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DVD Review: "Space Academy: The Complete Series" by ED Tucker
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Released By: BCI / Eclipse The Source: The Fanboy Factor: The Product: The Bottom Line: Coming Next Week: Jason of Star Command!
“Space Academy: The Complete Series”
Release Date: January 16, 2007
Number of Discs: 4
Approximate Running Time: 400 Minutes
Special Features: Audio Commentary, “Back to School” with Space Academy Documentary, Image Galleries, DVD-ROM Extras, Commercial Bumpers.
Suggested Price: $29.98
In the year 3732 a group of young cadets study at the universe’s highest center of learning, the man made asteroid Space Academy. These students were supposedly gathered from “the farthest reaches of the known worlds” but all looked suspiciously humanoid in appearance. Their lessons and training missions expose them to new alien life forms, mysterious space phenomenon, and always seem to involve some kind of moral every week! Space Academy was in session for only one 15 episode season but was both rerun the following year and revamped into the superior spin-off, Jason of Star Command.
By the fall of 1977, the country was firmly in the grip of a little film called Star Wars that had taken movie theaters by storm earlier that year. As all manner of media and merchandising responses were being mounted, Filmation Studios staked a claim on Saturday morning television with Space Academy. Hot on the heels of their moderately successful series Ark II, Filmation bet the farm on Space Academy and the resulting show was the most expensive Saturday morning series produced to date. To lure in adults and older children who were fed a steady diet of 1960’s reruns, Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith from one of the greatest sci-fi shows of all time, Lost in Space) was cast as the Academy Commander Isaac Gampu. The young cadets were a cast of both familiar faces (like Pamela Ferdin and Brain Tochi who had appeared together earlier in the Star Trek episode “And the Children Shall Lead”) and relative newcomers. Rounding out the group was the annoying robot Peepo whose single redeeming factor was that he was played by a real remote controlled robot. While the episodes leaned toward the preachy side, they were better written and less heavy handed than many of their Saturday morning contemporaries. All of the episodes were shot on film which gives the show a higher quality atmosphere than the typical Saturday morning fodder. The series was technically impressive but too low on action to sustain a long term audience although it is still fondly remembered by its fans as an innovative breath of fresh air for 70’s children’s programming.
The four disc boxed set includes all 15 episodes of the series presented in excellent quality. The extras include an informative documentary featuring many of the original cast. The photo gallery provides many behind the scenes photos and even some shots of the action figures produced for the series (look closely and you will notice several have fallen apart in their packages!). Also enclosed with the DVDs is a handy episode guide that is short and to the point but provides some great trivia.
As a kid I was never a big fan of Space Academy. Sure it had Dr. Smith on it but it wasn’t as much fun as Lost in Space and I was automatically suspicious of any show that tried to teach me a moral. I also disliked the grating voice and personality of Peepo the robot and would have liked to see him dumped in a lava pit on some distant planet! As an adult I enjoyed this set a lot more than I thought I would, especially the special features. The special effects hold up surprisingly well, even 30 years later, and the stories, while not great by any means, are still a cut above the usual Saturday morning fare. I think a great deal of my new found appreciation is due to being able to view the show now as a precursor to one I really liked, Jason of Star Command. Speaking of which……
"Retrorama" is ©2007 by ED Tucker. All graphics this page, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.
Released By: BCI / Eclipse
The Source: The Fanboy Factor: The Product: The Bottom Line: Coming Next Week: Jason of Star Command!
The Fanboy Factor: The Product: The Bottom Line: Coming Next Week: Jason of Star Command!