20 July 2005

From Sarnia To Star Command, By Way Of Starfleet...


With today’s sad news of the passing of Canadian war hero and pop culture icon James “Scotty” Doohan, I thought I’d skip the usual Roddenberry references and instead remind those of you “of a certain age” of one of his largely-forgotten forays into TV sci-fi beyond that “other” show…

Many of us reared on Mego action figures and Crazy Foam will remember the rotating logo of Filmation and its founders Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott before shows like “Ark 2”, “Shazam”, and “The Secrets Of Isis”- Saturday morning cheapies that rarely delivered on their promise of live-action spectacle but certainly weren’t lacking in heavy-handed morality lessons.

Doohan added gravitas (and his regular voice) as Commander Canarvin to 1978’s “Jason Of Star Command”, Filmation’s last live action venture. Initially a 15 minute segment during “Tarzan And The Super 7”, it chronicled the cliffhanger adventures of cosmic agent “Jason” (Craig Littler) who worked out of the “Space Academy” (an earlier series that starred another 60s sci-fi vet unable to escape typecasting: “Lost In Space”s Jonathan Harris) to defeat the evil “Dragos” (B-movie regular Sid Haig), who sought to conquer the galaxy and/or the usual thing. Other than Doohan, all I can recall from it is Haig’s eyepiece, some decent model work (except for the pocket-sized robot “Wikki”), and lots of dry ice. Doohan left after one season (presumably to shoot “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”) and the show expanded to 30 minutes, but I don’t think I stuck with it after that. It’s a shame that these aren’t on VHS or DVD, but I’m sure someone with a vintage Betamax—the same brainiac with the foresight to tape the “Star Wars” Holiday Special perhaps—has copies circulating through the gray market.
Meanwhile, Sid “Dragos” Haig lives on and is enjoying his long-overdue career resurgence, thanks to Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie. Check him out in this weekend’s ‘The Devil’s Rejects”, the sequel to the not half-bad “House of 1,000 Corpses”.