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Buck Rogers 1.14 – Space Vampire

I asked our son whether tonight’s episode was scary. “No,” he said, “but it was very, very weird. And it was in part a mystery! Like why couldn’t anybody see that vampire when he was standing… RIGHT! IN! FRONT! OF! THEM!”

Continuing the show’s unfortunate tradition of silly episode names, this one’s called “Space Vampire.” Yes, the title is terrible, but it could have been worse, as both Buck and the show’s announcer, William Conrad, call the monster a “space age vampire,” reminding us that this was made in 1979. But that’s all the teasing I can muster, because this one is really, really entertaining.

The monster is called a Vorvon and it does all the usual vampire stuff, with the curious twist that vampire tales and legends have mostly died out. Buck figures out what’s going on immediately, and the space station’s doctor has no idea what he’s talking about. Christopher Stone, who must have set a goal to appear on every adventure program from the period, plays the station commander, and he’s certain that it’s some strange space virus that’s killing people.

The episode’s tone is surprisingly creepy and very effective. The music is harsh and angular and, combined with Erin Gray’s performance – she spends the whole hour feeling chilled and unsettled by something she can’t explain – it all works very well. It even features several newly-shot special effects scenes with new ships instead of recycling earlier miniature footage, including a ship crashing into the space station. It feels like the producers knew they had something memorable with this one and gave it some extra attention… which might explain why they had to resort to a clip show just two weeks later!

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The Bionic Woman 3.22 – On the Run

As I mentioned the other day, the series finale as we know it wasn’t the sort of thing that producers did back in the sixties or seventies. It was seen as an impediment to successful syndication, back when that was the main way that studios and production companies got their money back. Strangely, there was some reason to think this was true: two shows that did have celebrated final episodes, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and The Fugitive, were not as successful in 1960s-70s syndication as their fame might suggest.

But the producers of The Bionic Woman wanted to give Jaime a proper sendoff, while also leaving the door open for future missions. So “On the Run,” written by Steven E. DeSouza, isn’t the end-all that it might be if it were made today. It seems to take its inspiration from The Prisoner, with Jaime ready to resign and just be a normal person again, and government agents, led by Andrew Duggan, wanting to send her to a resort that sounds an awful lot like “The Village” to keep other countries from abducting or dissecting her. Duggan was in all sorts of movies and TV shows in the seventies, usually playing some high-ranking government jerk.

Both Richard Anderson and Lindsay Wagner get some real meat to chew on in this story, with both actors putting in some of their very best work. Oscar is outraged on Jaime’s behalf and rails against his superiors, and Jaime is just about to crack and needs to see the light at the end of the tunnel for once. She has some additional support from a third season supporting character we’d missed in our viewing, a boyfriend called Chris Williams played by Christopher Stone. This character appeared in four episodes, but gets unceremoniously killed off sometime after this story so that Jaime and Steve could be together again in the reunion movies!

After The Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner became one of the networks’ most in-demand actresses for TV movies-of-the-week. She made dozens over the next twenty years, perhaps most famously Stranger in My Bed and She Woke Up. Her TV series weren’t as successful, but I think 1989’s family drama A Peaceable Kingdom was unfairly wasted by CBS, thrown away against established hits on the other networks without any support.

Richard Anderson, who passed away earlier this year, also stayed very much in demand, mainly in guest star roles, until he retired in the late 1990s. Both Anderson and Wagner appeared as guests in Lee Majors’ hit series The Fall Guy, although sadly not in the same episode! Anderson got to play another female secret agent’s boss in the 1984-85 series Cover Up, which starred Jennifer O’Neill. (It’s sadly better known as the show where her co-star, Jon Erik-Hexum, was tragically and accidentally killed after a couple of months filming than as one of the rare eighties action shows with a female lead.) In another notable appearance, Anderson played Lyndon Johnson in the syndicated miniseries Hoover vs. The Kennedys, which I think was the last big production from that old “Operation Prime Time” quasi-network.

This wraps up our look at the bionic action shows. I’d like to thank all the people who maintain and update The Bionic Wiki for helping me pick which episodes to watch with our son and providing all sorts of background information.

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Logan’s Run 1.7 – Crypt

The grown-ups in the room sat up straight when we saw Harlan Ellison’s name in the credits. He wrote the original story of “Crypt,” with Al Hayes finishing the teleplay, and Ellison can typically be relied upon for something very interesting. He contributed a story with six scientists, frozen in cryogenic sleep for two hundred years and all suffering from an ancient plague, awakened today with only enough anti-toxin for three of them. Complications ensue when one of the six might be an impostor. One of the six is definitely a murderer, and then there were five.

I think the grown-ups might have been more entertained than our six year-old critic. The moral dilemma surrounding who will live was a bit over his head, and he also immediately identified the impostor. I’m not sure how he was able to nail his guess so accurately, but whodunits often lose their luster once you figure ’em out.

Of minor note: one of the six scientists is an engineer played by Christopher Stone, who was apparently contractually bound to appear as a guest star on every single prime-time drama made for American TV in the seventies. You know that guy with a mustache who was always being aggressive and rude? That guy. I believe we’ll see him again once or twice down the line.

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