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SCIENCE FICTION THEATRE A HISTORY OF THE TELEVISION PROGRAM, 1955-57 Paperback – 30 Aug 2011


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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 13 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book About an Outstanding Television Program 6 Dec. 2011
By Terry Sunday - Published on Amazon.com
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Considering that "Science Fiction Theatre" ran for only two seasons in the mid-1950s with a total of 78 half-hour episodes, the old television series had a tremendous influence on me as a child. I eagerly watched each episode, totally enthralled by host Truman Bradley's urbane, informative introductions and demonstrations, and mesmerized by the scientific themes of the stories. To my young, impressionable mind, they seemed more like science "fact" than science "fiction." The series kindled my lifelong passion for science and technology, and was a major factor that led me to a career in aerospace engineering. Unfortunately, the studio has never released the series on DVD. I have a complete set recorded from the Sci-Fi Channel, but the quality is not great. The shows are still as good as I remember, though (okay, some of them are a little hokey by modern standards, but come on, it was almost 60 years ago!). Anyway, if the studio ever releases the series, I'll be first in line to buy.

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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, detailed and enjoyable 7 Jun. 2015
By Book lover - Published on Amazon.com
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I grew up with "Science Fiction Theater" as a kid in Brooklyn in the 1950's. so this book was right in my wheelhouse. The first thing I did when I received the book was to browse through the Episode Guide, which is complete and detailed, looking for one particular episode I vaguely remembered about a man who developed a machine to put people to sleep instantly, so he could steal things from them. I found it, read the section, and instantly re-connected with my boyhood. What a thrill!

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.

Well done!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bull's Eye with Five Stars 19 Feb. 2013
By R. G. Bright - Published on Amazon.com
I agree with Terry Sunday. This book is a wealth of information with reprints of the original short stories the episodes were adapted from, salary fees, fake scientific props reused in other movies such as the anti-gravity ball bearing in EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, original plot outlines, location shooting, dates of production... all here. It is nice to see that every episode features a complete cast list, including actors not billed in the closing credits and the salary for each and every actor! The photos, while not digitally remastered from shooting negatives, are superb. Makeup being applied to actors, lights above the cameras, some photos reveal how the special effects were made.

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.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TERRIFFIC ADDITION TO ANY TV HISTORY LIBRARY 30 Aug. 2013
By Adam Love - Published on Amazon.com
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This very comprehensive volume contains show names, original air dates, plot summaries, casts and production staff for all the episodes from both seasons. It devotes 125 of its 530 pages to background on the production of the show and its creators. There is also a useful Bibliography and exhaustive Index.

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.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reference 29 Mar. 2013
By William Kersten - Published on Amazon.com
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This is an extremely detailed treatment and is filled with fascinating production information on the classic TV series. Science Fiction Theater is the epitome of the optimistic 1950s outlook on futuristic science. Each episode began with a stirring fanfare followed by "Your Host," the dignified (and very well tailored) Truman Bradley, demonstrating a real scientific fact in his lab that formed the basis of the ensuing story. Even though it was on a relatively low budget, it was unusually well produced, with many excellent name actors featured, and the stories deliberately focused on serious science topics as the basis for imagination instead of the usual giant bugs and monsters of the day. This fine book should be in the library of any enthusiast of Sci-Fi TV and movies!
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