Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cult-TV Blogging: Star Maidens: "The Perfect Couple" (1976)

While Liz (Lisa Harrow) and Rudi (Christian Quadflieg) must re-think their escape plans on Medusa, Adam (Pierre Brice) and Fulvia (Judy Geeson) begin to acknowledge their feelings for one another on Earth.

Fulvia has been lecturing about life on Medusa to the Grand Council of Women, a militant feminist group. These women are “encouraged” to learn that Medusan women used reason to convince men that women should rule their planet. Those who didn’t listen to reason contended, however, with "discipline.”

Meanwhile, it is announced that Earth has but two weeks to send back Adam, or there will be a diplomatic incident with Medusa. Adam realizes that if he reconciles with Fulvia, there is a possibility that Octavia would allow them to remain on Earth…and live together.  This could be his only chance to live free from Medusa.

Accordingly, Adam and Fulvia decide to move into the suburbs together, and share blissful domestic existence together. 

Adam will stay at home and tend to the house, and Fulvia will have a career working for the British government.  This living arrangement collapses, however, after Fulvia becomes jealous of Adam’s interactions with a British housewife.

Meanwhile, the group of militant feminists steal two of Fulvia’s advanced Medusan weapons, and set about launching an insurrection against the men of Earth.

“The Perfect Couple” may be the silliest episode of Star Maidens (1976) thus far. Here, Adam and Fulvia decide to play house in a suburban community, but find that the normal “gendered” roles of 20th century Earth don’t seem to suit them. 

The episode features a funny, unconventional montage of their life together, playing house. We see Fulvia working in a garden, and Adam mowing the lawn (via Medusan remote control), for example.

In the episode’s most ridiculous moment, Adam and Fulvia attempt to explore the Earth custom of “going to the pub,” with predictable fish-out-of-water results. Fulvia attempts to tell a dirty joke.

The sub-plot of the week involves militant feminists in Britain, who steal advanced weaponry from Fulvia and launch an ill-fated insurrection.  

At first, I thought the episode really treated these characters shabbily, as stereotypes and two-dimensional characters.  As such, it seemed the episode was mocking feminism, and, in doing so, equality itself.  

And then I remembered the previous episode “The Trial.”  In that story, Rudi joins a rebel group on Medusa; one similarly attempting to over-turn a sexist order.

So what we have in “The Perfect Couple” is a mirror-image of that tale, with feminists of the seventies representing the rebels of Earth. 

What are we to understand from these mirror plot-lines? I suppose only that both systems are flawed, and that there are those on each planet fighting against what is perceived, culturally, as the “natural order."

The men, as you may recall, were vexed, because they did not have backbone. They could not disobey the women of Medusa. The women, in this episode, are defeated by their incompetent handling of the alien weaponry.

Neither rebel group is held up as a worthwhile solution to the planetary war of the sexes.

Of course, it’s strange and insulting in “The Perfect Couple” that Shem (Gareth Thomas) continues to refer to the advanced weapons themselves as female.  “These are female weapons!” He exclaims “They can be temperamental.”

Cuz men are never temperamental, right?

The line is played straight, but it is difficult to discern intent and tone here. Is the intent to mock such “gendered” labels? Or is doubling down on such labels?

I can’t say that I know the answer for certain, only that “The Perfect Couple,” while often ridiculous, is certainly the most provocative episode of the series so far. It dares to show the audience that Medusa isn’t the only sexist society in the universe.

Next week: “What Have They Done to the Rain?”

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