Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Flash Gordon: "Chapter One: A Planet in Peril" (September 22, 1979)

Flash Gordon's "A Planet in Peril, Chapter One," by Samuel A. Peeples begins with action. The planet Mongo is on a collision course with Earth, and Flash Gordon (Robert Ridgely), Dale Arden (Diane Pershing) and Dr. Hans Zarkov (Alan Oppenheimer) have launched into space to discover why. 

Unfortunately, Ming the Merciless's warships shoot down their spacecraft, and -- in a scene that reminded of me of Planet of the Apes -- the rocket spectacularly crashes in a lake on Mongo.

Before long, the Earthlings are captured by Ming's "sea mutants," his fishermen. These Mer-Men have also netted Arborea's Prince Barin (who here has a very nasal voice and is bald...) and Thun, a Lion Man. 

These captives tell Flash and the others that Ming is "emperor of the universe" and that he maintains his control of Mongo because every race on Mongo is the enemy of every other race on Mongo.

Although Flash, Zarkov and Dale escape the fishermen, they are soon hunted in the "Dire Marsh" by sexy Princess Aura and her witch woman warriors. These characters all wear sexy metal bikinis and mount giant ostrich creatures.

The episode climaxes as Flash and his buddies are taken to Ming's throne room. Ming forces Thun and Flash into the arena, where they battle a giant "training ball" equipped with lasers. The episode ends on a cliffhanger.

This first episode of the Filmation series does a great job of setting up the characters and situations of Flash Gordon while simultaneously accentuating pace. This inaugural episode moves at a good clip, and yet the audience learns everything it should. Among these facts: just a week until the Earth is destroyed.

Thus, we're in a race to defeat Ming. And he has vast power upon which to defend himself (and destroy Earth).

And just as importantly: nobody on Mongo cooperates with anybody else.  Flash Gordon, a corn-fed American hero, will change that, offering sage advice about working together and proving through his actions that cooperation is possible.  Here, he already begins offering human proverbs. "On Earth, we say necessity is the mother of invention!"

For the princes of Mongo, who believe that "every race on Mongo is the enemy of every other race," Gordon's attempts to unite them don't go down easy. In each case, Gordon must prove his words...through deeds.

I mentioned this last week, but pretty clearly this entire plot-line refers, at least in terms of sub-text, to the dis-united countries of Europe, which in the early 20th century, had to band together to stop the likes of Hitler and Mussolini.

Old rivalries had to be put aside to defeat the rising tide of fascism. In Flash Gordon, we get a (solid) case for American Exceptionalism. Only Flash (a denizen of Earth) can bring the diverse peoples together!  Intriguingly, Gordon shares a name with a past ruler of Mongo, meaning that some element of destiny may play into his arrival on Mongo.

Next week: Chapter 2: "The Monsters of Mongo."


  1. Filmation always had incredibly hot females.

  2. John I guess Flash had to teach them all "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" to conquer Ming.