Womanizing scientist Ivar Mardosian dies of an induced heart attack while in the desert with colleagues awaiting alien contact. Are aliens really visiting, or is this a staged hoax to cover up a murder? And who killed him?

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
Lee Horsley ...
...
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Penny Santon ...
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Dr. Ivar Mardosian
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Carl Burke
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Barbara Newton
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Stuart Glick
Alex Henteloff ...
Marcel DuJon
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Cheryl Burke
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Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Sandy Freeman ...
Lauren Lombardo ...
Lauren
Maureen O'Connor ...
Maureen
Char Richards ...
Tony / Thug
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Womanizing scientist Ivar Mardosian dies of an induced heart attack while in the desert with colleagues awaiting alien contact. Are aliens really visiting, or is this a staged hoax to cover up a murder? And who killed him?

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Crime | Drama | Mystery

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27 February 1983 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Houston, We Have A Problem
9 August 2011 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

Five Scientists competing for the Copernican Award, a distinguished and extremely lucrative prize from a astronomy society have a close encounter in the desert during which one of them named Madirosian (Robert Alda in quite possibly the most brief TV guest appearance ever) dies of a heart attack. Madirosian, as it turns out was the frontrunner for the award up until his unexpected death.

Houston is approached to investigate by the chairwoman of the society. C.J. logically suggests the lady go to the cops but she is insistent that she doesn't want the police involved. She then says she wants Houston to prove that the close encounter was either really with aliens or was an elaborate hoax to cover up the murder of Madirosian, an unpopular guy a lot of people wanted to put six feet under.

After waiting for another visit from the aliens at the camp the scientists have set up and having left convinced it was a hoax Houston is abducted by aliens (which is kind of a hillbilly thing to have happen to a Southerner) on the drive home. Houston is able to figure out who did it with some ingenious trickery but still wonders if he really was abducted by little green men.

I always wondered why they didn't call this episode "Houston, We Have A Problem".

One of the most distinguished guest star cast lists of the entire series was assembled here but it includes a number of actors who for the most part were known for doing sitcoms at the time. Shelley Fabares (One Day At A Time), David Groh (Rhoda), Dawn Wells (Gilligan's Island). We also have Dane Clark and Robert Alda who were each guest stars on almost every network TV detective show ever. So we have actors that can give us a spoof type feel to this mystery.

You compare this episode with one of the darker, more intense unironic episodes of season two or season three and it looks like a completely different show but with the same two main characters - C.J. and Houston.

The inconsistency of the writing, or even just an entirely different approach to the series as it evolved could make for a multi-dimensional performance when a really good actor was pushed to do his best with it. Lee Horsley was such an actor and did some extremely impressive work on this show.

In keeping with much of what we have been shown in the first season we have a whodunit with an ironic tone. Nothing had to make sense and they could stage whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted especially since they figured they were going to be cancelled at any time.

At least in this episode Houston has a more believable point of entry after he is approached and his client has ruled out C.J.'s suggestion that she just call the cops. But why he would take such a goofy case is not adequately revealed beyond doing it for kicks.

Pam Hensley was on Buck Rogers (She played Princess Ardala, my first ever boyhood crush), a show on which David Groh guest starred. Here they are making a mockery of sci fi just not as much of one as Buck Rogers did.


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