Saturday, October 21, 2017

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: The Lost Saucer: "Transylvania 2300" (September 27, 1975)

The saucer lands on the planet CR-3 in the year 2300 AD, and the androids encounter Dr. Frankenstein the 13th (Stan Ross), who, from his laboratory, is building a perfect android.

Alice (Alice Playden), however, needs Dr. Frankenstein’s help, because Fi (Ruth Buzzi) and Fum (Jim Nabors) have broken down. Dr. Frankenstein agrees to help, but wants to keep the androids as his new assistants. He rewrites their programming modules.

After Frankenstein fires Hugo (Billy Barty), his assistant, Hugo and Alice hatch a plan to free Fi and Fum from the mad scientist’s control.

Although its title suggests a stab at Dracula, “Transylvania 2300” is actually inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The story concerns the birth of an android, of new life form, and the obsessed scientist who creates that new life.

Only in the case of The Lost Saucer (1975), this story takes place in the distant future, not the 19th century, involves an android instead of corpse-body parts, and the focus is on slapstick comedy, not man’s vain attempt to conquer death.

Despite the silliness, the story attempts to generate age-appropriate goose-bumps, even -- for the first time in the series -- setting some scenes in darkest night. 

Indeed, Fi and Fum malfunction in the first place because of a storm; because of lightning.  So this episode features an “it was a dark and stormy night”-type setting to make it feel a little creepier than the normal segment.

The jokes, as usual, are pretty goofy. We learn the androids don’t possess ears, but rather “sensor receptors,” and Frankenstein humorously tests their android reflexes, at one point.  Showing how time has passed the series by, however, we learn in this episode that Fi and Fum seem to operate off of 1970’s era mini-cassettes.

The social commentary in “Transylvania 2300” is not as strongly placed as in some episodes of The Lost Saucer, but there seems to be some under-the-radar thematic material here about automation and technology. Hugo -- a living, breathing person -- is replaced by mechanical people on the job, until he stages a kind of rebellion to get his job back.  That’s an idea that is still relevant, even today, with jobs disappearing because of technological advances.

Next week: “Beautiful Downtown Atlantis.”

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:50 AM

    It's great to see reviews of another often overlooked series. I watched almost all of the Kroft and Filmation shows in the 70's. "The Lost Saucer" was somewhere in the middle of the pack, quality wise. Not as bad as other Kroft shows such as "Wonderbug", but clearly a step below Filmation's "Space Academy" (which also featured eps with moral lessons for the kids).

    I remember other kids being less than enchanted with the comedic antics of Jim Nabors' character. I found him annoying too. He was just too strongly identified with the "Gomer Pyle" character for kids. On the other hand, kids seemed to like Bob Denver in "The Far-out Space Nuts" ... he was 'Gilligan' ( and "Gilligan's Island" was very popular with kids in the 70's).

    The low budget effects weren't great, but Starlog's first Special Effects Photobook did have some nice behind the scenes photos of some the miniature landscapes used in the show. Obviously, the miniatures paled in comparison to bigger budget shows such as "Space:1999" and "Space Academy", but it is interesting to see what was achieved on a minimal budget.

    Wikipedia's site on "The Lost Saucer" states the the complete series will soon be available on DVD (from Vivendi).