Cult-TV Blogging: Star Maidens: "Test for Love"

In “Test for Love,” we return to the planet Medusa, a world dominated by women.

Earth scientist Rudi Schmidt (Christian Quadflieg) has been returned to the underground city on Medusa, but is still considered untrustworthy, and unworthy of anything but menial labor.

Octavia (Christiane Kruger) remains suspicious, however, both of Rudi and Liz (Lisa Harrow). Medusa’s president, Clara (Dawn Addams) suggests that Liz should have a job, to distract her from Rudi’s schemes to return to Earth.

Accordingly, Liz begins to train as a spaceship pilot.

Liz is also given a hulking male domestic, Ercule (John Wyman), to keep her mind off of Rudi. Liz claims not to be attracted to Ercule, and short-circuits a “reality meter” with her thoughts to prove it. Clara agrees that Rudi should become her domestic.

Liz, meanwhile, must also complete with Nola (Veronica Lang), a Medusan female favored by Octavia, to get the piloting her position. Liz emerges victorious, and gets to choose her crew, including Rudi.

Together, Liz and Rudi plot to escape from Medusa in the patrol spaceship, but Clara has planned accordingly for any such betrayal. Liz’s vessel is rigged with a “dual” controls, so that Medusa can bring it back, at any time, remotely.

Liz and Rudi realize that their escape to Earth must wait for another day.

Our second Medusa-centric episode in a row -- “Test for Love” -- increases the series’ sense of intrigue, as Liz must navigate Octavia’s suspicions, and dispatch both a rival for her romantic affections (Ercule) and her career aspirations (Nola). Liz is successful in both regards, only to be handed a reversal in the episode’s final moments.

It’s interesting to think about this idea, but what we have here, in this obscure ‘70’s series, is some arc storytelling, as the characters move on parallel tracks of development.

One couple that is falling in love (an Earth couple) learns to navigate Medusa. The other couple -- Adam and Fulvia, of Medusa -- learns to contend with Earth morality.  These two “fish out of water” stories are played against one another (as we’ll see next week, in the satirical “The Perfect Couple,”) but the whole affair develops as if the chapters in a novel.

The problem I detect, and which has harmed Star Maidens’ reputation, is that there is often an inconsistency of tone. The Medusa episodes are largely played straight. The Earth episodes are played tongue-in-cheek, mostly. 

The result is a series that vacillates between silliness, and sci-fi plotting. 

In “Test for Love,” the women of Medusa decide that Liz needs a man and a job to be happy on their planet. However, this society doesn’t seem to cherish freedom as much as some western countries do, on Earth. It is arranged for Liz to have Ercule -- John Wyman from For Your Eyes Only (1981) -- as her male plaything, and he is not her choice at all, despite his physical fitness. 

To reject Ercule, Liz does what no woman of Medusa has ever done: she uses her thoughts to destroy a “reality meter,” a device similar, perhaps, to our truth detector.  This sequence is the most bizarre one of the episode. Another Medusan is hooked up to the reality meter, and we watch her fantasize about half-naked men wrestling. Then Liz's turn comes next, and she tries hard not to visualize Ercule in this fashion, instead conjuring images of gorillas and other wild animals.

This episode gives Clara (Dawn Addams) a lot to do, and she is an excellent addition to the cast, Medusa’s commander-in-chief. 

All through the episode, it looks like Octavia is the real danger, and that Clara doesn’t see through Liz and Rudi’s plans.  Then, in the final moments of the episode, we see that Clara is a pretty smooth operator, and has left nothing to chance. She’s a fascinating leader character.

Next Week: “The Perfect Couple.”


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