Sunday, January 3, 2010

I’m gonna teach you a lesson, Earth Boy

Posted By on Sun, Jan 3, 2010 at 10:36 AM

Watching a bizarre show that was supposedly delving into secrets of the unknown last week, the question of aliens arose, as they often seem to do on these types of shows. Discussing alien abduction, and the horrific experiences that so many abductees claim to experience, the announcer intoned, “after the commercial: Can these aliens be trying to teach the human race a lesson?”

Well, where is a diseased mind like mine expected to go with that one?

“I’m gonna teach you a lesson, Earth Boy!”I cackled madly, startling the dogs, and no doubt making Tracy wonder if perhaps a Christmas vigil in a mental ward was in her immediate future.

Yeah, I wonder what possible lesson these rogue alien science classes might have to teach human beings, other than to switch to a better security system in their house?

Later, of course, the program switched to folks who claim to be passing along messages from aliens who are concerned about our future on this planet. It’s as if the probing is just some of alien foreplay, before they can down to the real conversation, which is a sort of banal, goopy-goopy love your planet message, delivered in a sort the sort of language that isn’t going to send anyone scrambling to a dictionary anytime real soon.

If you can master My Weekly Reader, you can communicate with our alien friends, it seems.

Cuz if I was gonna communicate with Earth, I’d only make contact with folks who are only likely to be taken seriously by folks who produce (and avidly watch) shows like Unexplained Mysteries.

I wish I could remember the name of the show where the “investigators” made the case that the man who claimed to have been abducted and returned to his bed was telling the truth because his bedroom screen was put on backwards - because, aliens, don’t you know, have no idea how such things work.

And yet we’d trust them with warp drive?

******

Quote of the Day

I have yet to be bored by someone paying me a compliment. - Otto Van Isch

*****

Voyagers: Lounge Lizard Time Traveler

It’s hard to beat a good time travel show.  If you begin with the top of the heap ( Doctor Who) and end up near the bottom (Time Tunnel), you’ll find Voyagers, an NBC series that ran from 1982-83, somewhere in the middle.

I’m not sure how I missed this when it first appeared on the air, but once again I have cause to praise the magic circles known as DVDs.

The premise of Voyagers is simple. Phineas Bogg (Jon-Erik Hexum) accidently lands in the bedroom of orphan Jeffrey Jones, who becomes his partner in the time travel business, after Bogg saves him from a fall through his apartment window. A Voyager is a sort of time agent who travels through history, nudging things along when they are out of whack.

Of course, as we have seen from so many time travel shows before, history seems to be pretty fragile; it gets out of whack at the drop of a hat.

Bogg has a watch-like device known as an OMNI, which glows red when history is off course, and green when things are on the right track. Most of the time, we are never quite sure exactly how history gets off course in the first place.

Probably one of those other time travelers from some other series, no doubt.

One similarity the series shares with the early years of Doctor Who is the inability of the two travelers to predict when and where the OMNI will take them, once their assignment is complete. One week they may meet Spartacus, and the next end up on the Titanic.

Bogg himself is a sort of odd character - then again, aren’t most time travelers? He seems to have skipped most of the history lessons in Voyager school, but luckily Jeffrey loves history. But like most times travelers, he can kick ass at the drop of a hat - and does, every week.

interestingly enough, because Voyagers was in the so-called “Family Hour” violence was a tricky subject. Though there were fights aplenty, you never actually saw a punch thrown; Bogg would hurl his opponents across a room, or even do martial arts style kicks - as if those don’t hurt as much as getting punched.

Not to mention the fact that he is dressed like a sort of pirate/lounge lizard, with his shirt unbuttoned down to - well, it ain’t buttoned at all. Naturally, he is the Captain Kirk of chrononauts. Woman throughout history literally throw themselves at this guy.

Just imagine the fun they could have had if it wasn’t in the Family Hour. So yes, gentle reader, our lounge lizard time traveler often found himself in conventional clothes in many of the episodes. In fairness, Bogg was a pirate before he became a Voyager, though. Still, you’d think they might have sort of dress-code.

The series serves two purposes. Under the guise of entertainment (and it is entertaining) it also introduces young people to history in a way that dry textbooks never can. That the history is never one hundred percent accurate shouldn’t deter  us; what time travel series is?

Most stories have our stalwarts getting involved in two different time periods, and somehow the stories combine into one. Hence Jeffrey might meet Thomas Edison, while Bogg may get imprisoned with Lawrence of Arabia. 

Of course, since there is a glitch in the OMNI, they can not travel in time beyond 1970 - except for one episode when Bogg’s superiors put him on trial for violating the code of the Voyagers.

When you watch too many episodes at once, they sort of meld together, though two in particular stand out from the herd.

Bogg takes Jeffrey to see the Apollo 11 launch, only to discover that the Russians have beaten America to the moon, after Werner von Braun was taken captive in the closing days of World War II. What’s a time travel show without Nazis?

And then there is the Titanic - a ship no self-respecting time traveler seems to be able to stay away from. Even given the generally light-hearted feel of the show in general, there was no sugar-coating of the human disaster that the Titanic presented.

Though NBC canceled the series after one season, it still ran 20 episodes, all of which are on this DVD set. Sadly, so extras are come with it. Still, it’s fun watching.

And you’ve got to love a series that ends every episode with Meeno Peluce (Jeffrey) saying over the end credits, “If you want to learn more about {their subject/person of the week}, take a voyage down to your public library. It's all in books!”

Trivia note: Jon-Erik Hexum died in a freak accident on the set on a spy series a few years later, when a prop gun went off, killing him. Hexum, who had just been in a movie about football coach Bear Bryant, had hopes of seeing his career move into high gear.

rsdrake@cox.net

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