This show was pretty tedious to begin with. Since Terry Nation’s name vanished from the opening credits around episode 13, it’s been a chore. Sid Haig and Persis Khambatta are in this one, and Haig dies twenty minutes into it. There are some explosions in this one. Our son was happy. Maybe the next one will be better.
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So I picked this episode because Terry Nation wrote part of it, and because both Michael Constantine and Sid Haig – yes, two Electra Woman villains – are in it. I did not realize that The Italian Job is also in it.
This is all kinds of shameless. As soon as I saw the red, white, and blue Minis that MacGyver and his Hungarian chums would be using for their getaway, I said “Oh, cute, The Italian Job,” expecting a winking little in-joke. I wasn’t expecting a good five minutes of footage culled from the movie! The entire climax is old footage and the actors in the studio in front of rear screen projection. And as for the footage, if southern California didn’t look anything like Hungary already, 1969 Turin doesn’t look a blessed thing like 1985 Budapest either.
Still, our favorite six year-old critic has not yet seen The Italian Job, and he thought this was one of the most fun car chases ever. “Oh my goodness, they’re on top of a building!” he shouted at one point. He concluded by letting us know that this was so insane that they need to invent a new word to tell you how insane this is.
Did they do this on MacGyver regularly? I’d kind of prefer for our son to see the original feature ahead of either a case where an old movie gets cannibalized or a parody, which is why I intend to show him The Maltese Falcon a couple of weeks before we watch that Terry Nation-written episode of The Avengers that spoofed it. I guess I should confirm with my wife that there aren’t any episodes where MacGyver goes looking for a Big W, huh?
This was an interesting surprise. I’ve mentioned before that Saturday morning shows typically didn’t have a planned “final episode” as we’d know them today, but Jason of Star Command comes closer than just about any of its peers. We get a positive bonanza of special effects with a bunch of brand new good guy spaceships – all “unmanned drones,” of course – and Dragos is banished to another dimension where he can either never be seen again if the show wasn’t renewed or brought back if it was, and Professor Parsafoot gets a new sweetheart, played by Udana Power.
Our son absolutely loved it. He had aliens to jeer, and explosions in space to wow, and he got to sneer “ha-ha!” as Dragos fades from the universe, swearing vengeance. What’s not to like?
As it was, the show was not renewed, since CBS figured that they could edit the first season’s 16 chapters into eight half-hours and they had a twenty episode package to rerun in the 1980-81 TV season. And so that brought an end to Filmation’s time producing live-action television. They focused exclusively on animation for the next decade, including the popular Blackstar and He-Man / She-Ra cartoons, and a little-remembered Shazam! cartoon that was a whole lot more faithful to the original funnybooks than their live-action show had been.
(Well, I say “exclusively,” but Shazam! was paired with an Archie-like superhero comedy called Hero High in an hour package with the tortuous name of The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam!, and that had these deeply dopey live-action musical segments… oh, just see for yourself.)
Anyway, Jason was Craig Littler’s last starring role, but he was a regular face in guest star parts for the next twenty years when he wasn’t the face of Gorton’s Seafood in commercials. Charlie Dell is also still in the business, and shows up in small parts in all sorts of big movies, including Liar Liar and Fight Club. John Russell and Tamara Dobson have sadly passed away. Dobson left the business in the eighties but was still being interviewed about Cleopatra Jones for decades; Russell, a veteran of TV and movie westerns, was still finding cowboys and tough guys to play until the end of his life.
And Sid Haig… well, the man’s a legend. IMDB says he’s got six more movies awaiting release, and he’s a regular on the sci-fi and horror autograph/con circuit. His career slowed in the early 1990s, but then Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie, aficionados of the grindhouse horror and exploitation films where he appeared so regularly in the seventies, revived his career with grisly, modern takes on those sorts of films. House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects brought him a huge new fanbase and, as low-budget horror films took off again eleven or twelve years ago, he started getting more job offers than he had for many years.
I may really dislike these sorts of movies, but I sure do like Sid Haig. Maybe somewhere down the road a ways, our favorite five year-old critic will be a teenager, and he and his no-good teenager friends will watch something like Kill Bill. “Hey,” he’ll shout, “that’s Dragos!”
Interesting… I had assumed that the second season of Jason of Star Command was made up of four three-part adventures, but “Little Girl Lost” and “Mimi’s Secret” seem to be a two-parter, with nothing really to carry over into the final episode, which we’ll see this weekend. The strange Mimi doll, as it turns out, isn’t actually alive, but it’s a semi-sentient tracking device to home in on the missing scientist. That’s not as creepy as it appeared last time.
And speaking of weird assumptions… I’ve written previously, especially in regard to Ark II, about how information about some of these old kid shows was a little iffy in the pre-internet days. Some magazines and books just gave out information, like episode guides, that was flat out wrong.
With that in mind, I swore that I remember copying down an episode list to this show many, many years ago that contained an episode called “The Adventures of Peepo and W1K1,” but there’s not an episode by that name in this set. So I dug around my shelves and found it, hidden away in a 1991 book by Jeff Lenburg called The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons.
In the listing for Tarzan and the Super 7, which was the anthology home of Jason‘s first season, there’s an episode list for the first sixteen chapters, and thirteen of them are incorrect. For example, it says that the ninth chapter was called “The Adventures of Peepo and Wicky (sic),” when it was actually entitled “Peepo’s Last Chance.” Perhaps one of Lenburg’s sources provided him with pre-production information, before the episodes were completed and the titles finalized? Or maybe some joker just made stuff up and pranked Lenburg? Whatever the case, the misinformation didn’t creep out too much; I’ve only found the incorrect titles on just one site, the Big Cartoon Database. But this is a good reminder of those weird days when research was shaky and mistakes were easy to publish, whether by accident or design.
Anyway, this episode was the last for the evil Queen Medusa, played by Francine York, who made for a pretty entertaining recurring villain. Dragos didn’t have much of anything to do this time, but maybe he’ll go out with a bang in the finale? Stay tuned!
You may well wonder why I picked an image of a knockoff Raggedy Ann doll to illustrate an episode that features both a thirty foot-tall ape monster and the return of Francine York as Medusa. That’s because the doll, Mimi, surprised the heck out of me about three minutes into the show by coming to life and looking around. Amazingly, nothing more was done with this plot development this week as Jason and his friends, rescuing a little girl called Heidi, get chased around by the monster and Medusa. Then, right at the end, the doll raises its head and looks around as everybody heads back to Star Command. Neat little cliffhanger, honestly.
Obviously, I think the doll was this episode’s high point, but our son was floored by the big monster. It wasn’t quite scary enough to send him behind the sofa, but it did have him hiding his head behind his mother’s back. So call that a medium-level fright!
In this episode, we learn that Samantha’s instincts about mothering are pretty bad, but when it comes to random guesses between one real planet and four fake ones, she’s dead on target. She unwittingly brings a hologram of Dragos on board Star Command. The villain is disguised as a little kid, and is played by David Comfort, a popular child actor of the time.
The highlight came when the kid revealed himself as Dragos, prompting our son to bellow “Oh, come on! Seriously?!” We’re not sure whether that was his suspended disbelief crumbling, or if he just couldn’t take one more headache in everybody’s bad day.
There’s a charming bit in this episode when Jason says that all these caves look familiar. They’re the same caves that he and the Space Academy students have been walking around in for three seasons now. This one, however, has that lovely feature of walls that close in, which is the greatest thing ever when you’re a kid.
“Face to Face” threatens to be one of sci-fi TV’s many “Arena”/”Rules of Luton” stories, with our hero battling an alien enemy. But since seventies Saturday morning rules about violence would make that really, really dull, they quickly have to work together to survive since the planet they’re on is alive and wants to kill both of them. Our son enjoyed this story, and I got to be a good dad and remind him about the importance of working together. Much older than five, he’d see that as pretty cheesy, but it works for now.
BONUS MATERIAL! Sid Haig’s Dragos is barely in this episode, but this great actor gets the spotlight over at Comfort TV this week, with a look at some of his most memorable TV guest appearances. Go check it out!
As we take an evening’s break from this mammoth-length Doctor Who story, we pop back into the world of Jason of Star Command for the first part of another story. It appears that the second season is comprised of four three-parters, which is probably the sort of thing I should have checked on before we got started. “Through the Stargate” introduces Rod Loomis as a villain named Adron, and for some as-yet unrevealed reason he’s flying around space with a big obelisk that can teleport anybody who touches it to a twin obelisk on a remote planet.
The most interesting point so far is that there’s a friendly dragon on the planet brought to life by some phenomenally good stop-motion animation. The creature has an injury on its foot and our heroes use W1K1’s laser to cauterize the wound. I set aside any consideration about how that sounded like a pretty big and possibly very painful risk, and used it as a teaching moment to explain cauterization to our son. He then seemed pretty horrified by the possibility of a wound so grievous that it might need such action, so I focused on this show being a fun fantasy and not really like the real world at all, honestly.