Ship's Log, Supplemental: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine

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Here's where I must make my “Fake Geek Girl” confession to all of you, dear readers. Though let's be honest, it's not like I ever pretended I was a real one.

All throughout, my coverage of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has rested on the unspoken assumption that I was a fan of said TV series, or at least a casual viewer, at the time of its airing. I was not. I hint at it a couple of times during the preceding chapters, but the more accurate truth of the matter is that I was actually a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine and the tie-in comic book series from Malibu. I did not watch the television show called Star Trek: Deep Space Nine during its original run (at least not regularly), although to be fair to me I *couldn't*: Due to the way syndicated television worked in the late 80s and early 90s, local affiliates of large national networks could buy programming packages to show whenever they had empty space in their broadcast schedules when they weren't airing network TV or local news. So this meant that a show made for syndication, like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, had no fixed airdate or station and could come on literally whenever and wherever. This was fine when there was only one show, but as soon as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came along things got dicey, and in some regional areas (like, say mine), rival networks would actually air the two shows in competition with each other during the same time slot. No matter what the new Star Trek series looked like, it was always going to be a hard sell to ask me to give up my weekly time with a cast of characters who had become like another family to me.

That's not to say I wasn't interested in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, of course. I would have loved to watch it more often than I did, I just didn't want to give up Star Trek: The Next Generation for it. So for the first season, I was limited to tantalizingly brief out-of-context snippets of random episodes, the odd trailer and assorted PR Stills in magazines. Even that was still enough to fire my imagination, however, and I pined for the day I'd finally get the chance to give the new show my undivided attention. By the second season, things had changed a bit: I still wasn't able to watch the show regularly, but what I did have access to this season that I didn't in the first was the Starlog-published Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine. Granted it launched in 1993 alongside “Emissary”, but, as with most things like this, you have to remember I live in the back and beyond of everything: Pop culture stuff takes a while to trickle down to me. I only started reading with the second season issues and, even then, like all the things I was interested in, my corner market only got the magazine in sporadically at the very best. And it was this magazine, more than almost anything else, that shaped my perspective on and understanding of what Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine was more than just a quarterly fan rag. Like Starlog's previously published Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine, it was more like a serialized reference book and each issue was positively crammed with a frankly ridiculous amount of comprehensive feature articles and exclusive behind-the-scenes information. You had lengthy (and surprisingly candid) interviews with just about everyone on the cast and crew you could care to mention, and this was a regular thing-Not just a series of one-off soundbytes to drum up interest in the show. You got to see the creative process of the show pan out in real time through the eyes and words of the people who were actually on set day after day. You had articles on the special effects teams that went into detail about not just the technical aspects of getting the shot, but also the artistic visions that led the VFX guys to composite things the way they did. But the biggest draw for me were the “Station Logs”, in-depth synopses of each and every episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine written as they aired, dutifully collected and printed for your edification every time a new quarter rolled around.

Now when I say “synopses”, I don't mean “a couple of sentences that briefly summarise the A plot and maybe the B plot with a changeable level of clarity” as was typically the norm in reference books of the day. I happen to even own a couple of episode guides that do precisely that: An unauthorized one for Star Trek: The Next Generation that also included some invaluable off-the-record interviews with the cast and crew that also doubled as my introduction to Dirty Pair (and thus, in some ways, was the germ of Vaka Rangi itself), and an official Starlog-published one for all of Star Trek up to the late-90s. But the synopses in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine were wholly different: These were lavish three to five page affairs that were actually more like mini novelizations, following the episode beat-for-beat and at least touching on every single scene. Reading Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine's take on an episode didn't just give you a vague sense of what the story was like, it made you feel like you experienced a special and unique version of it, not just capturing the feeling and energy of a story, but bringing it to life and immersing you in its world. This was more than just methadone or a functional substitute for the “real thing”: In many ways, it was actually better than what was being shown on television.

The way it accomplished this was twofold. Firstly, the Station Logs were beautifully laid out: Each one was accompanied by a collection of breathtakingly stunning photographs taken during the actual week of filming for their respective episode. These weren't screenshots from a TV broadcast by any stretch of the imagination, more like crystal clear 35mm film photographs taken at angles the motion picture cameras almost, but never quite managed to get. Suffice to say, this gave the story far, far more of a sense of immersion, scale and presence than you could ever hope to gain on a 1980s/1990s broadcast TV budget and timetable. So much so it led to the bizarre phenomenon of me being at once intimately familiar with these episodes and yet weirdly dissonant and removed from them at the same time when the Season 2 DVD box set came out: I knew these stories beat-for-beat, but actually watching the episodes themselves felt like watching a different (inferior) version of the story, partly because, like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was never properly composited (and unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation, this still has not been corrected as of this writing), but mostly because the camera work on the actual produced episode was far less evocative and striking than the photography in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine.

The other thing that really sold these Station Logs to the point I'm inclined to call them the definitive versions of these episodes is the writing of the synopses themselves. These synopses are utterly dripping in vivid imagery and beautifully crafted sentences that bring the world of Deep Space 9 to life like nothing else, instantly transporting you to the Edge of the Final Frontier. This language resonated with me so strongly some of it has stayed with me for over twenty years and more than likely shaped my writing career in more ways than I can count. A glance at the credits of my favourite issue, issue number seven (which also doubles as the “All Station Log Issue!” that covers the majority of the second season), lists a “John Sayers” as the “contributing writer”, and the author of all that issue's synopses. So to Mr. Sayers if you're reading this, I cannot possibly thank you enough for your work. You influenced me more than you can ever know. Here are just a few of my favourite examples of John Sayers' prose, all from issue seven.

From the opening of “Rules of Aquisition”:


“It's after hours in the Promenade. Quark's Bar is the site of a heated game of Tongo, a cross between poker, mah-jongg and craps. The play is fast and furious. No one but a Ferengi could possibly master or even fathom the play-with the exception of Jadzia Dax, who has had the advantage of several lifetimes to appreciate the nuance of Ferengi leisure activities.”
 
“Dax is winning, much to the annoyance of the Ferengi at the table. Quark flirts with the lovely Dax, but his brother Rom and the others pine for a more typical Ferengi female...”
 
From the end of that same story:

“That night, as the bar closes, Quark asks Lieutenant Dax if she wants to sit in on another hand of Tongo. 'Haven't you lost enough for one day?' the Trill asks, knowingly. It seems Pel stopped by to say goodbye to Dax before she left. 'I'm going to miss her-so are you.' 'You really think I'd let anyone come between us?' Quark tells her with mock lasciviousness. 'Nice try, Quark,' Dax counters. 'But I know you better than that.' And as she leaves, Quark's grin slowly fades as her words strike home and the loneliness and regret set in.”
 
It was these words, more than just about anything else, that shaped my impressions of who Jadzia Dax was as a character. It was these words that helped convince me that here was a person I could look up to, respect, admire and strive to be like. There's another episode written up in this issue where Dax plays a similar role (perhaps it's no coincidence that a beguiling, almost mysterious dimly-lit closeup of her provides the cover image) is “Second Sight”, and Sayers completely sells a playful, yet tense relationship between her and Commander Sisko. This is a story about romance, and Ben isn't always comfortable confiding in Jadzia about that sort of thing (even though he did with Curzon) because she's a woman, and Dax knows it. But she still wants to be there to help him. From the scene where Sisko and Dax first meet Nidell: “'Now,' Dax whispers to Sisko, 'We have something to talk about.'”. I imagine Jadzia standing behind Ben, gently whispering into his ear in a tone that is half mock flirtatious, half playful ribbing.
 
Coming though just as vividly as Jadzia is Ben himself. From John Sayers' take on “Second Sight”:

“Shadows of the past haunt Commander Sisko. It has been four years since his wife, Jennifer, died at Wolf 359. And he almost forgot.”
 
“Commander Benjamin Sisko sits up late in his quarters, unable to sleep. It has been four years to the day since the Borg massacre at Wolf 359, where he lost his wife, Jennifer. 'I'm not sure what bothers me more,' he notes for his log. 'The date itself, or the fact it almost passed unnoticed'.”
 
“Back at DS9, Nidell makes a full recovery, and finds Commander Sisko on the Promenade's upper level. She will return to New Halana for good. 'I wish that I could remember Fenna,' the widow tells Sisko with some sympathy. 'What she did, how she felt-but I can't. I'm sorry.' 'That's all right,' Sisko says. 'I can remember her enough for the both of us.' Nidell asks one last question: 'What was she like?' Benjamin Sisko smiles faintly and looks into her eyes. 'Fenna? she was just like you.'”
 
The other characters are given the same treatment, from Odo's working through his issues of conscience and identity in “Necessary Evil” and “The Alternate” to the touching final line of “Whispers”, “O'Brien to the end.”, which somehow manages to be the definitive overview of Chief O'Brien's character in spite of not actually being about our Chief O'Brien and only being four words long. There's a level of meaning and atmosphere to Sayers' prose that I can quite frankly only dream to aspire towards.
 
Aside from illustrating the moving words of John Sayers and his colleagues, the magazine's evocative photography served another purpose. Like most magazines of this type from back in the day, each issue of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine featured a plethora of gatefold posters. Like the pictures from the Station Logs, the images used for these posters weren't taken from the 4:3 recordings of the show itself, but were rather professionally done pinup-style prints taken on set during filming, but done separately from it. And either Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's cinematography was *really* subpar, or the VHS composite and nth generation transfer to home video hurt this show *way* more than even its sister, because these poster prints look a million times better than anything we ever saw on TV (or at least that I did on DVD). The lighting is wonderfully subdued such that it brings out ever detail and facet of the shadowplay across the sets of Deep Space 9 and their unforgettable nocturnal mood.
 
I used to adorn the walls of my room with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine posters the way some people did with Nintendo Power posters or the like. My favourite was, naturally, a poster of Jadzia Dax at the controls of the Bajoran fighter pilot in “The Siege”, the backside of which I'm remembering as a grimly determined-looking Doctor Bashir from an episode I can't place. I think I also had a poster print of that first season promotional image (the one with the crew all sitting on the steps outside the Prefect's Office in Ops) which would imply I actually did have at least one first season issue that I have since lost. I seem to remember there being one of Chief O'Brien and/or Major Kira (possibly from “The Homecoming”) that was also in my possession for a time. The one annoying thing about these posters is the fact they were double-sided, so you had to choose which character you were going to get to look at. Even worse, sometimes posters would be printed on the back of feature articles. My synopsis of “Rivals” is missing the entire story save for the final act because most of it was printed on the other side of a poster I had taken out of the magazine to hang up! I mean it's no great loss in that case because I'd far rather have a pretty poster than “Rivals” to be sure, but it still upsets me the choice had to exist in the first place.
 
Another fun thing about the magazine was, oddly enough, the advertisements. No matter what they were selling, they all had a really artistic and imaginative design to them that I always remember sticking out in a way other ads from the era didn't. That said, it seemed that Paramount *really* wanted to sell Star Trek to a certain kind of upper middle-class science fiction fan (regardless of where its actual audience was), and that really showed through in the ads that ran in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine. There was one ad I remember that was peddling a set of hardbound golden age Hard SF novels by people like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, complete with fancy embossed covers. Though most of the ads were for, predictably, Star Trek stuff, although very little of it was any more affordable, like a solid pewter model of Deep Space 9, limited edition collectible fine china or gold-plated lithographic headshots of cast members.
 
Here's where I first saw the announcement for the “Complete Series!” of Star Trek: The Next Generation *on VHS*. You had to *subscribe* to the thing and pay for it in monthly installments that still added up to a small fortune. I remember thinking at the time how preposterous that offer sounded, and wondering who on Earth had that kind of money or shelf space to spare. Although that said there were other, slightly more attainable, goods on offer, such as audiobook versions of recent tie-in novels. Even Playmates got a nod, with a print flyer for the first wave of their Star Trek: Deep Space Nine action figure line (which was a bit strange considering wave 2 was out by then, but this just ties into how trapped into one historical moment Star Trek was beginning to feel...More on that later). Every issue that I remember ended with a checklist for all the Star Trek soundtrack albums: I always loved looking at that page and marveling at all the beautiful cover art...And wishing I could own the “Emissary” soundtrack and Theme From Star Trek: Deep Space Nine single.
 
(Conspicuous by its absence in hindsight was the to my understanding rather highly successful and acclaimed comic book series from DC and Malibu. Paramount clearly wanted to court that audience, but equally they apparently didn't want their respectable upper middle class adult clientèle realising that gloriously trashy comic books existed of the shows they were trying to sell to the hickory pipe and lounge coat middlebrow intelligentsia. Which is doubly strange of you think about it, because all three magazines regularly showed up in the same news stands together.)
 
My collection of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine is currently very incomplete. It will probably never be completed either, considering there was a tragic fire at the warehouse holding Starlog's back stock, wiping out almost the entire print run of things like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine. You can occasionally see issues crop up on eBay still, though. I can't remember how many issues of it I owned at the time, but today only two remain, covering roughly three quarters of the second season. I stopped getting the magazine after that, not by choice, but because it stopped showing up in the magazine section of my local market (if you're asking why I never subscribed, well, consider that magazine subscriptions cost money. Plus half the fun was going to your market every Wednesday and hoping the next issue of your favourite magazine was in stock yet). I never saw it in stock again until 1996, by which point I had long since been living with the assumption that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had been canceled after its second season, taking the magazine with it. The younger you are, the longer any given moment feels. And two years can be an entire universe of eternity.

Comments

Steve 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I subscribed to this sometime during Season Six. I didn't get my full subscription's worth because the mag was cancelled! I used to treasure the giant wedding poster of Jadzia Dax.

You may be interested in this feature by the magazine's editor: http://www.startrek.com/article/the-9-deepest-deep-space-nine-magazine-covers

And also this one: http://www.startrek.com/article/starlogging-with-david-mcdonnell-how-to-synopsize-the-next-generation

He has a lot of blogs for the official Star Trek site about the making of various Starlog Star Trek things, which provide good insight into the tie-in publishing world of the 1980s and 1990s, if you like that kind of thing (I do).

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Josh Marsfelder 9 months, 3 weeks ago

These were both terrific reads, thanks! I definitely remember those covers vividly, and I have some more thoughts on the magazine's cancellation.

But that is, as they say, for Another Time.

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David Faggiani 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Here was my (UK) equivalent. I see here it came free with the wider-ranging STAR TREK MONTHLY, which makes sense, I collected that religiously (I remember my dad bringing me new copies after school) and it contained prequels of what would have been Season 3/Season 4 DS9 and early Voyager episodes.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Bge473bFDAM/VVwjwx38JZI/AAAAAAAAYJY/NNrqA8urKqY/s1600/ST-DS9_POSTER-MAG_0_AUG96_TITAN_JOHN-FREEMAN.jpg

I also had a Dax poster on my wall, along with a Kira one.

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Josh Bernhard 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Thanks for this, Josh. Your personal experience of Trek is unique and fascinating. I never read these Starlog DS9 mags, but you've absolutely piqued my curiosity. Are they online anywhere?

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John S. Hall 9 months, 2 weeks ago

As a freelancer who used to write for STARLOG and its sister publications (including this one), it's great to see that these magazines are still fondly remembered and appreciated! :-)

(I did the occasional celebrity interview for this -- folks like Andrew J. Robinson and Camille Saviola, among others...)

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Daru 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I didn't buy any Star Trek magazines, but through my childhood love of Doctor Who Magazine, I completely know what it's like to have a show come to life through a regular magazine. DWM recently published their 500th issue and it was such a great nostalgia kick to read back over retrospectives of the magazine's history. These magazines aren't just about the history of a show are they, but they are also about the history of television too?

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Jacob 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Great entry, Josh (as always). I also enjoyed the various Star Trek and sci-fi mags of the time, although I don't remember coming across DS9 magazine too often.

Your experiences with this magazine reminds me of how I experienced Doctor Who around this same time. I was only privy to the episodes shown by my local PBS station - or what I could find on VHS at Suncoast Video - and that was a limited selection. Nevertheless, I had a whole swarm of the Doctor's adventures put together in my head, comprised of a mish-mash of photos and blurbs from Doctor Who magazine and episode descriptions in whatever episode guides I could find at Walden Books.

Come to think of it, my pro wrestling fandom functioned in a similar way at the time, as well -- as small regional promotions and past matches/storylines/wrestlers were brought to life in my imagination via magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated.

The Star Trek: TNG Collectable Card Game (which was HUGE among my circle of fellow-fans in '94-'96-ish) also helped us experience/relive characters and episodes that our local affiliated neglected to rerun on a regular basis.

I don't know -- it's probably just nostalgia -- but I can't help feel like something is lost now with every episode of everything viewable on demand. I mean, it's absolutely awesome that my kids can watch any episode from any Trek series with a few clicks of our remote control .... but they won't ever have that weird/thrilling experience of building/re-building a show in their imagination in this way.

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Christian 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I rediscovered Star Trek DS9 lately, enjoyed watching the probably best Trek-Series again and from the somewhat middle of the 4th season for the first time.
Which also lead me to a bunch of DS9 magazines (14 in my subbasement) and furthermore 8 that I ordered from a german Antiquariat.
I love these magazines and pull my hat to the makers of Starlog. Sadly I heared of the fire of 2007, so I am even more happy I didn't ban the magzines to the recycle-bin. 🙂

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Christian 4 months, 2 weeks ago

By the way, me myself is from Austria.

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