Sunday, September 27, 2020

A Tale of Two TV Show Episode Guides

It would be reasonable to ask what's the use of a print episode guide to a TV show in an age where the internet makes the basic information readily available on the likes of Wikipedia or IMDB? If you're dead set against it, I won't be able to convince you, but I would say a good episode guide doesn't just relate facts easily amenable to one internet search. At a minimum, a print episode guide should collate information that would likely require multiple searches to get, but a truly good episode guide presents a depth of research not generally achievable on the internet. It moves beyond the basic facts to give insight into episodes for someone already familiar with the basic facts.

The three volumes of These Are the Voyages: TOS by Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn are the most comprehensive guide to Star Trek the Original Series available. Cushman's commentary on the episodes as tv drama is limited (though as much as many other guides available), but he presents a wealthy of information on the development of each episode from story idea to final aired version, with quotes from interview with creative staff and memos from producers and network execs. 

If it has a flaw, it is that it is not concise. Every season is its on volume, and every volume is sizable. But then, the audience for this sort of detail would just go Wikipedia if they wanted surface detail.

Scott Palmer's The Wild Wild West: The Series is sizable and pricey, but is lacking in the sort of details that make These Are the Voyages worthwhile. The appeal of Palmer's book is that, unlike with Star Trek, there are few books on The Wild Wild West available. In fact, there's only one other: The Wild Wild West, The Series by Susan E. Kesler. 

Where Kesler's book resembles Alan Asherman's The Star Trek Compendium in being a similar sort of thing to These Are The Voyages, but much less detailed and confined to one volume, Palmer's book only gives a detailed plot summary of every episode, a list of the primary actors involved (with pictures), and a number of stills from the episode. In the number of photos it exceeds the other works mentioned, but that's the only way. There is not insight into the creation of the episodes. It doesn't even list the screenwriters. 

So is it valueless in this age of the internet? Well, it does contain information you'd need to go to Wikipedia, IMDB, and Aveleyman to get, so it simplifies your searches, but it's got a high price tag for that. My recommendation would be Kesler's book, if you can find one.

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