Thursday, February 19, 2009

Time to Cut the Puppet Strings

"Star Fleet" is back - and I don't mean a revamp of James T. Kirk's employers. A week or two ago, my friend Steve (a fellow fanboy at the office) brought to my attention news that the old marionation series is being re-issued on DVD.

Apparently the show had a big British following. I remember it from when I was a kid back in the early 80's in Ontario... my parents had bought the family's first VCR (wisely: a VHS) and the department store that sold it had its own rental section. After renting "Star Wars" a couple of times and going quickly through the Disney collection, we decided to give "Star Fleet" a try. I mean, it had a blatant SF name - it had to be cool, right? Right? Ugh.

I've never been a fan of marionation to begin with. There's something vaguely creepy about it, especially when it tries to be detailed and real. Amidst the scale furniture and intricate clothing there are these strange big-headed figures that either move in bobbing, syrupy slowness or quick, clumsy jerks. As much as I enjoyed parts of it when I was little, I always found the Christmas classic "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and similar holiday productions to be vaguely unsettling. Worse still was "The New Adventures of Pinochio" on Sunday mornings, followed by some other show that was kind of like the "Addams Family" except in marionation. To this day I don't like that style, which is one of the main reasons why "Team America: World Police" didn't work for me.

"Star Fleet" was worse. It was a science fiction show with lots of scenes of space flight and space battles, but every shot of the cruisers and planets out there in the void felt cramped and clausterphobic. The ship itself looked like a hand-vac with the engine block and foils of an X-Wing fighter lashed on to its aft section. The giant robot didn't do anything for me either. Admittedly, I remember very little of the plot, except that it felt disappointingly like the anime "Battle of the Planets" that had been a staple of my TV watching in the late 70's.

Funny thing though: I hadn't given "Star Fleet" any thought since I'd last seen it as a kid, but as soon as Steve mentioned it, the theme music from the opening title sequence and even the song from the closing credits came back with crystal clarity. I wish they hadn't.

Leave the puppets to biodegrade on the compost heap of the past.
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