Cult-TV Blogging: Star Maidens (1976), "The Proton Storm"

This week on Star Maidens, in a script penned by John Lucarotti (who wrote several fine episodes of the original Doctor Who in the 1960’s), the Earthling Liz (Liza Harrow) and her (male) assistant Rudy are held hostage by Octavia pending the release of Shem and Adam on Earth.

Fulvia (Judy Geeson) is unhappy when a deal can't be reached with the fugitives from Medusa and Earth's Dr. Evans (Derek Farr), but Octavia terminates the mission, and decides it is time to return home.

"What can you expect of a planet ruled by men?" she asks. I love how dismissive and terse Octavia is in her dealings with our planet. And yes, I have seen men speak about women in precisely this fashion, on more than one occasion.

Held hostage, Liz and Rudy get their first (involuntary) peek at the advanced world of Medusa. Once there, the Earthlings are promptly separated and Liz is treated like royalty while Rudy is relegated to the barracks in the men's quarters.  Rudy opines that he doesn’t know how long he can take it, forced to be submissive to women overlords.

"You mustn't concern yourself over a mere male," Fulvia suggests to Liz. "To love a man is to give him power over you. And he will only abuse that." 

Again, this remark seems a perfect “crack’d mirror” example for the kind of things men tell each other about women.

Rudy discovers that the men's quarters are pretty rudimentary, and that the servants spend most of their time playing an extra-terrestrial variation of chess. They seem to do so, however, by telepathy, since the pieces move about the board without ever being touched.  The script makes nothing of this development. It isn’t even commented upon.

 "The rules are simple," explains Octavia of the chess variation -- without cracking the slightest hint of a smile -- "The Queen is never captured." 

Rudy also learns that men once ruled on Medusa, during an epoch that Fulvia refers to as the planet's Dark Ages. Back then, there was nothing "but wars, violence, and greed."

Since women took over the planet, Medusa has -- by contrast -- seen centuries of peace and social and technological progress. This is a powerful argument for female rule, given the high technology and achievements of Medusa, especially in comparison with the warring, primitive Earth of 1976 that we see in the series

While Rudy and Liz learn the ways of Medusa, on Earth Shem and Adam state their conditions for returning home. Shem wants a full pardon from Octavia and his old job as mechanic back (aim high, brother!), while Adam wants no less than equal rights and equal opportunities, a request which Octavia finds "rebellious.”

Hoping to reunite with Adam, her former domestic, on Earth, Fulvia steals the space yacht Nemesis and plots a trajectory back to Earth, but a severe proton storm is directly on her course, somewhere between "Jupiter and Uranus". The storm is raging at "destruction point," but Fulvia decides they'll just have to "ride it out.”

I probably don’t need to point it out, but Fulvia’s self-destructive behavior is that of someone who has clearly fallen in love. Fulvia can warn Liz about love all she likes. But in terms of Adam, she has clearly not taken her own advice. She loves him so much that she risks her own death to see him again.

From Earth, Shem helps Fulvia safely navigate the deadly proton storm. But when Fulvia lands on Earth, Adam still can't bring himself to forgive his mistress, and he runs off alone into the woods.  This is the first indication in the series that Adam carries affectionate feelings for Fulvia.  He is unable to deal with his emotions, and rather than confront them, he runs off like a child.

Again, this act seems to confirm the Medusan interpretation of men as children that must be cared for. And again, this is often an attitude held by the patriarchs here on Earth.  More ‘crack’d mirror’ commentary, and it’s all to the good. 

As opposed to the last episode of Star Maidens I watched ("Nightmare Cannon"), this one isn't overtly high camp, and is played rather seriously and emotionally.

I've noticed that matters always seem to pick up dramatically on Medusa, whereas most of the material occurring on Earth just seems haphazard, or poorly conceived.

For instance, why is Dr. Evans -- an egghead scientist -- negotiating with alien leaders? Wouldn't the British government like to be in on that action?  

How about the UN? Or the U.S.? 

First contact with advanced aliens seems a matter of import that would not be left to local police, or a well-meaning (but inept) astronomer.  Also, spaceships from Medusa are regularly invading the airspace of Britain now, and with no response from the air force?

Social commentary is all good, especially when it is as funny as Star Maidens makes it, but this series also needs some grounding in reality.


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