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'Trek' and TV
January 21, 1999
By Franklin Harris
One of the perks of this job is that sometimes people send you free books. Some of them are even worth reading. And even the ones that aren't are good column fodder on slow days -- days like today.
"The Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium: The Complete Guide to the Movies, Comic Books, Novels and More" (Little, Brown and Company, $18) by Ted Edwards is typical of the numerous, unofficial, media tie-in books that occupy shelf space at the corner bookstore.
Written without the endorsement of Lucasfilm, Ltd., "The Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium" lacks the flash of the official "Star Wars" books. Edwards can't give us all the photos, conceptual art and other finishing touches that sanctioned authors can. So, what he gives us instead is everything that Lucasfilm had probably rather us not have.
The "Compendium" reprints former Sci-Fi Universe magazine editor Mark A. Altman's scathing look at the Special Editions, in which Altman
-- quite rightly -- criticizes some of George Lucas' more bone-headed changes to his classic trilogy: Greedo's shooting Han at point-blank range (and missing!), the pointless Jabba the Hutt footage added to "Star Wars," the even-more-pointless Boba Fett footage added to "Star Wars" and "Jedi," etc.
An appendix also reprint's Dan Vebber and Dana Gould's Sci-Fi Universe article outlining the 50 reasons why "Return of the Jedi" isn't as good as the first two "Star Wars" films. (Hint: most of the reasons involve Ewoks.)
Lest you think Edwards is out to trash "Star Wars," he isn't. Edwards takes a balanced approach that is, ultimately, far more satisfying than the uncritical one found in most official "Star Wars" books.
Another fun aspect of the "Compendium" is that it covers the "Star Wars" comics published by Marvel Comics during the '70s and '80s.
Lucasfilm has all but disowned the Marvel series, in favor of the alternate continuity established by Dark Horse Comics' books.
But, while they are sometimes silly, the Marvel books are also something the Dark Horse books rarely are: fun. It's nice to see Edwards give the Marvel series its due.
There are lots of television reference books available, but "The Sci-Fi Channel Encyclopedia of TV Science Fiction" (Warner Books, 1998) by Roger Fulton and John Betancourt beats them all when it comes to SF.
The "Encyclopedia" features detailed entries for even the most obscure and short-lived SF television shows. (Remember "Quark?" How about "Jason of Star Command?") For the more famous programs, it even features complete episode guides. The "Doctor Who" section alone runs for 37 pages covering the show's 26 seasons.
Sometimes, I wonder how I wrote this column before the "Encyclopedia" came along.
"Treks Not Taken: A Parody" (HarperCollins, 1998) by Steven R. Boyett is a -- pardon the pun -- novel idea. It's a collection of short stories based on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," but written in the styles of novelists like Stephen King, Anne Rice and Joseph Heller.
While Boyett mostly is taking some good-natured shots at "Star Trek," he also manages to skewer the sometimes-pretentious literary stylings of the authors he imitates.
In "Trek of Darkness," which is not by Joseph Conrad, half the Enterprise crew commits suicide rather than listen to the Captain's long-winded tales. And "Fandom Shrugged," written in the style of Ayn Rand, follows the adventures of the starship Free Enterprise.
Not to be missed is "Crusher in the Rye," in which Wesley Crusher finally tells us what he really thinks about the rest of the Enterprise crew:
Ingrates. Phonys. Every last one of them.