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DIRECTED BY: James Gatward, Wolfgang Storch, Freddie Francis, Hans Heinrich
FEATURING: Judy Geeson, Lisa Harrow, Gareth Thomas, Pierre Brice, Christian Quadflieg, Christiane Krüger, Derek Farr
PLOT: A rogue planet governed by a fiercely matriarchal society drifts close to Earth; when two men escape to our planet in search of freedom, the ruling women give chase, resulting in a clash of cultures.
COMMENTS: The greatest moment in every episode of Star Maidens occurs 10 seconds in: right after a couple establishing shots of a futuristic milieu, the show’s reductive title comes zooming on to the screen, accompanied by a glorious 70s variety show fanfare. This magical moment perfectly captures the spirit of the series as a whole: a glimmer of intrigue and potential, immediately suffused by cheese.
The show is the product of a collaboration between Scottish and German TV producers, with a nearly even Anglo-Teutonic split of creative forces (best captured in the utterly brilliant credit “Created by Eric Paice from an idea by Jost Graf von Hardenberg”). The result is schizophrenic in tone. After a tense premiere in which two oppressed men flee their female-dominant society seeking asylum on Earth, we seem poised to act out a battle of the sexes on a planetary scale. It never turns out that way, though. The show has the attention span of a toddler, taking no time to develop its characters, abandoning situations as quickly as they’ve been introduced, and completely resetting the rules with each episode. So to expect any kind of look at the role of women in society, serious or satirical, is a fool’s errand.
To be frank, everyone in the show is pretty dumb. The freedom-seeking men stumble into situations, then immediately flee. Earth scientists are casually indifferent to the dangers of new technologies and civilizations, and promptly get taken hostage. Officials from the hovering-somewhere-nearby planet of Medusa refuse to even consider the sociological implications of encountering a way of life so unlike their own and blunder onto a new planet like the British into India, only with less cultural sensitivity.
There’s an argument to be made that today’s television is too heavily serialized, but Star Maidens goes so far in the other direction as to nearly be an anthology show. Nothing learned ever seems to carry over from one episode to the next. If a character is punished and denigrated for his insubordination in one episode, you can be sure all will be forgotten in the next. There are absolutely no stakes for characters who find themselves on a new world, and they are quickly assimilated into whatever job that week’s episode holds for them. And all this ties back to the ostensible theme of the show. What should we think of this looking-glass world where women dominate? An improvement? A disaster? Well, ya ain’t gonna find out here. The Continue reading CHANNEL 366: STAR MAIDENS (1976)