Monday, December 10, 2012
Cult-TV Theme Watch: Castles
A castle is a “fortified structure,” usually the residence of a noble or lord. We tend to associate castles with fairy tales, or with medieval action of some type.
Not surprisingly, castles have proven a mainstay of cult-television history and have appeared as settings in fantasy programming -- live and animated -- throughout the decades. Castles have also shown up in horror and science fictions programming many times too.
Two of the most memorable castles in cult-television history appeared in 1980s animated programs.
The first is Castle Grayskull on Eternia, the refuge of He-Man and the Sorceress in the early 1980s Filmation effort, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1982). More than one episode of that series involves Skeletor’s attempts to take possession of the ancient structure.
The second is the Castle of Lions on Voltron (1984), on the planet Arus. There, members of the Galaxy Alliance had to locate the five keys of Voltron and assemble all the giant robot’s parts…
In terms of live-action storytelling, both the original Star Trek (1966 – 1969) and original Battlestar Galactica (1978 – 1979) featured tales involving castles. In “Errand of Mercy,” the Organian Council met inside a mountaintop castle, one later taken over by Kor (John Colicos) and the Klingons. This castle was represented by stock footage.
And in Battlestar Galactica’s “The Young Lords” Lt. Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) ends up on a world where a royal human family had been banished from its castle so the structure can house a Cylon garrison.
Intriguingly, both these programs involve fascinating visual counterpoints. The highly advanced (and indeed non-corporeal…) Organians dwell in an ancient castle from a time long past. Similarly, the sight of chrome, robotic Cylons patrolling the perimeter of an old, stone castle brings up the powerful idea of colliding realities or timelines.
Other cult-television programs have featured castles associated with famous literary or mythical characters. The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977 – 1979) took its main characters to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania in “Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew meet Dracula (September 18, 1978), and Star Trek: the Next Generation’s Captain Picard had to rescue Maid Marian/Vash from Q’s (John De Lancie) castle in a Robin Hood-styled fantasy in “Q-Pid.”
The recent renaissance in fantasy television has also brought us the Land of Storybook castle in Once Upon a Time (2011 - ) and several more castles in Game of Thrones (2011 - ). These fantasy programs have had considerably more success than the 1980s effort Wizards and Warriors (1983)…which also featured a memorable castle or two...