Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Jason of Star Command (1978-1980): "Chapter One: Attack of the Dragonship"

From the darkness of space, an evil dictator -- Dragos (Sid Haig) -- launches a surprise attack on Star Command, damaging the asteroid base. 

Jason (Craig Littler) and Nicole (Susan O’Hanlon) report the ambush to Commander Canarvin (James Doohan), who is on a mission to another planet. Unfortunately, the Commander is abducted before their very eyes.  He simply vanishes.

Hoping to rescue him, Jason, Professor Parsafoot (Charlie Dell) and Jason’s new, all-purpose bot, W1K1, launch a Starfire to find him, tracing his emergency beacon signal.  They find Canarvin adrift in space (wearing a life-support belt) and rescue him.  Parsafoot and Canarvin return in a pod to Star Command.

But Jason is captured by Drago’s massive Dragonship…where he will soon have an audience with the tyrant.

Jason of Star Command’s (1978-1980) first chapter, “Attack of the Dragonship” opens with a great and accomplished visual efx shot.  We see the Space Academy (now Star Command) asteroid drifting in space. 

The image retracts and we see we are observing the installation from a viewer on an attack ship.  Star Command is being targeted!  There is a menace, a sense of the ominous in this opening shot, and it works very well to set up the week's danger.

This visual is beautifully-vetted, especially for a Saturday morning series of the 1970s, and the special effects compare favorably with prime-time programs of the era, including Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1978-1981).

Then, one of Drago’s fighters launches an attack on the asteroid, and we’re off to the races. Jason breaks through a sealed door to save an imperiled Nicole, and then prevents an explosion in a damaged compartment.  

The focus is clearly on heroic, swashbuckling action, and the inspiration, equally clearly, is Star Wars.  This creative debt is made even more apparent by the introduction of W1K1, a diminutive R2-D2 knock-off.

In the first season of Jason of Star Command, each episode is only fifteen minutes, so the stories have little depth, but a surprising amount of movement and special effects. Here we get the opening attack on Star Command, a deep space rescue of Canarvin from a Star Fire, and then -- finally -- the introduction of the menacing Dragonship in the flesh.  What a Goliath she is!

It’s intriguing to me that the Dragonship also appears to be constructed from a large asteroid, like the Academy/Star Command. I wonder if in this fictional universe, large asteroids are used as the basis for construction because of the gravity they afford.  It’s interesting that both familiar Earth forces (Star Command) and forces from the “dark galaxies” share this method of construction when forging giant stations/battle cruisers.

Overall, "Attack of the Dragonship" is a solid first chapter of this series, and it is filled, wall-to-wall with impressive, disco-decade, post-Star Wars visual effects.

Next week, we meet Dragos (Sid Haig) in “Prisoner of Dragos.”

1 comment:

  1. Post-STAR WARS, for better or worse, SPACE ACADEMY became JASON OF STAR COMMAND. Drago’s fighters and Dragonship are a reboot of Darth Vader, TIE fighters and a Star Destroyer.