Books : reviews

Alan Morton.
The Complete Directory to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Television Series.
Other Worlds Books. 1997

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 22 August 1997

A magnificent, if flawed, work of scholarship.

This must be the definitive guide to TV-SF! Seemingly every UK, US, Canadian and Australian SF series from 1946 to 1996, is listed alphabetically by series name, from Ace of Wands and Adam Adamant Lives to X-Files and Xena Warrior Princess. No matter how short or obscure, each entry has a couple of paragraphs describing the series concept and production history, and then every episode is summarised in a couple of lines. Original airdates, episode lengths, and actor, director and writer credits are given throughout. This information has been gleaned from recordings of the episodes, and from old TV listing guides, and is very thorough. Most of the descriptions are factual, with little critical addition, except for the several cases along the lines of "possibly the worst SF series ever".

It doesn't include everything:

There are several criteria that a series has had to meet in order to be included. These are: 1) The series has to have been made in English. ... 2) The series must feature real people as actors. ... [So, no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and no Thunderbirds] 3) ... Either the episodes are complete stories or the producers had no set limit to the number of episodes they hoped to make. Serials such as Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy [and The Magnificent Mellops], mini-series such as Martian Chronicles, and one off made for TV Movies are not included. ... 4) Educational series whose primary purpose is instructional are not included. 5) A programme has to consistently be a science fiction, fantasy or horror programme. One or two episodes with a genre theme do not count. ...

But even with these restrictions, the result runs to nearly 1000 crammed pages.

There are flaws. Firstly, and most importantly for a reference work, there is no index. Apparently, a 400 page index does exist, but the total work would then have been too long to publish. It may be released as a companion volume. Secondly, the quality of the printing is execrable. A fixed-width sans serif daisy-wheel-like typeface is used throughout, right-justified by adding double spaces between some words, and with the comma looking almost identical to the full stop. This makes it awkward to read. Thirdly, there are quite a few typos.

But even with these flaws, this is an indispensable addition to one's SF reference shelf. I am looking forward to a CD-ROM version (provided it's done well!)