Saturday, January 02, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Jason of Star Command: "Chapter 14: Peepo on Trial" (December 9, 1978)

In “Peepo on Trial,” Space Academy/Star Command falls into a Galactic Typhoon, while Peepo – under the sway of Dragos (Sid Haig) sabotages the planetoid’s engines at a critical moment.

Jason (Craig Littler) uses W1k1 to stop Peepo, and Professor Parsafoot (Charlie Dell) attempts to undo Drago’s reprogramming.  The poor bot has had his “circuits poisoned,” according to Parsafoot.

Meanwhile, The Academy must attempt a risky move, going to extreme speed in hopes of blasting through the typhoon. The maneuver is attempted, and Space Academy survives the danger!

We get more derring-do and cliff-hanging excitement in this installment of Jason of Star Command (1978-1980), but not much else. W1k1 again saves the day and -- title aside -- there’s no actual trial here for Peepo.

The most memorable aspect of this brief segment, perhaps, is James Doohan’s role as Commander Canarvin.  Here, the character begins talking about the Academy’s engines and how they were never designed for such “extreme speed.”   This is all very deja-vu, and brings to mind many such moments on Star Trek involving Scotty.

The threat of the week is a “galactic typhoon,” a kind of space storm, and exactly the kind of space phenomenon that was featured prominently in many sci-fi TV series of the 1970s.  In Space: 1999’s The Séance Spectre,” for example, Moonbase Alpha encountered a space “weather belt,” and in the original Star Trek, Spock’s shuttle was briefly lost in the storm-like quasar in “The Galileo 7.”

Next week “The Trojan Horse.”

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Space Academy "Star Legend" (December 10, 1977)

This week on Filmation's 1977 Saturday morning space adventure, a Space Academy mission "marking the boundaries" of the Alderaan Triangle with "beacons," grows increasingly dangerous. Chris (Ric Carrott) and Paul's (Ty Henderson) Seeker experiences a mysterious power drain after going off course to avoid space junk.

The Seeker is miraculously rescued by a "strange old-fashioned laser beam," which pushes the craft out of the futuristic Bermuda Triangle.

On the view-screen, a strange disembodied head appears and warns the Seeker to stay away.

Meanwhile, back at the Academy, Commander Gampu (Jonathan Harris) comes to believe that the legendary Captain Rampo (Howard Morris), "the flying dutchman of outer space" may be responsible for the incident with the Seeker. 

Gampu describes the legend of how Rampo, captaining an early planetoid spacecraft not unlike the Academy, became lost in space, over a millennium ago. Believing the legend, Commander Gampu flies the Academy in to the Alderaan Triangle's lateral perimeter, and the Academy too is promptly drained of energy...

With the Academy frozen in the Triangle, Gampu takes Blue Team aboard a Seeker to Rampo's space craft, which resembles the Academy, but is lit green. Once on board, a strange specter warns them to "leave...or stay forever" and states that "all visitors here are doomed...doomed!"

Gampu and his cadets laser down a locked door and discover 1,603 year-old Captain Rampo, a funny old man dressed like a train conductor, circa 1910. 

Turns out he's been pulling a Balok strategy (from the classic Star Trek episode, "The Corbomite maneuver.") A thousand years ago, he was establishing a colony on a nearby planet when the sun went nova. A magnetic storm forced him to cross into the Alderaan Triangle, and he and his ship have remained trapped there, orbiting the space trap in an attempt to stop a "scourge of energy vapor" which drains ships of power. He's been pretending to be a fierce specter to keep other ships away...when in reality he's just a kindly old man. 

Gampu and the others decide to give the hungry energy vapor "indigestion." They lure it into the captain's quarters, then return to the Seeker and destroy Rampo's ship...thus ending the star legend, and freeing Rampo from his mission.

I love how "Star Legend" combines aspects of the Flying Dutchman legend with tales of the Bermuda Triangle (a regular 1970s obsession), and then reveals -- in glorious miniature -- a much earlier version of the Academy.  Rampo's "ship" glows green, inside and out, making it appear quite creepy. 

Still, you have to wonder how the builders of the ship could afford to lose it. Also, for being a thousand years old, Rampo's planetoid appears as advanced in terms of technology and production design as the Academy.

Next week: "Johnny Sunseed."

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tribute 2015: The Year We Lost Leonard Nimoy, Wes Craven and Christopher Lee

Below you will find a gallery of those we lost in 2015.

It was a devastating year for science fiction and horror movie fans, in particular, with the loss of luminaries such as Yvonne Craig, Wes Craven, Christopher Lee, Leonard Nimoy and Grace Lee Whitney.

As always, I have attempted to be thorough in this tribute, but no offense is intended if anyone has been left off the tribute list.

James Best

Yvonne Craig

Wes Craven

Jean Darling

Donna Douglas

Anita Ekberg

James Horner

George Clayton Johnson

Dean Jones

Jack Larson

Christopher Lee

Geoffrey Lewis

Robert Loggia

Al Molinaro

Taylor Negron

Leonard Nimoy

Maureen O'Hara

Amanda Peterson

Roddy Piper

Omar Sharif

Rod Taylor

Fred Thompson

Haskell Wexler

Grace Lee Whitney

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

So Ends Another Year On the Blog

Once again, it is difficult to believe that another year has gone by.  The year 2015 is now, almost, in the rear-view mirror.

I have now been blogging here for eleven years, since I began in 2005, and I posted some celebratory posts in 2015 about the milestone.

Last time I checked, there have been over 7200 posts here, since the beginning.

Also, I devoted much time and energy in 2015 to celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Lost in Space (1965-1968), and the career of film director M. Night Shyamalan, who this year brought us the scary (and funny) The Visit. 

The blog this year also saw a week devoted to A Nightmare on Elm Street, James Bond’s return in Spectre, and, of course, Star Wars too.

We even celebrated a whopping three Friday the 13th holidays this year.

In related news, my latest book, The X-Files FAQ was also published in 2015 and (at least so far) has earned very positive reviews. I also have completed my first full year as a communications instructor (teaching public speech, journalism, intercultural communications, and other courses) at a local community college here in N.C.

So it’s fair to say I kept busy in 2015.

Looking ahead to 2016, the blog will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek with weekly episode reviews of the classic series.

Also, The X-Files returns to television in a few short weeks, after a thirteen year hiatus. I’ll be blogging every new episode here too.

There’s much to look forward in the year ahead, including a new Star Trek film (in July). I am also planning to launch a kind of web-publication called “In Review” with volumes/issues looking at different TV shows and film franchises. I’m currently planning volumes on Millennium, The Starlost, Planet of the Apes, and Buck Rogers.I’ll be certain to post here more as the project develops.

As always, thank you for your continued readership and friendship.  I am happy we could spend 2015 year together and hope the same will be true for years to come.

 Happy 2016!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lost in Space 50th Anniversary Blogging: "The Toymaker" (January 25, 1967)

In “The Toymaker,” Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris), Will (Bill Mumy) and The Robot encounter another vending/catalog machine from the Celestial Department Store (see: “The Android Machine.”)

This machine is in disrepair, however, and when Smith fiddles with it -- attempting to get a birthday present for Penny (Angela Cartwright) -- he is transported to the domain of a cosmic toymaker Walter Burke). This personality wants to make Smith a Christmas present for 75 ft. tall children of the Andromeda Galaxy.

Will attempts to get help, but his dad (Guy Williams) and Don (Mark Goddard) are too busy searching for a dangerous new “fissure” on the planet to help.  Will also disappears to the realm of the toymaker, but fortunately his disappearance is witnessed by Penny.

Before long, a Celestial Department Store manager, Zumdish, arrives on the Robinsons’ planet and seeks to destroy the malfunctioning machine…

I can’t argue that “The Toymaker” is a great episode of Lost in Space (1965-1967), or even a particularly good one. It is a marginal improvement over last week’s installment, “The Questing Beast.”

Again, a cast-off or stock prop -- the alien vending machine -- is the center of the narrative, but at least on this occasion, the Robinsons’ recognize the device, and there seems to be some continuity with the earlier story, the aforementioned “The Android Machine.” I still find it baffling, however, that John and the Robinsons don’t ask Zumdish for help getting back to Earth, or even, simply, back to his department store.  Couldn’t they catch a bus from there to a new home?  Or buy a used spaceship from the used spaceship lot next door?

One moment in this episode is even more baffling.  Penny describes for her parents the disappearance of Dr. Smith. Yet, as the opening scene of the episode makes plain…she was not present to witness it.  She goes pn and on here, describing the sounds and sights of an event she never was privy to. This is a sign, I submit, that the creators of the series were literally asleep at the wheel by this juncture. 

With a little tweaking, this episode could have been stronger. For instance, the toy soldier in the Toymaker’s warehouse is creepy as hell, and there’s a tradition of creepy Christmastime stories that the series could have mined.  Instead, the film is never particularly frightening or memorable. 

Still, this story punches a hole in at least one fan theory that has been brought up here on the blog.  I have written before how I find it crazy-making that alien races from a society much like Earth’s never stop to help the stranded Robinsons make their way home, or to a habitable world. Fans have suggested that these advance aliens may have a prime directive-like edict preventing them from helping the primitive Earthlings.

This week, however, we see visual evidence that the Toymaker creates toys for Earth-children.  Smith and will attempt to get home to Earth, but the Toymaker stops them.

This is the final Lost in Space episode I’ll be reviewing for the blog. I began 50th anniversary blogging of the series back in January, and reviewed 47 episodes.  I am planning to launch an e-magazine called “In Review” soon (definitely in 2016) and one issue will be devoted to the entirety of the series, so I will review the remaining 37 or so installments there.

My final thoughts about this Irwin Allen series?  For the most part, the first season is an imaginative, worthwhile endeavor, and a series I recommend watching. Sure, it’s fifty years old, so you have to accept some old fashioned values (and sexism).  But overall the series looks good, and has some amazing installments like “Wish Upon a Star” and “My Friend, Mr. Nobody.” 

However, the second season is worse than I imagined it possibly could be.  I hope the third season is better!

Next week, for 50th anniversary blogging, I take on a new series: Star Trek (1966 – 1969).

The Spaceships of the: 1990s

Our newest catalog of spaceship designs (from film and TV) comes from the nineties. 

This was the era when, except for a few exceptions like ID4 (1996), MST-3K, and Starship Troopers (1997), CGI took over!

Although I don't find these nineties models by-and-large as intriguing as the spaceships of the 1970s and 1980s, there are still some lovely vessels here.

Which do you recall?

Not Identified: Total Recall (1990)

Identified by Pierre Fontaine: Space Precinct.

Identified by William Mercado: ID4

Identified by William Mercado: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine runabout.

Identified by William Mercado: Babylon 5.

Identified by SGB: Space Rangers.

Identified by William Mercado: Star Trek: Voyager.

Identified by Wiliam Mercado: Mystery Science Theater 3000 Satellite of Love.

Identified by William Mercado: Space: Above and Beyond (Hammerheads)

Identified by SGB: Mars Attacks.

Identified by William Mercado: The X-Files.

Identified by William Mercado: Star Trek: First Contact (Phoenix)

Identified by William Mercado: Event Horizon

Identified by William Mercado: Starship Troopers (Rodger Young)

Identified by SGB: Alien Resurrection (Aurig)

Identified by William Mercado: The Fifth Element.

Identified by William Mercado: Star Trek: Insurrection.

Identified by William Mercado: Lost in Space

Identified by William Mercado: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
Identified by SGB: Galaxy Quest.

Identified by William Mercado: Farscape (Moya)