Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Films of 2016: Star Trek Beyond

[Watch out for spoilers]

The world really needs a good Star Trek movie right about now.


As a reminder of who we are, who we have been, and who, I hope, we can be again.

And because -- let’s face it -- 2016 hasn’t been a good year for humanity.

Historic international alliances are in jeopardy because of the politics of fear and resentment, and major candidates for high office paint dystopian, apocalyptic pictures of our collective future based on the scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities.

Instead of actively engaging with the world, we see candidates putting forward major policies about retreat and retrenchment. They want to build walls to separate us from the rest of humanity, presumably to cower behind in terror.

It’s a worrisome time to be alive, as the unity of Western society frays, and long-held values are threatened by surging nativism, racism, and demagoguery. We are told to fear and ban those who don’t share our “beliefs,” while those who make such recommendations trade on slander, conspiracy theories, logical fallacies, and division.

Who needs enemies from outside our borders when we have them inside our borders, inciting violence and hatred?

By contrast, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek has proven itself a beacon of light and optimism for fifty years now.

It is a vision of a future in which people of different cultures (and co-cultures) -- and different beliefs -- work together in unity, to push the boundaries of knowledge and friendship ever further.

It is a vision in which racism is conquered, and all life forms are considered worthy of respect, of appreciation. 

It is a vision in which the unknown is only knowledge “temporarily hidden,” and fear and hatred are more dangerous forces than are alien beings, or other belief systems.

Consider: fifty years ago, the makers of Star Trek put a white Caucasian male, a green-blooded Vulcan, an Asian man, a Russian, a Southern gentleman, a Scot, and an African woman together in the control room of a starship and showed us that this crew represented humanity’s best not in spite of their differences, but because of their differences

Captain Kirk, a bold leader, needed the advice of his logical alien friend, and of his cantankerous Southern medico too.  But he could not take his starship anywhere without the Asian man and Russian man driving it, or the Scotsman keeping the whole thing from flying apart. And the African woman at the communications console was the ship’s voice to the universe at large, mellifluous and gentle.

The lesson of Star Trek was -- and remains -- that the future is ours for the taking if we can overcome the petty differences of the present.

We achieve that world by getting to know each other, and learning to respect and even love the differences we see in one other. When we don’t know others, we stereotype them, we discriminate against them.  When we get to know others, we detect common ground, and we see ourselves mirrored back.

A hideous rock monster, upon further knowledge, is a mother protecting her young. (“The Devil in the Dark.”) A weird energy cloud is not a zoo-keeper or captor, but a companion, and friend, upon learning the facts (“Metamorphosis.”)  A hideous monster in a giant spacecraft is actually a child-like being, prone to laughter, testing our resolve, and seeking friendship (“The Corbomite Maneuver.”)

Those are just three examples from Star Trek’s fifty year history in which hostility is reduced not by war or gunfire, but by attempts to understand and appreciate that which is different, or unknown, to us.

We need a good Star Trek movie right now -- especially now -- to remind us of all this.  We need Star Trek to remind us that we don’t have to wallow in petty resentment, and nay, that we musn’t do so, if we hope to achieve the egalitarian future Star Trek projects with such optimism and confidence.

Thankfully, Justin Lin’s Star Trek Beyond (2016) is not just a good Star Trek movie, it is a great one -- the best of the reboots so far -- and perhaps the best motion picture in the franchise since the original series cast said goodbye in 1991’s The Undiscovered Country.

The purists and nitpickers will complain -- because they always do -- but Star Trek Beyond is a joyous, optimistic expression of Gene Roddenberry’s core ethos and belief system. The future need not be about war or bloodshed. It can be about friendship, loyalty, progress, and the better angels of human nature.

Star Trek Beyond occurs in a dangerous period for the Enterprise -- and the Federation -- as an unknown menace strikes unexpectedly from out of the dark, threatening the crew’s survival. This force hates everything the Federation stands for, and wants to take Earth and its people back to a previous age, to a time of victory and glory, but not, importantly, of inclusion or equality. This force thrives on fear and disunity.

Facing this threat, the Enterprise crew -- separated and endangered -- never forgets its unity of purpose, or ideals, and fights back to preserve progress.

Replete with many delightful and pertinent references to Treks past (particularly, Enterprise [2001-2005]), Star Trek Beyond doesn’t recycle old villains or ask us to relive old narratives.

Instead, it provides a fresh tale that plays right into the cultural dialogue of the present epoch. It thus fulfills Star Trek’s highest aesthetic and moral purpose: it serves as a social commentary on who we are, right now. 

And -- again optimistically -- it shows us that we draw strength from unity, not fear. 

Perhaps the greatest quality about this movie is the manner in which it shows each crew member -- Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Scotty, and Chekov -- contributing to the well-being and safety of the crew, and indeed, the universe. Not since Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), have we had a Trek movie which highlights every member of the bridge crew so effectively, and with such delightful good humor.

Similarly, Star Trek Beyond’s commentary about “unity” in the face of backwards, divisive villains, not only reflects the specifics of the asymmetric warfare tactics of our current age, but finds literary and historic “symbols” to make its case about progress.

Sometimes, we get “lost,” the movie suggests, but we can find our way back…with a little help from our (pointy-eared) friends.

“Unity is not your strength. It is a weakness.”

Three years into the Enterprise’s five year mission, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is tired, and uncertain about the future, feeling that every day is becoming “episodic.”  As his birthday nears, he considers a vice admiral position in Starfleet, and turning the ship over to Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto).

Spock, upset to learn of the death of Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy), is also reconsidering his options for the future.

The ship docks briefly at a new starbase on the frontier, Yorktown. Once there, Kirk learns from Commodore Paris (Shohreh Aghdashloo) that the Enterprise is needed to help a crew in distress.

That distress call, however, proves to be a lure to get the Enterprise into an uncharted nebula. Once inside, the ship comes under attack from a swarm of bee-like spacecraft, which cripple her.  The enemy leader, Krall (Idris Elba), apparently seeks an artifact that Kirk has aboard the starship; an artifact that can be used as a weapon.

Krall captures most of the Enterprise crew, including Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Sulu (John Cho) and holds them captive on a nearby planet surface. Scotty, however, befriends an alien, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), who has made herself a home out of a crashed Starfleet vessel over a century old, the U.S.S. Franklin.

As Kirk and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) attempt to locate the position of the missing crew-members, McCoy (Karl Urban) must tend to Spock, who has been badly wounded.

As Starfleet’s finest gather -- with no ship and no crew -- the Federation’s future itself is at stake from a monster who wants to see the progress of the last century torn down. He wants a return to the past he knows, and will stop at nothing, even mass-murder, to achieve that goal.

“This is where the frontier pushes back.”

One of the greatest lines in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country comes from the Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner). He notes to Captain Kirk that “if there is to be a brave new world, our generation is going to have the hardest time living in it.”

His line suggest that progress is always jeopardized by an old guard; a generation, or establishment that wants to maintain the status quo. Even if that status quo is conflict and warfare.

In many ways, this is also the subject matter of Star Trek Beyond.

Krall is a man who was bred into war and conflict, and who fought the Romulans and the Xindi as a military officer. After those wars, he saw the emergence of a “brave new world” (like Gorkon’s) and couldn’t adjust to it.  Instead, he feared it.

The world he had served in was, specifically, human centric, but this new “Federation” is not.  Instead, in the new order, humans are just one square in a quilt of many colors and designs.  This fact is conveyed in beautiful visual terms through Beyond’s surfeit of aliens.  It has been years since so many alien beings took center stage in a Star Trek film, and their make-up and designs here are fantastic.

But the message is that Krall wants things to go back to being the way they were when he was comfortable and at the top of the food chain; he wants to return to a “human” world, or one where humans are, at least, first in line. 

We see a similar desire in 2016 America, as demographics change.  There is a longing by some to “take America back” to a time when it was less diverse, less colorful, and more monolithic.

It is no accident, I submit, that the new starbase in the film is named Yorktown. 

It is true, of course,  that Yorktown was the original name of the starship Enterprise in pre-production of the original series in the 1960s.
But historically-speaking, Yorktown was the site of the last battle of the American Revolutionary War. It was there, in 1781, that the forces of the Colonies defeated the British, and finally, truly became something greater than a group of states. After Yorktown, those states -- which had declared their independence from England in 1776 -- truly became the United States of America.  The war was, for all intents and purposes, over.

And yet those thirteen colonies, of course, still had big differences in terms of industry and agriculture, religious belief, and even geographical features. Beyond, by selecting the name Yorktown, celebrates the last battle for the birth of the United Sttates. And thus, we can speculate that this Yorktown is the place that expresses, in the final frontier, the ideals of the ethnically-diverse, still young United Federation of Planets.

We know it is vulnerable. Bones compares it, explicitly, to a glass snow-globe.

Glass snow-globes break. By inference, we understand that this is a fragile time in the history of the Federation.

Pitched against the young Federation is a villain named Krall, who is essentially a 23rd century equivalent to Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899).  This character’s includion makes Star Trek Beyond the second blockbuster movie this summer, after Legend of Tarzan (2016), to feature a character based on Kurtz, and his real-life, historical counterpart, Leon Rom.

But Krall is based more upon the literary figure, Kurtz, than he is the historical one, Rom. In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz is described as a demi-god; as being more than a man.  Given his abilities to regenerate (and absorb life), Krall could be given the same description.

In Conrad’s narrative, Kurtz is a man who goes to the Congo Free State and becomes a tyrant of sorts, using superior technology to control the natives. He is prone to exclamations of hate such as “Exterminate the Beasts!” 

Krall -- also like his literary corollary -- travels to uncharted territory, harnesses unusual technology, and plans a campaign of extermination. He even gets, upon his demise, a kind of “the horror, the horror” moment, at least in visual terms. 

But most importantly, Krall is a strong contrast to our Starfleet crew.

He is a twisted reflection of Kirk, at least on one level.  Kirk fears getting “lost” as captain of a starship, engaging in an enterprise with no end, and with no relativistic direction. Krall is the embodiment of such a lost captain; one who goes up river, or into the nebula, and strikes out to make his own kingdom or fiefdom. He cannot live in modernity.

And Krall, again in keeping with his literary antecedent, views alien races (read: the natives) not as equals or as beings to respect, but as people to conquer; to destroy. Like the Enterprise crew, he is “of” civilization, and yet falls victim to ethnocentrism; the belief that other cultures are not as worthy as his own. This is especially ironic considering how he willingly and repeatedly sacrifices his human appearance for longevity.

Star Trek Beyond thus diagrams a pitched battle between the forces of egalitarian progress -- represented by the U.S.S. Enterprise crew -- and the regressive forces of nativism/racism/imperialism. This “war” is waged at the aforementioned Yorktown, a place that -- if it survives -- will be remembered, perhaps, as a true test of the Federation’s unity (just as the 1781 battle of Yorktown cemented the unity of the Colonies).

I find it fascinating how Star Trek Beyond’s screenplay suggests a knowledge of history and literature, and more than that, finds a way to give those influences valid context inside the Star Trek world.

It’s no accident, either, that the film picks and chooses its original series references carefully.  

In my introduction, I noted the line about the unknown being something, simply, “temporarily hidden.” 

That is an exact quote from Pine’s Kirk in Star Trek Beyond.  It is also, importantly, a quote from Shatner’s Kirk in the original Trek episode, “The Corbomite Manuever.” 

That episode concerns the Enterprise crew grappling with a fear of the unknown, until the light of understanding dawns.  There is even a crewman in that installment, named Bailey, who becomes convulsed with fear…until steadied by Kirk.  Star Trek Beyond chooses wisely indeed, this particular allusion, because the film concerns what happens when people are fearful.  The “other” becomes someone not merely different…but terrifying…a force to be destroyed. 

This is precisely how Krall sees the universe.

There are other original series references in Beyond that will draw positive reactions from longtime fans.  These come from “Amok Time” (“in a pig’s eye!”), “Who Mourns for Adonais” (the giant green space hand quip), and “A Private Little War” (“Lucky his heart is where his liver should be, or he’d be dead right now.”) That last one, especially, plays into Beyond’s theme of being strong because of differences, not in spite of them. McCoy credits Spock’s survival to his Vulcan anatomy. Were he human, he would have been killed. 

He is strong, literally, because of his differences from us.

The theme of “differences making one strong” weave in and out of the Beyond narrative at different points. Jaylah is a thickly-accented alien of unique appearance, for example. She could be treated as an enemy, but Scotty treats her as a friend, and her knowledge and abilities become part of the key to defeating Krall.

Strictly-speaking, Kirk doesn’t “need” Jaylah alive to defeat Krall at Yorktown. By that point, she has done all she can do, really.  But Kirk treats her as a necessary member of the team, and risks his life to rescue her, in one of the film’s many dynamic action sequences.

Star Trek Beyond also references today’s post-War on Terror threats with Krall’s method of ambush. He launches an attack against the Enterprise with thousands of bee-like fighter crafts which carry quite a “sting.”

There is no typical ship-to-ship combat here (a nice way of keeping things fresh and inventive, certainly). Instead, the Enterprise is overwhelmed by a force of chaos the crew can hardly understand.  Welcome to the world of modern, unconventional warfare. Two forces, with significantly different strategy and tactics, collide.

Historically-speaking, I couldn’t help but think of this ambush scene as being reflective of the U.S.S. Cole incident.  That American Navy destroy was attacked by terrorist bombers in October of 2000.  

But the situation is analogous. A powerful force, representing a vast organization or nation-state, is suddenly and unexpectedly jeopardized by a small but zealous force of vicious fighters using the techniques of asymmetric warfare.

But Star Trek Beyond succeeds as Star Trek not only because of its social commentary and allusions to literature and history, but because writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung have absolutely captured the essence of the franchise’s diverse characters, and their relationships. 

It is a pleasure to report that Pine, Quinto, Urban and all the others have become their characters in a dynamic, delightful way.  In the original Star Trek, there was always this sense of esprit de corps -- of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants ingenuity in the face of danger and insurmountable odds. 

This film nails that spirit like no film in the franchise since the aforementioned The Undiscovered Country.  Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and the others live and breathe again, and showcase, for fans, the promise of Starfleet.

Even when the people around you are different in color, sex, or planet of origin, they are worthy of, loyalty, empathy, compassion, and, finally, love.

That pointy-eared hobgoblin who drives you crazy can be, simply, the best friend you’ll ever know.

Although I can’t believe this, there are those fans who complain of too much action in Star Trek Beyond.  There is indeed, plenty of it, but what there is really a lot of here is, simply, characterization…of the crew as individuals, and the crew as teammates. 

Again, not since Star Trek IV have we seen the crew on individual adventures, but working towards a task accomplishing “the needs of the many.”

And the message -- of all these unlike parts working together for the betterment of us all -- is transmitted, expertly, particularly in the film’s coda. 

We hear the traditional Star Trek narration. You know the words by heart: “Space, the final frontier…”

But for the first time, this fifty-year old narration is not spoken by merely the captain of a starship. 

Instead, the entire command crew delivers it sequentially -- handing-off the words from Kirk to Spock to Bones, to Scotty, and so on -- thus proving again, that the diverse characters of Star Trek are joined in a noble purpose, for the sake of us all. They are united.

We needed a good Star Trek movie. Especially in 2016.

I am thankful we got a great one in Star Trek Beyond. 

Movie Trailer: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Memory Bank: Strange Change Super-Detailed Assembly Kits (1974; MPC)

I still carry vivid memories of the mid-1970s, and times seeing MPC's Strange Change model kits on shelves in the Toys R Us at Paramus N.J.

There were three kits in all: "The Strange Changing Vampire," "The Strange Changing Mummy" and the one I wanted more than anything, "The Strange Changing Time Machine." 

Basically, each model kit had a kind of switch or flip function, so that two views of the model could be seen.  

The vampire could change forms (from vampire to skeleton) and so could the mummy (from whole to ripped bandages). 

But the time machine was greatest. It had had one view of an inventor operating the gadgetry or instrumentation of the time machine. And the other view showed him getting attacked by dinosaurs, post-time travel.

I guess these Fundimensions kit might be construed as a little gimmicky, but they are great desk-toppers, and vintage curiosities to look at and enjoy.  

I never owned any of these, but I know the kits were all released by Round 2 in 2011. My Dad is a great modeler, so I might ask him to build me (or Joel) a strange changing time machine one of these days...

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Priests and Reverends

A priest or reverend is an ordained minister, one vested with the authority of the church to administer sacraments and rites such as marriage.

Priests, reverends, and ministers have often been important characters in cult-TV history.

Consider V: The Final Battle (1984), in which Father Doyle (Thomas Hill), a resistance fighter, attempts to introduce Diana (Jane Badler) to the Christian Bible. Diana reads it, impressed, and then kills Father Doyle, because she doesn’t like the Bible’s message of peace and brotherhood. She fears the Bible, and those who would spread its word.

In Firefly (2002), the Reverend Shepherd Book (Ron Glass) is a crucial character, and one with a mysterious past. I’ve always suspected he worked for the Alliance in a violent, sadistic capacity, but then had a life reckoning, turned to God, and began to spread a message of peace and love to those he encountered.

On Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), Nathan Fillion plays an evil Preacher working for the First Evil, in the seventh and final season of the Joss Whedon series. He is the villain responsible for taking Xander’s (Nicholas Brendon’s) eye, and is a real fire-and-brimstone misogynist.

In The Walking Dead (2010 – ), Father Gabriel Stokes is introduced in Season 5, played by Seth Gilliam. At first he is merely cowardly, but later he is confirmed to be treacherous, and damn near useless.

On The Simpsons (1990 - ) Reverend Lovejoy is a regular character; he of the droning voice, and dull sermons.

Outside genre programming some of the most famous priests or reverends appear on Father Dowling Mysteries, and the Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) is the chaplain at the 4077 in M*A*S*H*  (1974 – 1981).

The Cult-TV Faces of: Priests and Reverends

Identified by Hugh: M*A*S*H

Identified by SGB: V: The Final Battle

Identified by Hugh: Father Dowling Mysteries.

Identified by Hugh: Twin Peaks

Identified by Hugh: The Simpsons

Identified by Hugh: Quantum Leap.

Not Identified: Tales from the Crypt ("As Ye Sow")

Identified by Hugh: The X-Files: "All Souls"

Identified by Hugh: Firefly.

Identified by Hugh: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Identified by Hugh: The Walking Dead

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Advert Artwork: The Flintstones (Nintendo Edition)

At Flashbak: Space Raiders (Diener; 1979)

This week at Flashbak, I also remembered Diener’s “Space Raiders!

“In the late 1970s, Diener Industries create two memorable lines of characters (and spaceships) that also doubled as…erasers. 

The first was a line called “Space Raiders,” which premiered in 1979 and was a kind of (delightful) Star Wars (1977) knock-off.  The Space Raiders could be found in stores, but also -- delightfully -- were sold in McDonalds Happy Meals. 

The Space Raiders were actually four unique robotic individuals. 

First there was Zama, who looked like an offspring of R2-D2 and the Lost in Space (1965-1968) robot. 

Then there was Dard, who seemed part-Darth Vader, part-Shogun Warrior. 

The other two robots were Horta (think Star Trek’s “The Devil in the Dark”) and Brak (think: This Island Earth [1951], replete with giant forehead).

The Space Raiders were also sold with spaceships earasers, including a flying saucer (the Lyra 4), a rocket ship (the Altair 2), and two other vessels, the Ceti 3, and the Kyrgo 5.

I vividly recall, in the summer of 1979 – while on a cross-country trip – absolutely begging my parents to take me and my sister to McDonalds’ so we could collect more of these Space Raiders, who came in a variety of colors (pink, brown, blue, green and yellow, if memory serves). 

I definitely recall having a Green Zama, a brown Dard, a pink Horta and a green Lyra 4.

In 1980, Diener went a (slightly) different way and marketed “Space Creatures.” These small erasers were marketed as “Space Aliens” in McDonalds’ Happy Meals, and looked quite familiar if one happened to be a fan of classic science fiction movies…”

Please continue reading at Flashbak.

At Flashbak: SuperJoe! (Hasbro; 1977-1978)

This week at Flashbak, I remembered the era of a "futuristic" G.I. Joe incarnation: 1977's SuperJoe.

Here's a snippet and the url: (http://flashbak.com/action-packs-that-really-work-remembering-the-superjoe-adventure-team-1977-361297/  )

"Growing up in the seventies, I absolutely loved the large scale G.I. Joe figures from Hasbro. I owned the Sea Wolf Submarine (with giant squid!), the Adventure Team HQ, a swamp hover-craft (with manta ray!), and many other toys from this era.

But here's the thing: I often used these nifty adventure sets to play more fantastic or science fictional games.

 I wasn't really into war or straight-up action.

As a kid, I wanted outer space, monsters, aliens, and so on. So the G.I. Joe toys -- many of which I gratefully received as hand-me-downs from my Uncle Glen -- were awesome, but not precisely my cup of tea.

The reinvention of the G.I.Joe line -- to a mini-figure paradigm --in the 1980s inspired another generation to collect Joe toys, but by then, I was starting to be embarrassed to be seen playing with toys.  Unlike now, of course.

So I lusted after those toys from afar.

But uniquely, Hasbro first attempted to reinvent the Joe line in 1977-1978. And it did so to be more in line with my stated preferences.

Hence the arrival of Super Joe Adventure Team.  I did not have many toys from this line, but I had the most important one: The Commander.

This "Joe" was a bearded fellow in black jumpsuit, wearing a "power vest."

At age 8 or 9, I thought that Joe looked incredible cool.  The vest was removable too, so I could hang it up in the Adventure HQ when The Commander wasn't in action.

Other denizens from this universe -- but which I never had -- included an ally named Luminos and another called The Shield.

The villains in of the Super Joe-verse were "Darkon," Half-Man, Half-Monster, and Gor,the King of the Terrons. Apparently a giant Terron beast was also released too..."

Please continue reading at Flashbak.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Space Stars (1981): Series Primer

A galaxy of heroes team together in an interstellar battle against evil. Blast off on adventures as big as the cosmos itself!”

Get ready for “60 laser blasting minutes of action…” in Space Stars (1981), a Hanna-Barbera animated Saturday morning series that lasted just one season, and eleven episodes.

Space Stars aired on NBC from September 1981 through November 1981, and had two clear influences.

The first is obviously Star Wars (1977). All the segments in the series are set in outer space or in alien worlds. And the series’ opening title imitates the opening crawl style of Star Wars, only with drawn character outlines as well as words.

The second inspiration is The All-New Super Friends Hour (1977-1978) on ABC, which featured popular DC Superheroes working together and separately, and interspersed short educational segments (about safety and magic tricks, for example) with adventures featuring a multitude characters from the Justice League at the Hall of Justice. It was an omnibus series, and so is this one.

Space Stars followed in this pattern with crossovers, but also short “black-out” segments include “Space Magic,” “Space Mystery,” and “Space Fact” and “Space Code.” 

The stars collected for Space Stars include 1960s hold-overs Space Ghost, and The Herculoids, was well as the Teen Force, and Astro and the Space Mutts.   Astro is apparently the family dog from the Jetsons, now working for the space police.

In the Space Ghost segments, Space Ghost -- a Batman corollary for the far future and outer space -- teams with his friends Jan, Jace and Blip the space monkey to defeat villains such as the tyrant Uglor, Toymaker, and star beasts galore. Settings include their home-base -- “The Ghost Planet” -- and also Space Ghost’s ship: the phantom cruiser. Space Ghost has power bands on his wrists that emit beams of all types, and the sidekicks can deploy “inviso-power.’

In the Herculoids installments, a human family consisting of Zandor, Tara and Doro live on distant Quasar (rather than Amzot, as previously…) in the wilderness.  They have befriended several amazing creatures including Zot (a dragon), Igoo (a rock simian), Tundro (a rhino/triceratops combination), and the blobs Gloop and Gleep. These beings defend the family against all brand of invaders both from Quasar (“The Snake Riders”) and beyond.  I’ve loved the Herculoids in all their incarnations.

The Teen Force segments involves a group of young heroes who dwell beyond Black Hole X and voyage to our universe. 

This group rides space sleds/rockets through space. The heroes are a psychic named Elektra, Moleculad -- who can alter and re-arrange his physical matter at will -- and Kid Comet.  They are assisted by diminutive sidekicks called Astromites, and regularly battle Uglor , tyrant of the planet Uris.

The next “space stars” are the show’s (cringe-worthy) comic-relief: talking space dogs Astro, Cosmo and Dipper, who work with a hapless human policeman, Space Ace, in the Astro and the Space Mutts segments.  This segment has not held up well, and was frequently not syndicated with the rest of the series during cable reruns.

The final segment of each hour of Space Stars is called the “Space Stars Finale” and always involves a team up of different heroes in cross-over tales. The Teen Force and Space Ghost join forces in “Polaris,” for instance, while the Herculoids and Space Ghost do so in “Worlds in Collision.”

Space Stars feels very antiquated by today’s standard of sci-fi programming.

It is basically a science free zone (despite its so-called “Space Facts”) with its space age superheroes (and dogs…) flying around in space sans space suits or other protections. 

Similarly, every creature and place is ostensibly made “futuristic” sounding by adding the words “star” or “space” as a descriptor.  Welcome to a world of star flies, star beasts, etc.  The stories tend not to be deep, either, focusing on action over character or even solid sci-fi concepts.

I’ll begin episode reviews of Space Stars starting 8/6!