Thursday, December 07, 2017

Cult-TV Blogging: Star Maidens: "Creatures of the Mind" (1976)

In “Creatures of the Mind,” we return to Medusa for a hard sci-fi story. In particular, a Medusan officer working in the Archive of the Department of Historical Records, is confronted with an old computer that has developed sentience, and wishes to feed on the energy of living beings.

Octavia (Christiane Kruger) assigns Liz (Lisa Harrow) to continue the job in the Archives when the officer descends into catatonia. Liz asks Rudy (Christian Quadflieg) to help, and together they confront the strange living machine.

The dangerous computers nearly take control of Liz, but Rudy saves the day, and actually gets a compliment from Octavia about his performance during the crisis.

Although this is a good, creepy, genre tale, “Creatures of the Mind” doesn’t exactly feel tailor-made for Star Maidens (1976), a series about the war between the sexes.  Instead, it feels very much aligned with many Star Trek (1966-1969) or Space: 1999 (1975-1977) stories involving sentient, mad, tyrannical computers. 

Here the Museum of Medusan History houses just such a danger.

It’s true that Octavia and Rudy must put their differences aside to defeat the danger, making this an example of the “My Enemy, My Ally” story, as well as one about the sexes getting along.  

Still, this story on Medusa doesn’t reveal much about the culture (as “End of Time” did) or expose some flaw in the way the society works (as was the case in “What Have They Done to the Rain?”)  Instead, the story just features a sci-fi standard: the evil, advanced computer.

What the story lacks in customization, perhaps, it makes up for in style. The prologue, with creepy female voices taunting a security officer, is quite unnerving.  The Archive is dark, foreboding, and dangerous, and there is the feel of this as some kind of demonic possession horror story. Only in this case, it is a computer, not a devil that wishes to possess the living.

The budgetary limits of the series are apparent, at least in one regard in “Creatures of the Mind.” Octavia is the Chief of Security for the entire planet, and yet she and Rudy work to save Liz...just the two of them. You’d think she had more scientists and soldiers she could rally to the cause.

Of course, the presence of additional characters would not only be expensive, it would take away from the particularly intimate nature of this horror: creepy computer voices in the dark, promising friendship, but delivering something malevolent and monstrous.

Next week, the final episode of Star Maidens: “The Enemy.”

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