You like science fiction. But do you like science fiction when it’s on TV?
Science Fiction series on television have had a real hit-and-miss history. There are some that are classics and that stand the test of time. In this era of DVD collections, Netflix and other streaming services or Youtube, older Science Fiction television series are popping up all over the place.
But how do you make sense of it all?
That’s where Frank Garcia and Mark Phillips come in. They have written Science Fiction Television Series, a comprehensive reference book in two volumes that covers Science Fiction television series from its earliest beginnings up to 2004.
From Alien Nation to World of Giants, Volume one of this reference work provides comprehensive episode guides and cast and production credits for sixty-two Science Fiction series that were aired from 1959 through 1989. For each episode, a brief synopsis is given, along with the writer and director of the show and the guest cast. Using extensive research and interviews with writers, directors, actors, stuntmen and many of the show’s creators, an essay about each of the shows is also provided, covering such issues as its genesis and its network and syndication histories.
Volume Two is a detailed examination of fifty-eight Science Fiction television series produced between 1990 and 2004, from the popular The X-Files to the many worlds of Star Trek (The Next Generation onward), as well as Andromeda, Babylon 5, Firefly, Quantum Leap, Stargate Atlantis and SG-I, among others.
And these volumes are massive! The first book clocks in at a whopping 691 pages in hardcover (the trade soft cover was split into two volumes). The second book covers fifty-nine shows and is 421 pages. And the information in the book is equally impressive.
Each series gets its own chapter and each chapter includes essential production information; a history of the series; critical commentary; and amusing, often provocative interviews with more than one hundred and fifty of the show’s creators, actors, writers and directors. The book also offers updates on each series’ regular cast members, along with several photographs and a bibliography. This is all information gathered specifically for this volume. You won’t find much of the information in these chapters anywhere else, even in the age of Google. The work that has gone into these books is staggering.
The books were written by Mark Phillips, who has written for Cinefantastique, Filmfax, Outre and Britain’s TV Zone and lives in Victoria, British Columbia; and Frank Garcia, a Science Fiction media journalist whose work has appeared in Cinefantastique, Filmfax, Starlog, Video Watchdog and other publications. Frank lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
What made these two Canadian writers decide to do this?
For Mark Phillips, it had to do with truly wanting to document these shows that have played such an important part in pop culture. “In seeing how listless and inaccurate many of the studio press kits were for 1960s/1970s shows, I wanted to dig deeper, correct the errors and find the real stories,” Mark says. “As well as to speak with so many TV heroes and heroines of my childhood. I was driven by a true interest in the making of these shows, so it was never work– it was really a series of awe-inspiring revelations for me.”
For Frank Garcia it was a desire to cover all these “old forgotten SFTV shows” that often did not get documented. “We knew there were a lot of untold stories and that they were not “collected”. Sure we had Starlog and CFQ and all those other magazines but the information was all scattered. We also knew that it would be a massive effort. We just didn’t know (reality bites!) how long or how much of an effort it would take!”
And they were right about untold stories. “That’s one of the major things we accomplished with the books,” Frank explains. “We were able to spotlight the cast and crew’s experiences in making those SFTV shows and they were very generous in giving us their stories. I still think I’m the only guy to go back and talk to the stuntman Fred Waugh, who did all the wall-crawling stunts for the Spiderman TV series. Same with Nick Hammond, who is rarely heard from about his work on the show. And I got to solicit Stan Lee’s comments about the show! With Mark being the expert on the Irwin Allen series, HE was able to snag a lot of different people from that era and older forgotten shows like Men into Space.”
The two volumes are exhaustive and compiling them took a lot of the writers’ time, more than they realized it would when they started out. “It ended up being a five-year journey,” Frank says. “We ended up spending nine years of our life doing the work. Book One took about five years to produce, Book Two took about four years (+ Internet and book experience, and no episode guides!) to produce.”
There is so much more to this topic and M. D. Jackson’s article in the second issue of Dark Worlds Quarterly goes much further in depth. You can read the entire article and more in the latest issue of DARK WORLDS QUARTERLY. Download issue # 2 for FREE right here, or click on the download button below!