Thursday, April 13, 2017

Logan's Run 40th Anniversary Blogging: "Stargate" (February 6, 1978)

“Stargate” is the final episode of Logan’s Run: The Series (1977-1978), and the installment is a rough and disappointing note to go out on.  It’s another story about aliens on Earth (much like the ill-conceived “The Collectors.”)

At least that story played with a core idea of this franchise: what is Sanctuary? What should it look like?

“Stargate” isn’t grounded in any of the series’ good ideas at all.

Instead, this narrative requires our heroes -- who, let’s remember, are largely inexperienced in the world because of their sheltered City of the Dome upbringing -- to defeat an alien invasion single-handedly. Even REM is pretty useless.

In this story. Logan (Gregory Harrison), Jessica (Heather Menzies) and REM (Donald Moffat) encounter another city in the desert (like “Turnabout’s” Zidor).

This one is run, however, by aliens who wear thermal clothing because they can't stand the cold of Earth's atmosphere. They want to invade the planet, and remake it to their preferences.  They also possess a "stargate" or transporter which can bring aliens to Earth, but it's broken, and they need some of REM's parts to repair it.

The aliens start disassembling REM to use his pieces, but Logan and Jessica seek the help of a human survivor of the city, and attempt to set things right, preventing the alien invasion. This is especially important because they know that they will soon be "replaced" by alien doppelgangers in thermal suits, if they fail.

There are so many disappointing aspects of this story, it is difficult to know where to begin an analysis.  

First, REM seems way off here. He is captured by the alien leader, played by Paul Carr, and then basically submits to disassembly.  He never loses the pleasant, faintly insipid smile from his face, as he is slowly taken apart.  This seems weird, and wrong.  Even an android should have some form of survival instinct.  REM should be protective of his pieces, but he just willingly lets the aliens take his arm, and other bits. No matter what they take, however, he continues to function, so he can speak and relate to the other characters.

Remember how the android Bishop felt, half-destroyed in Alien3? He would have rather been nothing than live half-a-life. And Data, of course, would not have submitted willingly to his disassembly on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He would have fought it (see: "The Measure of a Man.")

An episode like this makes it much more difficult to respect REM as a sentient being, since he apparently has so little respect for himself or his body.  And, again, his behavior here doesn’t seem to ring true with knowledge from previous episodes. At the very least, REM must continue to exist so he can protect Logan and Jessica. He knows that.

Secondly, one has to wonder -- again -- why the series is offering hackneyed alien invasion stories.  Logan’s Run concerns a future dystopia, post-holocaust, as human survivors begin the process of reaching out to communicate with another. That step of contact/communication might be seen as the first step towards re-building civilization.  There is so much for the series to explore on Earth without involving visitors from other worlds.  It could explore the City of Domes, it could discuss what Sanctuary really means, it could adapt elements of the novel (Box!). It could feature civilizations that didn’t learn the lessons of the holocaust.

Instead, we get evil, invading aliens.  And the aliens in “Stargate” look absolutely ridiculous in their puffy thermal wear, as they try to cause global warming and make Earth’s temperature more to their liking.

And, as I’ve written before, episodes such as "Stargate" proceed from an incorrect assumption about the characters and their nature.  Logan and Jessica are not Starfleet officers. They are not scientists stationed on a moon base. They are not explorers or diplomats in any way, shape or form.  

They are, essentially, innocents experiencing the outside world for the first time. And yet we are to believe that they are capable of launching revolutions, stopping alien invasions, and so on.  It’s ridiculous that they can go into a situation like the one in "Stargate," and, basically, save the world.  

The premise is simply not true to what Logan’s Run is supposed to be about; which is discovery, or self-discovery, in Logan and Jessica’s case.

I will say this for the episode: the scene in “Stargate” in which the doppelgangers of Logan and Jessica melt away, like wax dummies, is effectively creepy.  It’s just too bad the imagery comes in service of a terrible story, one of Logan’s Run’s absolute worst.

Looking back at the series today, it’s clear that the best episodes are those which try to explore the intrinsic concepts of the franchise: war, dystopia, refugees, desperation, etc.  The episodes that try to be like Star Trek (1966-1969), only with flame guns and solar cars, are those that drag the series down towards mediocrity.

So Logan’s Run ends, as so many series once did, with no sense of closure or completion. 

How would I have ended things for our runners?  

Well, I would have ended the series with Logan and Jessica realizing that they can’t find “Sanctuary” on the run; that they have to make it for themselves.  I would have ended the series with them returning to the City of Domes, and launching a strategy to overturn the corrupt State, and make it their long-hoped for “Sanctuary.”

I’ll be presenting my list of Logan’s Run episodes -- best to worst -- tomorrow morning.

Next week at this time, I begin my look back at another 1970’s post-apocalyptic series: Planet of the Apes (1974).


  1. John, accurate review of this final episode of Logan's Run ending with a '70s cliche of UFO/aliens invading. You are so right about the post-apocalyptic LR world having so much to explore including Box and Sanctuary. This is why the short season failed to attract ratings for a full season order or a second season. For example, Land Of The Lost had a superior plan of stories for each seasons episodes to better define the world the series existed in. I am so glad that other '70s post-apocalyptic television series such as ARK II and CBS Planet Of The Apes explored the world without UFO/aliens invading episodes.


  2. Anonymous8:17 PM

    Looking back on the "40th anniversary" of the show, I also have to remember how the show appealed to me when it first aired. Sure, as a middle-aged adult, most of it seems silly now. As I kid, the visuals -sets, creatures and effects were tremendously entertaining. Even the aliens' "puffy thermal wear" seemed cool. Buck Rogers often featured such space fashions. Starlog magazine offered its readers a very similar jacket in one of their ads.

    Introducing aliens is such an easy option for writers, but kids just loved these type stories. Now, I can appreciate that the show hired some serious writing talent such as Harlin Ellison, David Gerrold, etc. The show was cancelled before it could even begin to hit its stride. It was extremely disappointing back then to see so many shows canceled so quickly; Fantastic Journey, Quark, Logan's Run, Battlestar Galactica, and on and on.

    Your selection of pictures did include one of the great things about the show...those beautiful matte-painting shots of exotic cities!