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Logan’s Run 1.5 – Man Out of Time

Holy anna! Knock me over with a feather, because this episode of Logan’s Run is no-kidding terrific. We’ve been watching this show with slightly raised eyebrows, trying to enjoy it on its own humble terms, but this one’s fabulous. It’s about a guy from the 22nd Century who travels two hundred years into the future and meets up with our heroes, looking for his own version of Sanctuary.

It turns out that he’s one of a group of scientists who have been predicting the forthcoming nuclear war – remember, if you can, that in 1977, we were all pretty preoccupied with the likelihood that such a war wasn’t going to wait until 2118 to erupt – and have locked away a computer to process everything up until the inevitable bombs shut off the power. So he pops to the 24th Century to get the tapes, running afoul of the people in a well-meaning but illiterate farming community, led by Mel Ferrer, who worship the dormant computers.

It’s mainly only dated by the design. I kind of doubt that people in 2118 will still be using reel-to-reel magnetic tape, and I absolutely don’t believe that the tapes will still be in one piece in 2318. Otherwise, this really does a great job addressing the moral dilemma at the core and questioning whether the scientist could possibly prevent anything. I was loving this, beyond any notion that I might, even before the final twist, which is a downright delicious little humdinger.

I hopped on IMDB to find out what else for television this show’s writer, Noah Ward, had done. Turned out it was a pseudonym for David Gerrold, who’d spent 1974 screwing with kids’ heads by way of the time paradoxes in the first season of Land of the Lost. (In point of fact, I’d been drawing specific comparisons to the episode “The Stranger,” which Walter Koenig had written for Gerrold, already.) Man alive. If I’d seen his actual name in the credits, I’d have sat up straight and expected greatness. As it was, the quality of the story got my attention just fine with a false credit. What a fun hour!

Our son thought it was sad and weird, and then Mommy started confusing him with paradoxes with a twinkle in her eye.

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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.

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Logan’s Run 1.3 – Capture

Many shows in the seventies would have, instead of a pre-titles scene, a little teaser reel of bits from the episode you’re about to watch. Columbo did this, and so did The Rockford Files, often to good effect.

Unfortunately, somebody made the dumb decision to do that with this series and give away the big plot reveal, that Jessica has not actually been kidnapped by slave-trading mutants who live by a nearby swamp, but by a sadistic and downright demented couple who play “the most dangerous game.” They’re played by Horst Buchholz, who we saw in The Amazing Captain Nemo just four days ago, and Mary Woronov, who Goff and Roberts had cast in the legendary “Angels in Chains” episode of Charlie’s Angels the year before.

I was actively bothered by the spoiler. I don’t know why it aggravated me so much, but the episode didn’t have anything to keep my attention – “man is the most dangerous animal of all!” has never been a plot trope I enjoy – so my mind wandered and I imagined a different clip reel that suggested it was about Logan and Francis teaming up in a desperate bid to save Jessica, so that when the villains revealed their plans, it would have been a nasty surprise.

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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.

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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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