Saturday, October 03, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Space Academy: "Castaways in Time and Space" (September 17, 1977)

This week, on Space Academy, Commander Gampu (Jonathan Harris) and cadet Laura Gentry (Pamelyn Ferdin) investigate a nearby black hole from the relative safety of their Seeker. Investigative results are "negative," but then the ship disappears inside the black hole, and the personnel are feared lost.

Meanwhile, back on Space Academy, Laura's brother Chris Gentry (Ric Carrott) is desperate to rescue his sister but meets with resistance from Paul Jerome (Ty Henderson), a new cadet on the team. 

He's from a "pioneer planet" where "survival was the name of the game" and he hasn't gotten used to being part of a team yet. He only wants to look after himself.

But Chris is adamant, and on a Seeker mission with Jerome,  Tee Gar Soom and Peepo, the resident robot...) 

Gentry detects Laura's presence via their unusual mind-linking ability. His Seeker travels to "star speed" through the black hole, and emerges on the other side, at a desolate planet. 

There, on the surface, the team confronts a giant creature. The creature is angry, and capable of rendering itself invisible for short spells. 

Paul saves the day by distracting the creature while Chris and Tee Gar rescue Laura and Commander Gampu. In other words, he thinks of others before himself.

Space Academy’s (1977) second episode, “Castaways in Time and Space” might seem like a basic or rudimentary space opera tale, but it is very strong in terms of its handling of the series characters.

The narrative concerns a Seeker -- with Laura (Pamelyn Ferdin) and Gampu (Jonathan Harris) aboard –inadvertently traveling through a black hole and becoming stranded on an alien world.  Laura’s brother, Chris (Ric Carrott) is desperate to rescue her, but is thwarted at times by the new recruit, Paul (Ty Henderson), who possesses a different moral compass.

As I’ve noted before, I teach a college level course, Introduction to Intercultural Communications, and what it concerns is the fact that we shouldn’t always judge others by the standards of our culture, if they are from another one. 

Instead, we should understand and respect other cultural traditions, just as we would like to see our traditions similarly respected.  That’s what the dynamic between Paul and Chris really concerns here: two cadets from very different cultures, working together on the same mission.  Chris misunderstands Paul’s behavior as being selfish, or even cowardly, when in fact, Paul is from a planet where survival is difficult, and he possesses a different -- but not necessarily inferior -- code of ethics. 

In the end, Paul is true blue, of course, and proves that he is a hero, regardless of his cultural differences, and that’s a great message to send to kids (or adults for that matter). We might not always go at problems the same way as our neighbors, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help each other, or achieve great success side-by-side.

In terms of special effects, Space Academy again impresses. Here, the alien life-form that lives on the planet on the other side of the black hole is rendered using stop-motion animation, and there’s even a scene involving a Seeker crash on the planet surface.  Overall, the series compares very favorably to other (more expensive) American sci-fi series of the era, including Battlestar Galactica (1978) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981).

Two things age “Castaways in Time and Space.”  The first is slang.  

One of the characters in the drama is called a “turkey,” which is in perfect keeping with the 1977 real life context, but not so good for the 40th century or so.  

And Loki and Peepo play a very primitive-looking computer game version of Tic-Tac-Toe.

Next week: "Hide and Seek."


  1. John your last SPACE ACADEMY photo posted here shows Filmation's reuse of their previous series ARK II. It is the bow of the ARK II with the SA logo painted on. Filmation had impressive sets.


  2. Anonymous3:26 PM

    I enjoy stop-motion animation in older movies and television show, but this ep's creature is done with very jerky animation. What is impressive is the quantum leap in quality for Filmation's 1978 Jason of Star Command. The insectoid creature shown in two different eps (and the opening titles) was very smoothly animated. Other sci-fi shows attempted stop motion effects with mixed results. A Troughten era Doctor Who ep showed a Medusa head with some nicely animated snakes. "Terror of the the Zygons" stop-motion work for the Loch Ness monster was considered so poor that most of it was edited out. Of course, The Outer Limits "Zanta Misfits" are classic!

    Always enjoy when you revisit Filmation's live action scif-fi shows. They were a step up in quality from the other shows on Saturday mornings.

  3. Hell yeah Space Academy!