Saturday, December 05, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Jason of Star Command: "Chapter 10: "The Disappearing Man"

In Jason of Star Command (1978-1980), Chapter Ten, “The Disappearing Man,” a Seeker suddenly appears near Star Command, and then vanishes. It re-appears in the hanger bay.

While investigating, Jason (Craig Littler), Nicole (Susan O’Hanlon), Parsafoot (Charie Dell) and Commander Canarvin (James Doohan), find a high-speed recording on the ship.  Lt. Matt Prentiss (John Berwick), who disappeared from Space Academy a year earlier), claims to be a victim of Dragos’ (Sid Haig) evil.

Dragos has experimented on him and accelerated his metabolism to one thousand times the equivalent of human normal speed.  This is part of Dragos’ plot to develop an “ultimate weapon,” invisibility.

Professor Parsafoot (Charlie Dell) creates a device that can speed up Jason’s metabolism, and allow him to locate Matt.  But he only has 90 seconds to use it, before he too becomes trapped – permanently – at that accelerated rate of existence.

Jason is successful bringing back Matt, and the grateful man informs him of another secret.  Peepo – who is still missing – is under Dragos’ control.

“The Disappearing Man” is a knock-off of a classic third season Star Trek episode: “Wink of An Eye.”  
In that narrative, as you may recall, the Enterprise visited a planet called Scalos wherein a civilization was dying.  Its few survivors, including Queen Deela, had been affected by strange factors in their water.  
The result was that their metabolism accelerated to an unbelievable rate, making them impossible to see at our speed or our level of vision.

The story saw Captain Kirk accelerated in similar fashion (thanks to a drop of water in his coffee cup), and the neat visuals depicted him moving at normal speed through a world -- the corridors of the Enterprise -- frozen, as if in amber.

“The Disappearing Man” features the same sort of personal acceleration, vis-à-vis the missing cadet, Matt Prentiss, and also shows the “real world” in the same fashion; as so slow that movement is undetectable.  

In “Wink of an Eye,” the Scalosians could communicate, but their words were so fast, they sounded like insects buzzing about.  “The Disappearing Man” retains that concept as well. I wonder how James Doohan felt acting in an episode with such an obvious Trekkie antecedent?

Even casting aside these similarities, “The Disappearing Man” has some logical problems.  For example, Jason only has ninety seconds or he will be lost, accelerated.  The machine that can bring him back, however, is broken at the last second, leaving Dr. Parsafoot to attempt something else.  The question is: why is this a crisis?  Why not just repair the machine and send somebody else (Nicole, perhaps…) after Jason, just the way he went after the accelerated Prentiss?

“The Disappearing Man” plays a lot like a budget/time-saver. Although there is a guest star, John Berwick, all the action occurs on standing sets, not new planet sets with alien creatures, and there are no new significant outer space visuals, either, just some footage of a Seeker from Space Academy (1977).

Even the plot is thrifty, having been imported directly from Star Trek.

Next week: “Chapter 11: The Haunted Planet”

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