The Six Million Dollar Man 5.9 – Dark Side of the Moon (part two)

Overall, the main problem with this story is that it’s one missed opportunity after another. It all climaxes with yet another very boring “time is running out to do something about the bomb” situation, and what they do about the bomb is so amazingly improbable that Dr. Science’s acid reflux started acting up again. Jack Colvin’s flunkies are operating under the delusion that their crimes on the moon will work wonders for their careers. Steve never thinks to tell them that they have already killed hundreds of people and will probably end up killing millions before they’re done. There may not be a United States to come back to, and they’ll certainly never see the money Colvin promised them.

But if we must have this nonsense of a megaton bomb that can’t be moved because of a fluid motion sensor, Marie spotted the obvious solution. They’ve gone on and on about the dark side of the moon being at absolute zero and punched a hole from the surface into the mine shaft to freeze Steve’s bionics via a long steel rod. (That’s ten shades of Dr. Science having a headache, so we won’t go into how they’re keeping their artificial underground environment stable with an open borehole to the surface…) Why didn’t they just freeze the fluid in the sensor when they had a hole to the freezing surface right there?

I’d like to not be too critical, because this is for kids, and there’s some science that children can use and bring back to school Monday morning, but the rest of this is just painfully silly! Ah, well, Colvin does a good job playing the calculating and emotionless villain… even if he is pretty blasted wrong to calculate that he’ll return to Earth a rich scientific hero, he comes pretty close to getting away with it.

The Six Million Dollar Man 5.8 – Dark Side of the Moon (part one)

Afraid it’s been an unhappy Thanksgiving around the Secret Fire-Breathing Headquarters. Our son is down with a stomach bug – on all the days! – and so he was curled up under a quilt for tonight’s episode. He didn’t enjoy it a whole lot, but we have to grade on a curve because he doesn’t feel all that well.

It’s commonly understood that Star Wars killed Six and all the super-agent shows of the seventies, but they went down fighting against the space invaders with some more overt sci-fi storylines. Wonder Woman, for example, had its celebrated and ridiculous “Mind Stealers From Outer Space” story, and then there’s John Meredyth Lucas’s two-part episode “Dark Side of the Moon” from November 1977, which blows kisses of plausibility at Dr. Science and then runs off and elopes with Dr. Whatever, Man, Anything Can Happen in Science Fiction.

The villain is played by Jack Colvin, who, like the other main guest star Simone Griffeth, was a Universal regular at the time. He’s a scientist with apparent access to many millions of dollars and he secretly redirects a mission to mine some Unobtanium from an asteroid to the dark side of the moon, where he’s convinced that it can be found in abundance. His whole plan reeks of being a cover story for something more sinister because, of course, there isn’t any unobtanium to be found and he says to keep blasting, but he never even blinks to say “that’s odd.” Colvin plays the character as though he’s looking for something else, which is very strange.

So Steve has to go to the moon to find out what’s going on, because Colvin’s blasting has knocked the moon slightly out of its orbit and the weather has gone haywire. In the universe of Six, Apollo rockets are ready to go at a moment’s notice, and the landers can fly around from asteroids to the moon and back without adaptation or detection from Earth. Sometimes when a show like this, which pretends to be “the real world” with just a few changes, goes off into fantasyland it can’t help but grate a little. Lee Majors is the best thing about this hour by miles. When he picks up a frisbee left behind on a previous moon mission and tosses it into the horizon, he looks like he’s having a blast.

Monster Squad 1.4 – The Ringmaster

I told myself that as soon as we hit a particularly uninspiring episode, I’d write a little about bootlegs. This one features Billy Curtis as the villainous, and deadly dull, Ringmaster, with Simone Griffeth and H.B. Haggerty as his associates. There’s also a lion, and six of the production team’s kids pretending to be twenty thousand children at a circus. Anyway.

When I was younger, I was very big into VHS tape trading, although I believed that I acted ethically then and only traded unavailable-for-purchase material. I never sold bootleg VHS tapes for cash, and I never bought any.

But then, ah. The world of bootleg DVDs really did change everything, especially in the brazen activities of sellers. Sure, back in the eighties and nineties, you could find bootleg video tapes at every SF con, but by about 2004, you could find them at every dealer. I swear, at Atlanta’s Dragon Con from 2004 to 2006, the only dealers who were NOT selling DVD-Rs of everything under the sun were the games companies.

On one hand, part of me does think these guys served a purpose, once. The Star Wars Holiday Special and Song of the South are a couple of high-profile examples of things that the copyright owners have actively tried to suppress over the years, and you could come up with plenty more films and cartoons. The Roger Corman-produced Fantastic Four‘s another one.

Or how about those suppressed Warner Brothers cartoons from the 1940s? Is there a film fan on the planet who will say that they’re happy about all the hoops they’ve had to jump through to see Jungle Jitters or Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips?

I’ve caved and bought bootleg TV shows exactly twice. In 2005, I bought four episodes of Monster Squad. I never found an episode in the decade that I was trading. Nobody had ever heard of the darn thing, nobody had it. It was hypocritical and unethical of me, but I gave the fellow who had it twenty bucks for a disk of four episodes. There’s no moral justification for it, but I figured that if I was ever to see the darn show again, I didn’t have any other option.

The following year, Mark Evanier wrote about a big bootleg bust at the 2006 Motor City Comic Con, and he had this to say:

The most frequent alibi is that the sellers aren’t really doing it for the money…or at least, doing it just for the money. They’re doing it as a public service since the folks who own the material in question are selfishly or thoughtlessly withholding it from the public. This is another way of saying the rights holders haven’t gotten around yet to issuing the show or movie on home video but still, it almost sounds like a valid point. Doesn’t change the fact that we’re talking here about copyright violations but it sounds good.

And Mark was completely right. I used to think he was about 90% right, but in the last decade, I’ve learned he was absolutely correct, full stop. The really aggravating thing that I’ve learned as I’ve grown older and (a) had to defend my rights to my writing or research from people who have stolen it and (b) utterly failed, twice, to teach two older children that theft of music is wrong is that if Lucas, Disney, or Marvel – wait, they’re all the same thing – don’t want you to own those films, then you don’t really have the right to. They own them. They get to do that. Stealing a copy of Song of the South is no different from stealing a copy of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh. I’d really, really like to own Scarecrow, and don’t appreciate Disney’s idiotic limited-release “Vault” program keeping the secondary market prices inflated, but they get to do that.

But before I agreed that bootlegging was wrong, I committed a few other sins. Me and another fellow ran a bootleg CD label for a while, putting out some otherwise unavailable, unreleased live music on low-priced CDs. Probably shouldn’t have done that. And I bought another boot DVD, as I mentioned in this blog once before, going in halfsies with a friend on a mammoth 35-disk set of Batman: all 120 episodes and five disks of bonus features. Shouldn’t have done that either.

I started feeling selfish and wrong about the boots I bought and sold, which is the right way to feel when you’re stealing. And so, when Monster Squad and Batman were released legitimately, I bought official copies. For feeling that I was entitled to have them earlier in life, the copyright owners were entitled to my money as soon as I could put it in Amazon’s cash register.

If you’re reading this and you’ve paid for bootleg DVDs, I hope you’ll do the right thing and replace your copies with official ones. As for us, we won’t blog about programs or movies that have not been legitimately released. In a couple of months, I plan to write a little about two or three properties that I wish we could enjoy for this blog, but can’t, so stay tuned for that.