Saturday, October 30, 2010

M.I.S. - Jason Of Star Command

Once again, we delve into the unexplained mysteries of the Space: 1970 era - specifically, the mysteries of sci-fi shows of the Seventies. When I wrote one of these articles about Space: 1999 a few months ago, people kept bringing up stuff from novelizations and other non-canonical media to explain things away, but I'd rather try and figure things out using only the evidence presented on-air. The idea is to have some fun indulging in some fannish speculation and mining the shows themselves for clues. This time, we're looking at Filmation Studios' 1978-70 Saturday morning adventure serial, Jason of Star Command.

The first - and biggest - question, of course, is: what the hell is Star Command?

We're told that it operates "out of a secret section of the Space Academy," but what is never made clear is what exactly the relationship between Star Command - which certainly sounds like a vast galactic military, or at least, peacekeeping organization - and the Academy actually is. The mundane reality is that Filmation simply re-used the preexisting (and already paid for) sets, costumes, and many of the effects from the previous season's Space Academy series in order to reduce costs on the later show, allowing them to spend more of their Jason budget on new effects shots and sets (the interior of Dragos' Dragonship, for example). But what we're talking about here is the universe of the show, not real-world economics.

As a kid, I actually wondered about this stuff, trying to reconcile the storylines and characters of the two shows, and make sense of their shared universe.The creators may not have thought it was important, or just treated the two series as independent of each other, but I was 14-15 years old, and it was pretty damned clear to me that the shows were - or should have been - taking place in the same fictional "world." The appearance of Space Academy characters Matt Prentice and the robot Peepo in the later show, only reinforced that conviction.

So, was Star Command the authority under which the Space Academy operated? Were its cadets being trained to serve in the Command? And if so, who was in charge of the school facility itself? SC's Commander Carnarvin and/or his unnamed, blue-skinned successor? Or Commander Gampu? For that matter, was Gampu a Star Command officer? The uniform was the same... so I'd say "yes."

And if Star Command operated out of the Academy, was there more than one control room? Where was Gampu when the SC crew was running the show during Jason, flying that built-up asteroid all over the galaxy and engaging in battles with Dragos' drone ships?

Of course, we never saw very many adult Star Command officers stationed on the Academy asteroid. Just Canarvin (and his ill-tempered successor), Captain Nicole Davidoff (who wore a distinctively different uniform from that of the cadets that swarmed the Academy corridors), and Professor Parsafoot, who, like Jason (and later, Samantha), may have actually been a civilian only working with the Command.  This suggests that Star Command itself was a bigger organization based elsewhere, and that Canarvin's operation at the Academy was simply a small task force assigned there to protect the educational institution and monitor the sector of space in which the school was located.

If that was the case, then it may have been standard procedure for the Star Command contingent to take control of the institution during combat situations, and Gampu simply stepped aside (off camera) on those occasions.

Another big question - just who was Jason? It's clearly established that he is a civilian, and that, while trusted, he has a reputation for not following Star Command protocols. Being a kid's show, no backstory is provided for the character, nor is any personal history ever revealed or even hinted at.

Obviously, he's valued for his piloting abilities, and as a civilian, perhaps he has some use as a secret agent, operating in areas and/or situations where uniformed Star Command officers cannot. This may explain why Canarvin's azure successor was so distrustful of Jason and his loyalties when he assumed command of the operation in Season 2.

His outfit suggested a swashbuckling nature (and Han Solo, of course), so maybe he was a reformed space pirate? I'd like to think so; it would explain a lot.

Dragos is no mystery - he's portrayed as an ambitious galactic warlord. He's even shown building alliances with alien races (witness his council of aliens in S2) and other powerful leaders, like Queen Medusa. We're never told what his home planet is, but that's not really a big deal. He's clearly a threat to galactic peace and his motivations aren't very hard to determine. Greed and a thirst for power are pretty universal motives.

For once, there's no real narrative questions regarding second season cast changes, either. As Canarvin and Davidoff were both Star Command officers, it's logical to assume that they were given new assignments (in Canarvin's case, on the U.S.S. Enterprise) and transferred to other posts. Nicole was cute, and I missed her, but Samantha was a much stronger female regular. The actual name of Season 2's commander and his race are unexplained mysteries, but as neither question really impacts the narrative, I'm not particularly concerned. It's sloppy world-building, but not critical in this case.

In fact, the only other major question I have about the Space Academy/Jason of Star Command universe is how Tamara Dobson (Samantha) ever managed to get into those pants!


  1. Jason's backstory? Easy! No fish in space; need new job!

  2. I dearly loved Space Academy and was so ticked off that it got replaced by this. I know many of my generation look back with fondness on Jason. I'm not one of them.

  3. I reference somewhat referred to the blue guy as Commander Stone, but I don't know if that's lifted from some writer's bible or otherwise apocryphal.

  4. There may be even something larger to what you've started here... Has anyone noticed how much Parsafoot resembles a Centauri from Babylon-5?

    Great memories!

  5. Ah, Nicole Davidoff..

    She was the only reason I found to tune in.

  6. Sid Haig who played Dragos later turned up in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century two-parter "Flight of the War Witch" as Zarina's right hand man Spirot - and wearing a red and black costume that rather reminded me of Dragos' - despite the lack of a cape and the gold headgear. ;)

  7. He actually introduced himself as "Commander Stone" in the first episode he's in.

    1. Thanks. I know that now - I had missed it when I re-watched the show just before writing this essay two years ago. On my most recent viewing, I caught that line.

  8. The commentary track is rather interesting. It is one of the few commentaries where people talk about uncomfortable subjects. For instance, the producer wanted Jonathan Harris back (I cannot remember if he wanted to do another season of Space Academy or if he wanted Harris for Jason). But he says that there was a miscommunication and Harris heard that he was going to get a smaller part/paycheck and got offended and refused to talk to them anymore. According to the producer, that was not the intention at all, but now he had lost one of his actors.

    [more in a separate post]

  9. Another interesting story in the commentary comes from Sid Haig. He had been a regular on Police Story until that show got canceled (in 1977) and then the work dried up. He says in the commentary that he was about to lose his house and was going to be out on the street when he got asked to do Jason of Star Command. It's actually rather touching. You'd think that as an actor he would view doing a villain on a kid's TV show as beneath him, but he clearly was incredibly grateful that he got the job and was able to feed his family. It was a great story.