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coverStar Maidens Annual 1978

Published by Stafford Pemberton Publishing Co, Autumn 1977. Original UK price £1.30

Gawd bless Stafford Pemberton for trying. World Distributors ruled the roost as far as the UK annual market went. In simpler, pre-DVD times a hardback of badly written and illustrated tat based on your favourite TV series as a Christmas gift was manna from heaven. Stafford Pemberton didn't do terribly much in this arena - one suspects that they got the scraps left at the table after World had snapped up all the best rights. They did produce a Tomorrow People annual in 1978, just in time for the series to finish, but very little else. I don't know who in their right mind would have taken the rights to a Star Maidens Annual in 1977, with the series having ended in many regions long before the Summer and little chance of a sequel. Still, let's be thankful SP did make an effort and boost the small number of tie-in items produced for the series.

It goes without saying that it's a pretty dreadful piece of work. OK, not as bad the Tomorrow People one. As modern collectors what we want is articles and photos from the series and as little story-based nonsense as possible - clearly this is an unfair way to judge a twenty-five year old annual! But we'll judge it harshly all the same.

Following a cover largely devoted to bad modelwork, it opens well enough with garishly duotoned photos in lurid hues but by page 6 the rot has already set in - bad paintings and mentions of 'Mendusa' abound from hereon in. At least most of the series continuity is correct, with perhaps the only major innacuracy depicting the surface security robot as a computer cabinet with spinning tapes in it! The annual doesn't build on the series' backstory - its major advance is the text story The End of Mendusaset after events of the series' final episode, but in all it is a join the dots effort in matching a threadbare storyline to the supplied photo stock that illustrates it. This, for all its terrible spelling and typing errors, is sheer art compared with the strip story Energy Miracle. The 'art' is among the worst ever seen in any annual (only the 1979 Dalek Annual, the Tomorrow People one and some of the Charlie's Angels ones can compete) and there's some contemporary comedy racism featuring some Arab energy thieves.

The highlight of the annual when viewed today are the Star Maidens Stars pages, one page each of biog and photographs for each of the lead characters, taken from the series' publicity kits. Elsewhere there's predictable filler material on tenuous guff such as the mythological story of the Medusa and tales of the planets. One slightly more inspired feature shows you how to make a Medusan city (look, it doesn't appear in the series, okay???!!!) from squeezy bottles and egg cartons - hmmm, these must obviously be from the original series blueprints.

The annual enjoyed only a limited run (much less than World produced for Doctor Who, Space:1999 or Star Trek at the time) and is very rare today - prices are generally around the £10 mark but copies have been seen at £15-20!

A digital copy of the entire annual can be seen at http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Capsule/5873/index.html