Star Trek 2.11 – Friday’s Child

So naturally I picked the episode with Julie Newmar to watch, and naturally it was another disappointment. D.C. Fontana wrote this one, and it’s centered around a tribe of colorfully-dressed warriors. Both the Federation and the Klingon Empire want to negotiate for exclusive mining rights on their planet.

By far the most interesting part to me was the location filming, which it turns out was at Vasquez Rocks Natural Park. It’s absolutely glorious; I’ve probably seen it in the background of all sorts of television shows over the years (Shazam! and The Fugitive come to mind, maybe Route 66), but the great remastering job that they’ve done to these episodes – coupled, in no small part, by a desire to get out of isolation – makes me want to drive to California and spend all day hiking there.

As for the episode itself, while our son enjoyed the showdown with the tribe and the turncoat Klingon, he also got a buzz out of the B-plot. Scotty’s left in charge and the Enterprise has to leave the planet’s orbit to look into a distant distress call. To nobody’s surprise, it’s a trick, and when they get back, a Klingon ship has drawn a line in the sand, and the kid sat up ready for some special effects. Sadly, what happens next is resolved offscreen. I imagine the budget was probably pretty thin after several days of location filming and it didn’t even stretch to a good model of the Klingon ship, much less a space battle. Since I find Doohan, Takei, Nichols, and Koenig more watchable than Shatner and Kelley, I’d have liked to have seen more of this plot, honestly.

Oh, and this is the first episode we’ve seen with Walter Koenig’s character of Chekhov. Happily, he introduced himself to our son with a bit where he claims Russian credit of an old saying. Like McCoy and his “I’m a doctor, not a–” bits – an “escalator” this time – I think that’s something the younger members of the audience can enjoy. Our son thought his name was funny.

Logan’s Run 1.11 – Carousel

Rosanne Katon and the Man With the Hairiest Chest guest star in tonight’s episode, in which, inevitably, our heroes go back to the City of Domes. Oh, all right, it’s Ross Bickell. It’s a good installment, even if the logic necessary to temporarily wipe Logan’s memory is pretty tortuous. The appearance of the most technologically advanced people we’ve met so far is glossed over to get to the events in the city.

Our son didn’t remember Katon, whom we saw in a few episodes of Jason of Star Command that originally aired a little later in 1978. Tonight, I got a good demonstration of just how six year-olds aren’t very good with faces. The plot this time requires Jessica to change her hair and clothes and see whether Logan’s memory might have returned a little after he’d been shot with an amnesia dart a little earlier. In the next scene, Logan meets up with an old girlfriend named Sheila, played by Melody Anderson. “Wow, Jessica looks different with her hair combed,” he said, as the dialogue went completely over his head. When Jessica does show up with a new ‘do and a green-blue dress, I made sure to point out it was really her. “Yeah, she combed her hair,” he said.

Some of the elements of this show really do frustrate me. We’ve frequently rolled our eyes whenever Logan zaps a sandman with his freeze ray and doesn’t take the man’s gun. Even if Jessica is reluctant to use one herself, any gun and any car that they destroy is one that can’t be used against them in the future. Their refusal to stray any farther than a day’s drive from the City of Domes is maddening. Even if Rem doesn’t have a 24th Century road map on him, surely he knows how huge the continent is and can advise them to go to the other side of it, where Francis is far less likely to follow. Now we’ve got these “higher power” dudes in the forest, who sort of feel like the spiritual TV descendants of the sort of aliens who’d routinely freeze the USS Enterprise in space and yell at Kirk in a booming voice. I think the next thing I’d do if I escaped from the city this time is head straight back to those guys and ask for some more information I can use. Surely some of this occurred to the writer, D.C. Fontana?

Logan’s Run 1.4 – The Innocent

Logan and Jessica’s sheltered upbringing in the City of Domes helps to complicate this story by D.C. Fontana and Ray Brenner. On the one hand, if only they’d seen that episode of Twilight Zone where Billy Mumy keeps sending people into the cornfield, they’d have figured out that they needed to treat nineteen year-old Lisa, who lives alone in a bunker with a couple of robots, with kid gloves.

But there’s also the reality that the movie only glanced at and the TV show certainly never addressed: in Logan’s world, nineteen year-olds certainly seem to be very sexually active. Their world isn’t one where people seem to fall in love or forge committed relationships or acknowledge jealousy. But because Gregory Harrison has to play the part of a morally upright character, a hero in a TV series for kids in 1977, the subject of sex never comes up, but rather the importance of taking time to get to know people before you decide that you “like” them.

Because Logan’s a hero, he also asks Lisa to release the pursuing Sandmen from her version of the cornfield a day after they leave. To be blunt, that’s awful stupid of you, Moral Boy.

Lisa is played by Lisa Eilbacher, who we saw almost a year ago in that episode of Shazam! with the dune buggy. It’s kind of a thankless part, a psychokinetic girl who hasn’t had a conversation with another human in fifteen years and is hurting from puppy love, but it’s pitched perfectly toward kids. Ours really enjoyed this, even if, again, the grown-ups have seen this all before. I wouldn’t mind a surprise next time.

Logan’s Run 1.2 – The Collectors

You sort of get the idea that television in the seventies, back when they were making shows that could be run in whatever random order any goon at a TV station could show it, simply didn’t try very hard to find any internal consistency from episode to episode. This is only the second installment shown, but just like you could tune into any random episode of The Fugitive and understand the premise and watch David Janssen look like he’d been on the run forever, all the characters act like they’ve been looking for Sanctuary for many months and had all sorts of adventures we didn’t see.

Logan and Jessica also act far more intelligently and with more awareness than anybody who’s lived their lives in the sheltered upbringing that they’d had. They get caught by humanoid-looking aliens who are collecting specimens two-by-two throughout the galaxy, which I’d have thought would be the sort of premise that our heroes would have considerable trouble understanding. I guess Rem gave them a crash course in juvenile sci-fi sometime in those many months of stories we never saw, because Logan’s plan to make the baddies’ home planet believe this ship couldn’t escape Earth’s gravity is a pretty tall order for somebody who only learned the air outside his city wasn’t poisonous just a week previously.

Anyway, this is pretty silly and didn’t engage me very much, except for Rem, who is by far the most interesting, curious, and resourceful of the trio. The story is by James Schmerer, who had produced the final two seasons of the western drama The High Chapparal for NBC, but may have become acquainted with D.C. Fontana by contributing a script to the Star Trek cartoon in 1973. Among the guest stars playing the disguised-as-Earthings aliens, there’s Leslie Parrish in one of her final acting roles (she retired in 1978), and Angela Cartwright, who had played Penny in Lost in Space.

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…

The Six Million Dollar Man 2.6 – Straight on ’til Morning

Our son was really not completely taken with this slow and sad story about a family of extraterrestrials trapped on Earth. It’s certainly an intelligent script – it’s by D.C. Fontana, who did this sort of thing better than most – but it’s quite slow and surprisingly sad. A family of explorers crashes on our planet and finds that just the touch of human beings can kill them. Any humans, in return, suffer horrible radiation burns.

Only one of the group, played by Meg Foster, can speak. When her mother and father silently die after suffering for hours, it’s not done with any levity whatever. The Six Million Dollar Man is a pretty po-faced and humorless show anyway, but I’ve never seen it this bleak before. It then goes down an even darker road, when Oscar aims to imprison and study the survivor. It all ends well, of course, but the tone it employs following the plot really is surprisingly grim.

It’s curious how our schedule worked out. I certainly didn’t initially plan to run this episode of this show right before we watch a Doctor Who about spacemen whose touch can kill. We’ll see what he thinks of that next time.

The Six Million Dollar Man 1.8 – The Rescue of Athena One

Of course I picked this episode for us to watch because of the impressive and very busy mission control set. Nah, it’s because Farrah Fawcett, who was then married to Lee Majors, plays Major Kelly Wood, America’s first woman astronaut. An accident in space cripples her ship, Athena One, and seriously injures her co-pilot, so Steve flies up to meet them at Skylab – remember Skylab?! – to perform surgery. But then Major Wood has to fly everyone home because Steve’s bionics start to fail.

The episode was written by D.C. Fontana, and we were very impressed with the attention to detail and accuracy in this rescue mission. The only fanciful part of the story concerns the bionics and their failure, which is because they aren’t shielded against the radiation in space. Everything else is very slow and laborious, including space walks and long, deliberate movements in zero-gravity, as indeed a rescue in space would certainly be in 1974. We enjoyed comparing the events of this episode with some of the installments of the original Thunderbirds, such as “Sun Probe.”

Another thing we talked about was a little wordplay that confused our son. To nobody’s surprise, Steve rescues Major Wood from a near-miss accident and reveals his super powers early on. Steve does that a lot with pretty ladies. Later, when Athena One has docked with Skylab and Wood learns that she cannot open her hatch, she and Steve, talking over the radio, land on the words “can opener” to describe his bionics. The flashbacks didn’t clarify to our overly literal kid why they would say that. We had to pause the episode to explain in more detail because he was so baffled.

Honestly this was an entertaining little hour. It’s certainly slow, but I think that’s an honest and fair trade for a story that really shouldn’t have been told at breakneck speed. Dr. Science was pleased, which doesn’t often happen when we’re watching silly sci-fi teevee.

Looking ahead, I see that Major Wood will be back in season four of this series, but before we get to that episode, we’ll see Farrah Fawcett in a couple of other roles later this month. She was kind of in demand in the mid-seventies.

Land of the Lost 1.15 – Elsewhen

If I cared more for American TV sci-fi of this period – I generally don’t at all – then this blog would probably see an awful lot of D.C. Fontana’s work. Yet another veteran of Star Trek, both the original show and the cartoon, to be brought on board by David Gerrold, she would go on to write for several later Trek shows and its competition / descendants / peers / ripoffs / what have you, almost none of which I’ve ever seen and have barely heard of. I’ll tell you this, though: “Elsewhen” is so darn wonderful that I’m tempted to track down what Fontana came up with in her scripts for gobbledygook like Automan and Babylon 5.

I remembered this one having the promise of being particularly rough for Daniel, and boy, was I ever right. The entire thing is set inside the Lost City, with the Marshalls stubbornly deciding to risk the Sleestak in order to fiddle with Enik’s time doorway, and then they go looking into a weird hole in the wall of a deep chasm. While they’re exploring, a strange woman named Rani, played by Erica Hagen, comes through to give Holly a pep talk and a word or two of predestination. Inevitably, for people used to television’s later embrace of timey-wimey business like this, Rani is revealed to be Holly’s future self, but for a kid’s show in 1974 this was mind-blowing.

(And I obviously reference Doctor Who in that sentence, but heck, Daniel’s familiar enough with the concept from a favorite Spongebob Squarepants that sees dozens of Mermaid Men and Barnacle Boys from different points in their history all showing up. Children’s television, across the board, may be infinitely safer and less frightening than it was forty years ago, but it also assumes a lot more intelligence of its audience.)

But yes, the Lost City is very much marked out in Daniel’s understanding as A Bad Place, and it was a little bittersweet watching him hum and sing along with the theme music, ready and hoping for more dinosaur fun, knowing that the entire episode was going to be one darkly-lit underground nightmare with Sleestak. He didn’t like this one much at all. I had to promise him the next episode is nowhere as terrifying.

Notably, though, apart from the time doorway business, this one also features that astonishingly, thunderously strange and powerful image of the sun rising while Holly is in the hole, holding on to the rope, to see that, thanks to the Land being a closed universe, she has emerged… well, it’s unclear. The obvious answer is that she’s gone down so far that she’s come back out the top and is holding on while the distant mountains rise upside down beneath her, but that doesn’t explain why the sun would rise when it was already daylight. There were two pylon keys mounted into the walls on the climb down to the hole. Was this a doorway to a parallel universe? A time doorway to an earlier, or later point in the Land? Is that upside-down landscape the ancient Altrusia of Enik’s time?