Saturday, October 24, 2015

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Space Academy (1977): "There's No Place Like Home" (October 8, 1977)

In this installment of Filmation's live-action Saturday morning outer space series, Space Academy (1977), young orphan Loki (Eric Greene) is despondent because he still doesn't know where his home is; from which planet in all the expansive universe he hails from.

"If only I could wish upon a star," muses Commander Gampu (Jonathan Harris), while secretly ruling out systems like Sirius and others.

Meanwhile, something strange occurs in Bay 3, a hydroponics-type dome in the Academy. 

A strange man has "transphased" there. At first he appears as a giant, inhuman alien. Then he transforms into a bunny rabbit, which Adrian (Maggie Cooper) adopts and names Jumping Jupiter

But when the alien morphs into a man, Vicron, we start to understand his strategy. He finds Loki and promptly informs the orphan that he is from Loki's home planet. Furthermore, he seems to have information to back-up that assertion. He notes that Loki wears an amulet which features a holographic coat of arms. The alien promises to take Loki home, but only after the boy has stolen an unstable compound called MX-5 from the Academy science labs.

At first, Loki refuses to steal from his friends, but then the alien, Vicron (now garbed in a green cape and hood, and played by Larry Dobkin), reveals his power to alter molecular structure. 

He threatens Loki by turning a table in the boy's quarters to stone. 

Suitably frightened, Loki steals the compound (in a giant glass beaker...), and the alien flees the Academy, a Seeker in hot pursuit. 

When the Seeker with the MX-5 aboard blows out its main battery, the Academy students and Gampu save the alien, and take his problems to the Federation for negotiation...

"There's No Place Home" is a Space Academy episode that raises a few important questions of plausibility. For instance, if the alien needs to steal a Seeker to leave the Academy and return to his home planet (or "universe," according to the dialogue), how does he "transphase" successfully to the Academy in the first place? 

It might have been nice to use that technology to make quick his escape. Of course, there's an easy answer. Perhaps MX-5 becomes even more unstable when teleported or "transphased."  But this is something the episode might have noted. Or perhaps, even, transphase technology can be used on humanoid tissue only once.  Again, virtually any explanation would suffice, it's just that the episode needs to offer it.

Secondly, a rabbit appears out of the blue in an Academy dome, and nobody thinks that' this turn of events is suspicious. Rabbits don't just grow on trees...especially in deepest space. Maybe the presence of a rabbit in the dome should have been a sign of warning to someone about, at the very least, Academy scecurity procedures.

It's also quite bizarre that during the rescue operation aboard the damaged Seeker, Chris and Tee-Gar wear no protective gear at all, even though the cabin is filled with gas and smoke and vapour...and Loki has warned them about it.  I may have missed it, but I don't they mentioned their life support devices. Perhaps they are wearing them.

I do think, however, that "There's No Place Like Home" also features some good ideas, to go along with the (perhaps) faulty writing.  The alien, Vicron, is very realistic in some sense; in a human sense. He would rather steal the MX-5 than ask for help.  

Why?  He might be told "no."   

As I grow older, I realize just how many people (and indeed, governments...) think in precisely this way.  It is better to adopt a stance of strength than admit that you need something, or that help is required.  Yet asking for help can bridge cultures, at least under the right circumstances. That's sort of the lesson of the week

In terms of series development, I also admire this episode because it shows us Commander Gampu's quarters for what I believe is the first time.  And these quarters reflect on the man.  His "home" is a place of antiques and rare objects; a place of history and learning, like a museum.

We also get to see the hydroponic dome on Space Academy, and it looks much like agricultural domes as seen in diverse productions of the 1970s such as Silent Running (1972), The Starlost (1973) and Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979).

Also, I got a real kick out of the moment at the end of this Space Academy episode when the little robot Peepo began flailing his arms and declaring "Danger! Danger!" 

This HAS to be a deliberate reference to Lost in Space, star Jonathan Harris's (Gampu) previous series.

Next week: "The Rocks of Janus."

1 comment:

  1. I always wanted as a boy in the '70s that as I built all the SPACE
    :1999 model kits including Alpha Moonbase, Eagle Transporter and Hawk that Filmation would have done a better job of merchandising their series. I would have loved to have built model kits of Ark II, Space Academy/Star Command, Seeker, StarFire with Minicat escape pod and Drago's Dragonship.