Friday, October 26, 2012

How Failures Become Collectibles:A Place Among The Stars, A Star Trek: Voyager Postcard Book Flops!

The Good: Good pictures, Valuable if one has it in mint condition
The Bad: Utterly unworth the price, Ridiculous concept, Obvious image choices
The Basics: A Place Among The Starsa postcard book of twenty-two images of the women of Star Trek: Voyager illustrates theStar Trek franchises turn toward trading on sex appeal as opposed to substance.

As a Star Trek fan and a Star Trek collectibles dealer, a lot of things cross my desk that I have found reason to review over the years. Some of them are great, some of them are terrible, but few are so worthless and disturbing as A Place Among The Stars, which is a Star Trek: Voyager book of postcards. I write "disturbing" because this collection of twenty-two post cards of the Women of Star Trek: Voyager originally sold for less than ten dollars . . . or rather, failed to sell at its cover price. The value plummeted down into the $3 - $4 range as bookstores put them on their clearance racks and now . . . years later, they are highly sought after collectible books. Go figure!

For those who do not follow my reviews, I am part of the die-hard Star Trek fans who were offended when the franchise sold out to the Baywatch audience. This happened with the fourth season of Star Trek: Voyager (reviewed here!) when the character of Kes - one of the most intriguing conceptual characters of both the series and the entire franchise - was replaced with Seven Of Nine. Seven Of Nine was a former Borg drone who wandered the halls of the starship Voyager wearing a skin tight catsuit with her breasts thrust forth like two obvious highbeams. Okay, lousy analogy; Seven carried herself in such a way that her breasts looked like big breasts and the whole point was to try to revive the sinking ratings of the listing program by attracting people who were happy to sit and watch forty-three minutes of Seven Of Nine's breasts.

This becomes problematic - or obvious - in a book like A Place Among The Stars when one looks at how it is broken down. This is a simple book of 5" X 7" postcards connected on the left spine to the binding and perforated for removal of the postcards. The front of each postcard has an image of one of the four primary women of Star Trek: Voyager and the back has a place to write a note to a friend and mail. The back of each card also tells the actress and character name of the person on the front of the postcard.

The thing is, the postcards are broken down in a way that clearly illustrates what Star Trek: Voyager had become: obvious pandering for sex appeal. As a result, Seven Of Nine is the focus of nine of the images, while the Captain of the U.S.S. Voyager, Kathyrn Janeway is honored with only seven postcards. Yes, after Seven's breasts arrived, it was what the show - and especially the merchandising surrounding Star Trek: Voyager - became about. The other postcards feature Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres (on three postcards), Kes (on two postcards) and images of Janeway, Seven and Torres together on the final one.

Conceptually, a Star Trek: Voyager postcard book is not a bad idea. Indeed, a Star Trek: Voyager postcard book focusing on the women of Star Trek: Voyager is not a bad idea either. After all, women in science fiction offer a great mix of role models for young women and sex symbols for men. It just makes good business sense to trade on the women of science fiction and Star Trek: Voyager has some truly great ones to trade on.

The problem comes from the title and the mix of images. A Place Among The Stars clearly puts the emphasis on the idea that women have a place in the future, at least in science fiction visions of the future. It is reprehensible, then, that the thrust of the postcards would not be on the decisive leadership of the Captain of Voyager, but rather on the local sex kitten. Seven Of Nine was not brought in to raise ratings by providing a Borg character and revitalize the science fiction ideas of Star Trek, she was brought in to parade around in a catsuit and if that is a woman's place among the stars, it's time to defund NASA (or StarFleet) altogether.

A Place Among The Stars would have been worthwhile if it has traded on Janeway's position as an authority, a leader of women and men and illustrated that with postcards of her making the tough decisions and leading. The concept would have worked if the half-Klingon Lieutenant Torres had been featured in an image of her performing an engineering miracle that saved the starship. Even an image of Kes being kind and/or nurturing the crew would have been a step in the right direction.

Instead, most of the images in this book of postcards feature publicity stills of Seven Of Nine. Seven Of Nine is posed, usually from the bustline up, in the various late-season publicity shots that traded on her assets (sometimes, um, literally) to try to sell her to the audience and the postcard buying public. This leads us to the other fundamental problem with this postcard book. As a dealer of Star Trek memorabilia, I can say with some authority that none of these images are unique to this book. Every one of the postcards in A Place Among The Stars is featured on a standalone postcard that is legally licensed and easily available at most Star Trek conventions. In fact, most of the shots are the same bland publicity stills released by Paramount Pictures Studios to promote each season of the show and are licensed on 8x10s, magazine covers, trading cards, t-shirts and postcards. The freestanding postcards are usually available for $1.00/ea or 6/$5.00 at conventions and makes the practical value of this book quite low.

In "Books" we tend to look for thorough reviews with insight, but lacking any writing or commentary on the postcards in this book, one is left with twenty-two publicity stills, most of which are easily available elsewhere and most of which illustrate the unfortunate concept that in science fiction, a woman's place among the stars is much the same as it is beside a politician these days: to stand there and look good.

This postcard book culls images from:
Star Trek: Voyager - Season 1
Star Trek: Voyager - Season 2
Star Trek: Voyager - Season 3
Star Trek: Voyager - Season 4
Star Trek: Voyager - Season 5


For other book reviews, be sure to check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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