Thursday, December 21, 2017
Cult-TV Blogging: Star Maidens: "The Enemy"
In the final episode of Star Maidens (1976), Fulvia (Judy Geeson) and her captives -- Adam (Pierre Brice) and Shem (Gareth Thomas) -- prepare to return to Medusa for the hostage exchange.
At the same time, Dr. Rudy Schmidt (Christian Quadflieg) and Liz (Lisa Harrow) are being ferried back to Earth by Octavia (Christiane Kruger).
The exchange does not go off quite as planned, however, because of a malevolent third party. The Medusans remember -- from their ancient history in Proxima Centauri -- the presence of alien predators who “fed” on them. Now, a deadly spaceship from that force has arrived in Earth’s solar system, ready to once more interfere in Medusan affairs.
The alien ship attacks, attempting to seize the Medusan shuttles, but Adam and Rudy, on separate ships, launch a counter-attack, something the Medusan females are not willing to do. The counter-attack is successful, and Earth and Medusa have their first triumph together.
“The Enemy” is a fascinating episode of Star Maidens, and a segment that makes one wish for further episodes. Although the episode’s final statement on the war of the sexes is not so strong (which I will talk about below), “The Enemy” nonetheless sets the scene for a larger tapestry, had the second season been produced.
Here, the ancient enemy of Medusa arrives in a menacing-looking spaceship, depicted with a miniature that would have felt right at home in Space: 1999 (1975-1977). We never actually see the enemy. But from their merciless voices, we know that the enemies are all male. We see their uniforms, rotund bodies, and gloved hands, but never their faces.
We are told -- via exposition -- that the Medusans, in their original solar system “were preyed upon” by these aliens. Apparently, these forces have been searching for Medusa for centuries. And now the enemy has found both its quarry, and Earth. It would indeed have been fascinating to see how this dynamic altered the series in a second season, but alas it was never to be.
In terms of our final statement about men and women, there is finally no ambiguity about where Star Maidens stands. Adam and Rudy take command of their respective Medusan crafts, and fight back against the aliens.
Several times, Octavia and Fulvia complain that they don’t know how to fight. So the men, who apparently do, must step up to save the day.
In light of what we have already seen on the series, including Medusan weaponry and security forces, this plot element doesn’t make much sense. Octavia is a hard-nosed, brutal fighter, and head of Medusan Security. It seems highly unlikely that she would “choke” in battle, especially after detecting that her enemies are males. Her primary prejudice, as we have seen close up, is that men are weak, inefficient creatures who cannot protect themselves. Hence women must protect them. That through-line is lost in this final episode.
In terms of science, Star Maidens gets into a little trouble here. “The Enemy” continually confuses the term galaxy with solar system, noting that the bad guys have been chasing Medusa from galaxy to galaxy. In the 1970’s, these terms were used interchangeably in many series, including in Battlestar Galactica (1978).
As this is the final episode of Star Maidens, I do want to reflect on the series as a whole. In brief: I rather enjoyed it, even if I can make the argument that the series did not always know where it was headed, or what its point about the war of the sexes really was.
I love the production design from Keith Wilson, and the miniature effects as well. Some stories, namely “Hideout” and “The End of Time” are really fascinating, and suggest that the makers of the series aimed for more than “high camp.”
And “high camp” is what critics have determined the series is. I can see why, based on some early episodes, but Star Maidens is worth a second-look, if only to better understand science fiction on TV in the 1970’s.