Friday, April 29, 2011

Not The 70s: SPACE PRECINCT (1994)

Two New York City police officers get transferred to a new beat in Space Precinct (1994-95), a British science fiction police procedural created by producer Gerry Anderson (UFO, Space: 1999). Syndicated in the U.S. in the mid-90s, the show usually aired in late night/early morning slots and thus, failed to garner much of an audience. But it's a pretty interesting show, and even though it's not from the Seventies, it may be of interest to Space: 1970 readers - partly because it's a Gerry Anderson production, and partly because of the retro nature of the effects and storytelling.

Set in 2040 (a mere 30 years away!), Ted Shackleford (Dallas, Knot's Landing) plays Lieutenant Patrick Brogan, a married NYPD cop who is transferred to the Demeter City police force on the planet Altor. There, he and his human partner Jack Haldane (Rob Youngblood, Melrose Place), must work side-by-side with a variety of extraterrestrials to uphold the law and solve a wide range of crimes committed by rogue aliens and Earthmen alike.

It's a weird show, especially for the mid-90s. The many rubber-masked aliens, 70s-esque special effects (Miniatures! Yay!) and production design makes the show kinda look like it's for kids, but the scripts, direction and performances are almost completely cop show-serious. This confused a lot of American TV programmers in the 90s, who didn't know when to schedule the series, dooming it to late night slots between infomercials. This didn't exactly lead to high ratings, so the show only lasted one season - oddly, it was reportedly very popular in many European markets, though.

The performances are generally okay, and the quality of the scripts vary from the mundane to the pretty good. Every once in a while, the writers even manage to come up with some solid science fiction ideas, although the series is police procedural first, sci-fi second. The special effects are also inconsistent. There is some limited, low-budget 90s CGI here and there, but most of the FX utilize Old School-styled miniatures and on-set practical gags. Most of the miniature work is excellent (some great pyrotechnics in particular), but other model shots are all too obvious. The make-up and creature effects are also ingenious, if not always entirely convincing.

Sets are - understandably, considering the budget - cramped, but are fairly-well designed. Series directors included 007 veteran John Glen (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, Licence To Kill), Alan Birkinshaw (Invaders Of The Lost Gold) and Piers Haggard (Blood On Satan's Claw).

Image Entertainment brings all 24 episodes of Space Precinct's one and only season to Region 1 DVD in a nice, if bare-bones, 5-disc set. The episodes are presented in their original, 1.33:1 "full-frame" aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The transfers are a bit soft and grainy, but I'm guessing that's more due to the fact that the show (like many other 90s adventure shows) appears to have been shot on 16mm film rather than any flaw in the transfers. There is no notable print damage, specks or other artifacts, and the episodes appear to be uncut, complete with original commercial "bumpers." There are no bonus features whatsoever.

Fans of Gerry Anderson's UFO and Space: 1999 - or anyone looking for 70's-styled sci-fi - may want to check it out. It's not a great sci-fi show, neither is it a great cop show, but it has its charms. It can be purchased from Amazon here: Space Precinct: The Complete Series

Thursday, April 28, 2011

LOGAN'S RUN (1977) TV Series Publicity Stills

Here's a selection of publicity stills shot to promote the 1977 television series, Logan's Run, starring Gregory Harrison, Heather Menzies, Donald Moffat and Randy Powell. The series incorporated elements from the 1976 feature film (costumes, props, and effects footage, mostly), the original William F. Nolan-George Clayton Johnson novel, and (unofficially) the producers' previous sci-fi series, The Fantastic Journey (not to mention, the 1975 WB pilot, Strange New World, which is uncannily similar), as Logan 5 & Jessica 6, fugitives from the totalitarian City of Domes, accompanied by the android Rem, searched a post-Apocalyptic Earth for the legendary community of Sanctuary, relentlessly pursued by Logan's former Sandman partner, Francis.

According to the TV Shows on DVD website, Warners Archive will be releasing the 14-episode series on manufactured-on-demand DVD later this year.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

SPACE: 1999 (1976) Power Records Ad

Here's a nicely evocative advertisement for the Power Records line of Space: 1999 audio adventures. I have no idea who the artist is - probably someone on-staff at Neal Adams' Continuity Studios, which provided most of the art for the Power comics - but it's a wonderful piece of art.

Check out Rob Kelly's Power Records blog to read - and hear - these (and many other) 70s Power Records adventures!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


The most popular science fiction adventure series on 1970s television was The Six Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors as American astronaut Steve Austin, who, after a disastrous test flight, found his legs, right arm and left eye replaced with "bionic" (cybernetic) parts. For five seasons, the heroic cyborg fought the nation's enemies as a secret agent.

In the series' second year, audiences were introduced to his childhood sweetheart, Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) a professional tennis player. Of course, being the hero's girlfriend rarely works out well, and she suffered her own tragic accident while skydiving. Steve Austin was able to persuade his government boss, Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) to provide Jaime with her own mechanical parts, and thus was born The Bionic Woman (1976-78).

The character was killed off at the end of that first The Six Million Dollar Man two-parter - can't have your hero tied down, you know - but, much to the network's surprise, public outcry to the death of Jaime Sommers was immediate and unprecedented. Wagner, an exceptionally fine actress, had been so appealing in the role that viewers - especially young ones - were deeply upset by the character's fate, so plans were made to revive the character.

The return of the character (through some clever techno-double-talk by writer Kenneth Johnson) was a ratings phenomenon, so the network immediately demanded that Jaime Sommers get her own spin-off series. The series ran for three years - on two networks - and the first 13-episode season was released by Universal on DVD in October.

The series, which had Jaime Sommers working as a schoolteacher on an Air Force Base and going on missions for the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) on the weekends, was a better-than average 70s adventure show, with an extremely likable and human heroine, portrayed with humor and intelligence. The stories themselves varied in quality, but Wagner always brought her game to every episode, making even the most absurd situations palatable. She took her orders from Steve Austin's boss, Oscar Goldman, which meant that actor Richard Anderson pulled double duty as a regular on two weekly series simultaneously. Lee Majors also showed up in cameos fairly often during the early episodes, maintaining another clear link to the parent show.

The production values were up to Universal TV's usual slick, professional standards, and the first season was graced with a number of well-known guest stars like Andy Griffith, Donald O' Connor, Kristy McNicholl, Tippi Hedren, Forrest Tucker and Terry Kiser.

Universal's 4-disc DVD set includes all 13 episodes from the series first year of The Bionic Woman, as well as the five The Six Million Dollar Man episodes that introduced the character, in proper chronological sequence. The 1.33:1 "full frame" transfers are remarkably sharp and free of evident wear or damage. The 2.0 audio is clear. Bonus features include the aforementioned Man episodes, a photo gallery, a vintage gag reel, commentaries on a handful of episodes by writer/producer/creator Kenneth Johnson and others, and a retrospective documentary featuring on-camera interviews with many of the show's principals, including Lindsay Wagner, Richard Anderson and Johnson.

(The Six Million Dollar Man has also been released on DVD in a pricey "complete series" package available exclusively online from Time-Life Home Video.)

If you grew up in the 70s thrilling to the adventures of the bionic duo, this DVD set from Universal is highly recommended. The show holds up surprisingly well, and Wagner really makes those distinctively 70s fashions work. The stories vary in quality, but the character remains a strong, smart, funny, positive role model, and it's no wonder that everyone loved her. The Second Season is scheduled to be released next month, and is available for pre-order online. Here are links to both seasons at

 The Bionic Woman: Season One

The Bionic Woman: Season Two

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

QUARK (1976) Pilot Publicity Stills

Here's a selection of press stills for the pilot episode of Buck Henry's sci-fi spoof, Quark, which originally aired on May 7, 1977. The series (all seven episodes of it) followed that fall, with one major cast change: ship's science officer O.B. Mudd, played by Douglas Fowley as an absent-minded, and possibly a little mad, scientist, was replaced by Richard Kelton as Ficus, the logical, unemotional Vegeton.

Interestingly, Cyb and Tricia Barnstable were credited as "Cibbie and Trisha Barnett" in the pilot.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Captain's bLog: 0418.11

  Posting will probably be comparatively light over the next week or two, as a recent illness has put me far behind on my April commitments. I do expect to have my write-up on Planet Earth posted this week, though, and - of course - will try to stay on top of any news items that may pop up.

I'll probably re-post another old article or two, as well - the site gained a lot of new readers over the last month and a half, and it seems logical (and time-effective) to spotlight some of those older pieces for the convenience of new visitors.

  And... here's a sweet Enterprise painting by Star Trek production designer/artist Andy Probert that was used by Paramount to promote Star Trek - The Motion Picture back in 1979.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

YOR, THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE (1983) Theatrical Posters

Yor, The Hunter From the Future began life as a television miniseries in Italy directed by Antonio Margheretti (often credited as "Anthony Dawson"), that chronicled the adventures of a buff blond caveman named - of course - Yor (American actor Reb Brown) as he struggled to survive a savage world full of dinosaurs and other monstrous creatures - and strange, laser-wielding warriors from a mysterious, technologically-advanced island society. This 4-hour epic was then cut down to feature length and released internationally as a movie - Columbia Pictures unleashed in in the U.S. in the summer of 1983.

I actually went to see this in the theater in '83, lured in by Columbia's ad campaign, which promised everything that a teenage geek guy could possibly want to see in a movie: cavewomen, dinosaurs and laser guns & flying saucers! Unfortunately, what I got was a low-budget, badly-dubbed, disjointed disappointment. I saw it again just a few years ago on cable, and was then able to appreciate it a bit more for its camp value - but, then, I'm more open-minded about movies now than I was at age 17-18.

Margheretti was no stranger to sci-fi. Back in the Sixties, he had directed a number of popular space operas - Space Men, Wild Wild Planet, War Between the Planets, et al - but, like pretty much all of his many exploitation movies, Yor is a somewhat slapdash, sloppy - but energetic - mess. It's entertaining, but you feel guilty enjoying it.

I don't feel guilty about enjoying these posters, though; the U.S. one-sheet at the top is kinda bland - and previews the sort of static, Photoshop crap we see these days - but I really like the "underground comix" look of the second, and that third one resembles the covers of many of the fantasy paperbacks on my shelves. Interestingly, the artist of this piece has actually swiped Frank Frazetta's interpretation of the Battlestar Galactica Cylon Raiders (as seen in THIS painting) for the spaceships!

Considering how prevalent this flick was on 80s cable television, I'm surprised some cult video label hasn't released it on U.S. DVD. It can be watched/bought via Amazon Instant... but that's not really the same.

Friday, April 15, 2011

SPACE: 1999 - "The Alien" Model Kit

Don't you love it when toy licensees just make shit up? Obviously FunDimensions really wanted a model kit in their Space: 1999 line that they could sell to the car model enthusiasts - and those little yellow moonbuggies just weren't sexy enough.

Apparently, this car is actually a modified (with extra sci-fi gadgets & "alien" figure) reissue of a George Barris 1970 design car called the "Moonscope" (reissued by AMT again in 2002).

Rerun: JASON OF STAR COMMAND (1978-79)

In honor of Space: 1970's new masthead, I thought I'd re-present one of the earliest posts I wrote for this blog: my review of the 1978-79 Saturday morning space opera, Jason of Star Command! I've added a few new screenshots and made a couple small edits. Enjoy - and have a great weekend, Star Kids!

The third and final of Filmation’s live-action Saturday morning sci-fi kid’s shows after Ark II and Space Academy (and last live-action show, period) was Jason of Star Command. A more action-oriented spin-off of the studio’s aforementioned Space Academy, cost-effectively recycling many of the same expensive sets and models, but eschewing the previous show’s "educational" stories in favor of Star Wars-styled space opera, Jason was serialized sci-fi in Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers tradition, complete with cliffhangers, cute robots, and flamboyant villains in sweeping capes.

The gleefully nonsensical adventures pitted the titular hero (Craig Littler, Superbeast), a Han Solo-esque soldier of fortune attached to Star Command (a nebulously-defined organization that apparently ran the Space Academy and used it as their base), against the evil, would-be ruler of the universe, Dragos (the wonderful Sid Haig, Galaxy of Terror, Spider Baby, The Devil’s Rejects). Other cast members included Jimmy Doohan (Scotty from Star Trek –TOS) as Jason’s commanding officer, exotic Tamara Dobson – Cleopatra Jones herself! – in a recurring role as a mysterious alien babe with psi powers, and cute Susan O’Hanlon (All My Children) as a perky Star Command junior officer. Other regulars included Charlie Dell as an absent-minded professor and John Russell as a blue-skinned, hard-nosed Commander.

As mentioned, Jason was intended as more of an action-adventure than its predecessor. Unfortunately, this being 70's network kid's TV, Jason couldn't punch, trip, shoot, or even give a mean look to anybody. "Action" existed primarily in the form of endless running up and down corridors, soaring and swooping model spacecraft, and clearly-identified unmanned "drone" ships blowing up.

Still, there were entertainingly goofy rubber-and-faux-fur alien monster suits by a young John Carl Buechler (Ghoulies, Cellar Dweller) and some decidedly cool, memorable stop-motion monsters from many of the animation wizards who’d worked on the film Planet of Dinosaurs.

In fact, as impressed as I was with the miniatures and effects on Space Academy, the FX work on Jason, by the same team, shows a marked improvement, both in conception and execution. The sheer quantity of and variety of shots is impressive. Pretty amazing, considering their limited resources. For fans of old school special effects (guilty!), these episodes are something of a treasure trove of pre-computerized FX work.

The first season ran as a series of 15-minute serialized segments of the Tarzan & The Super Seven anthology show, but in its second season, it graduated to its own half-hour berth. BCI’s out-of-print three-disc DVD set (Also available as part of the Filmation Sci-Fi box set - see below) includes all the episodes from both seasons.

The full-frame transfers are on a par with the Space Academy discs, a little soft, but light-years better than the bootlegs that floated around the comic book conventions for years.

The DVD’s retrospective documentary includes on-screen interviews with Craig Littler and Sid Haig. They're both obviously fond of the show and seem to have had fun making it. Littler is now the Gorton’s Fisherman in TV commercials, while Haig continues to appear in horror films and other supporting roles. Three commentary tracks are included, featuring Littler, Haig, Filmation chief Lou Scheimer and various FX artists. There’s also a special effects demo reel, image galleries, original scripts and promos for BCI’s other Filmation discs.
Filmation president Lou Scheimer was clearly a science fiction fan, and thanks to him, sci-fi addicted kids of the 70s were able to enjoy futuristic fun every weekend for most of the decade. Along with the live-action shows, Filmation also brought to the screen animated versions of Star Trek and Flash Gordon, and original creations like Space Sentinels and Blackstar. Other studios dabbled in the genre, but Filmation seemed to have a real love for it, and I, for one, am grateful. Thanks, Lou!

Like the other Filmation live-action sci-fi kidvid series Space Academy and Ark II, Jason of Star Command was released a few years ago on DVD by BCI. That original set is out of print – and BCI is out of business – but just before the company closed shop, it released all three series in one box set.

Both editions are still available if you look around for them; in fact, here are some links:

•  Filmation Sci-Fi Box Set

•  Jason of Star Command - The Complete Series