SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE A HISTORY OF THE TELEVISION PROGRAM, 1955-57 Paperback – 30 Aug 2011
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In the meantime, fans of the series can read, enjoy and savor "Science Fiction Theatre: A History of the Television Program," by Martin Grams, Jr. This thick 530-page tome documents the entire series in great detail. The first three chapters (about 40 pages) present brief biographies of Frederick Ziv, Truman Bradley and Ivan Tors. Chapter 4 (about 80 pages), entitled "The History of the Series," looks at the overall genesis and composition of the series, and shows how its themes relate to those of other contemporaneous science fiction productions, such as the movies "Gog," "Riders to the Sky" and "The Magnetic Monster." This is a great chapter, with lots of fascinating insider information and little-known anecdotes. But the meat of the book is in the next two sections, the complete Episode Guides for Season 1 and 2. Each season gets about 175 pages, with each episode in the season filling about five pages or so. Many are illustrated with black-and-white photos. As Mr. Grams explains, the studio gave him access to more than 2,000 production stills, but did NOT allow him to scan them directly into his computer. He apologizes that the quality of the illustrations is not all that it should be, but in my opinion the photos are not bad at all, and they add immensely to the value of the book.
The topics that Mr. Grams covers for each episode start out with the minutiae of production, such as episode and production number, title, filming dates, script credits and a complete list of all the people involved in the episode. You'll even learn what each cast member earned for the acting job. A brief plot summary comes next: it's just a paragraph or two that recaps the action taking place in the episode. Next comes "Notes," a list of interesting items that relate tiny details of the production, the cast members, the use of stock footage and other tidbits that bring the whole episode to life. Some of the episode descriptions--not all--end with Ivan Tors' "treatment" of the story, which goes into more detail than the plot summary. Many of them also quote episode reviews from "Variety" (a publication whose bizarre use of language absolutely astounds me, but apparently resonates with those in the entertainment industry). All in all, there aren't many questions you could ask about any episode that you won't find answered here.
My only gripe is a very minor one. There is no Table of Contents listing for the episodes. Rather, they're listed by title at the beginning of the comprehensive index, and each typically has a half-dozen or so page references, so you have to look for a multi-page entry to figure out where to find the episode in the book. It's slightly inconvenient, but no big problem. "Science Fiction Theatre: A History of the Television Program" is still a great book, and I recommend it very highly if you are at all interested in the series.
I recommend this work to anyone with an interest in the series, as it is the only authoritative work available. It is comprehensive (over 500 pages), well laid-out, and full of complementary photographs, as well as contemporary reviews of many of the episodes and occasional commentary by the writers of the episodes. It devotes a lot of space to the development and release of the series, with a lengthy index. I also have the "Twilight Zone Companion", as I was a fan of that show as well, and this book is superior in that the author does not editorialize his opinion of the episodes.
I watched this series when it aired on the SyFy Channel and I enjoyed every broadcast. There are chapters written by other authors and Patrick Lucanio's essay about the history of the series is much better and more in-depth than the version listed in the McFarland book cited in someone's review.
I hesitated buying this book because some person posted a negative review. After discovering the negative was authored by someone who chose to be anonymous and that was their only contribution to Amazon.com, I took a chance. I am glad I bought this book. A perfect balance of historical perspective and an episode guide that will never be surpassed. Not sure what qualifies for a book to be definitive but this book is, in my opinion, the definitive book on the subject.
Overall an impressive effort and very welcome to fans of this pioneering science fiction TV series.
The only thing else I would liked to have seen the author add is a simple, chronological listing of titles - either as a supplement or as a "Contents" section detail. It would have been helpful for a reader who wanted to more quickly access a particular episode's synopsis. It would have also served as a simple playlist for the fan-produced DVD sets that are currently available.
This book is well worth the list price. Highly recommended.