Friday, April 14, 2017

Ranking Logan's Run: The Series Best to Worst

Logan’s Run: The Series (1977-1978) ran for a mere 14-episodes in the mid-seventies, and certainly had its share of stinkers.  Still, some episodes are also quite good, and hold up well. At this point, I've reviewed each of the installments individually, and hopefully, in detail.

Today, I present my rankings, best-to-worst, of the series installments.

Great Episodes:

“Crypt.” This is the absolute best episode of the series. It originates with a story by Harlan Ellison, and sees Logan, Jessica and REM being forced to contend with a difficult choice.  They are asked to save the lives of several scientists and leaders who have been in suspended animation for years. However, there is a mole in the group. One of the individuals is a murderer. 

The episode is so notable for REM’s use of deductive reasoning in the final act, and for Logan’s statement of principle near the episode climax. Specifically, Logan won’t make an “ends justify the means” decision again, because that’s what he saw happen every day at the City of the Domes.  He will never again tether himself to a corrupt ideal. He will not murder because it is convenient, or because it serves a cause.  This is a statement of principle that suggests the character has grown and learned from his experiences.

“Man out of Time.” This episode, by David Gerrold (under the pseudonym Noah Ward) finds Logan, Jessica and REM contending with David Eakins, a scientist from another time who is visiting the future to determine what finally causes the holocaust that destroys civilization. He finds, to his horror, that his work inventing time travel is the cause of the world’s destruction.

The episode is so powerful because audiences finally get a history of the Holocaust (and its reasons), and even some background on the mysterious “Sanctuary Project,” which clearly ties in with Logan and Jessica’s search for “Sanctuary.”  This episode begins to build an historical mythology for the series that is highly-intriguing.

Good Episodes:

“Pilot.” This story does a solid job of adapting the 1976 film to TV restrictions of the age. The pilot re-introduces the audience to Logan, Jessica, Francis and the City of Domes, while simultaneously adding new ideas to the franchise. 

The Council of Elders is a fascinating and welcome addition, specifically. Those who sit on the council are the ultimate hypocrites, allowed to enter old age peacefully, while their people die at thirty, hoping for renewal.  Those on the council promise Francis a seat there if he delivers the runners Logan and Jessica to Carousel.  The pilot episode also introduces the solar car, and REM, who is quite possibly the best character on the series.  

Production values are strong, and more than that, the series shows real promise. There’s a great ironic scene here in which a freezing Logan and Jessica throw piles of American dollars on the fire, unaware of its value.  The point is made through imagery. War destroys everything. If the world is destroyed, currency and monetary wealth no longer carry value.

“Carousel.” Although burdened by an awkward set-up in which an advanced pacifist society erases Logan’s memory with an amnesia dart, the rest of the episode is quite strong, re-introducing the City of Domes setting to good effect.  

The episode looks hard at Logan and his development as an empathetic person. He learned to question his job, his life, and his society when he first ran. If he were to be robbed of his memory of those selections, would he learn again to question, or would he stagnate, falling back into the role of Sandman?  

We learn, in this case, that questioning authority, and his culture, is part of Logan’s gestalt. He chooses to grow, a second time.

“The Judas Goat.”  Another strong episode that revels in series mythology and history.  The series reintroduces the New You plastic surgery laser seen in the film, and then introduces to the series to the first Runner.  

We learn that the first runner began his escape only years earlier, thus revealing that “running” is a recent phenomenon in the City of Domes (the hints of a broader change taking place, as people question the order of things).  The episode also introduces the idea of Logan and Jessica returning to their home to make meaningful change there.  This is a powerful idea.  Instead of "running," Logan needs to confront his past.

“Futurepast.” This episode -- which on the surface is an android romance between REM and Ariana (Mariette Hartley) -- is actually the most visually stylish of all Logan’s Run entries.  

At a futuristic sleep clinic, Jessica and Logan fall into unending slumber and encounter nightmares that reveal their inner selves. Logan’s dreams are mostly stock footage clips from earlier episodes, but Jessica’s dreams involve the mother she never knew, and a Boogeyman representing Death.  The imagery is carefully and symbolically vetted, making the episode a visual treat.  This episode really looks great, even in 2017.

Mediocre Episodes:

“The Innocent.” This story is sort of like Star Trek’s “Charlie X” meets Stephen King’s Carrie. 

An adolescent girl living only with robots, in a hidden bunker, encounters Logan, and falls in love.  Because of her inexperience and jealousy, however, she becomes a danger to the runners.  

The story ends on a dopey note, with Logan encouraging the adolescent girl to go out and see the post-apocalyptic world, while not actually inviting her to travel with him.  This seems awfully dangerous, given the characters he's encountered! 

The robot designs in "The Innocent" are also some of the worst in TV history.  And yet, the episode boasts some powerful moments, as Jessica is viewed as a “rival” for Logan’s affections.

Bad Episodes:

“Half-a-Life.” Star Trek’s “The Enemy Within” gets purposelessly recycled here, with the Runners encountering a society where people extract their “evil” half using a transporter-like device. Jessica is forced to undergo the process, and Logan and REM must put her back together again.  

So…the post-apocalyptic world possesses transporter technology, converting and duplicating matter?  

That could come in handy in the re-building or feeding of the planet.  Instead, we get a Trek retread.

The Collectors.”  Two aliens who are collecting specimens from throughout the galaxy to bring back to a zoo on their home world attempt to capture Logan and Jessica for their collection by creating the illusion of Sanctuary for them.  

Although Jessica falls for the delusion hook, line and sinker, Logan questions what he is seeing. 

The parts of the episode that work effectively involve the false Sanctuary setting. The parts that don’t succeed involve the aliens and their captives. Aliens don’t really have a place in Logan’s Run, but here they are, anyway.

"Capture." Logan Run's thoroughly unimpressive and unmemorable stab at The Most Dangerous Game, a long-standing TV trope. 

A hunter and his mate capture Logan and Francis, and the former friends must now work together to survive the hunt. Not offensive so much as it is thoroughly predictable, and unambitious. It's a Most Dangerous Game story that meets a My Enemy/My Ally Story.  We've seen it all before, and we've seen it vetted in a more effective way.

“Fear Factor.” The Runners encounter an insane asylum of the future, and the lead doctor wants to control Jessica’s mind. 

When Logan and REM try to stop him, they are dropped into a torture chamber under the hospital.   

Here we encounter another poorly-conceived culture, with no grounding in reality, or history. Why is a mental hospital operating out in the middle of nowhere, with a full staff? Where does it get its power from? Where do the doctors train for their vocation?  

 “Night Visitors.” The Runners encounter a house occupied by Satan-worshipers, who want to use Jessica’s body as a vessel for a dead woman. 

In this tale, REM -- the android of logic and reason -- concludes that the house is haunted, and is inhabited by ghosts. It's a real low-point for the character's dignity.

Logan and Jessica, meanwhile, don’t bat an eye at the concept of ghosts, despite the fact that they should have no awareness of ghosts at all. There are no dead people in the City of Domes, ater all….everybody renews (one for one).

“Turnabout.” A story that at first attempts to concern religious extremism quickly becomes a mindless run-around, with endless rescues and captures, and even a sword fight.

“Stargate.” Likely the worst episode of the series. This one sees Logan and Jessica single-handedly stopping an alien invasion, while REM timidly acquiesces to disassembly by the extra-terrestrial conquerors.


  1. John, I concur with your analysis of the LOGAN'S RUN episodes. If the series producers had planned out the episodes to explore this world and not be stand alone stories, then there might have been a season two. LAND OF THE LOST had their seasons episodes much more structured to explore the world plus the characters.


  2. John,
    Even though I never watched this series, I did enjoy your retrospective and reviews of these episodes.