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(note: this review covers parts 2&1) Iconic, heart-pounding, frightening, silly, and...wonderful. Steve tracks down a missing scientist in the wilderness, and is attacked by...bigfoot (andre the giant - THE PRINCESS BRIDE, MICKI & MAUDE)! But the big fella is simply an automaton, testing steve on behalf of peaceable aliens who are observing Earth. Steve is lured into their mountain outpost, through a wild rotating ice tunnel. Their scientist of bionics (stefanie powers - HART TO HART, HERBIE RIDES AGAIN) gets a fine case of austin crush. They plan to wipe his memories and release him, but Oscar is nearby exploding an underground nuke, to prevent a major California quake. The aliens try to prevent the blast, but steve stops them. Working with sasquatch, he helps save their survivors. His memory is erased, and he'll see them no more ever again...or will he? The greatest bionic fight ever - the stuff of indelible childhood memory. Toss in a quick bionic woman cameo plus no mustache-twirling villains, and it's all too marvelous for words.
steve + blonde Russian agent = bravo!
And this, dear friends, is how you end a series. Or rather, it's how you end the day when a series doesn't seem to know it's ending. It's just a regular ol' episode - but a rib-tickling delight. And of course there were still the reunion movies to come...but curiously, steve goes out the way he came in. Not since the second telemovie pilot has an episode felt this "james bond" - an anarchic terrorist steals American missiles and a soviet launcher, forcing steve to go undercover with a Russian agent (who happens to be a blonde sexpot - what were the odds?). But this one works, because there's no 007 smarmy glibness. Steve and andrea (lisa farringer - COFFY, LAUGH-IN) play honeymooning husband and wife in an alpine resort, then hit the wilderness trail. Soon, they're humping and bumping by campfire light...oh stop, episode, you had us at hello. Yes, there's enough hypocritical, nationalistic propaganda to make a team of oxen puke (The poor Russian is an unwitting pawn of her evil, machiavellian superiors!), but the chemistry and charm hit on all cylinders. As if that weren't enough, the evil general is played with oily elan by john colicos (STAR TREK, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA). No finale with steve, Oscar, and rudy...but a two-week detente sex holiday for our cold warriors is consolation enough.
once more, with starbucking
I'm going to say something i've never said about any creation - there may not be a human alive qualified to review this. Is it awful? Even appalling, in more ways than one could enumerate? Yes. Is it also...wonderful? Maybe. Or maybe it's a just a balm on the wound that was inflicted on all those adoring fans who were too loyal to walk away from this season of hell. Starbuck, the one and only Dirk Benedict, is back. The set-up is actually a (gulp) Dr. Zee origin story. He has a dream in which a warrior is stranded on a barren planet with only the corpses of his enemies for company. He reanimates one of them, and the first cylon-human friendship is born. Seeing his friend's loneliness, Cy (Gary Owens - LAUGH-IN, European VACATION) goes off and returns with a pregnant woman (Judith Chapman - THE FALL GUY, THE SWEETEST THING). A patchwork ship is built, and Starbuck sacrifices his place aboard so that mother and child might survive. Cy sacrifices his own life, to save Starbuck from a cylon patrol. The mother is from another dimension, and the baby Zee is finally found by the fleet, alone. I promise you, if you tendered that script to any fan in 1979, their response would have been incoherent wailing. And yet...it's Dirk Benedict, dear friends. As Starbuck. And some of the scenes with Cy actually come across with depth and resonance. Is it awful? Yes. But we may never see its like again.
Why does whale music play whenever Dr. Zee appears? In the ONLY good space scouts scene ever (due to an incidental MST treatment years later), they watch a screening of THIS ISLAND EARTH. Then they're dispensed of and replaced by cylons, returning this entire two-part episode to the "so silly and wrong it's hysterical" groove. Troy and Dillon go to NY where a ship is about to crash...but it's not colonial, it's a highly advanced cylon craft with a new breed inside - human replicas (during the BSG re-boot years later, one forgets that "human" cylons actually started here - isn't repressed memory a funny thing?). A humanoid and a centurion survive the crash, and set off for a radio station to send a signal back to the Empire. Coincidentally it's Halloween, and a couple (including William Daniels - THE GRADUATE, KNIGHT RIDER) who work at a radio station pick them up, thinking they're in party attire. And it looks like another actor asked for a raise, as there's a new air force colonel on their tail, played by Peter Mark Richman (THREE'S COMPANY, THE NAKED GUN 2 1/2). Stay tuned for part 2, the most LSD-inspired Galactica ever.
Is jumping two sharks even possible?
It's tempting to make a joke about a shark-jumped franchise clearing a second shark, but i don't want to overstate the watchability of the first three episodes. This two-part affront to plausibility, however, may be where your clearest memories of the show's awfulness reside - in the image of Galactica children posing as boy scouts, while being able to leap twenty feet because of planet-side gravity differential. It all actually starts rather excitingly, with a cylon attack on a stray fleet ship (a sequence, however, that begs the question of where the line is between stock footage and clip show). Troy and Dillon manage to rescue twelve kids, but they can't make it back to the fleet, so they land on Earth and three of them get sick from polluted water, so they take on a chemical plant in an environmental crusade. Along the way, they're chased by two motorcycle CHiPies (including an uncredited James Daughton - ANIMAL HOUSE, SPIES LIKE US). Dr. Zee is now played by Patrick Stuart (EXIT TO EDEN, ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE), who gets to use his own voice but quickly proves that the problem wasn't the actor. We've got a fumbling sheriff, a conscienceless colonel, and a slimy industrialist (Mike Kellin - THE WACKIEST SHIP IN THE ARMY, THE JAZZ SINGER) who has an "it's a wonderful life" moment with Adama inside a UFO, and actually shows delightful comedic chops. The more ominous the moment, the greater you may laugh - that has to count for something, right?
cylons attack Earth! (sort of)
A (simulated) cylon attack on Earth! Flying motorcycles! Right out of the gate, Robbie Rist (THE BRADY BUNCH, THE BIONIC WOMAN) is so annoying as Dr. Zee, he'll be replaced by the fourth episode. And why didn't PLANET OF THE APES issue an injunction against his name? The classic cast is invoked in recycled credits images, and during some cringe-worthy exposition. We're off to Earth in this three-parter, as Boxey (call me Troy, please) and Dillon make contact with a nuclear physicist (Robert Reed - THE BRADY BUNCH, ROOTS), to goose his research in the right direction. Stow that smirk, Reed's actually spot-on and well-written. If they were hoping to make it all feel more familiar by using guest actors who did classic sci fi turns, it works. Richard Lynch, back from "Gun on Ice Planet Zero", is the ruthless commander Xavier, who goes renegade (and back in time) to help create nazi superweapons. Pamela Susan Shoop (BUCK ROGERS "Vegas in Space", also featuring Lynch), Michael Strong (STAR TREK "What are Little Girls made of?"), and Sharon Acker (STAR TREK "The Mark of Gideon") are also tantalizingly familiar. Our three heroes follow Xavier. Look - an adorable Jewish moppet running from a boxcar! They talk about a temporal prime directive...then say screw it.
The Bionic Woman: Sanctuary Earth (1978)
Space princess helen hunt!
Wheee! For those of us thought the pariott era would fade away with a whimper, strap yourselves in for a ride...with a space princess! Hmm...let me guess. 1978? Yup. I think even the waltons had a couple alien visitations that year. Here, the aforementioned princess stows away on a plummeting satellite, fleeing from pursuers. Jaime gives her sanctuary, and pretty soon the aforementioned alien pursuers arrive (wearing turtlenecks and blazers, and why not?). What amps up the delight on this silly charmer is fifteen year-old helen hunt (SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, TRANCERS 1-3). Her performance is rather flat...but that may have been an acting choice, as it works fine. Curiously, jaime is reluctant to believe her guest is an alien. Curious, because this is the third time (and third time in four episodes...aah, you crazy post-STAR WARS networks) that jaime's faced aliens.
machine-woman vs. human computer
Written and directed by series creator kenny johnson, this two-parter is arguably the pinnacle of the series. Alone at an enormous desert complex, jaime takes on a supercomputer which has been programmed by its dying creator (lew ayres - ALL QUEST ON THE WESTERN FRONT, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) to destroy humanity unless all nations pledge to never detonate a nuclear weapon again. When a disbelieving third world country detonates a test bomb, the countdown to Armageddon is begun. Jaime battles against waves of defenses, trying to reason with the computer while descending toward its core. The casting of lew was a brilliant coup - as the star of the DR. KILDARE series, he had registered as a conscientious objector when drafted for WWII. The country was outraged and his career disappeared, until an Oscar nomination in 1948. An opportunity to play dr. kildare again died, when the network refused to honor his request for no cigarette sponsorship. His turn here as the ultimate person of peace is perfect. With no one to play against except a disembodied voice, lindsay turns in a performance a million miles beyond good. The dramatic twists and turns are searing.
The Bionic Woman: Biofeedback (1977)
cyborg meets non-technological superhuman
Jaime teams up with a tibetan-trained doctor (granville van dusen - SOAP, HILL STREET BLUES) who can manipulate his body functions, for a mission behind the Iron Curtain. He simulates death, wards off freezing and drowning, and negates the effects of a grievous wound. This was lindsay's most beloved episode, because it's about untapped human potential (in a show based on a technologically-enhanced superhuman). Decades later, we're not much further along in understanding the potentialities or limits of biofeedback (or neurofeedback, as it's been "palatably" renamed), but the medical establishment seems to be taking it more seriously. This episode is a charmer...yes, there's an unintentionally silly aspect as we hear granville's inner "shanti, omm" monologue...you may be a bit dumbfounded by how unabashedly the writers ran with the concept...but all the best elements of the show are firmly in place.
We make fembots the old-fashioned way...
Fembots. Fembots! FEMBOTS!!! This three-part paean to misogyny (the second of which is on 6MDM) might be consigned to the scrap heap, but for one tiny nugget of improbable casting. The spurned doctor-who-plans-revenge- on-Oscar-while-scheming-to-conquer-the-world-with-evil-female-robots? Boys and girls, that would be one john houseman (THE PAPER CHASE, THE NAKED GUN). Mr. Smith freakin' Julliard Barney himself. So yes, keep any actual boys and girls away from this one, but the chilling image of a powerful, beautiful woman with her face removed to reveal wires and circuits is a fright that will never be erased. Jaime and steve storm an island lair, Oscar leaves taped instructions to have him killed...brilliant. Now, mr. johnson, i'd like to discuss my trust issues with women.