Saturday, July 23, 2016
Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Space Stars (1981): Series Primer
A galaxy of heroes team together in an interstellar battle against evil. Blast off on adventures as big as the cosmos itself!”
Get ready for “60 laser blasting minutes of action…” in Space Stars (1981), a Hanna-Barbera animated Saturday morning series that lasted just one season, and eleven episodes.
Space Stars aired on NBC from September 1981 through November 1981, and had two clear influences.
The first is obviously Star Wars (1977). All the segments in the series are set in outer space or in alien worlds. And the series’ opening title imitates the opening crawl style of Star Wars, only with drawn character outlines as well as words.
The second inspiration is The All-New Super Friends Hour (1977-1978) on ABC, which featured popular DC Superheroes working together and separately, and interspersed short educational segments (about safety and magic tricks, for example) with adventures featuring a multitude characters from the Justice League at the Hall of Justice. It was an omnibus series, and so is this one.
Space Stars followed in this pattern with crossovers, but also short “black-out” segments include “Space Magic,” “Space Mystery,” and “Space Fact” and “Space Code.”
The stars collected for Space Stars include 1960s hold-overs Space Ghost, and The Herculoids, was well as the Teen Force, and Astro and the Space Mutts. Astro is apparently the family dog from the Jetsons, now working for the space police.
In the Space Ghost segments, Space Ghost -- a Batman corollary for the far future and outer space -- teams with his friends Jan, Jace and Blip the space monkey to defeat villains such as the tyrant Uglor, Toymaker, and star beasts galore. Settings include their home-base -- “The Ghost Planet” -- and also Space Ghost’s ship: the phantom cruiser. Space Ghost has power bands on his wrists that emit beams of all types, and the sidekicks can deploy “inviso-power.’
In the Herculoids installments, a human family consisting of Zandor, Tara and Doro live on distant Quasar (rather than Amzot, as previously…) in the wilderness. They have befriended several amazing creatures including Zot (a dragon), Igoo (a rock simian), Tundro (a rhino/triceratops combination), and the blobs Gloop and Gleep. These beings defend the family against all brand of invaders both from Quasar (“The Snake Riders”) and beyond. I’ve loved the Herculoids in all their incarnations.
The Teen Force segments involves a group of young heroes who dwell beyond Black Hole X and voyage to our universe.
This group rides space sleds/rockets through space. The heroes are a psychic named Elektra, Moleculad -- who can alter and re-arrange his physical matter at will -- and Kid Comet. They are assisted by diminutive sidekicks called Astromites, and regularly battle Uglor , tyrant of the planet Uris.
The next “space stars” are the show’s (cringe-worthy) comic-relief: talking space dogs Astro, Cosmo and Dipper, who work with a hapless human policeman, Space Ace, in the Astro and the Space Mutts segments. This segment has not held up well, and was frequently not syndicated with the rest of the series during cable reruns.
The final segment of each hour of Space Stars is called the “Space Stars Finale” and always involves a team up of different heroes in cross-over tales. The Teen Force and Space Ghost join forces in “Polaris,” for instance, while the Herculoids and Space Ghost do so in “Worlds in Collision.”
Space Stars feels very antiquated by today’s standard of sci-fi programming.
It is basically a science free zone (despite its so-called “Space Facts”) with its space age superheroes (and dogs…) flying around in space sans space suits or other protections.
Similarly, every creature and place is ostensibly made “futuristic” sounding by adding the words “star” or “space” as a descriptor. Welcome to a world of star flies, star beasts, etc. The stories tend not to be deep, either, focusing on action over character or even solid sci-fi concepts.
I’ll begin episode reviews of Space Stars starting 8/6!