Tuesday, May 15, 2012

LOGAN'S RUN - THE COMPLETE SERIES

Growing up in the Seventies as a sci-fi loving kid, I eagerly embraced pretty much any television show or movie with a futuristic setting. In 1977, CBS debuted a weekly television series called LOGAN'S RUN, based on the 1976 MGM feature film of the same name, and I was there in front of the Zenith every week... well, for the few weeks the show ran, anyway.

In the 22nd Century, most of the surface of the Earth is barren wasteland thanks to a nuclear war a hundred years previously. Still, the human race survives - in a variety of isolated communities. One of these is the City of Domes, whose inhabitants live a life of perfect leisure and hedonistic pleasure... until they turn 30. Then, they're required to participate in the ritual of Carousel, resulting in a fiery death and the false promise of "Renewal" - i.e. reincarnation. Some citizens don't believe in Renewal, and instead of reporting to Carousel when their time is up, they run... and attempt to leave the City in search of a legendary place they call Sanctuary. To hunt and eliminate these "Runners," the city maintains a police force known as Sandmen. One of these Sandmen, Logan 5 (Gregory Harrison, TRAPPER JOHN M.D.), is persuaded by a female Runner named Jessica (Heather Menzies, PIRANHA) to turn his back on the system he has always served, and go on the run with her. In the world beyond the City, Logan & Jessica search for Sanctuary, all the while pursued by Logan's former best friend and partner, Francis (Randy Powell, BATTLETRUCK) and a cadre of other Sandmen. With the companionship of an android named Rem (Donald Moffat) they picked up along the way, the Runners encounter various menaces and strange societies as they search the outside world for fabled Sanctuary.

I hadn't seen the show since I was a kid, so I wondered how well it held up. As it turns out, I found that LOGAN'S RUN held up better than I expected. Overall, the stories were pretty good, and actually a bit smarter than I remembered. In fact, out of the 14 episodes produced, there were only two that I thought were complete clunkers (one of which being a bizarrely bonkers "haunted house" story). STAR TREK vet D.C. Fontana was the Story Editor, and series writers included genre pros like David Gerrold, John Meredyth Lucas and Harlan Ellison.

Being a "family hour" show aimed primarily at kids, there's very little violence (Logan's Sandman sidearm now being equipped with a blue, paralyzing ray that it didn't have in the movie), but there's plenty of other kinds of action. Production values are generally pretty high, with a number of costumes, props and special effects shots recycled from the feature film and lots of location shooting around Bronson Canyon, Vasquez Rocks and other familiar Southern California locations.

The cast is solid. Gregory Harrison's Logan is suitably square-jawed and heroic, but is otherwise pretty bland. To be fair, this is due in large part to the writers, who usually give the best dialogue and scenes to Jessica and Rem. Menzies is cute as hell with her Farrah hair and super-short minidress, and plays her role well. The best of the regulars, though, is veteran character actor Moffat, who plays his android character with an appealing mix of slightly smug cybernetic superiority and affection for his companions. Guest stars include Christopher Stone, Mariette Hartley, Mary Woronov, Gerald McRaney and James Olsen.

The 3-disc DVD set from Warner Home video includes all 14 episodes of the series, including the double-length premiere, presented in their original 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio. Picture quality is frankly a bit disappointing - there is considerable print damage evident in may episodes, and an overall softness to the image. I know the show is 35 years old, but it would have been nice if Warners had spent a little money on cleaning up and remastering the transfers. Audio is a satisfactory if flat Dolby Digital Mono. There are no bonus features provided.

The LOGAN'S RUN television series is an interesting and enjoyable 70's genre artifact, with appealing leads, fine guest stars, and fun, exciting adventure stories. I enjoyed revisiting it, and if you're a fan of Old School, 70's sci-fi, you might want to check it out. Recommended.

BUYLogan's Run: Complete Series