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The Phantom Planet

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Makonnen: You know, Captain, every year of my life, I grow more and more convinced that the wisest and best is to fix our attention on the good and the beautiful...
Crow [as Chapman]: Don't hit him...
Makonnen: ...if you just take the time to look at it.
Chapman: You're some guy, Makonnen.


902 - The Phantom Planet
0902
Air Date March 21, 1998
Movie Director William Marshall
Year 1961
Cast Dean Fredericks, Coleen Gray, Anthony Dexter, Richard Kiel
Preceded by 901 - The Projected Man
Followed by 903 - The Pumaman


The Movie

Synopsis

Fire Maidens of Outer Space meets "Gulliver's Travels".

In the "future" year of 1980 (as imagined from 1961), a military space ship is destroyed by collision with a rogue giant asteroid. U.S. astronaut Captain Frank Chapman (Dean Fredericks - a sort of Peter Graves manque), blasts off from Lunar Base One to investigate. Richard Weber (from "12 to the Moon") rides along as Ray Makonen, an unusually verbose and dreamy co-pilot a little too focused on the "wisest, the best, the good and the beautiful".

Soon, Chapman's spacecraft is damaged by the asteroids requisite to space films of the era. During an EVA attempting repairs, Makonen is lost to distinctly bad and ugly outer space. Chapman's ship is then pulled to the surface of a giant asteroid, which we learn is called Rheton, by some kind of ray.

On the surface, he exits the ship, swoons, and falls to the ground. The face panel of his helmet pops open - possibly a significant flaw in space suit design. As he inhales, he rapidly shrinks to a few inches in size. His space suit is conveniently unaffected. He is then captured by a "race of microscopic orderlies" (the Rhetons) and taken to their leader.

The Rhetons, who number about fifty, are governed by Sesom, an elderly autocrat in a robe (Francis X. Bushman from 12 to the Moon). Everyone lives in Flintstones-like conditions - dimly-lighted rooms of rough-hewn rock, with stone slabs for beds and stone tables. The Rhetons don't need to eat because, it is explained, the atmosphere takes care of their nutritional needs. Music, dancing, and art apparently do not exist in their society.

At a trial, with a jury of girls in matching cheerleader outfits, Chapman is convicted of injuring an inhabitant of Rheton by an official (the Vincent Price-y Al Jarvis). His punishment? Nothing, apparently. No incarceration, fine, warning, not even "just don't do it again". Not even Jimmy from I Accuse My Parents got off so lightly. However, he is informed that for security reasons he will never leave Rheton - their location must never be disclosed. On the bright side, he begins chilling with Liara, the beautiful, blonde daughter of Sesom, and the lovely, spooky, mute brunette, Zetha.

Rheton technology is as advanced as its accommodations are primitive. They can warp space and possess gravity and anti-gravity propulsion capable of instantly moving small planets. They also have tractor beams, force fields, "gravity curtains" and energy weapons, but they employ chalk and slates with which to write. Their main enemies are a tall and, by human standards, repulsive alien race / rival technology company known as the "Solarite Fire People" who want to acquire their "Universal Gravity Control". If it's not one thing it's another, and Sesom divulges to Chapman that Rheton is slowly running out of the strong nuclear or perhaps the Coulomb force, made worse if Rheton is hit with heat blasts.

Chapman becomes increasingly involved in Rheton matters. He finds himself attracted to Zetha, who mysteriously acquires the power of speech, apparently from inhaling Chapman's testosterone. Challenged by the hot-headed Herron (Tony Dexter from Fire Maidens of Outer Space), he fights the shirtless "duel of Rheton to the death" with the "combat rod" and the "linoleum tile of doom". After dismissing Colleen Gray from The Leech Woman, he gradually wins Sesom's complete trust, is designated as his eventual successor and begins to feel ambivalent about returning to Earth.

Suddenly, a Solarite space armada launches a deadly attack on Rheton. Rheton is equipped with navigational controls that will be familiar to any theremin player, and the aforementioned gravity curtain, a device that destroys the Solarite armada by means of small curved lines painted on the film.

In order to advance the plot, a Solarite prisoner breaks out of stir and goes on a "rampage" - that is, if waving his arms about listlessly (lest the fragile costume fall off) and tenderly applying a Torgo-esque stroke to the sleeping Zetha's cheek qualifies as a rampage (the Solarite is our old friend Richard Kiel from Eegah).

Will the Rhetons be able to fend off the enemy onslaught? Will Chapman rescue Zetha from the hideous "space cauliflower puppy" monster? Will the bland and blond Earth man ever return to normal size - and home?

SEE the Solarites unleash a blistering attack on Rheton from their "flaming pet taxis"! WITNESS the giant, hideous alien pluck the helpless Zetha from her very slab! THRILL at the "Duel of Rheton to the Death!"

Information

  • The space helmet Mike wears while outside the ship is a re-purposed helmet from Photon, a once-popular, arena-based, laser tag game from the late 1980s that inspired a fairly awful TV series of the same name. The same helmet prop would later be used during Mike's ladder descent during the first host segment of Werewolf.
  • Mike shows up the bots by playing Debussy's Arabesque No. 1, which is the theme to Jack Horkheimer's Star Hustler (now Star Gazer).

The Episode

902 2

Mike's space walk gone wrong!

Host Segments

Prologue: Crow has challenged Mike and Servo to an Andy Rooney-Off. Gypsy acts as the judge as the trio cover the subject of soups.

Segment One: Gypsy tries to announce the winner of the Rooney-Off, but Mike and the 'Bots can't stop Andy Rooney-ing long enough to hear it. Meanwhile in the middle of moving into Castle Forrester, Pearl receives her World Domination Starter Kit from Spiegel. However, it's missing its nuclear core which has been shipped separately up to the SOL by mistake. Mike is somewhat fearful of it's radiation and wants to get rid of it, but Servo and Crow get kind of attached.

Segment Two: Taking a cue from the movie, Mike and Tom focus their attention on the Good and the Beautiful, trying various combinations of foodstuffs as the "Good" and model-actresses as "the Beautiful" in search of the best balance between the two.

Segment Three: Mike's little space-walk slips Crow's mind, as down in Castle Forrester Pearl and Brain Guy have to contend with strange and eerie sounds, but there is a somewhat less than other-worldly explanation for them.

Segment Four: Crow and Tom have taken up the glass armonica and they bravely struggle through Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. They mistakenly believe their limited ability will still allow them to trounce Mike, but he is surprisingly good.

Closing (Segment Five): Crow is yet again inspired dress up as a character from the day's movie, this time as a Solarite. Crow comes to realize he has a problem due to the frequency that this occurs and the fact he doesn't even recall making the costume. Down in the Castle Forrester, Pearl is about to give up on being a mad scientist when a mob of frightened villagers threatening to storm the place renew her spirits, or so she thinks.

Stinger: Lt. Makonnen's classic line: "You know, Captain, every year of my life I grow more and more convinced that the wisest and best is to fix our attention on the good and the beautiful, if we’ll just take the time to look at it." What can Chapman say in response but "You're some guy Makonnen".

Quotes & References

  • "You know, Captain, every year of my life, I become more and more convinced that the wisest and the best is to focus our attention on the good and the beautiful, if we just take the time to look at it."

This borrows from an aphorismof the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British clergyman Richard Cecil.

  • Crow:"Today, the moon narrowly missed hitting a man's eye like a big pizza pie." Servo: "Scientists believe that's amore."

Referring to Dean Martin's biggest hit song That's Amore.

  • "Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery!"

Lyrics from the Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer."

  • "Plastics, Benjamin."

A reference to piece of advice that Dustin Hoffman's character Benjamin received early in the film "The Graduate".

  • "I'm a loser baby."

Crow is referencing the lyrics to a song by singer Beck.

  • "Stupid Leech Woman!"

Liara is played by Coleen Gray, who played the titular Leech Woman in The Leech Woman.

  • "Weird.  We're in space, and I can hear you scream!"

A reference to the tag line used to promote the movie Alien: "In space, no one can hear you scream."

  • "Let's get ready to ruuuuuuuuuuumble..."

The catch phrase of ring announcer Michael Buffer.

  • "The time has come..." "The Walrus said..."

The opening lines of the poem The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll, from Through the Looking-Glass.

  • "Look at this guy! George Shultz is more expressive!"

George Shultz is a career public servant who was a member of the cabinets of Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He was notoriously inscrutable.

  • "The audience is hemorrhaging."

This is a play on "The audience is listening", the tagline at the end of the promotional spot for the THX sound system that is often played in movie theaters before films. The sound produced by the gravitational devices is similar to the strengthening tone used in the THX spot.

Video Release

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