Sunday, November 6, 2016

Space Academy (1977)

Space Academy
Stars: Jonathan Harris, Pamelyn Ferdin
1977
15 episodes

It might be interesting to compile a list of all of the TV shows and movies of the late Seventies and early Eighties that featured cutesy robot characters - and someone's probably done it already, now that you mention it. I can think of two right off the top of my head. There's Twiki, from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-81) and there's Peepo, from Space Academy. I'm sure it was totally coincidental that Space Academy rolled out nearly four months after Star Wars and featured a robot named Peepo, a name that absolutely does not remind one of the name C-3PO.

In any event, as the name suggests, the show focuses on the adventures of a bunch of young cadets at a space academy, all of whom are quite well-scrubbed and photogenic. The academy is located on an asteroid and the show is set in the year 3732, which seems like a rather arbitrary date but not much more so than in any other work of science fiction. The big-name star here, such as he is, is Jonathan Harris, whose space TV credentials are pretty solid. We know him best as the kind of slimy, weaselly Dr. Zachary Smith on Lost in Space (1965-68). Here he plays the more upstanding Commander Isaac Gampu, head of the academy. Who is said to be 300 years old (but doesn't look a day over 63) and who sports a very Seventies mustache and a hairstyle that is curiously poofy.

The five cadets are a reasonably diverse group and several of them possess special powers, such as telekinesis, superhuman strength and psychic powers. There are also some soap opera-ish attractions between the young’uns. In the premiere episode, "The Survivors of Zalon", the gang find themselves on a planet - Zalon - that's due to explode in a mere 48 hours. Either I wasn’t playing close enough attention or it wasn't explain how they arrived at such a precise estimate of total planetary destruction. But the suspense here, what little there is of it, comes from the fact that the group have to round up a young orphan - Loki - who also has some powers, such as being able to teleport at will, before the planet blows up. Here's a spoiler, they do it and Loki becomes a member of the cast and if you're a Space Academy merchandise completisst, you probably already have the Loki action figure. Yes, there really were action figures, though it doesn't appear that all the primary cast members was immortalized.

Future episodes found the cadets battling against assorted and sundry hostile aliens, as well as dealing with black holes and runaway comets. Last, but not least, an appearance of robot icon, Robbie the Robot, in a slightly modified version and portraying a "bad" robot.

For more on Space Academy, here's a fan site that's as good a place as any to start.

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