Monday, September 30, 2013

Television and Cinema Verities #88


["Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"] touches another universal in the human psyche, and that is the fear of flying. Buried somewhere in all of us when the going gets rough up there is: If God meant us to fly, we’d have wings. Why are we up here? We’re in the wrong part of the world. We should be on terra firma. That’s the only explanation I can come up with that makes that particular episode as popular as it is..."

- William Shatner discusses the endring popularity of his Twilight Zone segment, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."

Ask JKM a Question: What ever happened to....


Instead of answering a specific reader question this week, I'm going to tell you about an interrogative that I frequently receive via my e-mail account.   

I have persistently been asked this question since I first began blogging in 2005:

“What really happened to Katie Saylor?”

Who is Katie Saylor, you ask? 

Well, to those of us of a certain age, she is a movie icon and sex-symbol of the mid-1970s. 

She starred in Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), and Supervan (1977), and she played Liana on the short-lived cult-TV series The Fantastic Journey (1977), which I have blogged about frequently.

But here’s the apparently enduring mystery: Katie Saylor departed that sci-fi series before it ended, and did not appear in the final two Fantastic Journey episodes “Riddles” and “The Innocent Prey.”   Her role in "Turnabout" appears...abbreviated.

Legend has it that Ms. Saylor was diagnosed with a terminal disease while making the series, and immediately left to tend to her health.  This may, however, be mere internet rumor.

Other accounts suggest that Ms. Saylor lived until 1991 -- more than a dozen years later -- when she then, actually, passed away.

I have also read rumblings on the Net since recently that she is alive and well, and that she merely chose to leave Hollywood behind.  

I don’t believe in prying into a performer’s personal life, or into the details of a family tragedy (if that is what this mystery concerns...), but I can absolutely attest to the fact that I am frequently asked “whatever happened to Katie Saylor?"  

And alas, I have no answer.

So if anyone does know -- and would be willing to provide some evidence that I could share on line -- I’d be very gratified to see this matter resolved. 

Judging by the frequency of the question, I’d say that a lot of people of my generation love, adore, and remember Katie Saylor, and cherish her small and silver screen work to this day.  I have always felt she created a strong character on The Fantastic Journey, and one whose empathic/psychic abilities didn't come across as annoying or irritating, as was often the case with Counselor Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation's early years.

Don’t forget to ask me your questions at Muirbusiness@yahoo.com.

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Balloons


A balloon is a flexible bag which, when pumped with a gas such as helium, inflates. Although we commonly associate balloons with the festivities of birthday parties or carnivals, hot-air balloons are also a notable mode of transport around the world.

In cult-television history, balloons of both types have appeared frequently. 

Regarding the former variety, the post-apocalyptic Saturday morning TV series Ark II (1976) featured an episode titled “The Balloon” in which coded messages (for help) were transported via the objects.

In 1994, an “evil” balloon appeared in the second season The X-Files episode “The Calusari.”  A pink balloon (dragged by an invisible supernatural entity…) leads a little toddler to his death at an amusement park.  The boy wanders onto the railroad tracks, and an oncoming train runs him down. 


In terms of hot-air balloons, they have proven vital in terms of storytelling.  Perhaps their most famous and memorable application was in the finale of the second V miniseries, V: The Final Battle (1984). 

There, hot-air balloons all over the world dispersed the weapon known as “the red dust” which was known to kill the alien Visitors.  The technological aliens, unable to detect a threat from hot air balloons, were taken by surprise.

In the animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes (1975), “Terror on Ice Mountain,” a hot-air balloon is utilized to carry an apocryphal book (about apes being held in cages in human society…) to the far north.


A hot-air balloon also wandered into Altrusia in the third season of Land of the Lost in 1977, titled, appropriately “Hot-Air Balloon.”  Here, an adventurer who fell into the pocket universe hoped to escape in his balloon and take Cha-ka (Philip Paley) with him as an example of the missing link. 

The hot-air balloon was also a mode of travel between provinces in the series Otherworld (1985).  The Sterling family escaped from one region to the other in the episode “Princess Metra.”


In both Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-1974) and Star Blazers (1979), inflatable balloon replicas of spaceships (the Enterprise and the Argo, respectively) have been utilized as decoys in battle.


Recently, Professor Doofenschmirtz on Phineas and Ferb revealed that his best friend is a balloon named Balloony.

The Cult-TV Faces of: Balloons

1

Identified by Hugh: Star Trek: The Animated Series: "The Practical Joker."

Identified by SGB: Ark II: "The Balloon"

Identified by Woodhuckgod: Return to the Planet of the Apes: "Terror on Ice Mountain."

Identified by Hugh: Land of the Lost: "Hot Air Balloon."

Identified by Hugh: The Super Friends.

Identified by Woodchuckgod: Star Blazers.

Identified by Hugh: V: The Final Battle.

9

Identified by Mr. C: The X-Files: "The Calusari."


Identified by Mr. C: Lost.


Identified by Woodchuckgod: Doctor Who: "The Next Doctor."

Identified by Brian: Doctor Who.

14

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cult-TV Gallery: Mark A. Sheppard

In The X-Files: "Fire."

In Star Trek: Voyager: "Child's Play."

In Firefly as Badger.

On Medium (as Dr. Jack Walker).

On Battlestar Galactica as Romo Lampkin

On Doctor Who as Canton Delaware
On Supernatural, as Crowley.

Firefly Episode #1: "Serenity"


Six years after the hopeless battle of Serenity, former Independent Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) commands a small Firefly class ship, Serenity.  With a crew of misfits, he ekes out a minimal existence by taking on small time, occasionally illegal jobs. 

After a space salvage operation for a gangster named Badger (Mark Sheppard) goes south. Mal realizes he needs to pick-up passengers to pay for more fuel.  A young doctor, Simon Tam (Sean Maher), a man of God with a mysterious past, Shepherd Book (Mark Glass), and a strange named Dobson board the craft at the Persephone docks, before Mal tries to make a deal on distant Whitehall with a former client who once took shots at him.

On final approach to Whitehall, Serenity encounters a Reaver ship but manages to evade the monstrosity for a time.  Soon, a mole on the ship threatens the crew’s safety, and Simon is force to reveal a secret.  His sister, River (Summer Glau) has been brought aboard Serenity in secret. She’s a fugitive from the Alliance, and one that the government very much wishes to see returned.

Now Mal must deal with fugitives from the law, a tricky, untrustworthy client, and the return of the deranged Reavers.



“Serenity,” the inaugural episode of Joss Whedon’s Firefly (2002) -- now 20 years old -- begins to diagram a compelling, series-long tension between the passionate, colorful nature of man, and the largely uncaring nature of the ‘verse. 

Stylistically, the episode visually balances the intimacy and urgency of human, mortal life with the remote, fearsome, and de-humanizing aspects of survival in space. Although its visual flourishes were appropriated wholesale by the re-imagination of Battlestar Galactica (2004 – 2008) Firefly here spearheads a very distinctive visual style.  It is one which abundantly reflects the adventure’s core theme: man’s struggle to remain free in a “system” of life that no longer recognizes the individual as valuable.

Accordingly, “Serenity” premieres with unsteady, hand-held footage of the Battle of Serenity, a campaign set six years before the primary action of the series. The unsteady hand-held camera-work provokes an instant sense of immediacy and closeness to the action. This scene represents not only a reasonable facsimile of modern documentary war footage, but a boots-on-the-ground perspective of mankind’s last stab at freedom before the huge Alliance sweeps in and enforces cosmic “unity.” 

To put it another way, this preamble in Serenity Valley is all fire and heat in terms of its inspirational dialogue from Captain Mal about “holding the line,” in terms of the herky-jerky camera-work, and also in terms of the battlefield itself, where plumes of fire sporadically and violently dot the war-torn landscape.

Almost immediately after this preamble, the episode cuts six years to the future, however, and all that fire and heat is gone, replaced determinedly by ice and cold.  The camerawork now lands us in the vacuum of space. No explosions detonate, no inspirational speeches are uttered and we see suited figures moving about in slow silence during a deep space salvage operation.  

Importantly, there is no sound in space, and Firefly is one of the few programs to observe that scientific fact. But in terms of dramatic impact, to transition from the hot, loud, messy war for independence to the frozen, remoteness of quiet space after the conflict is thematically vital.  For in this unpleasant present, the voice of independence -- of mankind’s very nature -- has been defeated and squelched by Alliance rule.  In fact, individuality and liberty -- as represented by the free-ranging Serenity -- is hard to pinpoint or locate in this realm.  The camera seeks it out in extreme long-shot, and must finds its focus in the process. The ship is not immediately or easily visible.

From hot...

...to cold.

Throughout the series then, Serenity, and her colorful crew are visual signifiers of the Battle of Serenity’s noble ideals or aesthetics. The ship and crew represent humanity: sensual, and passionate.  The setting outside the ship -- in the solar system at large -- is representative of the opposite set of values and therefore dehumanizing and remote.

 In a further attempt to promote a sense of close-ness with the characters and their ideals, the premiere episode does away with a typical TV sense of decorum. For example, we actually get to see a toilet in Mal’s quarters.  It might be the first toilet in more than fifty years of TV space adventuring.  Later, the camera lingers on Inara washing up with a cloth and a basin of water, partially disrobed, and again, the approach is passionate, or sensuous.  How often, in outer space drama, do we witness characters bathing or using the bathroom?  During this montage of Inara washing, the footage both briefly pauses -- or freezes -- and jump cuts to other angles as if time itself has skipped a track.  The point of such non-conventional techniques is to visually mimic human imperfection or emotional intimacy.  A moment can’t actually be extended, in other words, but it can feel like it is extended when we fully experience it, and part of film’s magic as an art form is that it boasts the capacity to express that idea through the manipulation of time and image.  Here, it’s like we’re watching a stolen moment of vulnerability.

Things you don't usually see in space adventure TV: a toilet

...and a bath (in a stolen, extended moment...).

At one point in the opening episode, Serenity encounters the Reavers: a group of humans who have reacted badly, nay psychotically, to the dangers and remoteness of space. The message is plain and fits in neatly with the series’ philosophy. The Reavers have surrendered their humanity in this inhuman realm, and embraced the bleakness, emptiness, and danger. They are murderers and rapists, pushing out further every year, responding to the Alliance’s regime of order not with passionate humanity, but with nihilistic chaos. There is a difference, after all, between a committed “opposition” dedicated to its belief system, and a kamikaze suicide run. The Serenity represents the former, the Reavers the latter.

In terms of outer space’s remoteness and lack of intimacy or individuality, Mal notes that its signifier, the Alliance, is known not for helping people, but rather explicitly “getting in a man’s way.” 

So the philosophy here is anti-State to be certain. But more than that, it is pro-individuality in bent. Consider that the series concerns a group of very different characters working together, despite those differences, to survive.  Each one of the characters views the universe differently but seems to agree on only one point: the Alliance infringes too much on mankind’s right to dictate his own path.  The crew of Serenity may be “lost in the woods,” as per the episode’s dialogue, but “the woods” is nonetheless where it wants to be.  Outside the woods, the Alliance has usurped liberty and freedom. The Alliance doesn’t recognize its citizens as individuals with rights and protections, but only as “precious commodities” who should be subjected to the government’s whims. The Alliance, we learn, has “played with” River’s brain, to unknown ends, a fact which precipitated Simon’s rescue.

“Serenity” sets up many of Firefly’s thematic precepts, but also introduces the dramatis personae, both in terms of the ship’s crew-members, and its new passengers, Simon, River, and Shepherd Book.  Like the others, each of these non-crew characters possesses their own (sometimes secret) reasons for wishing to remain in the “woods.”  Much of the joy in watching the series comes from learning more about these characters, and their mysterious pasts.


Most notably, Mal is presented strongly in “Serenity” as a “man of honor among thieves,” to use Badger’s (Mark Sheppard’s) words.  But delightfully he’s also a man full of contradictions.  For example, Mal deplores the Alliance for getting in a man’s way, but can just as easily face down a crew-member and tell them that his ship is a dictatorship, not a democracy.  “We don’t vote on my ship,” he declares.  Isn’t the very thing he hates about the Alliance the idea that it doesn’t hear or acknowledge his voice?  He recreates that dynamic on a small scale on his ship, but is often blind to that fact.

We also learn that Mal is both a.) anti-religion in general, based on his interplay with Book, and b.) not capable of viewing Inara’s role as respected “companion” as something that empowers her. A bit of a traditionalist, Mal is uncomfortable with the idea that a woman can be strong, good and also highly sexual.

In terms of technology and tactics, “Serenity” introduces a lot of series lingo and information.  We learn about Serenity’s typical escape ploy: a “crybaby” satellite that can be deployed to emit a distress signal and misdirect Alliance cruisers.  We are also beginning to get a feel for the ship’s capabilities including “hard burns” “full burns,” and a “crazy Ivan.”

In short, “Serenity” is a splendidly thought-out, cerebral introduction to the characters and world of Firefly. More significantly, the premiere episode introduces the visual conceits of this outer space adventure, and its thematic perspective,


Next week: “The Train Job.”  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ranking Star Trek: The Animated Series: Best to Worst


The Great:       

1.         “The Jihad”
2.         “The Slaver Weapon"
3.         “Yesteryear”
4.         “The Survivor”
5.         “The Magicks of Megas-Tu”
6.         “The Time Trap”

The Good:       

7.         “Beyond the Farthest Star"
8.         “One of Our Planets is Missing”
9.         “The Ambergris Element”
10.       “The Counter-Clock Incident”
11.       “Albatross”
12.       “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth”

The Fair:       

13.       ‘The Lorelei Signal”
14.       “The Eye of the Beholder”
15.       “Once Upon a Planet”
16.       “The Practical  Joker”
17.       “Bem”
18.       “The Pirates of Orion”
19.       “The Infinite Vulcan”

The Bad:          

20.       “The Terratin Incident”
21.       “Mudd’s Passion”
22.       “More Tribbles, More Troubles”

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Star Trek: The Animated Series: "The Counter-Clock Incident" (October 12, 1974)


STARDATE: 6770.3

The U.S.S. Enterprise ferries Commodore Robert April, the first captain of the starship, and his wife, Sarah, to the planet Babel, where they will be honored for their many years of service to the Federation.  In fact, Robert is now nearing the Starfleet’s “mandatory retirement age” of 75, and laments the fact that his journey is nearing its end.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) diverts the Enterprise’s course, however, when sensors detect an alien space vessel traveling at Warp 36 and heading straight into the Beta Niobe supernova.  The Enterprise uses a tractor beam to grab the racing vessel, but only ends up being pulled into the nova itself.

Miraculously, the Enterprise and the other starship survive to emerge in another universe, one where the stars are black, and space is white. As Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) soon learns, however, time is also moving backwards, meaning that the crew will soon become too young to manage the controls of the starship. 

As the Enterprise teams with the captain of the alien ship -- which sought to return home to the negative universe -- Commodore April assumes command of Kirk’s starship to help guide the Enterprise safely back to its own plane of existence…



At first blush, “The Counter-Clock Incident” is another one of those very gimmicky Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes; one that seems to exist primarily because the concept is highly visual, not because it makes good story (or scientific…) sense.   Here, the Enterprise crew ages in reverse, becoming young children in the process, and yes, we’ve seen this kind of tale before.  “The Terratin Incident” featured the crew shrinking while “Mudd’s Passion” involved a love potion, and so on. 

But two qualities make “The Counter-Clock Incident” an enjoyable episode.  First and foremost, the episode examines the issue of ageism in Starfleet, which we learn here possesses a mandatory retirement age of 75.  “The Counter-Clock Incident” should indeed be commended for noting that people of various experiences and ages have something valuable to offer. 

I wonder, does the age requirement also apply to Vulcans, or only to humans? 

And also, I couldn’t help but think about Peter Capaldi here and his recent casting as the new Doctor in Doctor Who.  Have we learned anything in almost forty years, or are we still judging a person by his or her age?



Secondly, “The Counter-Clock Incident” practically overdoses on original series continuity, and frankly, that’s impressive.  Here, we learn of the building of the Enterprise at the San Francisco shipyards, and get mentions of Babel (“Journey to Babel”) and f the super-novas at both Minara (“The Empath”) and Beta Niobe (“All Our Yesterdays.”)  A Capellan flower also makes an appearance, and Capella was visited in the Star Trek episode “Friday’s Child.”  Considering that this episode was aired in 1974, before our culture had overdosed on sequels and such, it’s rather remarkable to consider the internal continuity.  Clearly, someone was paying close attention to the details of the mythos.

Still, the whole person “aging backward” trope in “Counter-Clock Incident” is one that has appeared frequently in cult-television history, and is one which I actively dislike.  This concept doesn’t possess even a borderline plausibility.  How is a baby-sized mammal (an elder) to give birth to a full-sized body (a youngster), purely from a physical standpoint?  Series such as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (“The Golden Man”), Mork and Mindy (in terms of Mearth), and Star Trek: Voyager (“The Innocents”) have utilized this illogical idea too, and it never quite seems plausible, in my opinion.  Is the idea that as an old person, or baby, you are just spontaneously born from “death?”  If so, how do you get the genes from your parents?


By the same token, “The Counter-Clock Incident” uses the same deus-ex-machina ending as “The Terratin Incident” and Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes such as “Lonely Among Us” and “Unnatural Selection.”  The sick or “affected” individuals go through the transporter device and are restored to normality.  As I noted a few weeks ago, the transporter is really Star Trek’s miracle medicine.  It can be used to fix anything, and renders Dr. McCoy a dunsel.

Despite the illogical story I do feel like “The Counter-Clock Incident” is one of those “feel good” episodes of Star Trek (not unlike The Voyage Home [1986], one where the happy, re-assuring emotions and pro-social value in some way trump science or even believability.  The head may be unimpressed, but the heart flutters.

“The Counter-Clock Incident” is the last episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series, and I must say, I’m sorry to be at the end of the catalog.  I have thoroughly enjoyed re-visiting these stories, and feel that there are several “undiscovered” gems here.  Sure, there are stinkers too (“More Tribbles, More Troubles,” “Mudd’s Passion,” “The Terratin Incident”), but there are perhaps six-to-ten absolute stand out installments too, and that’s not a bad batting average for a series that ran for 22 episodes.

Next week for Saturday morning blogging, I start two new series.  I'll begin my retrospective of the 1990s Land of the Lost and also the 1975 animated series, Return to the Planet of the Apes.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The X-Files 20th Anniversary Blogging: "Synchrony" (April 13, 1997)


Howard Gordon and David Greenwalt’s fourth season The X-Files (1993 – 2002) entry “Synchrony” is a unique and marvelous addition to the catalog because it deals with a subject left mostly untouched in the franchise: time travel. 

The sixth season story “Monday” explicitly concerns a time loop, but “Synchrony” involves itself with quantum physics and the possibility of human time travel from the future to Scully and Mulder’s present, an apparent “branching off”-point to a discovery that “changes the course of history.”

What makes “Synchrony” so engaging and tense a drama is this very notion of the multi-verse, of every action and reaction creating a new (and hopefully better…) path forward, and thus a whole new universe.  A killer returns from the future in this episode, much as was the case in Camerons’ watershed The Terminator (1984), but his motives for murder are, contrarily, pro-social, namely to save the human race from a future without hope while also preventing a personal mistake that he now regrets. 

Thus the episode explicitly involves what I have often termed in my own writing “Oppenheimer’s Syndrome:” the ambitious scientist’s reckoning that his work has changed the world in a destructive way, and that, if he could be given a second chance, he would prevent his “young” self from moving forward with it.  The syndrome is named for J. Robert Oppenheimer, who toiled at The Manhattan Project, and changed the course of human history forever with his work on the atom bomb.  The character in this X-Files episode, Jason, is actually surrogate or substitute for Oppenheimer, at least according to some accounts

The factors I primarily find so intriguing about this episode are twofold.   

First, the episode doesn’t shy away from scientific detail, and proposes specific mechanics for time travel.  These involve the act of sustaining human bodies at freezing temperatures for a passage considered beyond the limits of “human endurance.”

Secondly, I love “Sychronicity’s notion of “orphan” artifacts, objects that hail from a now non-existent future, but which continue in our present as lonely, mysterious paradoxes.

On the latter front, Mulder discovers a photograph in “Synchrony” that can never be taken in his reality because all the participants die before meeting, and before the picture can be snapped. Yet the photo still exists in Mulder’s reality, a sign that in some dimension, in some universe, that meeting has occurred, and someone did snap that picture.  We know that a photograph can’t exist unless someone takes it, and that, similarly, a photograph records a specific place and instant in time.  But suddenly, a photograph exists in “Synchrony” despite the fact that the participants never meet, and that moment never actually comes to pass.  How can this orphan artifact be explained?

 

At M.I.T. in Massachusetts an old man accosts two squabbling students on campus and warns one of them that if he is not careful, he will be struck by a bus and killed at precisely 11:46 pm.  The prediction proves true, and Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) head to the scene to discover who the old man was, and how his captor, a campus security man, was suddenly frozen to death.

Soon, a visiting expert in cryobiology, Dr. Yanechi (Hiro Kanagawi), is also found dead. Mulder and Scully realize that he too has been fast-frozen by a compound that does not yet exist, and which cannot possibly exist for ten years or so. 

The bizarre answer to this riddle is related to time travel. The old man has come back from the future to prevent the creation of a freezing compound and the ensuing discovery of time travel, two factors in the creation of a world without hope or history.


Synchrony might adequately be defined as the act of keeping systems together, or operating in unison. In computer science, the term refers specifically to the coordination of simultaneous “threads.”  In terms of this X-Files episode, “Synchrony” is an apt title indeed.  The killer from the future arrives in 1997 to break or disrupt the tapestry of events -- the so-called “synchrony” -- that gave rise to his very universe.

If he starts yanking at those threads, reality itself -- the reality he knows and hates -- begins to unwind. 

So if Dr. Yanechi does not meet Lisa Yanelli (Susan Lee Hoffman), they can’t possibly work together to create a freezing compound that assists in making human time travel a reality. 


And if Lisa Yanelli dies in 1997, she will also never meet a researcher who, in 2007, discovers tachyon particles and determines that time travel can only occur at a temperature of absolute zero. 

Piece-by-piece, then, the old assassin of “Synchrony” tears apart a future that must never come to exist.

But the question becomes this: if the old man destroys the synchrony that gave rise to his life and his historical context, how can he possibly exist to travel back in change it in the first place?  His very future would be erased, time travel would not exist, and he could not, physically, return to alter his universe.  Similarly, without the invention of human time travel, and its subsequent deleterious effect on the human psyche, he would have no cause to return to 1997 even if he could.

Which must mean that he doesn’t un-write his own written past so much as he creates a new-branching off point and new universe (as is also the case in J.J. Abrams’ interpretation of Star Trek).  Isn’t that right?  Time travel, this episode suggests, creates new universes, but doesn’t destroy old ones.

Mulder and Scully largely play catch-up throughout this episode, and it is wonderful to see them grappling with a mystery beyond the monster-of-the-week formula, or even a new extension of the Mytharc.  This episode reminds me just how elastic the series format remains, and that it generously and flexibly permits one-off shows like “Synchronity,” which delve into matters of hard science fiction.  Watching “Synchrony” again today, I was reminded of Primer (2004) one of the best, smartest science-fiction movies of last-decade.  “Synchronicity” explores some of the same territory, and explores it ably.

Also, I should note that in a wonderful bit of series continuity, Mulder points out to his debating partner that she herself wrote a scholarly dissertation about time travel and concluded that it was possible.  This point gives Scully some pause in her skepticism, and is a nice call-back to the pilot episode. 


Next Week: “Small Potatoes.”

The X-Files Promo: "Synchrony"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Late Night Blogging: KISS on TV (1974 - 1979)













Lunchbox of the Week: KISS



KISS Your Face Makeup Kit (Remco)



One of my dear friends, Jonathon, reminded me of this KISS collectible on Facebook, so I thought I would share some images of it here.  I never knew (or had forgotten...) that this even existed.  The seventies were great, weren't they?

Collectible of the Week: KISS action figures (Mego; 1978)


If you grew up in the mid-1970s, one fact was certain: The Fab Four was not really The Beatles...it was KISS!   

The era brought devoted fans a popular KISS comic-book from Marvel, a KISS TV-movie (KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park), not to mention lunchboxes, board games, and, yes, collectible action figures.  

I had a Gene Simmons action figure in my toy collection once, but never owned the rest of the band, alas. And today, these original figures are very hard (meaning expensive...) to come by.

Anyway, Mego acquired the license to market KISS toys in 1977, and produced four twelve-inch figures of the band-members in full, awesome regalia.   The figures were sold separately and marketed as "America's #1 Rock Group."


The company's toy catalog explained: 

"Create your own rock concert with these authentic replicas of America's #1 rock group.  KISS dolls are 12 1/2 inches tall and fully poseable.  There's Gene Simmons, the tongue-thrusting vampire figure, Peter Criss the whiskered feline; Ace Frehley, the silver-eyed spaceman, and Paul Stanley, the starry-eyed sex symbol."

Below, a toy commercial for the Mego KISS line:

National Twilight Zone Day: "Come Wander with Me"

There are, perhaps, several episodes of Rod Serling's classic   The Twilight Zone  (1959-1964) more sharply-written, more morally-valuab...