Saturday, September 19, 2015
Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Jason of Star Command (1978-1980) Series Primer
“Danger hides in the stars. This is the world of Jason of Star Command, a space age soldier of fortune determine to stop the most sinister force in the universe: Dragos, master of the cosmos. Aiding Jason in his battle against evil is a talented team of experts, all working together in a secret section of the Space Academy.”
-Opening narration to Jason of Star Command (1978-1980)
In 1978, Filmation first aired its Saturday morning live-action spin-off of Space Academy (1977): Jason of Star Command (1978-1979).
Inspired by the success of Star Wars (1977), the new series was designed to be more space fantasy and less science fiction than was its predecessor. More colorful action, in other words; less concentration on confronting and making peaceful contact with diverse alien races. And where Space Academy is very didactic, involving young people learning how to be better people and better offices, Jason of Star Command eschews virtually all such lessons or messages.
Initially, and throughout its first season, Jason of Star Command was broadcast as part of the umbrella or omnibus series Tarzan and the Super 7 (1978-1980). This series also played very much like a 1930s serial (think: Flash Gordon), with cliffhanger endings, and every episode labeled as a chapter in the ongoing adventure. The following year, Jason of Star Command received its own thirty-minute time-slot, and dropped the overt “chapter play” elements to a large degree.
In terms of its universe, Chapter 1: “Attack of the Dragon Ship” provides some further details. The episode commences with a narration that sets the stage: “The time: the distant future. Man has reached the farther stars, but has also uncovered dark mysterious galaxies. And as Star Command heads into the unknown, danger lays in wait.”
The aforementioned Star Command, which Jason terms “the most powerful force in the galaxy,” operates out of the familiar Space Academy asteroid complex seen in the earlier program. The control room set is re-used from Space Academy, as are the uniforms of the personnel. Since Star Command and Space Academy share a control room and a commander, it isn’t clear how Star Command’s presence is any sort of secret.
In terms of technology, Jason of Star Command also re-uses the Seekers occasionally, and introduces a fighter craft called the Star Fire. The Star Fire possesses a sort of double-escape pod at the very fore of the ship, and this feature is used often on the series
In Jason of Star Command season one, James Doohan -- Star Trek’s (1966-1969) Scotty -- plays Commander Canarvin, who has replaced the kindly Gampu (Jonathan Harris), apparently. He wears the same blue uniform variant as Harris did. In reality, Harris apparently did not return to duty – though he was asked – because of salary concerns.
Headlining the cast, however -- and in a Han Solo lookalike vest to boot -- is Craig Littler as Jason. Although he is described as a “soldier of fortune” in the narration, he is not really a mercenary. In all likelihood, this description is probably meant to make him sound like Han Solo, not just look like him. Jason works with Star Command all the time, even if he is not technically an officer in the organization. He’s not for sale to the highest bidder in the way one might assume a “soldier of fortune” would be.
The other cast-members include Charlie Dell, who plays absent-minded Professor Parsafoot in both seasons, and Susan O’Hanlon as Nicole Davidoff, a Star Command officer.
The final member of the heroic team is a tiny robot, built by Dr. Parsafoot, called W1K1, or “Wiki.” Wiki can levitate, fire lasers, and he squeaks and beeps just like a certain astromech droid from Star Wars.
Jason of Star Command’s central villain, Dragos is played by the great Sid Haig, a horror icon who brings a real sense of menace to his performances as this space tyrant. Like Jason, Dragos appears in every episode. But unlike Jason, Dragos plans are foiled constantly.
I’ll be revisiting Jason of Star Command, starting with the first season, starting next week!