Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Flash Gordon: "Chapter Ten: Blue Magic" (November 24, 1979)

Flash Gordon's Chapter Ten, "Blue Magic," (by Samuel Peeples), involves Flash's adventure in yet another Mongo kingdom commanded by a gorgeous Queen. 

Let's see, there was the underwater queen, Undina and then the Fridgian Queen, Fria. Now there's Azura, "witch queen" of Sik, a ruler "linked with the Evil Gods themselves." 

Like her queenly counterparts, Azura has a lust for Flash Gordon, which makes me ask the question: 

Aren't there any eligible males on Mongo besides this guy?

Anyway, we find out in "Blue Magic" that Flash is the spitting image of Azura's long-departed lover, named "Gor-Don."

"Gor-Don" was once the all-powerful ruler of Mongo, a sort of Alexander the Great figure. He ruled the planet wisely with Azura as his mate, but then he left to conquer other worlds and his high priest -- Ming the Merciless -- seized power on Mongo. 

Ming once attempted to defeat Azura but she used her magical powers to destroy his million-man army, to freeze them in a form of stasis in the deep caverns. Now, Ming gives Azura a wide latitude and no longer attempts to conquer her domain.

In this episode, Azura, who commands the "Blue Fire Worms," captures Flash, Thun, Zarkov and Dale while they are still riding the rocket railroad back to Arboria (from Fridgia) to rendezvous with Barin and Vultan. 

Inconvenient that the rocket rail passes right through her kingdom, right? 

But anyway, the captives are ushered into the blue cavern kingdom on a magic carpet (by a wizard.) 

Then Zarkov, Thun and Dale are entrapped in a giant crystal ball, as Azura imposes the personality of Gor-Don upon Flash with a "memory crystal," thereby making him forget his friends and become her consort.

But Zarkov, realizing that "knowledge is the sharpest weapon of all," manages to outfox the evil wizard minion, and he and the others race to stop Flash as the Earther leads Azura's army (on a chariot, no less...) into battle against Barin and Vultan, who have come to his rescue.

The most intriguing aspect of this episode, perhaps, is the philosophical debate of science vs.  magic between Dr. Zarkov and Thun. Zarkov asks how Thun, how has seen the wonders of Mongo's technology, could possibly believe in magic or sorcery. Thun responds that he believes his own eyes.

Zarkov takes this in stride, and sets about to out-magic (or is it out-science?) the wizard  Flash Gordon doesn't often tread into this kind of terrain, and other series (such as Thundarr the Barbarian [1980])  better chart the line between science and magic. Still, the subplot gives this episode a little more thematic heft.

Also, this could have been the most dynamic episode of the first season -- Flash as the re-incarnation, essentially, of Mongo's greatest ruler -- if only earlier episodes had not hammered so relentlessly on the idea of Flash as a queen/princess's savior.  Every woman on Mongo loves him instantly and unconditionally, so Azura's story feels run of the mill, instead of like something mysterious and wonderful.

Next week: "King Flash."

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