Saturday, October 03, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Jason of Star Command: "Chapter Two: Prisoners of Dragos" (September 16, 1978)

In the second fifteen minute installment of Jason of Star Command (1979-1980), titled “Prisoner of Dragos,” we meet the series’ charismatic villain for the first time.  

As played by Sid Haig, Dragos is quite evil, and quite dedicated to his plan of “total conquest” of “the entire galaxy.” He also seems to have quite an array of technology (including eye lasers...) at his disposal.  

As part of his plan of galactic conquest, Dragos knocks Jason (Craig Littler) unconscious and fashions a duplicate known as an “energy clone.” Once programmed, this individual will look and act exactly as Jason would, all while furthering Drago’s agenda of chaos.

Worse, as Jason discovers, the Commander Canarvin (James Doohan) he rescued in the previous story was also an energy clone.  Now, that villain has been returned to Star Command while the real Canarvin languishes in the Dragonship prison...

“Prisoner of Dragos” moves at a fast-clip, a lot like an old pulpy movie cliffhanger, but this episode is notable for adding some sets and characters to the drama. We meet Dragos for the first time, and also see the interior of his magnificent and monstrous Dragon Ship. 

I find it interesting that the Dragon Ship -- like the Star Command -- is built upon an asteroid, in this time a kind of orange-hued one.  I wonder if space vessel construction occurs on asteroids on this scale because of the need for gravity.  The giant asteroids of Space Academy/Star Command and the Dragonship may provide such gravity, thus preserving the “ships” energy for other crucial tasks or services (including life support, weapons, and defense.) 

Still, the Dragon Ship hails from a “dark mysterious” galaxy, and so the fact that it shares a construction technique with Earth technology suggests something vital, I think about in-universe space travel.  

At any rate, it’s fun to speculate about.

This episode also introducesthe crucial plot-twist of the series’ Year One narrative.  

Energy clones belonging to Dragos have infiltrated important positions in Star Command, and this replacement has been carried out in secret.  In 1980, this very idea -- android duplicates – was the crucial plot-point in the TV series Beyond Westworld.   More recently, the idea found play in the re-booted, post-9/11 Battlestar Galactica re-imagination.  Considering the evil dictator/terrorist villain and this sleeper cell sub-plot, it is fair to state that Jason of Star Command is ahead of its time.

On a more literal level, throughout this season, “energy clones” cause a lot of trouble for Star Command and Jason, and here our hero must undergo the duplication process himself.

Fans of Space Academy (1977) may also realize by this juncture that the source of Filmation's inspiration has changed from Star Trek to Star Wars.  This episode -- like all episodes of the first season of Jason of Star Command -- is more interested in capture, rescue and battles, than in the examination of human morality and confrontation with diverse alien cultures.

Still, Jason is swashbuckling fun.

Next episode: “Escape from Dragos.”

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