This week, as part of my continuing celebration of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, I want to remember another tradition in print from the series history: Signet’s “Best of Trek” compilations.
For those who may not recall it, Trek was a long-running Star Trek fan magazine edited by Walter Irwin and G.B. Love. Each magazine issue featured interviews with cast or crew, episode retrospectives, speculative articles about the Trek Universe, and even critical analyses of stories.
The Best of Trek compilations from Signer were actually truth in advertising. They included — between covers — some of the finest pieces of writing featured in the magazine’s run.
And the cover art, as you can see from the illustrations accompanying this article, were glorious. They weren’t exactly Star Trek (likely to avoid copyright issues) but more like a coherent variation on Star Trek, featuring amazing-looking, highly-detailed space craft, planets an alien landscapes.
I still own many of my Best of Trek compilations, and pull them out, occasionally, for a re-read. “The Klingons: Their History and Empire” (Best of Trek 1), is one piece that I really enjoy, though its speculation doesn’t track (or trek?) with modern continuity about this warrior race.
Also, I remember very fondly reading Best of Trek 3, which was the first compilation book following the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979. I remember reading “Parallels in Star Trek: The Motion Picture vs. The Series” and fan reviews of the divisive film. Some fans loved it and some hated it.
I guess that hasn’t changed, even today.
By the time of Best of Trek #15 in 1990, The Next Generation — the first and still most popular of the spin-offs — was being debated in essays such as “Same Sexism, Different Generation.”
Finally, these books were valuable in their day because they reviewed the Gold Key Comics (which were not-liked very much by fans…) and The Animated Series of 1973 (apparently more well-liked…). There was no other source available at that point in time where I could read such in-depth reviews of these Trek spin-offs. So the articles were fascinating to read, circa 1980.
I suppose these Best of Trek books also provided me an early example of the fact that one could love science-fiction television with great passion and also write intelligently, deeply, and analytically about it.
I learned that “fans” weren’t just about star-worship, in other words. These fans/writer saw Star Trek as something much bigger than a mere commercial product.