Monday, April 29, 2013

Ask JKM a Question: Where did the Moon Go in Planet of the Apes (1968)?



A regular reader, Steven writes about Planet of the Apes (1968):

Like you John, I think this is one of the greatest science-fiction films ever made, and which still holds up today.”

“In Planet of the Apes (1968) after the astronauts splashdown in and abandon their A.N.S.A. spaceship we see a clear blue sky as Taylor wanders with the others, speculating about what this planet is and stating "...there is no moon...". We know there was a nuclear war that devastated the surface of the Earth, but what happened to the Moon? It is a clear blue sky and no moon at all. What do you think?

I know the answer that it blasted out of Earth orbit on September 13th, 1999 will be very tempting...”

Steven, you read my mind about the Space: 1999 solution. 

It’s clear to me that Moonbase Alpha and the 311 scientists and astronauts stationed there escaped the rise of the planet of the apes when the moon was blasted out of orbit…

But seriously, I think the most likely answer is that Taylor (Charlton Heston) is simply mistaken about the presence of a moon. 

He doesn’t see a moon, but the moon is still there, obscured, perhaps, by the thick clouds we see “glowing” later that night. 

Another possible answer is that the moon is itself destroyed.  Since the film takes place nearly 2,000 years from now, we could speculate about a cosmic collision of some type, or perhaps even the moon crashing into the Earth, a catastrophe which I suppose could account for some of the desolate, inhospitable terrain of the Forbidden Zone and other areas.

If there were one line of dialogue I would remove from Planet of the Apes, this “there is no moon” line would be a prime candidate, because in retrospect is seems put there just to throw audiences off the track. 

We believe that this strange world can’t be Earth in part because Taylor has established there is no moon.  

It’s one of the few facts we get during the course of the film that leads us to believe we actually are on a faraway world.  And of course, we’re not.  Taylor has come home.

Planet of the Apes features so many virtues, and yes, it is my favorite science fiction film of all time.  But if it came out today with this line of dialogue intact, I might point it out in my review as a kind of cheap way to maintain secrecy for the surprise ending.  The funny thing is that the film could have probably gotten away with not mentioning the moon at all. But then I guess nitpickers would ask why Taylor doesn’t just look up at the moon and realize he has come home to Earth…

Very interesting question, my friend!

Don’t forget to ask me your questions at Muirbusiness@yahoo.com

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Libraries



A library is a repository for information and information resources utilized by a particular community for purposes of reference and history. 

Libraries date far back into Antiquity….approximately 5,000 years, with the first being constructed in ancient Sumeria and consisting of cuneiform tablets.

Throughout cult-TV history -- and especially pre-Internet -- the library has proven a critical setting in terms of science fiction and horror programming.  In many series, heroes make use of the library to learn information about a case or person they happen to be investigating.


In the late 1960s, Star Trek envisioned a futuristic library called “Memory Alpha” in the third season episode “The Lights of Zetar.”  This planet-sized library houses the “total cultural history and scientific knowledge of all Federation members” and is available to all scholars in the galaxy.  

During the course of the episode, the undefended facility is invaded by life-forms consisting of light, and severe damage is done to the library.  Fortunately, the Enterprise conducts repairs.

In the same season, another episode titled“All Our Yesterdays” involves an alien library, one where each data disc (forecasting digital storage…) opens a gateway to another time and place in planetary history.  The librarian on this world, Sarpeidon, is named Mr. Atoz (Ian Wolfe)…as in Mr. A-to-Z. 


Another futuristic, planet-sized library is featured in the Doctor Who universe (2005 - ).  In the two-part story “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead,” the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and his companion Donna (Catherine Tate) visit a vast, empty library in the 51st century, and find that it is haunted by the hungry Vashta Narada…creatures that live in the shadows.  This is also the narrative wherein the Doctor first encounters River Song (Alex Kingston).


In Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2002), Buffy’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) Scoobie-Gang is headquartered in the Sunnydale High School Library during the first three seasons. There, Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) maintains an extensive collection of books concerning the Hellmouth and all manners of demons.  These books become a problem for MOO (Mothers Opposed to the Occult) in the third season episode, “Gingerbread.”


In another popular cult series, Veronica (Kristen Bell) works in the Hearst University Library during the third season of Veronica Mars (2004 – 2007). 

Both Carl Sagan’s series Cosmos: A Personal Journey (1980) and SeaQuest DSV (1993 – 1996) traveled during their runs to the ancient Egyptian library of Alexandria, the great repository constructed during the reign of the Ptolemys (323 – 246 BC).  The library burned down in real life, but through the wonders of cult television magic, it was once more made to seem “real.”  In the latter case, the first season SeaQuest episode “Treasure of the Mind” involves a group of raiders stealing relics from the recently discovered Library, found at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.


The Cult-TV Faces of: The Library

Identified by Carl: The Twilight Zone: "Time Enough at Last." (New York Public Library)

Identified by William Mercado: Star Trek: "The Lights of Zetar" (Memory Alpha).

Identified by Carl: Star Trek: "All Our Yesterdays," (Library of Sarpeidon).

Identified by Carl: Land of the Lost, Library of Skulls.

Identified by William Mercado: Cosmos: A Personal Journey, Alexandria Library.

Identified by Carl: The Simpsons. Springfield Public Library.

7

8

Identified by Carl: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Sunnydale High School Library.

10


Identified by Carl: Doctor Who: "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead." - 51st Century Library.


Television and Cinema Verities #68


"I came in kind of sullen and all the other female actresses came in bright-eyed and bushy tailed…. I was thinking, “Please let’s get this over with, I’d like to go home and go to bed. Thank you very much.” Of course Gil was challenged…. If you meet Gil you’ll find he’s quite charming and funny, and he had this sullen woman who he kept trying to make smile. And the more he worked, the more sullen I got and the more in his face I became…. It ended up being the perfect dynamic for the test, and for the character."

- Erin Gray discusses her audition, alongside Gil Gerard, for Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979 - 1981) at Wired.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Monument(al) Destruction 12: Oblivion (2013)



Star Blazers Episode #8


The eighth episode of the animated series Star Blazers (1979) continues the story-line commenced in the previous installment.  Specifically, the Gamilons have used their powerful new weapon, the Reflex Gun, to disable the Argo and send it sinking to the bottom of an ocean on Pluto.

In this story, Captain Avatar plans to strike back by using the Gamilons’ reflective satellites against them.  

When the Reflex Gun fires once more, the Argo personnel are able to use the satellites to determine its position (under an ice field on Pluto…) and launch missiles to disable it.

Meanwhile, Wildstar commands a dangerous mission to the Gamilon base and meets the first non-aligned aliens in the series: Pluto’s cute Protozoa creatures, who “feel like slippery grape gelatin.”  The alien creatures look like the Blob, only with eyes.  These aliens aren’t advanced, and perhaps lack much more than rudimentary intelligence.  They are put to sleep with harmless gas so Wildstar can gain access to the enemy headquarters.



Once inside that base, Wildstar must avoid booby traps and blow up a reactor, thereby destroying the threat to Earth from additional planet bombs.  Victorious, Captain Avatar declares “And now…onto Iscandar” with just 354 days remaining until Earth’s destruction.

In a deliberate mirror image of that victory, Desslok orders his defeated forces on Pluto not to return to Gamilon until the Star Force is destroyed.

As I wrote about in regards to episode seven, Star Blazers has become a fairly formulaic show, featuring strategic move and counter-move, but with little forward momentum and almost no character development to go along with the pitched battles.  I’m hoping it’s just a rough patch here, because this has only recently become the case.


I’m hoping this is the last “Gamilons test new weapon on Argo, which ekes out a surprise victory” story for a while.  When I watched the series as a kid, I don’t remember it being a military war show to the exclusion of every other consideration.

I’m with Avatar: let’s head out into unexplored space, to Iscandar, and see what’s out there.  I’ll let you know next week where the ninth episode takes the developing narrative…

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Monument(al) Destruction #11: Galactica 1980: "Galactica Discovers Earth"


Cult-TV Gallery: Vasquez Rocks

The Outer Limits: "The Zanti Misfits."

Star Trek: "Arena."

The Invaders

Shazam: "The Treasure."

Logan's Run

Buck Rogers: "Flight of the War Witch Part I."

Buck Rogers: "Journey to Oasis."

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Who Watches the Watchers."

Space: Above and Beyond.

Star Trek: Voyager

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Primeval."


Alias.

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Shazam: "The Treasure" (October 19, 1974)



In “The Treasure,” Billy (Michael Gray) and Mentor (Les Tremayne) learn that thieves have been stealing Native American treasures from sacred ground, and desecrating “the desert,” which is a prime concern of the Elders, who declare the territory “rich” in Indian “history.” 

Billy and Mentor team up with a Native American boy, Johnny and his grandfather to stop the thieves, and preserve “the beauty of the land.”  The thieves, however, nearly escape from a nearby airport…until Captain Marvel stops them.



Like almost every episode of Shazam’s first season thus far, “The Treasure” features no interior locations, only exteriors. 

What makes “The Treasure” fun, however, is the nature of the location shooting.  The episode is shot at the famous Vasquez Rocks, home of the Zanti Misfits (The Outer Limits), the Gorn (Star Trek), and other cult-TV series including The Invaders, Space: Above and Beyond, and Alias.  The famous angled/pointed mountain rock can be seen in “The Treasure” but from a different angle than featured in most programs.  Here, Mentor’s RV -- with the Captain Marvel lightning bolt emblazoned on the hood -- drives down a path right in front of that craggy outcropping.



Otherwise, “The Treasure” is distinguished primarily by its more-accomplished than-usual final action scene.  Here, Captain Marvel (Jackson Bostwick) chases down a fast-moving plane on the runway, grabs a rudder, and brings the craft to a dead stop.  Through the use of fast-motion photography and a few other tricks, the super heroics actually come off looking rather impressive.


And for those cataloging such factors, “The Treasure” marks the second time in seven episodes (after “The Brothers”) in which Billy’s secret identity as Captain Marvel is learned by an outsider. In this case, it’s the trustworthy Grandfather who knows the truth.

In terms of my retrospective here on the blog, I must confess that Shazam is monumentally uninteresting after seven episodes, and therefore difficult to commit to on a long term basis.  The episodes are preachy, predictable and uninteresting.  There’s not much variation in storytelling.

I’m thinking I’ll get through the first season (nine episodes to go…) and then switch to another Saturday morning series… 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Happy 30th Anniversary to Destinies: The Voice of Science Fiction

Destinies Host Dr. Howard Margolin (left) and JKM (right) share a con panel in 2004


Destinies-The Voice of Science Fiction celebrates its 30th anniversary today at  11:00 PM on 90.1FM, WUSB, Stony Brook (net0casting at www.wusb.fm), with a one-hour special featuring encore readings by authors Ross Rosenfeld (The Stolen Kingdom), William Latham (Space: 1999-Alpha), Patrick Thomas (Fairy Rides the Lightning), and Drew Henriksen (Dragons and Science). 

Also, new music by composers Murray Gold (Doctor Who), Frederik Wiedmann (Green Lantern-The Animated Series), Marco Beltrami (Warm Bodies), and Dennis Dreith (Creep Van) will be featured. Plus, Synergy's version of "Classical Gas" and the results of Christopher DeFilippis' "Sci-Fi Madness" in volume 2, number 136 of "DeFlip Side." 

After the broadcast, the show will be archived for free at www.captphilonline.com/Destinies.html.

I have been a big fan of Destinies since the year 2000 when I first began listening, and I'm an even bigger fan of its always-prepared, always-smart host, Dr. Howard Margolin.  If you can, check out the show tonight and help celebrate the anniversary.


Comic Review: To Hell You Ride, Issue #4



To Hell You Ride, the five-part comic-book epic by Lance Henriksen, Joseph Maddrey, and Tom Mandrake roars back into the pop-culture spotlight with the publication of its fourth issue on May 14…in just a few short weeks.

This fourth issue of this inventive horror series finds Jim Shipp’s quarantined town still under siege by the government’s black helicopters, and now by foreign nationals who have been authorized to kill Americans with impunity in order to contain the crisis. 

The contaminated snow which is responsible for the deaths and the consequent occupation has caused the town to become “divided against itself,” a metaphor, perhaps for America today, almost universally caught in the grip of fear.  That fear, interestingly, is termed an “addiction” in the comic, and addiction ties in with the saga’s running themes, I submit, about contamination and also avarice.   To Hell You Ride implies a modern society overdosing on fear, greed, and violence.

The same emergency has also created two breeds of people, notes the narration: The Insiders, who hide behind locked doors and are afraid of the snow, and the Outsiders who are afraid of the heat that the draconian presence of martial law now brings to them.  Instead of unifying as a single, strong force, the Insiders and Outsiders turn on each other with lethal ferocity.

Sheriff Shipps -- the Lance Henriksen character, essentially -- finds himself in an impossible situation here, attempting to preserve his town as it once was while all Hell breaks loose.  Armed mobs have begun wandering the streets, opening fire on others, and this issue witnesses the death of a major protagonist. 

Finally, the story ends with the ominous notation that “The End is Here,” a reflection of the fact that the final chapter of the saga is upon us.


One thematic conceit underlying this issue of To Hell You Ride is the nature of time itself.  The narration which opens the book notes that time is “not an arrow.  It does not fly straight from past to future.”  

Instead, the audience learns, “Time is a web…everything it touches sends out vibrations.” 

If this information is parsed in terms of story specifics, I take it to mean that the actions which occurred long ago -- and which initiated the curse -- have caused reverberations through time itself, climaxing with the town divided dangerously against itself in the present.  Everyone is suffering because of the actions committed long ago, when the land was sacrificed for the white man’s avarice.  That act was the rock thrown into the placid waters of time, and the shock waves have only begun to crash against the shores of “now.”

Intriguingly, this fourth chapter of the saga also introduces the “Spider,” the creature/being who strides atop the web of time, and I found this character to be a sinister reflection, oddly enough, of the other corrupt humans we’ve seen so far, in the story, namely Blackwash and the (now-deceased) Mayor Cubby Boyers. 


To write too much more about The Spider and the fourth issue’s narrative would ruin some of the surprises, but suffice it to say that To Hell You Ride still possesses the power to shock and awe, and to deeply unsettle.  There’s a pulse-quickening momentum behind the pages here, an inevitability that can’t be denied. 

As I read the tale, I kept thinking “the die is cast,” and (in the spirit of a favorite Henriksen movie, Pumpkinhead), that the curse is going to run its course, with all the damage that “course” entails. 

With that sense of inevitability in mind, the last frame of Issue #4 is very ominous because of what it portends for another protagonist, and I get the feeling that things are not exactly going to end well.

I’ll be eagerly anticipating the final chapter of To Hell You Ride, and remembering, specifically, the fourth issue’s words about death.

Death is not an end, only a change in shape, a shift in worlds.

I have a feeling that this particular nugget of wisdom will play powerfully in the finale…

Order your copy here!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Collectible of the Week: Terminator 2 Playset: Bio-Flesh Regenerator (Kenner; 1991)





The year 1991 brought a whole line of new Kenner toys -- including vehicles and action figures -- based on James Cameron’s blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day.   One of the neatest of these toys was the Bio-Flesh Regenerator Playset which offered kids the opportunity to “Mold and Destroy your own Terminator!”

As the box describes the set, “The Bio-Flesh Regenerator was created in the year 2030. This awesome unit is used to completely cover the metal skeleton of the TERMINATOR with real skin to make him totally undetectable to humans.”

The Bio-Flesh Regenerator “Molds Ten Figures,” “Comes with six battle weapons,” and “Skin actually comes off in Battles.”  The box also notes that the set includes: one playset, two Endoskeleton Action Figures, two Cans of Non-Toxic Bio-Flesh Refills, one Trim Knife, and six Weapons.”

“Create your own Terminator…then tear him apart in battle!”



I recently bought a Bio-Flesh Regenerator for Joel, still in its original box.  Amazingly, the flesh “powder” is still intact.  We tried using the regenerator, but the play set kept leaking, which disappointed Joel tremendously, as he wanted tear apart his fleshy terminator in battle.  Instead, the Terminator just kind of cameo out goopy.  Also, it should be noted that the endoskeletons are not pose-able and feature no articulated parts whatsoever, which is also a bit of a bummer.

I understand that the idea of the Bio-Flesh Regenerator was updated for Terminator: Salvation (2009), with a “Cyber Skin” playset.  I wonder if it worked any better…

Model Kits of the Week: SeaQuest DSV (1993)





Buck Rogers: "Happy Birthday, Buck!"

In “Happy Birthday, Buck” a long-time human captive on the planet Ovion (?) Colonel Cornell Traeger (Peter MacLean) escapes and returns...