Thursday, March 02, 2017

Logan's Run 40th Anniversary Blogging: "The Judas Goat" (December 19, 1977)


After the illogical plotting of "Fear Factor," it's a relief to watch the crowded, loaded-with-elements, exciting next episode of Logan's Run, titled "The Judas Goat." This is a strong installment of the series, with call-backs to franchise history, some fine characterization, and real thrills too.

Here, a Sandman (Nicholas Hammond) is given plastic surgery -- courtesy of the New You Laser drill prop featured in the Logan's Run feature film -- to resemble a Runner, Hal 14 that Jessica (Heather Menzies) once befriended.

After being given the runner's memories, this Sandman is sent out into the wild to bring back Logan (Gregory Harrison) and Jessica. His story is that the City of Domes has changed, and that all it would take to destroy Carousel forever is testimony from runners who have survived outside the hermetically-sealed domes. In truth, the Council of Elders promises the agent a seat on the ruling body if he completes his mission.

Logan and Jessica find the idea of revolutionizing their corrupt civilization a tantalizing one, and after encountering the Sandman/runner begin to contemplate the idea of a return to the Domed City. But then, they run into a primitive society run by an all-powerful "Provider."  This provider sends out patrols, led by Garth (Spencer Milligan), to protect him from Sandmen.

This Provider is actually Matthew 12 (Lance Le Gault), the very first runner...the first man who ever fled Carousel six years earlier and headed out into parts unknown in search of Sanctuary! Now the Sandman in disguise realizes he could bring back an even greater prize to the City of Domes, and with Jessica and Logan tries to convince Matthew 12 to return to the City to lead to an insurrection.

But Matthew has his own agenda at work too. He refuses to let his “guests” leave, and tries to kill Logan and Hal. REM (Donald Moffat) detects his treachery just in time, and by reversing an explosive detonation, kills Matthew, violating the android’s “first law,” and harming a human being.


Written by John Meredyth Lucas, “The Judas Goat” moves with twice the pace and twice the complexity of your average Logan’s Run episode.

Each of the characters in this drama possesses competing and selfish motivations, and there is more than enough plotting and back-stabbing for a two-parter here, and as a result, this is one of the most fast moving and entertaining of the Logan's Run canon. We even get another “corrupt” pre-holocaust installation here (tying into the series theme about state-sponsored assistance), since Matthew 12 uses the locals as slaves, rewarding them for being his protectors by "giving them joy," aka computer-sponsored memory flashes of happy times.

Another fine element of this episode involves my favorite character: Donald Moffat's android, REM. In this episode, REM must make a choice between saving his friends and committing murder...an act which runs counter to his very programming. Here, he kills Matthew 12, rather than seeing Logan die. He admits to feeling "disturbed" by his action, and this is an intriguing development for the character. In many ways REM is inspiration or the forerunner of Brent Spiner's Lt. Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He's learning more about humanity and what it means to "be human" all the time. This week, that learning involves a dark lesson. And he looks absolutely bereft after breaking his “First Law.”


The episode also succeeds on the basis of the information it reveals about the runners and the City of Domes. Here, we encounter the “first runner,” Matthew 12, and learn that his escape from the city (and hunt for Sanctuary) began only six years before Logan and Jessica began their adventure.  

This means that runners are still a relatively new phenomenon, and makes one wonder what exactly the Sandmen did in the city, before Matthew began his escape. In the film, the City of Domes computer establishes that there are 1056 unaccounted for runners, suggesting that runners have probably always existed in the society.


 Production-wise, the episode hauls out the costume for the New You surgeon in the film, as well as the laser drill.  In this case, the drill doesn’t cause gory cuts, but (bloodlessly) re-arranges facial features.



The only downside of “The Judas Goat” is that in virtually a millisecond, Logan, Jessica, REM and their betrayer drive all the way back to the City of Domes.


I thought they'd been traveling for months and months, so it seems odd that they would just turn around and reverse their entire journey so quickly. That fact established, there is a lovely matte shot in the finale of the episode, of the Solar Craft pulling up to the City of the Domes. It's a great visual, and a rare "big" effects moment in the series.

The story's climax is also quite rich, with the duplicitous Sandman mistaken for a runner and shot down by his own brethren. I love that “cosmic justice” kind of ironic ending, and it was the icing on the cake in this enjoyable, solidly-made episode. It's also a pleasure to see Spencer Milligan in a role outside of his famous portrayal of Rick Marshall in Land of the Lost (1974-1977).




"The Judas Goat" is a thoroughly entertaining and worthwhile addition to Logan's Run, but in a way it just reveals how schizophrenic the series really was. One week it was way down (“Fear Factor”), the next it was up, and there was no consistency from story to story.

In two weeks, Logan's Run blogging resumes with the stylish “Futurepast.”

2 comments:

  1. John, excellent review of “The Judas Goat”. The Sandman mistaken for a runner and shot down by his own brethren seems to be a scene taken from Stalag 17(1953) ending. The series episodes seem to be random story ideas scripted for better or worse. I too enjoyed the City of Domes visit exterior and interior, wonderful scenes.

    SGB

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  2. Worth mentioning: Nicholas Hammond was the first actor to play Spider-Man in live action (give or take an "Electric Company" appearance) on the short-lived CBS series of the late 1970's.

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