01/04/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: McFarland. 421 page illustrated indexed hardback. Price: £56.50 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-7864-2483-2.
check out website: www.mcfarlandpub.com
With two columns to a page and roughly ten pages to each of the fifty-eight Science Fiction TV series, this book is a monster of a read. The sub-heading on the cover says it all really: 'Histories, Casts And Credits For 58 Shows'. This is not a book you want for episode guides but as a complete guide for a show as a whole then its ideal.
Considering that many of these series didn't last more than a season, it's unlikely you would find complete books on them anyway. The major series that lasted for several seasons get a similar treatment giving a good grounding of the material that was out during 1990-2004.
The foreword explains from the start that it's focusing only on SF TV series, so no super-heroes, comedy, fantasy, horror or children's shows. These are pointed out by name and there are a lot of them. I hope publisher McFarland consider volumes dealing with them separately at some point.
The format gives the cast and credits for each series, an examination of the overall storyline, together with comments from various sources, including magazines. Two very useful things is pointing out DVD availability which I've already taken some advantage of locating for future viewing.
For the major cast members there is a brief resume of past and, more importantly, later credits in case you wondered whatever happened to them. If I had to be critical at that point, I wish writers Frank Garcia and Mark Phillips had done a similar treatment for the creators/show-runners. It would have been interesting to see if those that only did one or two season series still managed to keep their careers going.
Neither Garcia or Phillips produce any comments themselves about what they felt about any of the series. Whether this was to remain impartial or non-critical or purely to keep the page count down is uncertain. Then again, with so many critical appraisals included maybe they thought that covered all the various opinions.
I should also point out that these are American productions and even Gerry Anderson's 'Space Precinct' looks like it was only included because US funding, so there's nary a peep at our own 'Doctor Who' which would have been around at the time.
Although everything is in alphabetical order, I would have thought it would have made sense to have the individual 'Star Trek' and 'Stargate' series placed in production order if only to out everything in context. Oddly, 'The X-Files' spin-off, 'The Lone Gunmen', only gets mentioned in its source series than a separate entry like 'Babylon 5' and 'Crusade' did. Maybe '59 shows' didn't sound right on the cover.
These niggles aside, this is a very informative book and if you ever had problems naming all the SF TV series that appeared in this fourteen year period, you can confound everyone with your knowledge here. One thing I was amazed at was at how many of them began with the letter 'S', a sure sign clue to either popularity or not enough use of the alphabet.
If you're a fan of SF TV shows, then you're bound to find most of your favourites from that time period here without me having to mention them. There is an earlier book covering 1959-1989 that I'll see if I can wrangle to give comment on but as it spawned this quality book then it must share equally good standards. There are far too few books of this sort around and if you have any interest in the subject, then this is an excellent reference book to own.
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