Saturday, May 21, 2016
Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Flash Gordon: "Sir Gremlin/Deadly Double" (September 24, 1982)
In the second episode of Flash Gordon's (1979 - 1982) second season, Gremlin the Dragon is once again a central character.
In "Sir Gremlin," the hapless pink dragon is on hand to help Flash when Azura the sorceress once more attempts to win the heart and soul of Earthman.
On the "Night of the Magic Moons," Azura executes her strategy, ordering her "magic men" to abduct Dale Arden. Naturally, Flash follows,,and Azura offers him the chance to be king. When he refuses, the witch makes Flash battle a giant beast man.
In "Deadly Double," Ming the Merciless is back with another evil plan. His chief cyberneticist, Dr. Tavv, has created a robot duplicate of Gremlin and replaced the real thing, causing havoc for Flash and his friends.
There's not much positive to write about this second installment of the second season of Flash Gordon. The first season of the series did such a great job diagramming Flash's attempt to win over he chaotic kingdoms of Mongo and defeat the tyrant Ming the Merciless that these episodes feel largely pointless.
The second season of Flash Gordon, in other words, is AfterMASH, a kind of footnote, at least narratively-speaking to the main event.
There's no real sense of urgency, and threat of Ming is totally undone since he doesn't operate, anymore, from a position of power. Instead, he's just sort of a bungling has-been, hatching ridiculous plans.
In "Double Dragon" his entire (silly) plan revolves around replacing Gremlin, and using that robot replacement to lead Flash to his doom.
While it's interesting that the episode introduces Dr. Tavv, the scientist who designed Ming's (awesome) metal men, it says something that Ming's plan involves using Gremlin against Flash. Is Gremlin really such an important figure in Flash's life? In Mongo politics?
A better plan might have been to replace Dale Arden, or Flash with a duplicate, and sow discontent from within Mongo's new ruling regime.
Instead, we just get a robot version of Gremlin that Thun recognizes instantly as a phony, and that shreds a football. In two words, this is all small potatoes, isn't it?
The first story of this half-hour resurrects one of the crummiest aspects of Flash Gordon season one, which was that female rulers on Mongo all desperately desire Flash, and would give up their royal seat for his love and partnership.
Azura already tried that last season, and she does so again in "Sir Gremlin," with the same results.
That's the definition of insanity, right?
Anyway, why would an amazingly powerful ruler, with fearsome magical abilities, willingly render herself secondary to a man she has met once? Forget the sexist aspects of the story. We never, for example, see a male ruler, like Ming, offer to give up his throne for Dale's love. Instead, just focus on what a bad idea this is in terms of logic. Would any ruler give up power to a lover she or he hardly knows, and one from another planet at that?
The worst quality of this episode, however, is just how darn inconsequential it all feels after Ming's take down.
I think what the writers needed -- and didn't have here -- was a second story to equal the first season's
Perhaps the story of how Flash, Dale and Zarkov try to find what they need on Mongo to get home and return to Earth? Maybe that could have learned that somewhere on Mongo, in a cavern or lost city, rests a teleporter that can beam them to any location in the universe.
Another story possibility:What if the legendary Gor-Don, precursor, to Ming, came home, and wants power again?