Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jason of Star Command

Another science fiction memory came to me at about 7am today.

The memory itself was hazy and dusty, but thanks to the Internets, I have been able to dig up pieces of it. I spent a good part of the day researching it and watching episodes from it. Under normal circumstances, one might call this "loafing" or "frittering away time" or even "wasting my life." It might still be, but in my defense today has been a snowy and windy day in metro Chicago with the temperature well below zero. What else could I do?

That's my rationalization. I'm sticking to it.

My memory is called Jason of Star Command. It was a live-action television show that aired on Saturday mornings in the 1970s amidst cartoons. Remember, it used to be that many of the best cartoons could only be seen on Saturday mornings. Jason of Star Command, in fact, started out as serial cliffhanger episodes included in Filmation's Tarzan and the Super Seven anthology on CBS.

The series was actually a spin-off from another live-action kids show with a Saturday morning time slot. Called Space Academy, I seem to have vague recollections of that show being more "educational" in nature...and therefore rather boring and bland to my seven-year old palette. Comes with the territory, I suppose. If it's live-action and shown on a major network smack in the middle of a ton of cartoons, you can't get too edgy with things. No one can get blasted by lasers and even fisticuffs are out of the question. Sort of like my parents arguing the edict that after school snacks had to be "wholesome" things with raisins and oatmeal and shit given that it was so close to dinner time (parse that one out for yourself.) But Jason was intended to be at least more action-oriented than its Space Academy predecessor.

"Jason" was played by Craig Littler (me either) and the character drew more than a little influence from Han Solo. Right down to a black vest as a matter of fact. He was a swashbuckling soldier working for Star Command. Just what that organization was supposed to be never quite seems defined, but it has all the trappings of something both military and clandestine. It operates out of the same asteroid base as the Space Academy, thereby perhaps giving the perfect civilian cover to a covert special ops unit. Although if that's what Star Command is, it doesn't seem particularly scary.  But I digress...

The commanding officer was played by none other than James Doohan, the legendary Scotty from Star Trek. Several other sci-fi tropes were present, namely hot alien women with psionic abilities, cute little robots for comedic effect, stop-motion monsters, and evil villains with capes.

Speaking of villains, the arch nemesis of Star Command was Dragos, a bearded and one-eyed tyrannical emperor who was hellbent on dominating the galaxy. As oft times comes with villainous territory, he also had a very cool looking spaceship for a base. Dragos was played by Sid Haig, a favorite of horror fans (which I am not). For an evil villain, Dragos must not be all that invested in his scheme of conquest for his fightercraft are only drones. But then there's another reason for that, right?

Yeah, it was Saturday morning. Nobody's getting hurt here. Just to underscore that point, Jason doesn't even carry a weapon. The aforementioned enemy fighters are clearly pointed out to be drones and therefore there are no hard feelings about blowing them into space dust. You don't even need the obligatory parachutes from G.I. Joe.  Sure, Jason of Star Command was supposed to be more action-adventure-oriented than Space Academy. Too bad most of that "action" is really running down corridors and jumping over things.

Here's the first serial episode available on YouTube. You get to see Jimmy Doohan get cloned! There's also a startling amount of unprotected exposure to the ravaging vacuum of space.

But I guess it's all good.

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