Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cult-TV Blogging: Star Maidens (1976): "Nemesis"

The second episode of the 1970s war-of-the-sexes space opera Star Maidens opens with the thought: "space holds no fury like a female planet scorned."

The question regarding such a comment, of course, is intent. Is this series poking fun at such anti-woman proverbs? Or does Star Maidens take such commentary seriously, and reflect it in its space-age premise of a female dominated planet?

Given the other humorous aspects of the episode, I would suggest the former interpretation. At some, hopefully intentional level, Star Maidens seems to recognize the humor in applying broad, sexist language to a “futuristic” science fiction epic.  The premise finds a rigidly, unthinking patriarchy (Earth) confronting a rigidly, unthinking matriarchy (Medusa).

Our silly conceits about sex are, ultimately, reflected by Medusa’s silly conceits about them. Can’t we all just get along?

This second episode of the 1976 series involves the Medusan pursuit ship Nemesis following Adam and Shem to Earth.

The two escaped "domestics" have fled their space-age parachute (a giant bubble of sorts) and head across the English countryside looking for food. The men are happy to be "free at last," (they actually speak those famous words) and walking around on a world where no woman can "command them." 

They soon encounter a cow pasture and see cows decide to eat the grass too. This doesn't speak well of their intelligence, but further enhances the idea that Star Maidens is something of a comedy, with a strong fish-out-of-water component.

Later, Adam and Shem happen across a farm and find apples to eat, but not before a little Earth girl chases them off the grounds. They flee the property by jumping over a tall brick wall in a single bound, pointing to the fact that Medusa and Earth have different gravity, and idea later repeated on Galactica: 1980. This scene is actually quite funny, as it involves, again, Shem’s ingrained fear regarding women. He is terrified when the young human threatens to tell her mother that the stranger has stolen an apple. Shem veritable cowers in fear at the thought, and one can’t help but laugh at his terror.

The women from Medusa -- Fulvia (Judy Geeson) and Octavia (Christiane Kruger) -- land on Earth and meet with Liz (Lisa Harrow) and Professor Evans (Derek Farr). The Medusan women demand the return of Adam and Shem, and bark orders at the local police chief. When he tries to explain what is happening, Octavia curtly tells him to "be quiet."

In the same sequence, Octavia utilizes superior Medusan weaponry to immobilize another police officer. Their weaponry is a kind of "paralysis" or "freeze ray," which is the equivalent of turning a person to stone and thus the perfect weapon for a citizen of a world called Medusa (after the character in Greek myth).

More genuinely humorous is the device that Fulvia uses to track down Adam. It's called a "man finder,” and it hunts down a man by his "scent." The theory being that each man possesses his own specific scent. Apparently, men wander off quite a bit on Medusa, and their overlords need to wrangle them…

The episode culminates with Adam and Shem riding around dirt roads in a computer-controlled police car, and sending the earthbound police on a merry chase. It all happens to the tune of a groovy seventies musical score. It's like Doctor Who meets Smokey and the Bandit.

It's pretty clear from this second installment of the series that Star Maidens has descended fully into tongue-in-cheek humor in record time. I could mention again the moment wherein the none-too-bright man-folk from Medusa sample grass along with generous cows. Or the moment wherein the Nemesis ship lands in a wide-open field, two gorgeous alien women disembark and none of the gathered earth people bat an eye, gasp, or react with surprise or shock. 

Nope. A conversation immediately begins about the Medusans wanting their men back. It's like a conversation officials from two countries might have over the subject of extradition. But officials from two planets?

And the scene in which the caped, futuristic women from Medusa enter a police station and start issuing's more of the same. It plays as comedy.

Still, since (according to Fulvia in this episode...) "most of outer space is very boring," I guess I can be grateful that Star Maidens is as entertaining as it is. However, “Nemesis” does not set one foot on advanced Medusa, and that means the earthbound action is, almost by default, less interesting than it might be otherwise.

Next week: "Nightmare Cannon."

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