PCR past banners
Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #388  (Vol. 8, No. 35) This edition is for the week of August 27--September 2, 2007.

"Resurrecting the Champ"  by Mike Smith
So You Wanna Work in the Movies...  by Corey Castellano
DVD Review: "Jason of Star Command: The Complete Series"  by ED Tucker
A Comic Book Saturday: Comic World & Comics & Critters Too / Sat. Terrorthon!  by Andy Lalino
The Week That Was  by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2007
Archives 2006
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR
CF Presents Retrorama

DVD Review:
“Jason of Star Command: The Complete Series”

Released By: BCI / Eclipse
Release Date: May 8, 2007
Number of Discs: 3
Approximate Running Time: 500 Minutes
Special Features: Audio Commentary, Documentary, Image Galleries, DVD-ROM Extras, Special Effects Reel.
Suggested Price: $29.98

The Source:
In the distant future, presumably some time close to 3732 when Space Academy is set, the Universe is plagued by the evil Lord Dragos and his heavily armored Dragonship. Standing in the way of his intergalactic conquest are the protectors of the galaxy, Star Command, and their top officer, the heroic Jason. Jason of Star Command premiered in 1978 as one eighth of Filmation’s Tarzan and the Super 7 (a conglomeration of both new and rerun superhero segments). The serialized fifteen minute episodes proved so popular that Jason was promoted to a full half hour the following season and all new episodes were produced. Unfortunately, even with improved production values, the half hour shows were not as well received, possibly due to some radical cast changes, and the second season was Jason’s last.

The Fanboy Factor:
In 1977, Filmation took a major gamble with their Saturday morning answer to Star Wars, Space Academy. It was the most expensive children’s show produced at that time but the ratings were not what they had hoped for. As series producer Lou Scheimer noted in an interview, “we needed Indiana Jones”. Actually, based on star Craig Littler’s Jason costume and the fact that Raiders of the Lost Ark was still three years away, I think what he meant to say was we needed Han Solo!

To save money and recycle as many sets and props from the previous series as possible, clever writing put Star Command in a secret section of Space Academy! Jonathan Harris was also slated to reprise his Gampu character from the previous series before a last minute falling out with Filmation killed the deal. Fortunately James “Scotty” Doohan stepped into the role of Commander Caravin for season one before leaving to film the first Star Trek feature. In what still seems like an incredibly bold move on Filmation’s part, veteran exploitation actor Sid Haig was hired to play the show’s main villain, Dragos. Jason also had a cool robot called W1K1 (Wiki) that looked like a walking aquarium filter with a laser eye and fit in his belt pouch. For some strange reason they never made a toy of W1K1 so 70’s kids had to scramble to build their own out of Legos!

The first season consisted of 16 chapters of a continuing story that gave young viewers a taste of the old Republic movie serials from decades earlier. For season two, when the show went to 30 minutes, the stories were spread over four episodes and featured an expanded line up of villains. Sid Haig’s fellow exploitation star Tamara Dobson (Cleopatra Jones herself!) was added to the cast as a friendly amnesiac alien trying to discover where she came from. The 12 episodes of season two also featured expanded special effects including some very Ray Harryhausen inspired stop motion monsters. Unfortunately CBS decided the show was too expensive to continue after the second season and a proposed animated follow up never made it into production.

The Product:
BCI’s three disc boxed set includes every episode from both seasons presented in excellent quality. Since the series was shot on film, the source material has held up well and looks far less dated than similar shows done on video. The documentary contains interviews with the cast and crew including Craig Littler, who clearly enjoyed his time on the show, and the always entertaining Sid Haig, who claims this series saved his career! Both actors have some very interesting stories to tell as do the crew. The cool special effects reel looks like it might have been assembled after the series to show off Filmation’s talents to perspective clients. The image galleries feature some great behind the scenes photos including some production designs from the animated series that never came to be.

The Bottom Line:
Jason of Star Command belongs in the hall of fame for live action Saturday morning television shows. Like its predecessor, Space Academy, most of the special effects hold up remarkably well and, unlike the previous series, the stories do too. Sid Haig is at his scene stealing, scenery chewing best as the manic Dragos. While the series never quite transcended its kiddie show roots, the fast paced stories and cheesy science fiction clichés are probably even more enjoyable now than they were in the '70’s. This set is highly recommended.

"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.