Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Jason of Star Command: "Beyond the Stars" (October 6, 1979)

"Beyond the Stars" is a lot of fun, and a bit stronger than the previous few episodes of Jason of Star Command's second season.  In particular, this episode by Samuel A. Peeples lays the groundwork for a multi-episode arc regarding Dragos (Sid Haig) and his strategy to control the civilized galaxy using a strange discovery.

That discovery is the "star disc," a stone that "contains the wisdom and power of the lost, ancient civilization of the Tantalutions," the greatest culture "ever to exist."

Unfortunately for Dragos, the Star Disc is damaged and unreadable, except to the galaxy's greatest mind, Dr. Parsafoot.

Accordingly, Drago sends a young, hot shot mercenary -- self-named "Matt Daringstar" (Clete Keith) -- to infiltrate Star Command, posing as a cadet. His mission: to abduct the good professor and deliver him to Dragos.

Once the professor is captured aboard a seeker by the "cadet," Jason launches a Star Fire to rescue him. But Dragos releases a "warp dragon" to destroy Jason, an act which leaves Jason stranded in outer space as Parsafoot is delivered to Jason's mortal enemy.

Jason of Star Command is a kid's show, and as such, generally avoids real character development. Here, however, the episode features not only more of the Jason/Commander Stone rivalry, but effectively involves a deceitful person, Matt, tricking Parsafoot into his custody.

The episode's final scene explains, rather nicely, how the heroically-named Matt Daringstar is actually quite different from a real hero, like Jason. Jason nearly sacrifices himself to save Parsafoot and Daringstar from the warp dragon, but when given the same opportunity, Daringstar leaves Jason to die.  In his own way, he's a coward.

The message is that real courage is much more than a neat-sounding or colorful name.

"Beyond the Stars!" also does a fine job establishing better the routine at Star Command. We learn here that Parsafoot is actually a lecturing professor (!), and that he teaches classes on Seeker computer systems from the docking bay. This is something we haven't seen before, and harks back to the days of Space Academy.

We also see fighters scrambled for battle with attacking pirate warships, but oddly Samantha and Jason are the only two pilots to launch, and neither one is an official member of Star Command.

Certainly, there must be some actual Star Command pilots aboard the station, right?  But the special effects sequence involving twin Star Fire maneuvers is beautifully rendered, and certainly rivals the special effects of Battlestar Galactica, though produced on a fraction of the budget.

As has also steadily become the case, the high-point of this Jason of Star Command episode is a stop-motion animation interlude showcasing a monster, here the warp dragon, a creature that "eats energy," and once unloosed isn't easily controlled.

I just love that Jason of Star Command depicts these fantastical, menacing monsters, and again, I'm pleasantly reminded of the cinema of Ray Harryhausen. I should also add that these stop-motion alien creatures gives JOSC a distinct look and feel, one unlike any TV contemporary (Space: 1999, Buck Rogers, BSG).  

With "Beyond the Stars!" I was really engaged and interested in what was going to happen to Jason for the first time since the premiere episode of the second season, and I'm counting that as a good sign of things to come.  I hope so, anyway...

Next Saturday: "Secret of the Ancients."

1 comment:

  1. John excellent review of this great episode. Filmation's special were as good as prime-time. Awesome!