Saturday, June 18, 2011

In The World Of Overproduced Trek, Star Trek: The Magazine Is Just One More Unnecessary Collectible.

The Good: Decent pictures, Generally well-researched
The Bad: Utterly unnecessary, Less value to its target market, Expensive cover price.
The Basics: Despite looking wonderful, Star Trek: The Magazine is too in-depth for casual fans and too far behind the Internet for the die-hard fans!

For those who do not follow my many reviews, I am a self-proclaimed Alpha Geek and I have been a huge fan of the Star Trek franchise since I was in sixth grade (so, for over twenty years now!). The thing is, as I grew up, two things happened: first, I developed taste and a sense of discrimination and second, I began to live on a budget. The first change forced me to realize that just because something said Star Trek did not mean it had inherent quality. No, there were crummy Star Trek novels, lousy toys and even entire series' of Star Trek that did not possess the quality of the earlier series. In fact, I wrestled with abandoning Star Trek: Voyager, but by the time Enterprise premiered, I could recognize that it was so far below the standards of prior Star Trek incarnations that I felt no impetus to watch it.

The second change in my life, becoming independent and living on a budget, worked well with the first change. After all, growing up, if it said Star Trek on it, I'd buy it. I got into collecting during the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek and at that point, there were essentially books, trading cards, videos and toys. When Star Trek: Voyager premiered, though, the market was so flooded that it was easy to go bankrupt attempting to collect everything that was on the market. I mention this at the outset of my review of Star Trek: The Magazine because it is a great example of how Paramount Pictures Studios, in its effort to merchandise the Star Trek franchise to death truly shot itself in the foot.

Star Trek: The Magazine is the ideal magazine for fans who will cut it up and hang pictures from it on their walls. Period. Anyone else will find the magazine problematic in one form or another. Those who are only casual fans of the Star Trek franchise will find the articles too in-depth and in-universe to comfortably enjoy and process, those who are die-hard fans will already know everything printed within these pages. Star Trek: The Magazine is yet another casualty of the Internet and given how far behind the times print magazines are compared to the Internet, anything printed in Star Trek: The Magazine is already available to those who would want the information long before the magazine hits newsstands.

Star Trek: The Magazine is a glossy, hundred page magazine that is published every two months and bears a hefty cover price of $7.95. It is presented as a collectible magazine that is packed with full-color pictures and includes as much information as can be squeezed in about the Star Trek franchise, the current gossip on the lives of those who participated in the television series', and technical data on aspects of the show both in and out of the Trek universe.

The average issue of Star Trek: The Magazine has a cover story, usually focusing on one of the characters/actors from one of the Star Trek series. This feature is usually based around an interview with the celebrity wherein the interviewer asks softball questions that allows the celebrity to both gush about their experiences on whichever Star Trek series they appeared on as well as point fans toward their current works. So, for example, an interview with Patrick Stewart might well include him describing his pride over "Chain Of Command, Part II" and how he used the episode to highlight his work against torture and for human rights while working on Star Trek: The Next Generation and offer him the opportunity to encourage fans to come out to see the new X-Men movie or tune in to Extras for his episode. The cover interview is almost always one of the top two or three celebrities from a series (i.e. Captains, first officers or Worf - a special category for the sheer volume of Trek Michael Dorn has appeared in). The stars sell the magazine.

Still, occasionally, there is a theme issue, like aliens or Klingons where Star Trek: The Magazine devotes its attentions to one race within the Star Trek universe. So, for example, before Star Trek: Nemesis, the magazine highlighted the Romulans to prep viewers for the new feature. Herein lies the problem with Star Trek: The Magazine; anyone who is truly interested in the Romulans to that extent is going to have the episodes to watch and will likely remember all of the details that the magazine relays. Similarly, those who do not have the encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek and Romulans are those who will likely not want a primer on the race in order to enjoy something like Star Trek: Nemesis (i.e. they would watch it as they would any other action-adventure film).

In addition to a primary feature on one actor or character, Star Trek: The Magazine usually had a secondary feature on one of the series' where they do a retrospective. So, for example, they might provide a look back at a complete season of Star Trek noting the different episodes and possibly include information on how well they were received or aspects of their production. Again, largely this is information that those who would be inclined to buy the magazine will likely have at their fingertips, in their heads or in their video library. As well, those inclined to kill some time on such things will find the exact same material on "". Yes, the encyclopedic information on Star Trek online through the official website pretty much kills the market for such things as the Star Trek: The Magazine.

Usually, there is a two to five page article on a secondary character or actor who appeared somewhere in the franchise, complete with full-color pictures. As well, Star Trek: The Magazine tends to include several pages updating fans on birthdays for the celebrities from the franchise and projects the actors are currently involved in. By the time Star Trek: The Magazine hits the stands, all of this information is already widely available on the Internet.

Finally, Star Trek: The Magazine usually highlights one aspect of production - direction, lighting design, scoring - from one of the Star Trek series or one in-universe aspect - warp theory, obscure starship designs, etc. - and presents a feature on that. This information tends to be interesting, but so esoteric (especially the in-universe articles) that casual fans or those flipping through the magazine will be totally turned off by it. Again, while this might be information that appeals to die-hard fans, it is almost impossible to justify such technical data given the amount of filler surrounding it.

On the plus side, Star Trek: The Magazine is very light on advertisements. Less than twenty percent of the magazine is ads, though the trading card companies, toy makers, convention promoters and publishers all use the magazine to preview their wares to the target audience. This is actually pretty cool, but again those looking for Star Trek toys (for example) will no doubt have bookmarks on their browsers to the appropriate sites.

As well, Star Trek: The Magazine is packed with beautiful, glossy full-color photographs. The problem here is that many of them are simple promotional shots that are widely available elsewhere. Star Trek: The Magazine is hardly a wealth of great, heretofore unfound rare shots from the sets or obscure screen shots.

As a result, Star Trek: The Magazine is a bit of a tough sell, even to die-hard fans. It is especially tough to sell to the Trekkers who are devoted to this style of information. As far as collectibles go, there are better ones and truth be told, when looking at retrospective, contemplative items and ones that offer new "source" material, fans tend to spend more on the latter. Star Trek: The Magazine is certainly one of the former and as such, it is safe for those who are past hanging pictures of Seven Of Nine on their walls to leave it behind.

For other magazines reviewed by me, please check out my take on:
Clipper Regional Magazine
Car And Driver


For other magazine reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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