Home > Reviews > GALACTICA 1980 thoughts — Eps. 4-6

GALACTICA 1980 thoughts — Eps. 4-6

“The Super Scouts”: ABC wanted more kids in the show, so the producers decided to inundate them with kids.  The great and powerful Dr. Zee has unilaterally decided (yes, Dr. Zee, it’s a good thing you did) that the fleet’s children need to be sent down to Earth so they’ll survive in the event of a Cylon attack.  (Instead of the pilot’s Robbie Rist, Zee is now played by a different child actor named Patrick Stuart, not to be confused with Sir Patrick Stewart, who was 40 at the time.  Unlike Rist, Stuart’s real voice is not dubbed over — more’s the pity, because his diction isn’t great.)  Finally we get a decent explanation for why they’re operating in secret: since Earth is so divided, if the Galacticans dealt with just one government, it could spark paranoia among its rivals and trigger global war.  I was surprised to hear an explanation on this show that actually seemed intelligent.

Dillon is inexplicably teaching the children on the school ship which is lagging behind for repairs, and inevitably Troy shows up soon, just in time for the Cylons to attack it (Dr. Zee psychically intuits why — they’ve “evolved” new technologies and are testing them out by shooting at people — yeah, let’s go with that).  There’s a mix of stock and new battle footage, so that parts of the freighter occasionally become parts of Galactica.  Meanwhile, Trillon try to protect the kids from the stock-footage fires and badly double-exposed smoke, and get the last dozen off in a shuttle which is damaged and leaking fuel.  Unable to get back to the fleet, they take the kids to Earth.

What follows is pretty tedious and didn’t need to be 2 hours.  They land in the woods and try to be inconspicuous.  But guess what!  Suddenly we learn that the fleet’s standard gravity is higher and its atmosphere denser than Earth’s, so that Colonials have superstrength and can jump real high (albeit in slow motion and with a pseudo-bionic sound effect) which the kids can’t resist playing around with.  Gee, Jamie didn’t seem to have any trouble walking around on the Galactica.  (Also, if Earth’s air is thinner than theirs, shouldn’t it make them weaker?  This is paid lip service and then forgotten.)  There’s some padding as Trillon go into town on their bikes and get chased by a couple of CHiPs-knockoff motorcycle cops, whom they elude by going invisible, of course.  They intend to trade gold cubits for currency and buy local clothes for the kids.  Troy decides to buy a bunch of scouting gear while Dillon accidentally manages to rob the bank, and they make an invisible getaway after overpaying the clerk.  Air Force Col. Sydell, played by Alan Miller (“Genesis allowed is not!  Is planet forbidden!”), is investigating a possible UFO landing, and questions Trillon and the “scouts,” who deny having seen anything.  Jamie happens to show up (at last, someone appealing) to investigate the UFO reports, and is unsurprised to see Trillon there.  She sticks with them, and that night, three of the kids fall deathly ill and are rushed to the hospital.  Turns out they’ve been poisoned by evil pollution!  Since this is an “educational” show, it has to be socially conscious.  Troy or Dillon or whichever interchangeable guy says his wrist “computron” (basically a tricorder/Dick Tracy radio/Speak’n’Spell that does whatever the story needs at the moment, naturally invented by Dr. Zee) can’t identify the chemicals because there’s no Galactican equivalent, yet the display screen clearly shows terms like dioxin and benzene.

Trillon go to complain to the chemical company’s boss Stockton (Mike Kellin), who insists he and his fellow locals are perfectly healthy (though when a man that cadaverous says “Do I look like I’m dying?” one must consider one’s answer carefully).  He calls the local stereotyped fat hick sheriff and tells him to do something about them, since he doesn’t want the plant closed down again.  The sheriff, Ellsworth, has found that the scouts have no official existence.  There’s some padding as the Galacticans elude the law (stealing the cop cars while invisible) and the chemical-plant employees harass our heroes, and the doctor rants to Jamie about how the kids’ blood doesn’t look at all human (which doesn’t make sense, since the whole conceit of the franchise is that they are human and share a common origin with us) before suddenly going on a non sequitur about the pollution from the plant.  But then the hospitalized kids take a turn for the worse and Stockton follows our bunch to the hospital.  One of the kids is dead and on life support, but Troy says that by his people’s standards, he’s alive and can be saved.  Dillon calls the Galactica for help, his signal “encrypted” simply by speeding it up to trans-Chipmunk levels (which the monitoring military officer says is unlike anything he’s ever heard before — must not have a tape deck).  Turns out Dr. Zee has invented a uniquely advanced and powerful antigravity ship that happens to be a flying saucer, and he and Adama take it to Earth to save one kid, even though both the ship and Zee are too unique and valuable to risk.

Trillon take the kids and their life-support equipment in Stockton’s van, and Stockton gets to witness the whole “flying saucer” experience, and is timorously taken aboard, begging the “Venusians” not to abduct him.  The interior is a pretty weird environment with lots of open black space and red-lit lucite arches and creepy masked medics who surround the kid to treat him, and one wonders what the hell could possibly be the throughline uniting any of this weird stuff to the familiar technology of the Colonial fleet.  Okay, sure, it’s the invention of Dr. Zee, the one-boy Singularity, but still, he only has existing fleet equipment to work with, right?  (And even Dillon gets inexplicably formal and alien, telling Stockton “Come” instead of a more characteristic “Come on”, and intoning something about “The glory of the universe is intelligence” or whatever.)

While the synchronized surgery team saves the super-scout (sssibilant, isssn’t it?), Dr. Zee plays Ghost of Christmas Future and shows Stockton a computer projection of his son’s funeral ten years hence, making him see the error of his ways and promise to clean up the pollution.  Adama orders Troy and Dillon to remain on Earth with the kids (there’s a nice little reprise of the Serena/Boxey leitmotif as Adama speaks to his grandson), and the Zee-Saucer flies away just before Sydell, Fat Hick Sheriff, and the National Guard get there.  As always, Trillon and the kids get away by turning invisible, the world’s second-cheapest special effect.  (Second-cheapest because they fade in and out.  Cheapest would be a jump cut.)  But later they return Hick Sheriff’s car along with enough gold cubits to repay the bank twice over.  From the slimy smiles on the sheriff’s and deputy’s faces, I doubt they’re going to turn over the entire amount.

But typically, the boys soon get called away “on a mission” (yeah, right) and dump responsibility for these twelve superstrong, dangerously naive children onto poor Jamie Hamilton with no advance warning.  What a couple of deadbeats.

Hilariously, the episode ends with an incongruous text disclaimer (looking uncannily like a Jeopardy clue) reassuring its viewers that “The United States Air Force stopped investigating UFOs in 1969. After 22 years, they found no evidence of extra-terrestrial visits and no threat to national security.”  Even more hilariously, this disclaimer is shown at the end of the next four episodes as well.  I know ABC wanted the show to be educational, but were they really so afraid kids would take the stories seriously that they felt the need to throw this in?

While “Galactica Discovers Earth” had enough going on to be mildly entertaining if you just turned off you critical faculties and went with the stream of consciousness, “The Super-Scouts” is pretty tedious and bizarre.  Why this sudden retconning of the Galacticans into something so alien?  Why give them bionic jump powers and a flying saucer?  I think Larson, who really had no interest in doing this show, was just throwing in whatever random stuff he thought of, hence the ripoffs of CHiPs, the bionic shows, Close Encounters, and A Christmas Carol.  It also suffers from a relative lack of Robyn Douglass screentime, and a complete lack of Robyn Douglass in tight clothes.

“Spaceball”: In this episode, Troy and Dillon must stop President Skroob and Dark Helmet from stealing Druidia’s air and…

No, wait, that’s Spaceballs.  Sorry.

We pick up right after the last episode, with Trillon arriving for their sudden special mission, and they’re met by holy frak it’s Sherlock Holmes! Jeremy Brett climbs out of the Viper and introduces himself as Lt. Nash, speaking in an odd accent that I think is supposed to be German but at times makes him sound like a Swedish Dracula.  He sends Trillon off in the Viper in pursuit of Xaviar, who’s returned to the present (though why nobody’s chasing him through history anymore is never explained).  Meanwhile, Jamie brings the super-scouts to work with her, where they disassemble a TV camera, get caught, then reassemble it before the boss arrives, so the camera guy is humiliated.  Anyway, Jamie snaps up the opportunity to cover a story about a kids’ camp, thinking it’s her opportunity to ditch the little terrors.  But when she gets there, she discovers it’s a baseball camp, and she’s afraid of the kids showing off their superpowers (and that is definitely a stock sound effect from the bionic shows when little Starla sends a baseball flying past the treeline).  Meanwhile, Trillon’s Viper shuts down and strands them in space (depicted hilariously by pulling in on a freeze-frame of a Viper in flight, complete with motion blur), leaving Jamie and the kids unprotected from Sherlock Holmes, whom they realize is actually Xaviar in disguise.  (Zee is blase about this “epidermal restructuring,” saying that “Ours” — yep, he speaks of himself in the royal we — went flawlessly.  So at least they’ve handwaved his recasting.)  Sherlock Xaviar apparently plans to use the kids as bargaining chips with Adama.  He shows up at the camp as Lt. Nash and tells Jamie he’s there to help with the kids.  He assures her “I love children” in a tone so sinister you expect him to add “with fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

Now begins the whiplash portion of our program.  Jamie’s told the kids to play to lose in order to keep their secret.  But then she learns that the moustache-twirling landlord is going to evict the camp if they don’t field a winning team at the playoffs the next day, so she tells the kids to play to win.  But when they get to the playoffs, Jamie learns that Col. Sydell is on his way, still suspicious that the kids are Not Of This Earth.  So she tells them to play to lose, which they do for the first six innings.  But then Jamie overhears Sherlock Xaviar threatening to kill the kids after Adama rejects his demands, and so she tells them to start playing to win, since the press of the crowd around the winners will protect them.  So it’s your classic Harlem Globetrotters scenario where the hero team sucks at first and then calls on their special skills and comes from behind.  So the scouts win and the crowd surrounds them, protecting them from Sherlock Xaviar.  This has made Sydell all the more interested in them, but Jamie pits Sydell and Xaviar against each other, delaying them long enough for Trillon to get back.  (They did a spacewalk to repair their Viper, somehow changing into spacesuits in that tight cockpit; in some shots the wires are painfully obvious.  But at least the spacesuit helmets aren’t as stupid-looking as the ones from “Fire in Space.”)  A laser shootout ensues and Xaviar shoots Sydell, but one of our interchangeable heroes says he’ll survive with proper medical attention.  But we don’t find out for sure, since it’s time for the obligatory funny tag where little Starla lands a basketball in the hoop on her first try and Jamie’s all “Oh no, here we go again.”

I guess this could be considered a conclusion to the Super-Scouts trilogy, since it’s pretty closely tied to the previous two.  But it’s a rather tedious hour, and even Jeremy Brett can’t save it, given the bizarre accent he’s hampered with.  (And what’s up with that?  The original Xaviar spoke with Richard Lynch’s normal New York accent.)  It does, however, underline the extent to which Robyn Douglass has been the real star of this series up to this point.  Basically she’s Mindy with no Mork to overshadow her, the everywoman coping with strangeness and serving as a point of audience identification.  She carries most of the episode herself while Trillon are sitting uselessly out in space.  And as boring as the episode is, I can’t really fault her for it, since she’s more watchable than the other two leads.  She’s not a great actress, but she’s got more charisma than any of the original show’s female regulars had; and while she’s not quite as hot as Maren Jensen, she’s close.  Unfortunately, this is the last episode where she plays more than a small supporting role.

And you know something?  After seeing this episode, I’m not convinced Xaviar is the villain.  He might be secretly the hero of this show.  Why?  Because he doesn’t want to follow Doctor Zee’s orders. He’s the only person in the Colonial fleet who hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid, who doesn’t worship this pompous 10-year-old mutant as an infallible oracle.  Maybe he’s the one person who’s contemplated the fact that a child who has an intellect none of them can begin to match, and  minimal life experience to temper it with wisdom or humility, might not be entirely trustworthy, and that it might be a bad idea to encourage him to think of everyone else in the fleet as his willing and obsequious servants while simultaneously giving him unlimited resources to invent technologies of incredible power.

Okay, so Xavvy tried to share advanced technology with the Nazis, but in his defense, he only sided with them because they had the most advanced rocketry, and he probably didn’t know about the whole genocide thing.  And sure, he threatened to kill a bunch of kids, but perhaps he feels such desperate tactics are his only recourse given how completely the rest of the fleet is under Zee’s power.  Besides, some of the super-scouts are geniuses themselves, so maybe Xaviar’s afraid there may be a whole race of superchildren emerging, ready to leave Colonial humanity to go the way of the Neanderthal (did they have Neanderthals on Kobol?).  Maybe Xaviar is a Tom Zarek figure, to draw from the revival series — willing to use violent means, but toward the end of freedom from oppression.

Or maybe not.  Still, Xaviar is the one character who has a dissenting opinion about Dr. Zee, and I have to respect that.  That kid is scary.

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  1. January 21, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Why was maren jensen fired ? I’ve read that larson thought her acting sub par, but that criticism could be made of many of the shows actors. So why was ms jensen made an example of ? She was the most beautiful woman on the show. It really was a foolish move on the producers part.

    • January 21, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Not sure, really. I agree about the beauty, though. She was one of the very first actresses I remember having a crush on in my youth.

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