The highest rated program on Saturday morning television circa 1975-1976 was the superhero program The Secrets of Isis, originally a portion of The Shazam/Isis Hour on CBS.
Created by Filmation under the aegis of Lou Scheimer, The Secrets of Isis starred beautiful Joanna Cameron as Andrea Thomas, a science (chemistry) teacher at Larkspur High School who -- on a trip to Egypt -- unearthed a golden Egyptian amulet that gave her “the powers of animals” and “power of the elements.”
After this great discovery, Thomas became -- in the words of the voice-over narrator (Lou Scheimer) -- a “dual person,” both a mild-mannered teacher and the remarkable deity, Isis.
In “the premiere episode of The Secrets of Isis, The Lights of Mystery Mountain" -- which first aired on NBC on September 6, 1975 -- Andrea is faced with an unusual mystery. One of her students, Cindy Lee (Joanna Pang) photographs what appear to be flying saucers over Mystery Mountains.
Additionally, there are reports of an abandoned car in the area and “burn spots” on the ground nearby, telltale signs, perhaps, of an alien abduction.
A panic begins to build among the locals. “What are you going to do if we bring you back a real life UFO?” Andrea asks her superior at Lakespur.
The boys believed it was all just a harmless prank at first, but soon realized that Moss meant business, and was trying to run off the denizens of Mystery Mountain so he could purchase the land and tap into a newly discovered vein of gold.
Fortunately, Isis teaches Mr. Moss a lesson. She first pursues him by air. “Oh Sun that changes day to night, help me stop this man in flight,” she declares, invoking the power to fly and chase him.
Later, Mighty Isis corners Mr. Moss by stating “Ancient Sphinx – all knowing and wise – confront this man with his own lies.” Suddenly, a desperate Moss is ambushed by tiny UFOs and -- his mind cracked -- he begs for help from Isis. She takes him to the local sheriff and the matter is finally resolved.
What makes The Secrets of Isis particularly memorable for folks of Generation X is the presence of Joanna Cameron in the lead role. The actress conveys a strong sense of presence, decency and strength as Isis and -- by sheer force of charisma -- manages to overcome some of the poorer special effects and hackneyed plotting.
Dressed in a white, jewel-bedecked, sleeveless (and short….) gown and an Egyptian-style headdress, Cameron is an absolute knock-out too.
That fact established, The Secrets of Isis is still perfect, un-jaded entertainment for young children, and, I suppose, for those of interested in a sense of nostalgia.
One contextual, culture thing I observed in “The Lights of Mystery Mountain” is that the bad-acting teenagers learn their lesson, are repentant, and then treated with mercy and understanding by Isis. She sees that they are sorry for their actions, and sees no need to pursue the matter further, or ruin their futures over one mistake. In today’s America, I don’t think we’d see such mercy. Instead, the kids would be tried as adults, and locked up in jail for five to ten years.
The Secrets of Isis is an innocent Saturday Morning TV series for a much more innocent time in American history.
Next Weeks: "Spots of the Leopard."