ANDROMEDA NEBULA (1967) – This movie was adapted from the 1957 novel Andromeda: A Space Age Tale by Ivan Yefremov. Unusual for sci-fi writers in the Soviet Union under Stalin, Yefremov courageously defied some of the political limitations that the blood-soaked dictator and his regime placed on fiction. Ivan is credited for, among other things, breaking free of the Soviet policy that limited futuristic tales to just a few years in the future. He continued that trailblazing in his works after Stalin died.
And that brings us back to Andromeda Nebula. The story is set over a millenium in the future, when an Age of World Unification (under a Soviet system, of course) was followed by the establishment of the Ring aka the Great Circle. The Ring is a loosely affiliated assortment of planets who exchange scientific and cultural information and try to facilitate each other’s efforts to colonize space.
In the universe of Andromeda Nebula, faster than light travel does not yet exist, so communication between planets takes between decades and centuries. This imposes certain limits that similar fictional planetary alliances don’t have to deal with, and the movie focuses on the dramas that could unfold within those confines. Continue reading
SPACE COMMAND (1953-1954) – Long, long before the recent television series of this name came Canada’s Space Command. James “Scotty” Doohan was Phil Mitchell, Robert Barclay played Frank Anderson, the 20-something young man who was the ostensible star of the show, Harry Geldard portrayed Captain Steve Cassell and Austin Willis was Dr. Fleming.
William Shatner made a guest appearance on one episode, so he worked with James Doohan before Star Trek, just like he did with Leonard Nimoy. Special effects on Space Command were as cheap and unconvincing as they were on any other science fiction program from the time period.
This series was broadcast live but was kinescoped like various other series back then and episodes were distributed around Canada following the live broadcast from Toronto. Space Command ran from March 13th, 1953 to May 29th, 1954. Out of the program’s supposed 150 episodes, only 1 has been found so far, but the search continues. Continue reading
ALPHA ALPHA (1972) – This time around in Balladeer’s Blog’s Forgotten Television category comes this German sci-fi series which ran for 13 episodes from May 17th to August 2nd of 1972. Every episode of Alpha Alpha was written and directed by Wolfgang F. Henschel and ran for 25 minutes, meaning it would nicely fit a half hour time slot with commercials.
This television series was a German variation of other country’s programs like Quatermass, The X-Files and so many others both before and since.
Karl Michael Vogler, who played Rommel in the film Patton, starred as Alpha, the top operative in a never named and top-secret organization dedicated to investigating unusual phenomena, extraterrestrial entities and the like. There were even conspiratorial hints at an existing one world government behind the scenes.
Lilith Ungerer costarred as the operative codenamed Beta, Arthur Brauss played Gamma, Horst Sachtleben was Dr. Simak and Gisela Hoetter provided the female voice of the outfit’s computer. Along with Karl Michael Vogler, these five were the only actors to appear in all 13 episodes. Heinz Engelmann showed up twice as the Chief. Continue reading
A reader requested that I review the Marvel Comics sci-fi dystopia/ alien invasion series Killraven, the Warrior of the Worlds. I already did from 2019-2020, but in honor of New Year’s Eve here is a look back at one part of that review, which was posted on New Year’s Eve of 2019 into 2020, the exact date that the story itself was set on.
FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.
AMAZING ADVENTURES Vol 2 #37 (July 1976)
Title: Arena Kill
Synopsis: NEW YEAR’S EVE, 2019 into 2020, which is why I held off the extra day or two to post this review, since I wanted it to actually appear on the REAL December 31st, 2019.
Northern Florida, in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge along the Suwanee River. Killraven and his Freemen continue their guerilla uprising against Earth’s alien conquerors. They have encountered another of the pitifully few bands of humans who also defy the aliens.
We jump right into the middle of some action, as Killraven is pitting his sword against the two battle axes wielded by Brother Axe, the leader of this rebel colony. Brother Axe’s dozens of followers and Killraven’s own Freemen stand in a large circle around the combatants, watching the battle.
The cause of the conflict soon becomes clear – Brother Axe is skeptical that Killraven really is THE Killraven, the world-famous scourge of Earth’s alien conquerors. He suspects KR and his band may be fakers trying to bamboozle him or – even worse – undercover human quislings trying to pinpoint the location of Brother Axe’s rebel band so they can betray the band to their alien masters. Continue reading
THE CAPTIVITY OF THE PROFESSOR (1901) – Written by A. Lincoln Green, a presumed pen name, this story was first published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in the February 1901 isssue.
Years before H.G. Wells’ short story The Empire of the Ants came this tale for which that might have been a more appropriate title. The Captivity of the Professor is set in the jungles of Brazil. Our narrator is an entomologist from Scotland who is so intent on studying rare ant species that he ignores warnings of an indigenous tribe and travels into a forbidden region of the vast rainforest.
Before long the professor discovers an unusual ant of unknown species, possessing an oversized head and huge mandibles. The rest of the ant’s fellows fall upon our narrator and, proving to be incredibly intelligent, manage to herd him to their colony using painful bites to spur him along. Continue reading
THE SCIENTIFIC ADVENTURES OF BARON MUENCHHAUSEN (1915-1917) – Written by the iconic Hugo Gernsback in the years before he launched his own publication, these sci-fi tales presented the 1700s Baron being alive and having wild adventures. (The cover spelling does not match the one Gernsback used.)
Like most people I know, I just roll my eyes at the Baron Muenchhausen tall tales, so that’s why I used Hugo’s name in the blog post title. Hugo as the writer of this series of short stories is the REAL draw. The following items first appeared in the magazine Electrical Experimenter.
I MAKE A WIRELESS ACQUAINTANCE (May 1915) – Gernsback’s fictional counterpart I.M. Alier is a radio enthusiast and one day picks up transmissions from THE Baron Muenchhausen. The Baron tells him that in the 1700s he was injected with special embalming fluid which actually put him in suspended animation.
He emerged from that state a few years back and, forced to flee Germany over past offenses, has been having amazing scientific adventures. Alier is skeptical, but the Baron proves his claim by using some of the advanced science he has discovered to change the color of part of the moon. This convinces the narrator.
HOW MUENCHHAUSEN AND THE ALLIES TOOK BERLIN (June 1915) – Alier learns that the Baron has been helping the French in the World War. Among his inventions was a tunneling device for launching sneak attacks but the Central Powers were able to reverse-engineer the technology, resulting in another deadlock.
The Baron and his friend Professor Flitternix have devised anti-gravity screens for a spaceship. They plan to fly the vessel – called the Interstellar – to the moon. Continue reading
WAVELENGTH (1983) – This is an unjustly neglected science fiction film that stars Robert Carradine, Cherie Currie and Keenan Wynn in a very unconventional love triangle: both Carradine and Currie are fighting over Wynn. (I’m kidding!)
Robert Carradine plays a moody musician suffering a career lull, Cherie Currie portrays a groupie who becomes a bona fide romantic partner for him and Keenan Wynn barks and snarls in his usual “grouch with a heart of gold” manner. Cherie’s sensitive mind is open to alien brain-waves calling to her from a nearby (seemingly) abandoned government installation. Carradine and his neighbor Wynn help her try to find out what’s going on. Continue reading
THE EMPEROR OF THE AIR (1910) – Written by George Glendon, this is a story about two visionaries – the German-American tycoon Hans Kreutzer and the Italian inventor Anatole Lonari.
The inventor has been finagled out of profiting from many revolutionary creations and feels very embittered. The tycoon, despite his comfortable existence, has become a dedicated anarchist and longs to lay low the “oppressor nations.”
Kreutzer and Lonari join forces and settle in a remote area of Spain to pursue their dream project. The inventor perfects a very advanced rotary engine while the tycoon/ entrepreneur produces a vacuum-lifted aircraft that requires no helium or hydrogen to rise into the sky.
Throw in solid fuel and futuristic explosives and the two masterminds complete their airship called the Zara. It can fly up to 100 miles per hour and remain airborne for extended periods of time. Continue reading
COUNTERSTRIKE is a tragically forgotten British sci fi television series from 1969. Jon Finch (left) portrayed Simon King, an alien agent who worked for the Intergalactic Council. This council had sent him to Earth to protect it from a group of renegade aliens from a dying planet who wanted to conquer the Earth and make it their new home.
Not the most original of premises, but that inimitable British panache breathed life into the series, which unfortunately ran for just ten episodes, one of which was preempted by a special about the British gangsters named the Krays and was never rescheduled. Continue reading
THE WARSTOCK: A TALE OF TOMORROW (1898) – Written by the British William Oliver Greener under the pen name Wirt Gerrare. Despite this book’s Great Britain origins, the two lead characters are American inventors from Plainfield, New Jersey – Robert Sterry and Willie Redhead.
In the near future (from 1898), the pair have discovered a new energy source and use it to power their wireless telegraphy system called the Sterrygraph. Sterry and Redhead seek investors in England and on the Continent without success.
While hitting the social circuit in London, our heroes meet Madeline Winship, who connects them with backers who are part of an exclusive Royal Society-inspired group of scientific minds. The group are called the Isocrats, and they devote themselves to science and similar intellectual pursuits, like elevating dancing to what we might call performance art. Continue reading