Space Academy – The Complete Series
C Sound: C+ Extras: B Episodes: B
early 1950s when TV arrived, there was always a Science Fiction show of some
kind that went out of its way to be child-friendly and good for the family when
the media still knew how to produce such a thing without it being phony,
heavy-handed, slanted and fake. This
tradition started with the likes of Tom Corbett and Rocky Jones, peaked at its
conclusion with Filmation’s live-action hit Space Academy.
by Allen Ducovny, who produced Filmation’s first classic animated TV shows
(based on DC Comics’ Superman, Batman and Aquaman, though far from his first DC
work), this show too broke ground for TV, children’s and otherwise in ways no
one could have imagined at the time. The
set-up was similar to something like The
Tomorrow People, where children and young adults composed a team of talents
working together in the science of the future.
In this case, it was the outer space established by TV hits like Star Trek and Space: 1999.
had a head start with the huge critical and decent commercial success of the
animated Star Trek, but like so many
animation houses, added live action shows to their production slate to
diversify, expand and often save money.
Sid & Marty Krofft’s hit were all taped and often big hits, while
Hanna-Barbera had success with The
Banana Splits than mixed live action series with animated ones, hosted live
action by the title friends.
Filmation decided to do more than just a comedy show with a low budget or one
that just showed off the fun new colorful look of then-new videotape. After success with such a show called The Ghost Busters (a Comedy/Horror
show) in 1975, the company went with film resulting in the phenomenal successes
of Shazam! and The Secrets Of Isis. They
then tried a smart Science Fiction show for a younger age group called Ark II (now out on DVD) that was a hit
and the success of all led to Space
stars Johnathan Harris, best known as Dr. Smith from the TV classic Lost In Space as Commander Isaac Gampu,
the adult overseer of the title location, an artificial
mini-planet/asteroid/space station where young adults with exceptional talents
have been assembled for various missions.
This includes Captain Chris Gentry (Ric Carrott) who has exceptional
flying skills, his telepathic sister and Lt. Laura Gentry (the great Pamelyn
Ferdin), scientist Tee Gar Soom (the great Brian Tochi) who also has hidden
super-strength abilities, engineer Lt. Paul Jerome (Ty Henderson) who is being
groomed to succeed Gampu whenever he feels like retiring, data analyst/Lt.
Adrian Pryce-Jones (Maggie Cooper), the talking robot Peepo and a young new
orphan addition they name Loki (Eric Greene, now a film historian among other
accomplishments) who has the power of invisibility. They will make up Team Blue.
not only one of the best-cast children’s shows of all time, but honestly one of
the best-cast outer space series in TV history.
The chemistry and believability of this group is stunning, loaded with
energy, spontaneity and sense that it is really all happening that has made the
show a huge favorite for those lucky enough to know it. The young actors are surprisingly good in
their roles too.
wisdom and experience, plus putting more profits into production, offered yet
another peak for the company. Following
hits like Star Trek and Space: 1999 on TV, plus Logan’s Run and immediately Star Wars from theaters made it a big
hit for the company and CBS beyond anyone’s dreams when the show was first
developed. No competitor producing
children’s programming ever came close and the fact that it fared better
commercially than live action TV versions of Logan’s Run, Planet Of The
Apes (reviewed on this site) and Westworld
(the dreaded Beyond Westworld) says
how ahead of major studios MGM and Fox they were. Ironically, CBS originally broadcast those
complete shows are as follows, in their original broadcast order:
1. The Survivors of Zalonm – This pilot
show directed by Jeffrey Hayden (Batman,
Mannix) introduces the team and how
they find Loki.
2. Castaways In Time & Space – Written
by Samuel A. Peeples (the animated Star
Trek, reviewed elsewhere on this site), the story has Loki as a member of
the team, but Paul still not. Though
this seems erroneous, the idea of the show is to deal with a glass ceiling of
racism in the genre and hits the nail on the head.
3. Hide & Seek – Co-written by
Ted A. Pedersen (The Bionic Woman)
and Martha Humphreys (The Bionic Woman,
soap opera Capitol), the crew starts
to disappear one by one when they are about to take on an asteroid heading for
4. Countdown – Written by Tom Swale
(from the original Land Of the Lost),
George DiCenzo (The Night Strangler,
The Norliss Tapes, both reviewed on
this site) plays a man who thinks the latest “star war” is ongoing when it
ended a while ago. He is still on the
kill, unless they can prove him wrong and get him to stop. The first of two audio commentaries are
5. There's No Place Like Home – Written
by Marty Roth (It Takes A Thief), Lawrence
Dobkin (actor and sometimes director) plays Kane, an alien who tries to get
Loki to steal information for him, putting the manipulated child in an ugly
6. The Rocks Of Janus – With a story
by Marianne Mosner (Rocky Jones, Space
Ranger) and adapted into a teleplay by Jack Paritz (Batman) has two comets about to collide with each other and the
Academy, but something is strange about one of them.
7. Monkey Business – An intelligent
monkey (ala Ark II) is on board when
Tee Gar and one Professor Jasper Bolt (Arnold S. Soboloff) are in jeopardy.
8. The Phantom Planet – Why is a
“phantom planet” appearing around an asteroid about to be demolished? The second of two audio commentaries are
9. Planet Of Fire – Co-written by
Peter Packer (Lost In Space) and Susan
Dworski, Don Pedro Colley (THX-1138,
Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Night Gallery) plays a giant loaner on
a barren planet Tee Gar, Loki and Peepo visit.
Tee Gar has invented a freezing ray, but anything it freezes becomes
unstable and explodes, but none of them know this. A race against time to find them ensures.
10. Life Begins At 300 – As Gampu
begins to doubt himself and his ability to lead, efficient new cadet Gina Corey
(Paula Wagner, then an actress who now co-owns Untied Artists and is
co-producer with Tom Cruise) only makes his feelings worsen until a mining
project goes awry.
11. The Cheat – Written by Robert
Specht (The Immortal with
Christopher George, Kung-Fu, Columbo) stars John Berwick (Brian Clemens’ Thriller) as a rowdy
pilot who is making Chris unhappy, but his slightly higher rank put Chris under
his command at the worst time when they go on one of their most dangerous missions.
12. My Favorite Marcia – Dena
Dietrich (The North Avenue Irregulars,
a later Gloria Petrillo on The Golden
Girls, Mother Nature in a major 1970s TV margarine ad campaign) plays the
title character, an old love interest of Gampu’s when she turns up expected to
explode. We soon learn that they did not
stay together is because she is his match, all the way down to the sarcastic
wit. Don’t miss the Lost In Space robot joke and how Peepo deals with it.
13. Space Hookey – Loki and Peepo go
for a joyride in one of the shuttles, but just as they are getting in trouble,
they have brought trouble to the Academy in the form of mischievous “light
14. Star Legend – Howard Morse (Twilight Zone, Filmation voice actor)
plays an older starship captain who still flies what has been written off as a
ghost ship, but he is very real and has bad news for Gampu.
15. Johnny Sunseed – Veteran voice
actor Dallas McKennon plays the title character, who happens to be Gampu’s
brother and one judging whether Bluer Team should continue its mission.
final episode was designed to set up a second season that sadly never
materialized. Maybe the switch was a
commercial one because of Star Wars
mania, but it ended, which was better than the bizarre switch between seasons
of Space: 1999 that killed that show
before it could continue on its own bold and innovative course. Space
Academy is smart, fun and charming in a way that no show or film since has
been. We will likely never see such a
X 1 image comes from what looks like very good, clean film sources, but the
holding company for Filmation used digital transfers for this set that show
their age a bit. The result is slight
softness throughout, despite the obviously excellent shape of film materials. Either way, the cinematography by Alric
Edens, A.S.C. (McCloud, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Six Million Dollar Man, Ellery Queen, John Cassavetes’ Minnie & Moskowitz) once again
delivered a great look to what he shot and added a denser feel to the look of
the show than it might have had in most hands.
This will be more apparent when these are upgraded for High Definition
from the original film masters. The
cinematography is impressive and then there are the models and visual effects.
started his career as a special visual effects career with this show,
continuing in its spin-off Jason Of Star
Command, soon moving to feature films with Battle Beyond The Stars (where he hired then-unknown James Cameron
to do effects), the Brandon Lee Crow,
the original Blade with Wesley
Snipes, the 3-D specialty spinoff of Terminator
2 and James Cameron’s recent 3-D science documentaries.
Maine co-supervised the effects with Comisky coming from the 1960s TV series Davey & Goliath and sexual spoof Flesh Gordon (reviewed elsewhere on
this site) and delivered them for all 15 episodes at a then amazing sum of only
Husdon did production design for miniatures and was one of the suddenly out of
work crew who was snagged by Filmation after they finished the original Star Wars. They convinced the writers to add references
to that film, in part because they knew it better than just about anyone at
that time. He eventually went back top
Lucasfilm for The Empire Strikes Back
and has been there ever since!
Effects man John Frazier had worked on Wes Craven’s original The Hills Have Eyes when he did this
show. Later, he went on to Airplane!, Gardens Of Stone, Basic
Instinct, Unforgiven, Hoffa, Speed, Absolute Power, Armageddon (which reminds us of this
show in particular when they get to the asteroid), The Perfect Storm, Space
Cowboys, Almost Famous, Windtalkers and the Spider-Man trilogy. That is some serious talent, all starting out
on this important show. No wonder it holds
up pretty well considering its age and that it is a TV production with a
Digital 2.0 Mono is very good for its age and easily sounds better than it ever
has before. The sound effects and score
are instantly memorable to those familiar with the show. Besides the entertaining title song, some
classic sound effects from the Filmation library also turn up in all the
episodes. All in all, they have a surprising
amount of character, though I would love to hear someone take the audio stems
(one hopes they still exist) and try to do a 5.1 remix.
include the exceptional "Back To
School With Space Academy" featurette that runs over a half-hour and
could have been longer, audio commentaries on two episodes (the 4th
and 8th), several terrific still galleries including pictures of the
Avia Toys action figure line for the show, all 15 episodes’ script as DVD-ROM
scripts and the series bible, commercial break bumpers, three screens of
trailers for other classic Filmation series and Easter Eggs.
happened to that children’s model of the space show? Star
Wars changed everything and a spinoff called Jason Of Star Command reflected that. We hope to look at that series on DVD next,
though it is a shame this series did not continue. However, despite showing its age a little
here and there, Space Academy is a
children’s television classic and minor classic of Science Fiction
television. Its DVD arrival is long
- Nicholas Sheffo