 70s merchandising, it all seemed more smaller-scale or 'homespun' back then. Lincoln Enterprises did a great job in getting wonderful, 1st generation collectables out there (I still have some of their early catalogs..).

Frederick said...

David,

I too was one that enjoyed the Lincoln Enterprises material... they gave us a wide choice of "insider" items that the corporate world never equalled. Just reasding the catelogs was a joy!

Jay,

One thing I miss on the book covers is the artwork; everything is photoshopped from stills now. My favorite covers from some of the old books were by the greats like Gray Morrow and Bob Larkin. You don't see that kind of work being done for the books any more.

Jay said...

Well I'm very much in agreement with bot of you gents. The "corporate branding" of "The Franchise" that started in earnest with TNG and reached its zenith (nadir?) in the late '90s was, to me, a physical manifestiation of the bland homogenization of all things Star Trek that was going on during the latter days of "Voyager" and surrounding the release of "Insurrection" and the launch of "Enterprise". Everything felt very grey and cookie cutter, from the shows all the way down to the merchandising, and I perceived a deliberate diminution of the original series and its ethos, which is what I liked about Star Trek in the first place. That was the period of time in which I became what my friends described as "a fundamentalist" about Star Trek: the original show, the original cast, and consequently, the original era of fandom in the '70s and early-to-mid '80s. Everything else was for the people who liked it and more power to 'em; it had just ceased to be for me. That was a good 10 years ago, right around the time "The Franchise" sort of collapsed, and I haven't really changed from that. The one good thing about those "Enterprise" and "Nemesis" days was that the market for Star trek collectibles also collapsed, and I was able to snag on the cheap a lot of Trek swag I had wanted since I was a kid - the fotonovels, a first printing of the Franz Joseph tech manual, the original pre-Ballantine version of Bjo's concordance, oddball merchandise released with the first movie. "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" is a never-ending source of merchandised "stuff". I am still running across things I didn't know were made back in '79 and '80.

Frederick said...

Jay,

I know what you mean about the wild merchandising for TMP; I even have a small box of band-aids with TMP pictures on them! I'll have to post a scan of it next time for those that missed it.

Jay said...

Frederick! Yes, I would love to see your STTMP band-aids! I just bought some STTMP puffy stickers a couple of weeks ago, along with a box of "Empire Strikes Back" Dixie cups - how delightfully ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

Jay: from one (or two, if you count my missus) "Star Trek Fundamentalist" to another, Keep on Trekkin' Brother!

CMX

Pierre said...

I purchased a DVD some time ago which featured a sales reel designed to drum up interest in a series based on the WOTW concept. The reel features George Pal and Matt Jeffries, who was to be the designer for the series. More information can be found here:
http://www.war-ofthe-worlds.co.uk/war_of_the_worlds_tv_pal.htm

The most interesting thing about the demo reel is a few minutes of test footage from the proposed show which utilized the Magicam process. The footage was quite remarkable as the camera panned with actors as they walked through a miniature set. The actors seemed very well integrated into the miniature set without the tell-tale fringing of the chromakey process.

I think the process, if used on the Phase II series would have been quite successful. If possible, I'll try and digitize the Magicam footage and post it to my personal blog.

tom said...

Regarding an earlier comment from this post, I've been watching the Starlost episodes here recently,

http://www.youtube.com/user/StarlostArchive#p/c/6D74FDD6A2BB6861

as well as reading info here and there. It's clear that Magicam was never used for Starlost. Probably it was too expensive. Also, looking at a patent illustration of the magicam process, Magicam was intended to allow camera moves to be made on chromakey stage. Those moves would be transmitted and scaled to a miniature stage nearby (although, I would bet they thought about just recording the moves, too) to create the illusion of being in a real environment. Today, we do the same thing, except the stage uses reference markers instead to be tracked at a later time.

Starlost clearly does not have any connection between camera and background.