Logan’s Run 1.1 (pilot)

About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to watch the film of Logan’s Run with our son, and when I went to order it, I saw that I could get the 14-episode TV series, which CBS ran in the fall of 1977, for just nine bucks more. I’d never seen the show, and always unfairly assumed the worst of it, but I feel like challenging assumptions in my middle age.

So it looks like William F. Nolan, Saul David, and Leonard Katzman were the original producers, and they gave CBS the original pilot in 1977. CBS needed some changes and wanted an android character, David was dismissed, and Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, who had developed Charlie’s Angels with Aaron Spelling for ABC the year before, were brought on. I’m not sure who hired D.C. Fontana as story editor, but that was a good idea.

The three heroes in the cast were played by younger actors with several guest credits. This was the first regular starring role for each of them: Gregory Harrison, Heather Menzies, and Donald Moffat. Interestingly, two of Moffat’s prior guest credits were on episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man that we’ll be watching later this summer. Our heroes are exploring the land outside the domed city, but they’re also running before the relentless pursuit of the police lieutenant sandman obsessed with their capture. This is Francis 7, played by Randy Powell.

So here’s one big assumption overturned: I’d always figured this TV pilot was a retelling of the feature film. Hardly! It reuses some establishing shots and special effects, but it zips along at a totally different pace. Logan and Jessica are out of the city within ten minutes. The show actually addresses a problem that I had with the movie: why Francis cares to pursue them. In the show, Francis is summoned by the computer to a strange building where he meets the real rulers of the city: a council of old men. They fess up that Carousel is a scam and there is no renewal, that they have to keep deaths and births in perfect synchronicity to not deplete their resources. They want Logan and Jessica back to be brainwashed and reprogrammed to disavow any claims about an outside world and stop people talking. In return, they’ll let Francis skip Carousel and quietly grow old in their private building.

This explanation really, really opens an entirely different can of worms and questions, but let’s not spend all night complaining about a forty year-old half-season flop.

Anyway, the first hour of the pilot is mainly Logan and Jessica finding a Dean Jeffries hovercar and driving it around a ranch in southern California, getting involved in a years-long squabble between some peace-loving farmers who live in a huge fallout shelter and some slavers on horseback with laser guns who stole their land. It seems to end there, but there’s an additional half-hour mini-episode grafted onto the back of it, and this tells the story of how Logan and Jessica meet the brilliant android Rem in a city of simple-minded humanoid robots.

Our son enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting. I knew that the film, cerebral and strange as it is, would challenge him, but this is simple kids’ entertainment with identifiable baddies and some pretty good action scenes. The leads are likable and he enjoyed the adventure. It’s bloodless and a little tame, but it’s also breezy and I’m not going to be too surprised if some of these episodes don’t cover the same ground as Ark II did the previous season. I swear Filmation drove the Ark II through the same ranch that Logan and Jessica visit at least once.

Not that I’m expecting any huge surprises, but I’m going into this show completely blind. I wonder whether we’ll run into any guest actors or writers that I will recognize…

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