Saturday, January 28, 2006

SATURDAY MORNING CULT TV BLOGGING: Space Academy: "The Phantom Planet"

This episode of the Filmation series Space Academy opens with the base on high alert. "Chris, have you ever seen a ghost?" Commander Gampu (Jonathan Hurris) urgently demands from the control room, revealing on the main screen how a strange world keeps materializing and de-materializing in space near the unstable asteroid, Proteus 9B.

Gampu sends the Blue Team in a Seeker to demolish the asteroid, despite the presence of the 'phantom planet' and Peepo is afraid. Loki is excited. "If you see a ghost," he tells Gentry, "let me know right away."

While Chris, Tee-Gar, and Paul set "technite" charges to destroy the asteroid, Laura, Adrian and Peepo are confronted by a raggedy ghost in a gray cloak who moans and howls, and beckons them to a cave. Adrian blasts the cave open with a laser gun that looks like an office water dispenser jug, and inside the cave, she and Laura discover a jeweled cavern. A bunch of golden eggs are ensconced there, and the ghost appears to be protective of them. Laura and Adrian take one at the ghost's urging, and return to the Academy with the others, beginning the countdown to the destruction of Proteus.

But just when you're thinking - oh, I've seen this on "The Devil in the Dark," those eggs are ghostly offspring, the story, by Samuel A. Peeples, takes a weird turn. It seems these golden eggs are not Jim Henson ghost babies at all, but rather memory "vessels," as Gampu calls them, devices that contain the ancient the wisdom of a civilization. They will "one day open and enrich the lives of people yet to be born," Gampu declares, after a seance in which he is possessed by the ghostly guardian.

Since the planet is due to explode any minute from those Technite charges, the only way to safely retrieve the other golden eggs is for Laura and Chris to use their newly honed powers of "astroportation." Thus they astral project themselves to the planet and retrieve all the eggs before the asteroid goes up in flames. Pleased, the Guardian now vanishes for all time...

Talk about laying a golden egg, this is a crazy episode of Space Academy. The ghost is a ridiculous-looking creation, like a refugee from a stage production of A Christmas Carol, and his "howls" are obviously just somebody standing off-stage bellowing like a kid trying to be "spooky" on Halloween night. And then - out of the blue - Laura and Chris develop the power to astral project? Huh?

"There's a lot of things we don't know here in space," Paul states in "The Phantom Planet,"
"we can't let them frighten us."

The only thing frightening about this episode of Space Academy is just how badly the plot all fits together. Why is the Academy intent on destroying the asteroid (even if it is unstable) once it's known a civilization once thrived there? Seems an archaeology professor somewhere would object...

But - of course - this was all intended for young kids, so I guess the message is a good one. Don't be afraid of what you don't understand. And if a funny-looking ghost hands you a golden egg...take it.

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