Okay, so at least this time it’s been less than a month since the previous installment of this “irregularly recurring” blog feature. Not too bad, when considering all the other things on my various plates. I originally thought “monthly” might be a good schedule for this sort of thing, but if I’m feeling froggy and I’m unexpectedly inundated with free time*, who knows?
(* = Yeah, that’s not really a thing, is it?)
For those joining the program already in progress, “Tuesday Trekkin'” is pretty much just an excuse for me to wax nostalgic about some facet of old-school Star Trek fandom, be it a fondly remembered bit of funky merchandise, “milestones” or convention memories or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day. For this latest entry, I’m digging into my archives and pulling out some truly 1970s pop culture goodness: the Star Trek “Giant Poster Books.”
During the mid 1970s, with the original Star Trek series in near-daily reruns and the animated series having run its course on Saturday mornings, there wasn’t much for fans “old” and new to scratch their Trekkie Itch. There was the occasional novel from Bantam Books, who published original tales based on the series as well as James Blish’s adaptations of the TV episodes. Over at Ballantine Books, you had future bestselling author and tie-in legend Alan Dean Foster penning adaptations of the animated series. Ballantine published official Star Trek blueprints as well as a Star Fleet Technical Manual. There were also the comics from Gold Key. And once you went through all of that and maybe built a model of the Starship Enterprise? What we needed was a magazine. Or a poster. Or…and stay with me, here…a magazine that became a poster.
Sure, today something like this might not be anything special, but to a blogger of your acquaintance who in September of 1976 was a wide-eyed nine-year-old lad? This was the shizzle, yo. What makes these even cooler is that editor Rob Barlow, tasked with overseeing this project for Paradise Press, turned to young, dapper, hardcore Star Trek fans Doug Drexler, Geoffrey Mandel, and Allan Asherman to help him.
Nine-year-old me had no way to know this at the time, I was many years away from becoming friends with Doug and Geoff through the wonder that is Star Trek fandom and social media. In September 1976, though? I was just begging my mother for the dollar I needed to buy the first issue, which I happened to spy on the rack at a local Woolworths (remember those?).
Look at all this Awesome Trekkie Goodness, Mom! And for only a buck an issue? Pleeeeeeeeeeeease? Of course Mom relented. In those days, my puppy-dog hazel eyes were impossible to resist, and what did I get for that dollar? Thanks to my mom’s indulgence (and pocketbook), I got to dig into juicy details about my favorite TV show. The mag’s pages were crammed to overflowing with articles, trivia quizzes, and pictures from the series. Once completely unfolded, it revealed a 34″x22″ poster with an image from the show (not the same picture as seen on the covers). In this case, it was the Enterprise ensnared within “The Tholian Web.” This would be the coolest thing I’d ever hang on my bedroom wall…at least until I figured out who Farrah Fawcett was.
Seventeen issues of the magazine were published between September 1976 and April 1978, the first twelve of which were overseen by Doug, Geoff, and Allan, each of whom dug into dug into their vast personal collections of photos and other treasures to fill out each issue, and the results were very much a labor of love. And if their names sound familiar, it’s because each of them later went on to make even greater contributions to Star Trek, either in the form of additional publications or — in the case of Doug and Geoff — actually working on the later television series and films. Geoff helped create what I still consider to be one of the landmark entries in the vast realm of Star Trek merchandising and publications, 1980’s Star Trek Maps.
Throughout the remainder of 1976 and 1977, I’d occasionally (but not always!) spot a new issue on a magazine rack somewhere. Sometimes I had the dollar, sometimes I’d be able to finagle one from Mom, and other times I’d miss out. As a consequence, I didn’t get all of the issues before the magazine ended. Only years later, thanks to conventions, eBay, and such was I able to acquire a complete, pristine set, which I’m absolutely certain will accompany my body into the casket once I die and my wife undertakes the thankless task of cleaning out my rather extensive library.
One of the issues I was able to get way back when turned out to be my absolute favorite of the entire run, #10 (sorry, “Voyage Ten”). It featured an overview of the then-current condition of the original U.S.S. Enterprise and Klingon cruiser filming models from the TV series, following their recent donation to the Smithsonian Institution in the early 1970s. It was because of the magazine that I even knew where the model had ended up, and it wouldn’t be until early 1986 while visiting Washington, D.C., during weekend liberty from the Marine base at Quantico that I got my own first look at it. I include here the pictures I took from where it used to hang in the National Air & Space Museum’s first-floor “Rocketry and Spaceflight” gallery. The east staircase has a mid-level landing which allowed for the first picture, while the second photo is just from me standing at the gallery’s entrance. Both photos and many others courtesy of my crappy little Kodak 110 camera. Those were the days, huh?
As I mentioned earlier, over the years I’ve become enamored with exploring behind-the-scenes aspects of the original series, especially the sets, props, and filming models. I’m constantly snapping up any new publications, photos, and other info I can get my hands on. After befriending Doug I was thrilled to learn that he also considers “Voyage Ten” his personal favorite issue of the magazine. Indeed, he even published digital versions of the pages from that issue on his website, along with some of the pictures of the Enterprise model which he took during a visit to the National Air and Space Museum for research while writing the article. Thankfully, he loves to share this sort of thing with fans, so you can check out all of this stuff by visiting Doug on Facebook: The Smithsonian Report, 1977.
Though the magazine ended after 17 issues, Paradise Press did return to the idea in 1979 for a special issue tying into the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture to theaters. I even bought a copy at the theater, along with a program book for the movie (remember those?) along with a button or pin or some such thing. This new issue echoed the original format, filled with photos and info from the film before unfolding into a large poster. In this case, the poster is the same promotional photo used on the cover.
Beginning in March 1991, a series of similarly-designed poster books tying into Star Trek: The Next Generation was published in the United Kingdom. The magazine ran for 93 issues before ending in May 1995. I’ve only seen a few of these at the odd convention and don’t own any of them, but if you’re a TNG fan then you’d probably dig these the way I love the old original series versions.
Though I no longer unfold posters from magazines and tape or tack them to my bedroom walls (my wife frowns on such things. Even the Farrah one!), whenever I see one of these at a convention or if I have reason to dig into that part of the closet where mine are stored, I’m reminded of what it was like to be a fan back then. These days, memorabilia and collectables are everywhere and within easy reach, but during what is sometimes called “the Great Trek Drought” of the 1970s, publications like these Poster Books and other largely fan-driven efforts “kept the dream alive,” so to speak. The devotion of people like Doug, Geoff, Allan, and so many other people prevented the show from fading into obscurity and paved the way for Star Trek‘s eventual return. Meanwhile, it’s 45 years after I bought that first issue and I’m sitting here writing about it…as just one facet of a writing career that owes so very much to that very same Star Trek.
Thanks for giving me the dollar, Mom.