Monday, October 05, 2015

Cult-TV Theme Watch: Suns

The sun is the star at the center of our solar system, a source of light, heat, and energy. A ball of hot plasma, the sun has a mass more than 300,000 times that of Earth. Sometimes, stars in other solar systems are also referred to as “suns.”

Both our sun, and others, have appeared frequently in cult-television history.

Famously, The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) episode “The Midnight Sun” involves a reality wherein our Earth is plummeting towards the sun, causing record temperature spikes. The episode’s surprise ending is that this reality is a dream. In truth, the Earth is moving away from the sun, towards a freezing death in deep space.

In Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1969-1973), “The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes” involves another stellar disaster. Based on Margaret St. Clair’s (1911-1995) short story, first published in 1950, this episode tells the tale of a boy, Herbie (Clint Howard), with precognitive abilities.  He can accurately predict earthquakes and other disasters, and becomes a TV celebrity.  One day, however, Herbie goes silent, refusing to offer his prediction about tomorrow.

After being coerced to offer such a prediction, he paints a rosy picture of mankind’s future. In truth, this is a lie.The psychic has actually seen that in one day’s time, the sun will go supernova, destroying Earth and the human race.

In Star Trek’s (1966-1969) “All Our Yesterdays,”  the U.S.S. Enterprise visits an alien planet called Sarpeidon, in danger from a sun that, similarly, is about to go supernova. 

A thriving culture once existed on Sarpeidon, but all its inhabitants have, during the emergency, escaped into the past using a device called The Atavachron.  Spock, McCoy and Kirk end up using the device too, but must get back to the present before the supernova occurs.  This task is complicated by the fact that Spock, now in Sarpeidon’s ice age, has fallen in love with a beautiful exile, Zarabeth (Mariette Hartley).

The Land of the Lost (1974-1977) second season episode “The Longest Day” involves a pylon malfunction which causes Altrusia’s sun to remain frozen in the sky. Without a cool night, the Sleesktak life-cycle (involving the Altrusian moth) is disrupted.  The Marshalls must fix the damaged matrix table and restore balance to the pocket universe.

The opening montage of Star Trek: Voyager (1995 – 2001), features a beautiful shot of Janeway’s ship passing near a Delta Quadrant star, and a coronal ejection. 

And the children's’ series Teletubbies (1997-2001) featured the sun (with a baby face at the center) as one of the central personalities.

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