Jason of Star Command – Chapters 1 and 2

Well, here’s something we never had to do before. Yesterday, we took our son to Nashville for his very first pro sports experience. I’d won two tickets to the Titans’ game against Houston, and we had a really great time, but we got back very late and the day wiped him out. He said that he wanted to watch this new series, but he hid his head under the blanket for most of it, and when he woke ten hours later, he had no memory of it. So we watched the first two chapters again this morning.

Jason of Star Command was Filmation’s follow-up to Space Academy, reusing many of the same sets, costumes, and miniatures. I loved how our son spotted this today, musing “That’s a different ship, but it looks similar to the ship in Space Academy…” The first season originally appeared as one of the segments in Filmation’s anthology program Tarzan and the Super 7 in the fall of 1978. It’s a long story intended to evoke the classic cliffhanging serials of the 1940s and 1950s with sixteen chapters, each about eleven minutes long.

Space Academy had been in development for several months before the release of Star Wars, which gave it the final ingredient it needed, giving the producers several visual cues to make it look very modern and of the moment. But Jason of Star Command was designed from the outset to look and feel like that film, so it’s got an adventuring soldier of fortune who dresses a lot like Han Solo, locked in a war of nerves with Dragos, Master of the Cosmos, who threatens the galaxy with his death sta– I mean, dragonship. Jason has a cute robot called W1K1, although this among all the cute seventies robots is unique in being small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Dragos is played by the great Sid Haig in full Saturday morning menace mode, and Jason’s commander is played by James Doohan, who of course was Scotty in Star Trek. Support comes from Charlie Dell as a wacky scientist called Parsafoot, and Susan O’Hanlon as a captain named Nicole.

So for the second time around this morning, our son was much happier and engaged than last night, and he really enjoyed it. The sense of threat and menace is perfectly pitched to elementary school-age kids, and he enjoyed the lasers and explosions with glee while worrying about Dragos’s nasty stun-beam eye and three lumbering aliens in his employ. The show makes good use of music, both the “whimsical” cue that Filmation seemed to use in all of their programs, and what I believe is the new-to-this-season “jeopardy” cue, which everybody remembers from Filmation’s very good Tarzan and Flash Gordon cartoons.

For a Star Wars cash-in, it’s a very fun show, and I think that once we finish watching all of it, he’ll be just about ready for the real Star Wars. We’ll see…

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