Sunday, October 18, 2015

At Flashbak: Sci-Fi TV: 1985

My second retrospective at Flashbak this week remembers the sci-fi TV programming of 1985. 

 I remember, as a teen, it was a downright gloomy year for the genre.  V: The Series (1985) had been canceled, and the networks seemed to be retreating to the anthology format with re-boots of The Twilight Zone (on CBS) and Alfred Hitchcock Presents (NBC). Even Steven Spielberg seemed to be going that route with Amazing Stories (1987).

Little did anyone know, at that point, that Star Trek would be returning to television in just two short years, in 1987, with The Next Generation.  

But in the meantime, a trio of new programming efforts attempted to catch fire with the public.

At least one of these series -- Otherworld -- I absolutely loved.

Here's a snippet (and the url) of the retrospective of Sci-Fi TV: 1985:

"On the surface, Otherworld looked like The Cosby Show or Family Ties meets Lost in Space or The Fantastic Journey. However, underneath the superficial "family" veneer of the series, Otherworld was often something else entirely: a satire and pointed social commentary on American life in the Gipper's 1980s. It was Gulliver's Travels all over again, made modern, or rather, made futuristic.

The premiere episode, "Rules of Attraction," sets up the series premise. Hal Sterling (Sam Groom) and his wife June (Gretchen Corbett) are typical American middle-class parents with 2.5 kids: teenagers Trace (Tony O'Dell) and Gina (Jonna Lee), plus pre-adolescent Smith (Brandon Clark in the pilot; Chris Hebert thereafter). On a vacation in Egypt, the family visits the Great Pyramids on a very special day; a day in which six planets in the solar system would align in a manner that "hadn't happened in over 10,000 years."

Suddenly, they are hurled, via this planetary alignment, to another world, a strange planet that is both like Earth and quite unlike it.  The first denizen the Sterlings encounter is a fascist Zone Trooper, Kroll (Jonathan Banks), who pursues them province to province in all future episodes because the family steals his access crystal, a device allowing him access to important information.

Now, the Sterlings must explore the 77 independent provinces of this world to find a way home, which exists, purportedly in the city of Emar.  And 77 is an important number.  That’s how many Star Trek episodes follow the first; and that’s clearly what Otherworld was aiming for too.

Otherworld’s first episode finds the Sterlings encountering a city of androids.  But the androids have souls.  The second episode aired, "The Zone Troopers Build Men" by Coleman Luck, sees the Sterling family (living a new life as the "Hardins" in the Tarka Province) horrified to learn that for flunking out of high school, Trace has been drafted into the Zone Troopers. His superior at boot camp is none other than Star Trek's Mark Lenard.

The best episode, however, is “Rock and Roll Suicide, wherein Trace and Gina introduce rock music to one well-populated province, and become teenage celebrities, even having with Mego-style action figures named after them and mass-produced..."

1 comment:

  1. OTHERWORLD deserved a long run. SLIDERS (1995-2000) had a parallel Earths premise and many societies.