1/29/07

Season Eight: Evil Hypnotists ‘R Us*

801 Revenge of the Creature

802 The Leech Woman

803 The Mole People

804 The Deadly Mantis

805 The Thing That Wouldn't Die

806 The Undead

807 Terror From the Year 5000

808 The She-Creature

809 I Was a Teenage Werewolf

810 The Giant Spider Invasion

811 parts: the clonus horror

812 The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies

813 Jack Frost

814 Riding With Death

815 Agent for H.A.R.M.

816 Prince of Space

817 Horror at Party Beach

818 Devil Doll

819 Invasion of the Neptune Men

820 Space Mutiny

821 Time Chasers

822 Overdrawn at the Memory Bank

The first season to appear on the SciFi Channel completely discards the concept of mad scientists and the setting of Deep 13 in favor of a space exploration theme. Apparently their new television overlords insisted on continuity, so the folks at Best Brains have included an overarching storyline of sorts in which Pearl Forrester drags the Satellite of Love from planet to planet 500 years in the future. (Except for several episodes that take place in ancient Rome). As Pearl, Mary Jo Pehl is a far more competent villain than Dr. Forrester or TV’s Frank ever were, and though she’s quite funny in a menacing sort of way, much of the lighter comedy depends on her new foils, Professor Bobo (Kevin Murphy) and Observer a.k.a. Brain Guy (Bill Corbett). The story-advancing segments are decent, but usually the funniest sketches in any given episode will be the ones that ignore the show’s “plot” to make fun of the film being shown, skewer science fiction clich├ęs, or comment on life in general.

Less drastic alterations occur on the Satellite of Love in the form of some minor redecorating and a pair of cast changes. Bill Corbett replaces Trace Beaulieu as Crow T. Robot at the beginning of the season. Their voices differ only slightly; once we get past the awkward puppetry in the first couple of episodes, the new Crow ends up only slightly more erudite and slightly less weird than his prior self. Gypsy’s puppeteer changes as well (from Jim Mallon to Patrick Brantseg in Episode 815), but the transition is so smooth, I didn’t even notice until I read about it in the Satellite News Episode Guide.

Thankfully, the quality of the reviewed films bounces back from the dismal selection of Season Six (the last full season) to give us far more to like than dislike about the eighth season. My favorites include the leathery hypnotic head of The Thing That Couldn’t Die, the time-traveling hooker of The Undead, the Russian fairy tale creatures of Jack Frost, the fey Japanese superhero Prince of Space, and the basement-dwelling Battlestar Galactica wannabes of Space Mutiny. Most of the rest of the season can be described “pretty good” and a few others as “kind of boring,” but some enjoyment can be found in all but one of them. That one is Invasion of the Neptune Men, which should be avoided for its utter lack of content and the maddening, repetitive dogfight sequence at the end.

*Includes six films in which our plucky protagonist places herself, himself, and/or itself in danger while under the influence of an unsavory mentalist.