In 1966 the world was introduced to the daytime serial drama "Dark Shadows." It incorporated many familiar elements of soap operas, but what made it stand out were those elements that the series borrowed from horror films and fiction. Specters and various other supernatural entities haunted creepy Victorian environments. The show's star over its five-year run turned out to be the suave vampire Barnabas Collins. The series ended in 1971.
In 1973 Hute Crestwell, one of the key producers responsible for realizing the series, teamed with James and Jennifer Selwyn for a new project. Crestwell sought to revolutionize the daytime drama all over again. He envisioned an epic science fiction story, told a piece at a time, but with an emphasis on the individual lives of the characters. ABC liked the idea so much that they purchased the show's first season without even seeing a pilot.
Neither Crestwell nor the Selwyns knew a thing about science-fiction, so they hired author Vernard Shay to pen the story arcs and supervise scripting. Shay's 1971 novel To the Downward Part of Neptune" had spent several months on bestseller lists and Shay had won a Hugo Award for his short story "Roboticus is Free." Shay also achieved pop-culture recognition with his "1 Law of Robotics" which proposed a single rule to govern the behavior of all future robots and androids.
The first episode of "Space Force: 1988" aired on May 2nd, 1974. The episode was entitled "Go Forward Captain" and was penned by Vernard Shay, directed by Hute Crestwell and produced by the Selwyns. Shay and a team of writers drawn from other daytime dramas penned five episodes per week for the entire first season.
Shay's premise for "Space Force: 1988" involved a manmade ecological disaster in 1980, an alien attack in 1985, and the formation of a deep space military force similar to NATO in 1987. The titular Space Force sent suspiciously tennis-racket shaped vessels all over the galaxy searching for a new home for humanity and encountering friendly and hostile alien cultures.
One such vessel was the Star Cruiser Discovery 2 and Captain Ernest Searchwell was the commander. He and his ever-changing crew of men, women and aliens dealt with various drama and high space adventure in each episode. Storylines generally spanned a week (five episodes) although several romances and conflicts endured throughout the entire first season.
Perhaps the best-known of these season-spanning arcs was the pregnancy of Lieutenant Tivok, the ship's Cremeuling science officer. In episode 114 Tivok had an affair with Lieutenant 00023, the ship's mechadroid, while under the influence of a dangerous substance.
EPISODE 114 - “THE GREEN MENACE”
INT. SHIP’S LOUNGE
LIEUTENANT TIVOK sits with ENSIGN HARPER and ENSIGN RILEY. She is a CREMEULING in a silver space suit. The men wear flare-bottomed unitards and rank hats.LT. TIVOKLT. TIVOK takes a hand-rolled greenweed cigarette from ENSIGN HARPER. She lights it and puffs. Green smoke emerges and she begins coughing.
I am investigating illegal activity on the ship and I have been told that you two might be involved.
Illegal? What? We are junior officers of Space Force!
Ma’am, we would never do such a thing.
It does defy all logic, nevertheless, you humans can be very illogical.
Hey, relax baby. Why not have a cigarette with us?
I only smoke Virginia Slims for their rich Turkish tobacco flavor and refreshing menthol.
These cigarettes are even better than the crisp cool taste of Virginia Slims.
That seems impossible, but I will try your cigarette.LT. TIVOK (CONT'D)LT. TIVOK lets down her purple hair and stands on a table to dance as a SITAR BAND begins to play in the ship’s lounge.
This...this...is very harsh. I do not like this cigarette, it is... wait...strange sensations. My logic...it is...I am freaking out!
Don’t fight it, baby!
Take another puff on that Mary X and let’s get crazy.
Yes, this is far out.
00023, who could be described as a snowman made out of overturned mop buckets painted gold, was the only member of the crew immune to the effects of "Mary X." After impregnating Lt. Tivok with a cyborgdroid infant, he saved the crew from death by laziness.
The brutal shooting schedule and low per-episode budget forced constant compromises on the scale of the science fiction elements. Special effects were often shot using items found lying around the soundstages and even these cheap sequences were generally reused 10-12 times each over the course of the first season. The best example of the overall cheapness was the 20 episode arc that saw several crewmembers transported to 1974 New Jersey after they touched a crystal.
EPISODE 186 - “THE TIME CRYSTAL PT. 3”
EXT. MEAN STREETS OF NEW JERSEY - DAY
CAPTAIN SEARCHWELL, LT. TIVOK, ENSIGN RILEY and ENGINEER BUGGOCK phase into existence on a filthy street corner in New Jersey. A newspaper blows past and it reads “IT’S 1974!” as the main headline. Cars and barrels burn in the streets and several PUNKS in leather jackets are disco dancing.CAPTAIN SEARCHWELLThe PUNKS and the PUNK LEADER approach the away team.
That crystal! Where has it taken us?
Based on that paperine computer wafer I believe it is 1974 and we are somewhere called ‘New Jersey.’
I’ve heard of that place. It was one of the most dangerous colonies of Old Earth.
How can that be?! We were in the year 1988 in the Gaxomiconus Quadrant only seconds-
Shh! Those earthlings are approaching.PUNK LEADERThe PUNK LEADER flips open a switchblade knife.
You cats are far out, but you’re on our street corner. Get lost or you’re gonna be history!
Greetings earthman, we have been brought here against our will. Might you direct us to the nearest Space Force office
I can direct your eyes to this knife, my main man.PUNK LEADER (CONT'D)LT. TIVOK executes a perfect CREMEULING NOSE PULL and renders the PUNK LEADER unconcious. The PUNKS yell and run away.
Now hand over your wallets and beat it or there’s gonna be trouble.
I can handle this, Captain.
The visual of the crew touching the crystal and being transported somewhere else was later reused to great effect in episode 199. After touching the crystal featured in this episode, the crew switched bodies. This happened several times throughout the course of the episode until, by the last few pages, it became impossible for the actors to distinguish which character they were supposed to be portraying. Several of them collapsed during filming from mental and emotional exhaustion.
EPISODE 199 - “SHUFFLE THE DECK”
INT. CRYSTAL CHAMBER
The CRYSTAL tips over and touches the boot of CAPTAIN SEARCHWELL, who has inhabited the body of LIEUTENANT TIVOK and then been transferred to the body of PETTY OFFICER ROGERS who then touched the crystal and switched to the body of SECOND ENGINEER O’MALTY. With a flash of light CAPTAIN SEARCHWELL leaves the body of SECOND ENGINEER O’MALTY and possesses the body inhabited by ENSIGN RILEY, which was last occupied by LIEUTENANT TIVOK, who took it from WEAPON’S OFFICER DREAD SCOTT, who was inhabiting the body of ENSIGN HARPER until the crystal touched him and sent him to the body of SECOND ENGINEER O’MALTY.ENSIGN RILEY’S BODY
Oh no, what have you done O’MALTY?
VICE NAVIGATOR JOHANNSON’S BODY
No, I’m O’MALTY, I don’t know who that was.
CAPTAIN SEARCHWELL scratches his chin. CAPTAIN SEARCHWELL'S BODY paces nervously.
Only two episodes followed episode 199. Episode 200, "Deal the Deck," saw the crew returned to their proper bodies with the caveat that Captain Searchwell had somehow become pregnant with the cyborgdroid baby that had previously been inside Lieutenant Tivok. Aware that dreadful ratings had put the show on the brink of cancellation, Crestwell and Shay attempted to turn the season's final episode into an intellectual and visual feast.
Episode 201 ("The Human Circle") saw Shay and Crestwell making a clumsy attempt at recreating many of the themes of "2001: A Space Odyssey." While few can recall the details of the convoluted plot, the unintentionally horrific ending lives on in the memory of those who witnessed it. Discovery 2 is destroyed by a star dragon and Captain Searchwell, the sole survivor, is adrift in a rescue capsule. He is taken on a journey through his subconscious by a hovering rubber fetus that is presumably a hallucination. This journey ends with Captain Searchwell dying as he gives birth to himself inside the rescue capsule.
it's hard to shake the feeling that I've always got five stars in this Grand Theft Auto known as life.
Now, inexplicably, season three is looming over us like some sort of dome. Season one's plot asked whether or not the town could get out from under the dome. Apparently the answer was "no". Season two asked "I guess we're really stuck, huh?" and the answer was "yup".
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