Saturday, August 06, 2016

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Space Stars: Episode 1 (September 12, 1981)

The first episode of Hanna Barbera’s Space Stars (1981) tells multiple stories of space heroics.

The episode opens with a Space Ghost adventure called “Microworld.”   

Here, Space Ghost must rescue Jann and Jace from planet Cetia 3, which the Toymaker has miniaturized and brought aboard his spaceship.

A tale clearly in the mode of a Batman story -- with Space Ghost as the caped crusader and Jan and Jace as Robin stand-ins -- “Microworld” is so science-free as so as to be absurd.

A spaceship’s hull, for instance, is peeled back like a sardine can, at one point, and there is no worry about explosive decompression.

Later an inhabited planet grows back to full size after being held on a spaceship.  

How was it kept warm without a star to nurture it? Is it returned to the correct orbit?  

I understand that this is a children’s show, but these stories are more accurately fantasy than science fiction.  The universe of Space Stars does not seem governed by any physical laws we would recognize.

The Teen Force story this week is called “Nebulon.” After traveling through Black Hole X, the teen teeam investigates a monster, Nebulon, apparently attacking Uglor’s home planet.  Made entirely from “electrical energy,” Nebulon looks like a big white ghost. He has actually been created by Uglor, and used as a ruse to trap the Teen Force.

Again, science is not the friend of the Space Stars. The heroes ride around, their skin exposed to space, on their space cycles. These cycles have no sealed cockpits, and the heroes don’t wear protective suits.  I admit I find this incredibly distracting.  Even “non” super-beings, like Jan and Jace seem to travel through space unprotected, and yet able to breathe.

My favorite segment of Space Stars -- The Herculoids -- star in “The Firebird” this week. As dawn breaks on Quasar, a terrible force is unleashed by a volcano.  A great firebird emerges from it.  

If memory serves, I think this was actually a plot from an episode of Hanna Barbera’s Godzilla (1978), but no matter. The Herculoids eventually learn that the Firebird was merely protecting its baby egg.  The family learns “an important lesson” from this encounter; that “no animal is wholly evil.”

Because this story is set on an alien world, and not in space, it gets a lot more suspension of disbelief, and at least it possesses a thematic point. The human component of the Herculoids team must deal with alien life forms of all shapes and sizes, so it would make sense that they understand that some animals are “dangerous” because they want to survive, not because they are malicious.

The second Space Ghost story in this hour is “Planet of the Space Monkeys.”  While Uglar enters the Milky Way galaxy causing trouble, Blip runs away from home and visit a planet of space monkeys.  This story features the series’ first cross-over as Elektra helps Space Ghost take care of Uglar, who is “playing in our galaxy” for a change.

In “Will the Real Mr. Galaxy Please Stand Up,” an Astro and the Space Mutts installment, Space Ace traces a robbery at First Galaxy Bank back to Muscle Beach Moon.  There, Space Ace must enter a beauty contest.  The less said about this one, the better.

And the finale this week -- “Polaris” -- sees Space Ghost needing the help of the Teen Force once more, when he plunges through a space warp.

Saturday Morning Cult TV Blogging: Shazam: "Thou Shalt Not Kill" (September 21, 1974)

In “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” the third episode of Filmation’s live-action series Shazam (1974 – 1976), Pamelyn Ferdin (1959 - ) plays Lynn Colby, a girl who has learned that her favorite horse, Beckett, is scheduled to be put down.  

Her Aunt Jenny’s last will and testament specifies the horse’s death, and a local rancher Nick Roberts, (John Karlen) -- who was thrown from Beckett on a ride -- is insistent the execution be carried out.  

Unless someone can help, Beckett will die before sundown…

Billy Batson (Michael Gray) and Mentor (Les Tremayne) encounter Lynn, and with the help of her father, the local sheriff (William Sargent), search for some way to stop the legal death sentence.  

At first they try a peaceful demonstration to show support for Beckett, but finally Captain Marvel (Jackson Bostwick) is needed on the case.  After Nick Roberts deliberately injures Beckett when the horse escapes from custody, Captain Marvel swoops in…

“Thou Shalt Not Kill” follows the template of the previous two Shazam episodes to the letter.

Billy and Mentor consult the (animated) Elders, who tell Billy about his upcoming day, and then provide a quotation that will prove relevant and meaningful to the crisis du jour. 

In this case, the Elders tell the teenager that “there’s always a way to work things out by reason rather than by impulsive action.”  Aristotle is the literary/historical figure of the week, and he is quoted by the Elders as having said “Even when laws have been written down, they are not always to remain unaltered.”

“Thou Shalt Not Kill,” features two notable guest stars.  The first is child actress Pamelyn Ferdin who, without exaggeration, was the most prominent child actor circa 1969 – 1977, especially in terms of genre appearances.

Ferdin appeared on Star Trek (“And the Children Shall Lead,”) Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, and Sigmund the Sea Monster, and was a regular character on Filmation’s Space Academy (1977). 

In terms of feature work, Ferdin appeared in such horror films as The Mephisto Waltz (1971) and The Toolbox Murders (1979).  A generation also loves her for her role in Charlotte’s Web (1973) and her turns as Lucy in A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969) and It was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown (1969)

The second guest star this week is John Karlen, who plays the horse-hating Nick Roberts like a psychotic nutcase. Karlen is also a familiar face to horror fans from his appearances on Dark Shadows and in Daughters of Darkness (1971) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1971).

Both guest performers fully commit to the less-than-inspiring material offered here, and raise the stakes a notch in the process. Fortunately, Captain Marvel saves the horse, Beckett, (with a stay of execution from a local judge) and nasty Nick Roberts is defeated…and left to twirl his mustache.

Next Week: “Lure of the Lost.”

Friday, August 05, 2016

Ranking Man from Atlantis, Best to Worst

The Good

Man from Atlantis (Pilot Film; 1977): The original TV movie introduces Mark Harris and his world with aplomb; and a healthy bit of social commentary.

“Shoot Out At Land’s End” (November 8 1977): Mark encounters a twin brother in the Old West town of Land’s End. The episode gives a crucial “bread crumb” about Mark’s past, and the existence of others like him (perhaps even from the same family.)

The Disappearances (Telefilm; June 20, 1977): Mark must rescue Elizabeth from a scientist who is building a space ark.  The story gives Elizabeth something of interest to do, for a change and also includes a suspenseful scene of the Cetacean under attack by a guided torpedo.

Killer Spores (Telefilm; May 17, 1977): Incorporeal aliens -- and perhaps the source of mythology about demonic possession – arrive on Earth, and need Mark’s help to return to space. A good story because it captures the commentary aspect of the original, and explores the very ‘70s notion that sometimes communication between different being simply is not possible.

“Melt Down” (September 22 1977): A perfectly satisfactory premiere episode of the weekly series. Dr. Schubert is accelerating global climate change and holds the world for ransom. He will stop his efforts if Mark surrenders himself. The undercurrent of this story -- Mark’s responsibility to others, and sense of guilt -- elevates the standard story.

The Average

“The Naked Montague” (December 6, 1977): A weird, weird story in which Mark ends up in a Shakespearean drama, Romeo and Juliet.  The story makes no sense at all, and yet the hour proves nonetheless, to be suspenseful.

“The Mud Worm” (September 13, 1977): Schubert creates a deep sea probe that might actually be alive.  The story doesn’t fully explore its notions of a machine with artificial intelligence, or end in a way that makes much sense.

The Deadly Scouts (May 7, 1977): Mark attempts to stop two aliens who may be from his world. The second TV movie has some real values (including Mark’s desperation to be reunited with his people), but features a tacked on and unnecessary love story.

“Crystal Water, Sudden Death” (November 22, 1977): Mark must defend a race of innocent beings in a protected underwater world from the exploitation of Mr. Schubert.  This episode features some genuinely good ideas, none of which are treated with particular inspiration.

“Giant” (October 25, 1977): This episode introduces the series to the idea of doorways in the oceans to other world, other realities.

“Scavenger Hunt” (April 18, 1978): The rogue, Muldoon (Ted Neeley) returns, along with a two-headed sea horse, Oscar.  The episode features a neat monsters, and Ted Cassidy, two bonuses in another story of air-breathers exploiting a natural environment and its population (see: “Crystal Water, Sudden Death.”)

“Siren” (May 2, 1978): Mark must save a siren child from captivity. One of the few episodes of the series in which Mark encounters another denizen of the sea.

The Bad

“The Hawk of Mu” (October 18, 1977): Another Schubert show. This one has Mark teaming up with the villain’s awkward daughter.

“Deadly Carnival” (June 6, 1978): The final episode. It features no Cetacean, and no Elizabeth. Instead, Mark goes undercover at a circus to catch two thieves. Go generic it could be an episode from any 1970s superhero show.  It also rehashes the love-story/romance from The Deadly Scouts.

“C.W. Hyde” (December 13, 1977); A strange formula gets spilled in C.W.’s coffee and he turns into a hairy brute.  One of the all-time lamest – and most inconsequential -- episodes.

“Imp” (April 25, 1978): A child-like being from the undersea world (played by Pat Morita) turns people into laughing fools by touch.  The battle royale occurs at a putt-putt course.  Another weak, embarrassing episode.

“Man O’War” (November 1, 1977): Mark goes head-to-head with Schubert’s giant jellyfish, which looks like a birthday party balloon.  Need I say more?

Man from Atlantis: "Deadly Carnival" (June 6, 1978)

After a government agent dies by drowning, C.W. Crawford (Alan Fudge) asks Mark Harris (Patrick Duffy) to go undercover to expose two carnival workers as criminals working on a caper to rob a bank.  

Mark agrees and becomes a side-show attraction at the carnival, the so-called “Man from Atlantis.”

Mark also begins to develop romantic feelings for the carnival’s owner, Charlene (Sharon Farrell).  

But he soon falls in with Moxie (Billy Barty) and his evil henchman, who can harness electricity (Anthony James).  

Their real plan is not to rob a bank, but to steal a golden mask of an Egyptian pharaoh from the nearby Chadway Museum.

“Deadly Carnival” is the last episode of Man from Atlantis (1977-1978) and it features several elements that I both love and dislike about this short-lived genre series.

In terms of what I love, “Deadly Carnival” includes a short, almost throwaway scene of Mark Harris sitting alone on a Ferris Wheel by the sea.  

He just sits there by himself -- happy -- trying to assess what he feels about the ride, and about the world where he lives.   The character's isolation or distance from humanity is perfectly captured in terms of visualization.

Even when the series is at its worst, Patrick Duffy brings a genuine humanity to this “fish out of water.”  The individual episodes may not be terrific, but Mark Harris is a classic character.

In terms of what I dislike about the series, “Deadly Carnival” doesn’t feature much innovative or intriguing in terms of its narrative. It’s just a basic “hero goes undercover to stop a robbery” story that could have happened on any number of seventies series, from The Six Million Dollar Man to Wonder Woman

Worse, the series seems to be in the process of dismantling itself here. We don’t get a last look at the Cetacean, and Elizabeth and Jenny are both gone. 

Although Mark Harris experiences a bit of a romance here (which contradicts his first ‘romance’ that we saw in “The Death Scouts,”) there’s still a general feeling in "Deadly Carnival" that the show has come to its end.

Bafflingly, Mark Harris tells Charlene in this story that he spends most of his time seeking out his origins.  

I truly wish that had been the case.  

I wish the series had focused on exploring the oceans, and picking up the trail to Atlantis, and Mark’s real identity.  Instead, the series vacillated between Batman camp in the Schubert episodes and strange, incoherent fantasy stories (“Imp,” “C.W. Hyde.”)  Re-watching Man from Atlantis today, one can’t help but mourn the squandered opportunity.

This is a series that headlined a great character, and had a great star portraying him.  

And the best the writers could do was have him combat evil twins, or go undercover at a criminal carnival.

Man from Atlantis: "Siren" (May 2, 1978)

A group of pirates aboard a submarine have captured a young siren -- a creature of the sea -- and plan to use her strange and hypnotic song to extract secrets from a captured defense department scientist Hugh Trevanian (Michael Strong).

After rescuing Trevanian’s daughter (Laurette Spang), Mark attempts to rescue the scientist, and the “mythical” creature from the sea too.

The siren is one of the most popular cult-TV tropes of all times, and it gets a work-out in this second-to-last episode of Man from Atlantis (1977). Sirens were featured in Homer's The Odyssey, and beguiled there the sailors of Odysseus's ship with their strange, beckoning song.

In cult-TV history, sirens have appeared in Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973) in "The Lorelei Signal" and on Space:1999 (1975-1979) in "Guardian of Piri," to name just two seventies programs that also featured these creatures.  A siren was also a villain (played by Joan Collins during the third and final season of Batman.  Here, the siren, however, is not a seductive woman, but a little girl lost.

This episode introduces Lisa Blake Richards as Dr. Elilzaeth Merrill’s (presumably?) temporary replacement, Jenny Reynolds.  She is a little less agreeable, a little more acerbic, than her predecessor was.  This isn't a bad thing, since the character's scenes with Mark Harris have a bit of zing to them.

And at one point in “Siren,” C.W. (Alan Fudge) is seen talking on the phone, apparently with Elizabeth Merrill (not seen…) telling her to return from Washington D.C. soon.  In terms of the series continuity, however, she never does.

Other than that cast note, “Siren” is notable primarily for introducing another denizen of the deep sea: the aforementioned lost female siren.  This being has pointed eyebrows, and the lower-half of a fish, or mermaid.  

When Mark encounters the siren, however, he doesn’t ask her about his own people, or about Atlantis…which seems strange.  She should be another “bread crumb” on his journey of re-discovery, but isn’t, at least not in any deep way.  The episode ends with the girl siren disappearing, presumably rescued by her people.  Wouldn't Mark want to wait around and question them about where they hail from, and if they have been in touch with the denizens of Atlantis?

This episode also reveals a new power for Mark.  He can apparently simulate his own death, slowing down his pulse to a dead stop. 

And once more, one must remember that Star Trek’s Mr. Spock also had such an ability.  In “By Any Other Name,” Spock (Leonard Nimoy) was able to meditate himself into a coma-like state, so as to appear near death.  

In “Siren,” Mark uses the same trick to escape capture from the pirates.

Special effects aren't too good this week, alas. All throughout the series, we have seen Mark Harris underwater, communicating with Cetacean.  These scenes always appear to have actually been filmed underwater. In this installment, for some reason, all the new underwater footage appears to be achieved through rear projection instead.

In terms of guest stars, this episode features at least three notable actors. Neville Brand plays the evil pirate, while Laurette Spang, of Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979) fame plays Trevanian's daughter. Trevanian is played by Michael Strong, who was Dr. Korby in Star Trek's "What Are Little GirlsMade of."

Finally, "Siren" marks the last appearance of the Cetacean and her crew in the regular series.

Next: "Deadly Carnival"

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Man from Atlantis: "Imp" (April 25, 1977)

A strange being from another universe, an Imp (Pat Morita), illicitly boards Undersea Habitat Triton 1, and -- by touch -- infects all the crew.  The seamen promptly begin to act like out-of-control children.  Several crew-members leave the habitat…and die underwater.

The Cetacean investigates the incident at the habitat, and inadvertently bring the Imp back to dry land, where the child-like being has the capacity to do real damage.  

In fact, he might even destroy the world, since an infected C.W. (Alan Fudge) has cleared him for access to the Pentagon’s war room…

“Imp” is another disastrously bad episode of Man from Atlantis (1977-1978). Mark Harris sums up the plot when he notes that “laughter is said to be contagious.”  In this case, he says, “that’s an accurate summation.”

The episode focuses on Pat Morita’s character -- wearing a purple wizard’s robe, even underwater -- as he infects divers, shop-keepers and even C.W. and Elizabeth (Belinda J. Montgomery), with impulsive laughter and child-like behavior.  

The episode’s big climax occurs at a miniature golf course, if that you gives you any idea of how low the series has sunk. 

The Man from Atlantis chases a diminutive Asian imp through a putt-putt course to save the world from possible nuclear Armageddon.

And yet, through all this nonsense, Patrick Duffy still gets some great moments in character. The last scenes of the story, with Mark forcing the imp to learn the consequences of his action and behavior, are strangely touching and compelling.  Duffy is the series' MVP, able to take even the weakest material and spin it into something that is emotionally satisfying.

Why a story as dopey as "Imp?"  Well, there’s the feeling that this story aimed for something like “The Naked Time” on Star Trek, and just really, really missed the mark.

The key to the success of that story, perhaps, was mining the hidden character traits of characters.  Here, everyone is exposed in the same manner -- transformed into an irresponsible child, essentially -- and that paradigm is much less individual and much less compelling.

The most interesting moment in the episode is Imp’s refusal to touch Mark, categorizing him as a person from “down there” (meaning under the sea).  In other words, he sees that Mark is different, and that his powers won’t work on him.  This suggests the idea that all of Mark’s people are without emotion, or conceal their emotions.  The imp cannot release their inner children.  It also suggests that the Imp comes from a reality -- or has been to a reality -- where he has encountered the water breathers.

Sadly, “Imp” marks the last appearance on the series of Belinda J. Montgomery as Dr. Elizabeth Merrill.  

Her character goes back all the way to the original TV movie, but the series never really explored her character much. Merrill and Mark share one of those weird 1970s TV male/female relationships of attraction but not actual romance; where they are allowed to look at each other with affection, or even desire, but never express it (see: Buck and Wilma in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, or Logan and Jessica in TV's version of Logan's Run.) 

Merrill also rarely got to go with Mark on his adventures. “Hawk of Mu” is an exception, but otherwise Elizabeth is left on the bridge of the Cetacean, taking to Mark through a view screen.  She looks at him with worship (the way Nancy Reagan used to look at Ronald Reagan...), but audiences never really learned what she wanted, or what made Elizabeth tick.  She started out as a brilliant scientist and workaholic, and it's rewarding she was given a command post, essentially, on Cetacean. But by "Imp" she seems little more than a bit player.  Still, Elizabeth is a welcome presence, and is much missed after Montgomery's departure.

Next episode: “Siren.”

Man from Atlantis: "Scavenger Hunt' (April 18, 1978)

The United Nations is concerned that five deadly canisters buried at the bottom of the sea have been disturbed near the Philippines Trench.

The Cetacean is dispatched to an island there, and learns that the natives on a small island now worship Muldoon (Ted Neeley): the rogue who was believed trapped in an alternate universe.  

It turns out that Muldoon escaped captivity there, and did so with a giant two-headed pet sea horse named Oscar.

Now, he has seen to it that the natives worship Oscar as a deity, and bring him (and thus Muldoon) a wealth of riches in pearls.  

Unfortunately, Oscar has also retrieved the five deadly canisters from the ocean floor.

Now Mark must navigate a tricky situation between the native leader (Ted Cassidy), Muldoon, and “The Powerful One” (Oscar) to retrieve the cylinders before the toxic materials within are released.

Man from Atlantis (1977-1978) veers back to Star Trek (1966-1969) mode in “Scavenger Hunt.” 

Here, another Mudd-like scoundrel exploits a primitive culture (with a giant sea-horse monster, no less…) so as to acquire wealth.  

The episode introduces the culture, its politics, its beliefs, and its exploitation.  Like Mudd, Muldoon is never really treated as a villain, just a charming guy who doesn’t have his priorities straight.

My favorite aspect of “Scavenger Hunt” is not the return of Muldoon, however, but the depiction of Oscar, the two-headed sea-horse.  The costume ain’t actually half-bad, and the critter certainly has character.  In terms of its depiction, the creature is a big improvement over the last sea monster we saw: “Man o’War’s” jelly-fish.

This is also another episode that depicts a doorway between worlds. Here, Muldoon and Oscar show Mark a doorway on the beach that leads back to the world of “Giant,” the world they escaped from. Oscar drags Muldoon back thus ending his threat here on Earth.

I wish the whole subject of dimensional gateways had been treated more coherently on the series, but at least the existence of such worlds allows for the possibilities of Oscar, or even a webbed-finger man from Atlantis…

Next episode: “Imp.’

Man from Atlantis: "C.W. Hyde" (December 13, 1977)

C.W. (Alan Fudge) accidentally spills a strange formula in his morning coffee, and turns into a hairy brute, a Mr. Hyde-type creature. 

Almost immediately, he steals money, jeopardizes the institute, and comes on to a gangster boss’s lovely girlfriend.

After Mark (Patrick Duffy) and Elizabeth (Belinda J. Montgomery) contend with an underwater probe that has been programmed to self-destruct, they must extricate C.W. from the mess he has made for himself…

One can only wonder what was going on behind-the-scenes of Man from Atlantis about mid-way through its first season. 

In a matter of weeks, Mark Harris travels to the Old West, and into the play Romeo and Juliet. And here his boss, Alan Fudge’s C.W. Crawford, relives the famous Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde scenario.  

This was supposed to be a series about an amnesiac water breather exploring the ocean and going in search of his past and background. 

Instead, it has become a weird and often incoherent fantasy series.

The episode’s set-up is unforgivably crude too. Mark and Elizabeth are working on a strange formula in their lab at the Foundation for Oceanic Research, when C.W. blunders in and puts his full coffee cup right underneath the spigot for the device containing that formula. Naturally, it drips in, contaminating the drink, and nobody notices.

Again, I can only presume a terrible rush during production and a choking desperation to get anything filmed…anything at all.  But off-the-mark (pardon the pun...) stories like this truly undercut the series, and the dignity of a great cult-TV character: Mark Harris.  

He deserves better than to be landed in stories like this; ones that don’t play to his strengths or heroic journey.

It would be one thing to do an episode like “C.W. Hyde” if C.W. had been anything more than a very minor character at this point in series history. Richard Anderson’s Oscar Goldman became -- through years of meaningful appearances -- a beloved character on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman

In this episode, Elizabeth notes how C.W. is the “world’s most reliable man,” and so forth; and that his behavior here is so strange.  Yet we have no frame of reference to support her comments.  We don’t know whether C.W. is a hot-head or a calm, or much of anything at all.  He’s been given so little screen-time that this episode doesn’t play as particularly effective, or even interesting.

The episode grows even more risible when the same Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde formula gets poured on the gangster, Lou (Val Avery) and it turns him not into a monster, but into a good person instead.  

All in all, this is like something you expect to see in a thirty-minute cartoon, not a fully articulated, prime time science fiction TV series.

Now, you might claim that this was a children's show, but that is clearly not the case. Man from Atlantis is a prime-time network series, and it features man adult themes.  For example, in this story, C.W. exhibits heightened sexual confidence and beds a gangster's girl.  There are scenes of them in her hotel bedroom, before and after sex.

So as much as we might want to write this series off as "kids vid," neither history nor the particulars of this episode bear out that explanation.

Next episode: “Scavenger Hunt.”

Man from Atlantis: "The Naked Montague" (December 6, 1977)

An underwater shock wave opens a rift inside a cliff, and Mark Harris (Patrick Duffy) disappears inside of it.

Even as the Cetacean attempts to rescue him, Mark wakes up in the town square of Verona.

There, he becomes deeply enmeshed in the conflict between two houses,;Capulet and Montague. He also attempts to end the blood feud by supporting the marriage of young Romeo (John Shea) and beautiful Juliet (Lisa Eilbacher.)

Unfortunately, events seem to conspire against the young lovers, even with the help of the man from Atlantis.

So, “The Naked Montague” is probably the weirdest -- though by no means worst -- of all Man from Atlantis (1977-1978) episodes.  

Here, Mark inadvertently enters another world (again), in the tradition of stories such as “Giant” and “Shoot-Out at Land’s End.”  But in this case, he enters a world of fiction; one where the characters of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet are real individuals.

Again, it’s not strict-time travel, or even strictly an alternate universe.  In this episode, our hero interacts with fictional characters. And those fictional characters are living the precise events of the tragic play, even as Mark attempts to stop things from going badly.  He swims back to the Cetacean with a vial of the poison Juliet imbibes, and allows Elizabeth to study a sample.  Then he swims back to save Romeo and Juliet’s lives, and over-write the events of the famous tragedy.  

Even Elizabeth can't quite believe it.  She thinks Mark is delusional or suffering some injury.

Amusingly, Romeo and Juliet speak directly from the play’s dialogue and in iambic pentameter at points...which just ads to the overall weirdness of the episode.  I cannot fathom, honestly, why the makers of the series (and writer Stephen Kandel...) would opt to tell such a bizarre story, and send Mark into this particular universe.

One must wonder, is there a Hamlet universe out there too? A MacBeth dimension? Or has Mark merely entered the Romeo and Juliet portion of Shakespeare world? And if there is a Shakespeare world, how about a James Joyce world? An F. Scott Fitzgerald world? 

I think such an odd story speaks to the fact that Man from Atlantis, once a weekly series, couldn’t really decide on a direction.  Sometimes it was Batman, sometimes it was Star Trek, sometimes it was The Six Million Dollar Man, and sometimes it just didn’t know what the hell it was.  There’s certainly a fantasy element to the series, and this episode is a prime example of that idea, but there's no logic or set of rules underlying the fantasy.

Despite the utter weirdness of “The Naked Montague,” and the fact that Elizabeth and C.W. believe Markwas hallucinating his adventure (though he has never read Shakespeare…) this episode does feature a high degree of tension.

That tension arises from the fact that we all know how Romeo and Juliet ends. We know that events conspire to bring about a sad end for the young lovers.  So we wonder, throughout the episode, is Mark going to be able to bring them the happy ending readers always hoped for and sought?  

The answer is affirmative, but at points in the episode, it looks like fate is going to take over and render that unhappy end to a lover’s tale.

The episode is strange, but clever in its own way too, for the manner in which it creates tension from the viewer’s knowledge of the play.  I also like how the Capulets name Mark “The Naked Montague” since he shows up in Verona wearing nothing but his trademark yellow swim suit.

What's missing here, it seems to me, is a framework or context that would make this story meaningful to Mark Harris.  What does he learn by interacting with the Capulets and Montagues? By saving the tragic lovers?  What lessons does he understand about the human race, and emotions? 

I guess what I'm saying is that it's okay (if weird...) for Man from Atlantis to tell a story like "The Naked Montague," but the writer and director ought to transmit some notion about why this particular narrative adds to Mark's story, or understanding of our world.  The episode fails spectacularly in that regard.

It's still a lot better than much of what is yet to come.

In the next episode, things get even weirder in “C.W. Hyde.”