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THE SUPER SCOUTS

Written by Glen A. Larson

Original Airdates: March 16 and 23, 1980

Review by Matthew Wharmby mwharmby@amdragon.com

PREMISE: Forced to seek shelter on Earth after a surprise Cylon attack destroys their ship, a group of Galactican kids fall foul of Earth's polluted environment. The perpetrator of this has to be taught a lesson, Galactican style.

MORAL: Pollution is bad (Earth kids). Don't drink foreign water (space kids).

We open with a scene aboard the dilapidated freighter Delphi, on board which Troy and Dillon are teaching some kids about what they're likely to find on Earth, should they ever be allowed down there. Not to be wondering too much what they're doing here rather than on patrol or, more importantly, trying to advance Earth's technology by wheeler-dealing with selected scientists, we soon figure out that they've got problems when the Delphi grinds to a halt with engine trouble.

On the bridge of the Galactica (a very poor set indeed, no equivalent whatsoever to the spectacular multi-level affair of the original series), some semblance of tension mounts as Adama and Boomer realise that the Delphi is now isolated, having fallen behind the rest of the fleet. Not that the fleet's really going anywhere these days, but the threat is real enough that Adama orders vipers launched immediately. Sure enough, the Cylons have spotted the Delphi and begin tearing into it. Among their number is the blistering gunship identified in 'Conquest of the Earth' as the A-B Craft, and which I shall refer to as such in this and subsequent reviews.

It's established that this is the first time the Cylons have attacked 'in a generation', the machine pursuers evidently having been content to sit back and let the Galactican fleet lead them to Earth, but thankfully the colonial warriors haven't forgotten how to stick it to the Cylons, and spend ten minutes doing so. However, the Cylons have wrought heavy damage upon the Delphi, which begins to break up. Troy and Dillon hustle as many kids as they can into shuttles and off the Delphi, and pilot the last one off themselves as the ship blows (seen in a lame special effects montage based on a freeze frame of the freighter Gemini).

Unfortunately, the shuttle has been caught in the blast and also damaged. Boomer, leading the viper squadron which has managed to drive off the Cylons, confers with Troy, but the skies are still too dangerous to attempt making the journey back to the fleet. Some excitement ensues, at least among the kids, when Troy announces that they're going to be the first 'children from the stars to set foot on the planet Earth'. And here's where the excitement tails off for us, as the next hour and a half is set on Earth. Which they reach, just about. After narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with a 747, the shuttle puts down in a field in the middle of the night. The resulting scene where the children encounter land, plants and flowers for the first time is rather touching, but they have to avoid the attention of passers-by, who have to be put out of commission with stun fire.

The lads go into town on their bikes to score clothes for the kids, and come up with the idea of disguising them as a scout troop. A tortuous scene is set in a department store where Troy uses his invisibility shield to avoid some customer service, but Dillon's adventures are a bit more amusing. Not only can he not cross a road without getting himself damn near run over, but he has no comprehension of how to use banks, and his attempt to change Colonial cubits for U.S. greenbacks goes awry when the bank clerk assumes his tender is stolen. Why is it that bank clerks are always such patronising expeletive deleted's? I'm from a lot nearer Cali than these space hoboes, and they still always treated me like a five-year-old. And I didn't have a shooter to threaten the wretched woman with, like Dillon! Still, he comes off with a big bag of dosh, and they're away.

Naturally, the kids have been getting up to no good while the lads have been in town, but aside from a spot of fighting, the real problem comes when they stop by a riverside and drink some water. The overly flowery way they describe it was one of the major problems with this troubled programme - Moonstone, probably (who may or may not have been played by one of Glen Larson's kids) goes 'And this is where they stopped to satisfy their thirst'. Three of the kids have taken ill, and are in a bad way, lying comatose inside the tents Troy and Dillon have bought for them. As if that's not trouble enough, they're being pursued by the county sheriff, who is without a doubt the ugliest human being ever to have appeared on celluloid. The actor, whose name I'm too idle to look up on the IMDB, also played a mercenary in the Buck Rogers episode 'The Plot to Kill a City', which was filmed more or less around the same time, give or take a few months. The spreadover into the second episode (yep, this was a two-parter) is roughly characterised by a cheerless sequence in which the kids hit their invisibility screens and leap into trees, there to pelt the pigs with apples.

There is a reason for the river's mankiness. You'd think that after all the trouble it takes to pipe Southern California's water five hundred miles down from the Sierra Nevada, they'd do something about the grey silt content, but this isn't the kids' problem. A local manufacturing plant of some variety (forget the product) is fouling the water supply. Jamie is on hand to interview the proprietor, a jowly, grey character known as Mr Stockton, but he's as unsympathetic as are his troglodytic workforce, who don't want to be laid off again. There are some cheap thrills when the hard hats try it on with Troy and Dillon, who simply fling them across the landscape like space balsa wood. Oddly, you find yourself not without sympathy, as the writers have injected a spot of labour relations into this episode, which is not something you'd expect in Galactica 1980. Who's the real villain? Big business f---ing up the environment, or the working class too dependent on their exploitative employer?

Anyway, the three kids are on their last legs. Honestly, this is ample proof that kids never listen to their mothers. Americans, when you go to Mexico, they implore you not to drink the water, don't they? It's the same with my mob when we go to Portugal. We may get the toms something rotten, but we don't flatline, which is precisely what Moonstone does the minute the lads get him to a local hospital, having obviously bitten the bullet against using primitive Earth medical facilities. It doesn't help when Valerie, Dr Spencer's dimwitted assistant, starts throwing a wobbly and has to be sedated herself (again by the useful expedient of a laser pistol set on stun). Dr Spencer is intrigued when his microscope readings on Moonstone's exhausted little body throw up some most interesting results - either that or he accidentally dropped some doughnut crumbs from his lunch on the slide! It soon becomes clear that Troy and Dillon, and the kids, are from a bit further than Cleveland. Lucky the writers didn't substitute Kentucky, given the amount of DNA-mangling inbreeding that's said to go on around there!

There is nothing for it but to call up some REAL medical assistance. You can't help but wonder why Dillon has to go out of the building to get better reception to the Galactica on his wrist computron, but that's presumably to put the frighteners on the Air Force, who are also picking up his transmissions, with the appropriate consternation. Dillon is enthused when he tells Troy that something special's on the way. 'That can't be ready, can it?' Troy says.

Aboard the Galactica, a sombre Dr Zee and Commander Adama realise they have no choice but to rush into service their latest creation - an anti-gravity ship in the shape Earthlings would immediately associate with a flying saucer. It also looks remarkably like the artwork on the front of the original Battlestar Galactica novelisation. Adama is so impressed with the potential of this ship that he wonders 'with a force of anti-gravity ships such as these, we could retake our planets!' And why not? It would be a damn sight better than hanging around the arse end of the galaxy, waiting to get blown away. However, there is only one of these ships to hand, and the only person who understands it fully is Dr Zee, who thus insists on going to Earth with it. Adama almost panics; 'You above all must not be risked!' but Dr Zee, with the impressive arrogance only a posh English kid can convey, has his way over a man six times his age.

Things thus pick up a great deal from here, as the lads drive the sick kids to high ground. I'm afraid I can't remember for the life of me how Mr Stockton comes to be in the van with them, but it's integral to the plot. So much so, that his protesting is silenced with the inevitable stun round to the thorax. The grotesquely ugly sheriff and Colonel Sydell have picked up the trail, and have additionally called in the National Guard, all of whom are put out of business when interference from an unknown source screws up their engines near the summit. One of the better lines comes from this scene. The sheriff, in a truly hideous profile shot which amplifies his ugliness to horrendous proportions, has his own take on the situation. Under the weak premise that the scoutmasters Troy and Dillon are 'impostors', he declares something to the order of 'This isn't about little green men at all. No... more likely, little green dollars.'

The money shot is a blatant bite of Close Encounters, but it's surprisingly well done. However, it's not helped by a cringe-inducing explanation by Dillon to a now openly frightened Mr Stockton that 'the glory of the universe is intelligence'. Barry van Dyke's done this before, and delivered a line that was meant to be serious (I think!) in a tone that can only be interpreted as sarcastic. Perhaps it's this member of the cast's inside joke at these inane scripts. But we forget all that when the mist clears, and down comes a splendid starship all outlined by bright lights. Adama emerges from this shameless copy of the Close Encounters vehicle and greets Troy, addressing him as Boxey. With no time to lose, ghostly medical figures get to work on the kids, while Stockton is ushered into the nicely appointed bridge chamber to be shown the error of his ways. The poor fool is now well and truly slack-jawed with catatonia. Dr Zee is present, and after fending off Stockton's pathetic pleas, shows him a little documentary. On the same lines as the projections that showed Hollywood being blown to bits by Cylon raiders (Burn, Hollywood, Burn!), this time the show is of an aged Stockton weeping at the funeral of an unspecified individual ten years later. 'No... Not Jimmy,' Stockton snivels, as it is his son that's due to die, poisoned by chemicals that Stockton Senior continued to use in his plant. We can only hope that Mr Stockton converts to green power mighty quick, as the anti-gravity ship picks up the approaching cops and army and prepares to get the hell out of there. All that the troops find when they finally reach the top of the mountain is a gibbering Stockton, who presumably turns over a new leaf from here on.

VERDICT: Two stars. The beginning and end carry it, but we could cut a good half hour from the middle and not be any the worse.

THOUGHTS:

On Dr Zee's protected status, which in some fanfic circles (Lee Storm's marvellous interpretations in particular) is carried to its conclusion.

Completely forgot about the kids' super skills. They jump about a bit, enough said. I think they also sing a song at the end, which is best forgotten.

Why is that blackshirt aboard the Delphi so happy?! Is it because he can subtract 12 from 137 to make 125, a process presumably beyond the target audience of this show?


John's Review

Rating: DUD (no stars)

The Super Scouts arrive, and Galactica 1980 plummets into an abyss it would not survive. In the beginning, we're forced to endure a series of boring classroom educational lessons. Things get even worse when the intergalactic 'Our Gang' reaches Earth. We get ultra-cute campfire songs and even more educational lessons shoved down are throats. The original series had flaws, but at least it never insulted its viewers by getting into preachy moral issues. Galactica 1980 gives us an ultra-simplistic environmental message of "Don't pollute the water," and does so with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. And there is certainly nothing dramatic about the possibility of the Super Scouts dying. Most fans were probably rooting for it to happen. I don't think it's fair to blame Glen Larson for this (even though he wrote the episode). His hands were tied since the network insisted the Super Scouts be a part of the show. Still, give him some credit for at least attempting to keep the main plot of the Cylon threat moving (although at this point it has become a minor plot). Dr. Zee stating that the Cylons have evolved in the 30 years since the destruction of the Colonies is very interesting. This would be expanded upon in The Night The Cylons Landed, but in an extremely dissapointing way.

It is revealed that Colonials have super powers on Earth due to its weaker gravity. These powers, along with advanced technology and the ability to turn invisible, essentially make the Colonials invincible, thus robbing the series of any possible drama. In Galactica 1980, there are no worthy villains. The bumbling cops and incompetent military personnel never have a prayer of apprehending Troy and Dillon, so there's no suspense. And it's certainly not funny to watch Earthlings constantly being confounded by extra-terrestrials. Yet that is what we're forced to endure again and again throughout the entire series.

Patrick Stuart assumes the role of Dr. Zee.

Since the Cylons are waiting for the Galactica to lead them to Earth, it makes no sense that they would reveal themselves, especially just to attack a single colonial freighter.

Dillon states it has been a generation since the Cylons attacked.

Dr. Zee's anti-gravity ship is introduced for the first time in part one.

The Cylon's new Super Raider is introduced for the first time in part one.

Except for the new Cylon ship, the space battle in part one is composed entirely of stock footage from the original series.

The scene in part one where Adama and Dr. Zee discuss Cylon evolution was repeated in The Night The Cylons Landed, part one.

Troy and Dillon teaching the kids on the ship about gravity, etc., and Dr. Zee's speech about preserving the enviroment are more examples of the educational dialogue required by the network. The school ship lessons are, of course, pointless and only serve to bring the story to a grinding halt.

A funny incident occurred during the shooting of this episode. On the burning school ship, when Troy and Dillon come out of the entryway, a beam is supposed to fall and almost hit them. They were puzzled when it didn't happen, and simply ran off. The director walked out to where the beam was supposed to fall and said, "Wasn't there supposed to be a beam?" Way up in the rafters, someone yelled, "Beam!" and a beam crashed down and missed hitting him by an inch and a half.

The Gemini freighter, one of the featured ships of the Colonial fleet in the original series, is destroyed in part one. Ironically, the Gemini freighter is also destroyed in Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming, the movie trailer created by Richard Hatch.

The massive fires seen inside the Gemini freighter are stocks shots from the Battlestar Galactica episode Fire In Space.

Adama steps foot on the planet Earth for the first time. This should be a big deal, but neither Adama nor the script make it out to be.

Kent McCord (Troy) was one of the most vocally opposed to the addition of the Super Scouts. He tried to explain to anyone who would listen that the show could be intelligent and still attract a young audience, but his words apparently fell on deaf ears.

Needless to say, when the Super Scouts became regulars, everyone (both cast and crew) knew the series was doomed.

Blooper - part one: When Troy and Dillon evacuate the children from the Gemini freighter, there are flames everywhere, yet the children are walking. Also, the fire is literally burning them all, but there is no reaction.


Extra notes:

The scene when Colonel Sydell goes over to the scout camp and talks to Troy, Dillon, and the kids has its moments. And then the kids started messing around in his car!!! For me, that was priceless. He says, "I used to be an eagle myself." One of the kids looks at his watch and says, "Eagle - a large bird." Starla says, "He used to be a bird?" (The definition of an eagle must be more educational dialogue!)

When Troy goes into the department store to buy scout supplies, the cashier lady says, "And what council are you from?" He says, "The Council of Twelve." She answers, "That must be from out of this area." Later, when Dillon enters and hands the lady a wad of stolen money, she says, "Whadja do? Rob a bank?" And she laughs and walks off.

There are two motorcycle cops who chase after Troy and Dillon on two different occasions. They're idiotic replicas of Ponch and John (the two cops in CHiPS; Remember that show?) The second time, when Troy and Dillon fly off into the air, the two cops pull over and say, "How come this never happens to those two guys on TV?"

Of course, after pelting the cops with apples, the Galacticans steal their police cars and drive off.

One of the funniest moments has to be when Troy and Dillon are threatened by the hard hat plant workers. Dillon says, "I feel it's only fair to warn you that I'm used to a much denser climate. Consequently, I'm capable of retaliating in a way that would be grossly unfair to you." And then he flings one of the workers 100 feet into the air!

Throughout the episode, whenever Troy and Dillon break the law, Jamie is constantly going "Ooooh! You guys are in TROUBLE!!!" How??? With all their super powers, flying turbocycles, and invisibility fields, do the police or the military ever have a prayer of catching them???

At the end, a large amount of Galactica gold is shipped to the police to cover the bank's losses. The sheriff and his deputy laugh off the idea that these are aliens from outer space, but Sydell isn't convinced. The final scene has Troy, Dillon, Jamie and the scouts eating waffles inside a restaurant. Jamie sighs when she learns that Troy and Dillon have to go, because now she is stuck as the babysitter. Dillon tells the kids how happy he is that they were so well behaved and, before he can finish his sentence, one of the kids flings a waffle right into his face, and that 's the end. Right before the credits come on, we see that final educational message of "The United States Air Force Stopped Investigating UFOs In 1969. After 22 Years, They Found No Evidence Of Extra-Terrestrial Visits And No Threat To National Security"


Matthew Wharmby's Hilarious Galactica 1980 Episode Reviews

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