Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Jason of Star Command: "Face to Face" (November 3, 1979)

This week on Jason of Star Command, the Saturday morning Filmation series pulls out a familiar genre convention: “My Enemy, My Ally.”   

In this staple of sci-fi television, two enemies must work together to resolve an existential crisis.  It was Geordi and a Romulan officer on Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “The Enemy.”  It was Peter Burke and Urko on Planet of the Apes’ “The Trap.”  Paul Foster and an alien pulled the same trick on UFO’s “Survival,” as well.  Even Land of the Lost saw Rick Marshall and a Sleestak named "S'latch" team-up in "The Hole."

This "My Enemy/My Ally" story universally concerns team work, and more than that, diversity.  A Romulan doesn't believe he can learn anything from a human...but he does, and so forth. Here, the different skill-sets of the people forced to work together prove valuable in overcoming a hurdle.  That hurdle might be a cave-in ("The Trap"), or an inhospitable terrain (the moon in "Survival," or Galorndon Core in "The Enemy.")  

I realize that "diversity" as a concept or virtue has come under heavy fire over the last several years as being "PC," but its merit is obvious in a sci-fi setting: a different (and alien...) background offers a different viewpoint and opinion about survival, and often a different philosophical approach to facing death. Such qualities are incredibly useful.  It's always better to have more viewpoints and more knowledge, from varying sources, when trying to assure survival. IDIC and all that.

Here, Jason (Craig Littler) and his enemy, Adron (Rod Loomis) are trapped on a planet with a poisonous atmosphere, and must between them share one portable life-support system.  This means that they are literally chained together by the wrists, in a dynamic visual call-back to The Defiant Ones (1958).  

At first, Adron is reluctant to trust Jason, but Jason is optimistic.  “I believe all life is worth saving,” he tells his new friend.  

Finally, Jason gives up his claim on the life support system to help Adron survive, and this softens the alien’s heart. “It is better to live with brotherhood than hatred,” Adron agrees, noting he must “heal” his conscience after working with the evil Dragos.

Adron also reveals to Jason that Dragos is “amassing” alien power sources so as to invade “the universe,” and that’s where this particular episode leaves off. Jason and Adron part, and the implication is that Jason is off to stop Dragos' fiendish strategy.

It’s undeniably fun to see the My Enemy/My Ally dynamic re-stated so bluntly on Jason of Star Command, even if the idea is incredibly familiar. 

At least the re-use of  such an old concept gives this installment some philosophical and cerebral heft, so it isn’t just action all the time. This episode of JOSC doesn't feel as empty as some, as a consequence.

Another nice touch in "Face to Face" is that Adron and Jason are trapped on a “living planet,” one which attempts to kill all invaders, and which starts setting off explosives across the landscape. At one point, a cave wall comes to life and attempts to crush the duo.  It's one thing to work together in a dangerous environment, it's all together something else when that environment is consciously trying to murder you...

About the only misstep in “Face to Face” is the fact that, once more, Dragos seems to be able to see  and hear everything that is happening to every moment. How Dragos manages to possess constant universal, inter-dimensional, intergalactic surveillance on his target is a total mystery, and one that the series never explains.

Next week: "Phantom Force."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:04 AM

    The theme of this ep also reminded me of the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Dawn" where Tucker must work together with a Reptilian enemy. Of course, Enterprise had the luxury of much more sophisticated alien make-up and effects. In '79, Jason's alien costumes and effects were impressive to kids. The first issue of Fangoria had a nice article about the alien costumes created (on the cheap) for the show. Production values may improve but shows still reuse the same basic storylines.