Space Academy finished its run with another really good episode in which Gampu’s brother, Professor Sunseed, comes on an official visit. He’s an eccentric hillbilly with a parrot on his shoulder who has been tasked with some Federation inspection about whether the academy is worth keeping, and things don’t look good for the team since he hates technology, computers, and machines.
It’s got a “season finale” feel that seventies programs typically didn’t have, and also some great new miniature work. This is the only episode to show three Seekers in flight at once. All ends well, of course, and almost everybody gets a central part to the story, except Eric Greene, who kind of got squeezed out of this story. Our son really enjoyed this one, and said it was one of his favorite stories of the series.
This show was really a lot better than I ever knew. There were a few clunkers and disappointments, but the overall average was way better than I expected, and I bet a second season would have been even better. Of course, Space Academy didn’t come back for another season, although some of its sets and costumes would be back in the fall of 1978 for Jason of Star Command. We’ll be watching that a couple of months from now, so stay tuned.
As for the cast, it can safely be said that none of the young actors became superstars, though each of them had a few more interesting parts in their future. Most have retired from acting by now. Looking over IMDB, I don’t think that we’ll be seeing any of them again for this blog, but I genuinely enjoyed all their performances in this show. Jonathan Harris still had a few neat jobs in his future, and he was a regular fixture at sci-fi conventions in the eighties. He seemed to be in Atlanta every other month for years, entertaining giant crowds at Dixie Trek and the AFF and whatever other shows, frequently reunited with his Lost in Space co-stars Bill Mumy and Mark Goddard. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 87. He was a tremendous talent and an incredibly fun guy.
“That was very silly and it was very scary!” That’s the announcement from our five year-old critic tonight. There’s honestly the gem of a really good story in this episode. A thousand years ago, a Captain Rampo was lost in the “Alderan Triangle” of space, and his ghost ship is occasionally spotted, warning people away. It turns out he’s been alive all this time, fighting off an energy-draining vapor.
Unfortunately, he’s warning people away with spooky voices and Halloween masks for some Saturday morning reason. Well, it worked here. Our son was under a blanket for several minutes and almost – almost – had to hide behind the sofa. In the end, Rampo, played by Howard Morris, has Loki sitting on his lap and he’s telling him wacky stories about the lollipop trees of the Red Galaxy. Well, this is for kids, dear readers.
We’ve seen Howard “Howie” Morris a few times here at the blog. He had played the Red Baron in Ghost Busters for Filmation a couple of years previously, and he’d later play Sivana in Legends of the Super Heroes. He was mainly a voice actor, and did hundreds of cartoons over a forty-plus year career, including Atom Ant, and Jughead, Big Moose, and Dilton in Filmation’s various Archie series.
Back in the late sixties, when Marvel Comics was throwing all sorts of wild and bizarre ideas at readers and most of ’em, true believers, stuck, Smilin’ Stan and Jolly Jack introduced Ego, the Living Planet, in the pages of Thor. I would gently suggest that Jack Kirby managed the concept of a living planet with a little bit more magic and wonder than Samuel A. Peeples and the Filmation crew could bring to this story of two living planetoids, named Ergo and Tarr.
On the other hand, our son was really quite impressed. “That was SO COOL when the asteroids were alive!” he said. If you insist, kiddo.
Our son’s doing a lot better dealing with kids and innocents in danger. This time, Larry Dobkin – the “There are eight million stories in the Naked City” guy – plays an alien who forces young Loki to steal a chemical from the academy’s lab. He’s actually meaner than you’d expect from a kid show and his shapeshifting powers leave the audience unsure what he can do. The security blanket was employed, but he stood his ground and handled it pretty well.
This show’s not bad so far. It’s definitely more entertaining than I had expected.
You get used to a certain level of dopeyness with these shows where the science is concerned. With the Filmation shows, that’s a real shame as they actually claimed to be teaching about science. But this time, everybody starts vanishing, and it’s all because of some magic space dust that somehow gets into the academy after a meteorite gets blown up. All they have to do to counteract the vanishing is take a “formula” and run it backward in a computer. Dr. Science did not graduate from Space Academy.
An interesting little first for our blog in this episode: this is the first of a few teleplays that we’ll see to be written by Samuel A. Peeples. He wrote for the original Star Trek and worked for Filmation on both the cartoon version and some of their later science fiction programs, like this show and Flash Gordon, but he also put in a little more work with Trek producer Gene Roddenberry as well. The same year that he wrote for this series, he also wrote the TV movie pilot Spectre for Roddenberry. This was a period occult thriller that starred Robert Culp and Gig Young. I’d like to see that one of these days.
Another oddball first for our son: this is the first time we’ve run into retooling between the first episode and the rest of the series. Last week, we met Ty Henderson’s character, Paul Jerome, as “the guy who gets left back at the base.” This episode is clearly set some time after the pilot, as Loki is a uniformed member of Space Academy’s Blue Team, but Paul is introduced to the others as a new character who has just transferred to Blue Team.
The bulk of the episode is conflict between the three young male leads. Ric Carrott’s Chris is reckless and driven, and Paul is a loner who wants to follow orders, and Brian Tochi’s Tee Gar Soom is stuck between their squabbles. A black hole leads them to a planet with a screaming stop-motion dragon-like monster, so they are forced to quit arguing and work together quickly.
We paused the episode to explain about black holes to our son, as we thought this was his first exposure to this favorite trope of sci-fi film and TV writers. He explained after the episode ended that we’d unwittingly cleared up a confusing bit from an episode of Clangers that he saw recently.