Books, Daily Lists, Miscellaneous, Movies, Nerdery

The 19 Coolest Things in Starlog #008: Doctor Who Books, Space Tickets, and Lucas Is Your New God



The eighth issue of Starlog hit the stands on July 14, 1977, the fifth of the eight-times-a-year issues. Star Wars doesn’t dominate quite as much as the previous issue, but it’s presence is still felt, and the both the Star Trek movie and the real-life Enterprise continue to sputter.

Wanna see all the stuff I skipped? The full run of Starlog is available over at the Internet Archive, and here are the previous installments of this series.

1. The Right to Bare Arms on Magazine Covers Should Be Infringed.
At least in this case. A picture without a big doughy arm would have been nice, but what are you donna do? Also, “tabletop” is used in a different way than it tends to be now, though those kinds of games will make an appearance toward the end of the issue.

2. Hey, Can I Buy Trek? (On a Newsstand)


Yikes! Forget I asked.

3. Gene Rodden-who Now?


Not too long ago, Gene Roddenberry was the lone unassailable genius the Starlog editors worshipped. No longer.

4. Scams, Vans, and other Quibbles.


I kinda feel like they’re burying the lede: WORKING PHASERS. It’s just as well that Star Fleet Research, Inc. didn’t deliver!


“You didn’t even mention my name” is right up there with “You had one job.”


I’ll let y’all hash it out for yourselves in the comments.


The Incredible Texas Hulk is not happy that Starlog failed to mention two of his favorite procreation-themed sci-fi movies, and even busts out a quote that I’m sure made him feel very clever.

Probably after taking a deep breath, Starlog replied thusly.



5. You’ll Really Like the Minivan, We Promise!


The marketing team at 20th Century-Fox saddled with Damnation Alley Survival Run Damnation Alley (which was eventually released in October of that year, and not under the title Survival Run) decides that the hardware is the way to build anticipation for the movie. That’s all people liked about Fox’s Star Wars, right?

6. William Shatner, Man of Leisure (Suits).


This record did in fact come out as promised, and unlike Damnation Alley Survival Run Damnation Alley, the title was just William Shatner Live – sort of. The version released to stores was indeed called William Shatner Live, though since it was 1977, K-TEL’s sub-label Imperial House also released a mail-order version called Captain of the Starship – William Shatner LIVE! Which is, let’s face it, far more exciting.
I’ve embedded this commercial before, of course, but it’s always worth repeating. I don’t know why his admiring reference to Werner von Braun makes me laugh, but it does.

8. Tiny Insect, Big Words.


I’m pretty sure this is a first in Starlog: using a footnote to define a word so the readers don’t have to go scrambling for a dictionary. Can’t be too careful.


Y’know what movies lack these days? Showmanship, that’s what. Razzle-dazzle. And, when thematically appropriate, illustrations of ginormous bucktoothed flies wearing Plastic Man glasses. And note that it was certified X, which in Britain in 1958 meant simply that you had to be 16 or older to get in.

9. Harlan Ellison, Misanthropic Humanist.


Harlan Ellison discussing working on a script for the Logan’s Run television show. This kind of thing is why I respect him: not his legendary crankiness, but that at the heart of it is a real love for humanity and for justice – and he realized that that necessarily included feminism, which was by no means a popular stance for sci-fi writers to take in 1977.


Yeah, but they’d probably just bring him back to life with Khan’s blood. (Actually, no, that’s a terrible idea. I hope they never do that.)


The full story of Harlan’s pitch for the Star Trek movie is included, of all places, as an extended footnote in Stephen King’s great non-fiction book Danse Macabre. Admittedly, in that version of the story it’s not Aztecs but Mayans, as they were in this interview with Tom Snyder from 1976. (The relevant part begins at about 6:00.) Just goes to show that even where Harlan Ellison is involved, reality is a relative thing.

10. Speaking of Rejected Star Trek Proposals….


From Susan Sackett’s column. The script that Bryant and Scott wrote was Planet of the Titans . Exactly what Philip Kaufman’s new story idea was is unclear; in an interview with Ain’t It Cool News this past January, he talked about what sounds mostly like the Titans story without describing what his new one was. And, that the head of the studio declared, “There’s no future in science fiction.”

Not in the movies, anyway; the first rumblings of a possible TV show, and fourth network, are heard.


Oh, how I’d love to see that questionnaire sent to the fan clubs.

11. Tickets to Spaaaaaace!


Well, sort of. It’s actually a story about how NASA is looking for astronauts and “payload specialists,” not that they’re selling passenger tickets to go into space, like Pan Am did started doing in 1968. (Here’s what the tickets looked like.)


And here’s what Nichelle Nichols in a spacesuit looked like. Ms. Nichols has continued to work with NASA and space exploration since then, because she’s the best.


There hadn’t been an actual shuttle launch yet, so they had to use an illustration…


…an illustration which they made a point of disclaiming, lest they get a bunch of angry letters about it. (And you know they would have.) For my money, though, the most glaring inaccuracy in the picture is the lack of a frog.

NASA Wallops Flight Facility/Chris Perry

It’s also worth noting that the shuttle Enterprise is only name-checked once in the article.

12. Want More Star Wars? Here, Have More Star Wars.


Well, they weren’t wrong about the movies that follow being compared to Star Wars, though the fact that so many of them were direct rip-offs had a lot to do with it. And this isn’t so much “coverage” as as “stuff to make you compelled to buy this issue” play. In any event, it just hurts to read this (completely valid) praise for all the people who worked so hard on the optical effects, doesn’t it? Knowing that so much of their work would be replaced a couple decades later? Feh.


See? Coverage. Pictures with words. That right there, that’s coverage.


There is perhaps no greater example of the schizoid nature of sci-fi in 1977 than the above images, on page 41 of this issue of Starlog, and what the reader saw when they turned the page…

13. The National Malaise, Now With Monkeys.


…and they saw this, the beginning of an article on Saturday Morning TV. Is it any wonder Carter was defeated a few years later? Also, I’m callin’ it: the titular Ark II is much cooler than the vehicle from Damnation Alley Survival Run Damnation Alley.


If they’d just made the typeface a little smaller, the words “Once a week the youth of America join in a massive orgy” would have been on a single line, but no. Darn you, Starlog typesetter!


Oh, the Kroffts. They’re all kinds of hip now, but in the late 1970s when I was very young, I hated Krofft shows. Especially The Buggalos. They just felt so condescending, and if there was anything I hated as a five year-old, was being treated like a kid. (I had the same irrational hatred of children’s menus. And children’s menus that expected me to color them in could go straight to hell.) My favorite shows from an early age were M.A.S.H. and Star Trek, and I did enjoy cartoons, but live-action children’s shows grated at me.

Also, R.I.P. Lou Scheimer.

14. Before You’ve Heard of the Show, Read the Novels!


Someone was taking quite a chance by purchasing this half-page ad; according to the Tardis Data Core (which is as reliable a source as any in this case), a few isolated PBS stations may have started showing the John Pertwee episodes in the early 1970s, but it didn’t start getting national exposure across the entire network until 1978. As for The Doctor Who Monster Book, the Data Core says it goes up through the episode that introduced the Zygons, which introduced the aliens which played a prominent role in The Day of the Doctor. Yay for meaningless coincidence!

15. Tiny Dinosaur, Big Hands.


From the cover story about stop-motion animation. I find this picture very evocative, and I wish they’d used this picture for the picture for the cover, but what do I know about magazine layouts?

The rest of the article is pretty good, and makes a strong case for Ray Harryhausen’s status as a tapetop god, but what’s really exciting is what’s coming next week.


Oh, yeah, baby. Magicam.

16. Pretty Soon, Tom Hanks Will Go Insane.


Suddenly, role-playing games start appearing. (The first ad for an RPG appeared in Rolling Stone a few months earlier.)

Cosmic Encounter makes a point of how simple and quick it is to play (and I don’t know if you can be a biracial alien, but if so, I’d totally be a Laser-Zombie), but TSR’s sci-fi game makes no such claim.


What claims to be the official Metamorphosis Alpha homepage also claims that that it’s the first sci-fi role-playing game, and I don’t know nearly enough to about role-playing games to say otherwise. And it looks complicated enough to appeal to “Dungeons & Dragons Enthusiasts.”

17. Get Your Scary Masks Here!


Officially licensed masks, with the increasingly outdated logo at the top, from Don Post Studios. The movie had been out for less than two months at this point, and the deadline for submitting ads had to be at least a week before, possibly two. That’s quick work.

18. Everyone Was Busy That Summer.


Starlog hopped on that train pretty quick, no fools they. And I’m assuming they’re legitimate / licensed, unless that was why they sucked up so hard to Lucas elsewhere in this issue.

19. And Speaking of Sucking Up….


KISS returns to the back cover! They had been missed.

Coming up in Starlog #009: Magicam! Also, William Shatner bids a premature adieu to Star Trek.

Previously by Sherilyn Connelly:

The 5 Coolest Things About the Navajo Translation of Star Warss

The Nineteen Coolest Illustrations from Star Trek Fanzines

The 9 Coolest Sci-Fi Read-Along Records from the 70s and 80s

15 Awesomely Nerdy Behind-the-Scenes Documentaries You Can Watch for Free Right Now

The Eight Funniest Recurring Themes in the Original Star Wars Trading Cards

The Six Coolest Things In Starlog #001: The Voyage in Retro-Nerdery Begins

Ten Amazingly Strange Celebrity Hotlines of the 1980s

Sponsor Content