Back in the 1970s, Star Maidens could have been quite the show. But now, in the 21st century, all it really does it raise a lot of questions about what the people behind it were thinking.
The series is based around the planets of Earth and Medusa. Medusa boasts a society controlled by women, where men do little more than manual labour, food service and provide general assistance to their female superiors. The Medusans live underground, after an asteroid struck the planet and knocked it into our solar system. Our story starts when two males, Adam and Shem, decide it is high time they escaped from Medusa and travelled to Earth; a world where ‘men rule’.
What follows are a series of hijinks and capers, as two Medusan women, Fulvia and Octavia, attempt to take back Adam and Shem, while also having to deal with humanity, it’s strange way of life, and the fact that two humans, Dr. Elizabeth Becker and Dr. Rudi Schmidt, are themselves taken to Medusa and forced to learn the Medusan way of life.
To start off with, can we just think about how ludicrous it is that a planet got ‘knocked’ into our solar system after being hit by a pretty sizeable asteroid? I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty certain that’s not how things work. Sure, a lot of science-fiction relies on audiences to suspend their disbelief. But that’s quite a difficult task when what you’re watching makes no sense, you’re reminded of that fact continuously, and there isn’t much enjoyment to gain from suspending said disbelief in the first place.
But let’s take a quick detour and look at some of the good, before this doubles back down into being a negative review. Fans of seventies sci-fi will be able to find something to love here, as although the story, writing and (in some cases) acting are somewhat lacking, the aesthetic and soundtrack are a lot of fun – very retro.
Similarly, the costume design is exceptionally jazzy. There are some questionable choices, such as how the security forces on Medusa wear short shorts and always have their midriff exposed, but seeing the President of Medusa walking around in a sparkly sequin headdress never fails to entertain.
In terms of characters, Pierre Brice’s Adam and Judy Geeson’s Fulvia are definitely highlights. Any episodes spent away from them struggle to hold your attention (particularly since the character Rudi becomes increasingly arrogant and unlikeable, while Liz becomes somewhat pathetic as she devalues herself in favour of promoting Rudi’s worth), and the amusing interplay between the characters should have had even more of a central focus.
That is perhaps the main problem with the show. The concept has a lot of promise, and had it chosen to really focus on gender relations it could have been onto something great. But the desire of the crew behind it to play around with nonsensical sci-fi tropes leaves the show wanting.
There are several points where you think the show may go in that direction, such as when they introduce a faction of feminists, but inevitably, the show just gets more and more sexist, as it takes steps to hammer down the fact that in the end, women need a man to come along and make sure everything works out alright.
Which, frankly, is about as ludicrous as a meteor knocking an entire planet into another solar system.
Created by: Jost Graf von Hardenberg & Eric Paice
Written by: Jost Graf von Hardenberg, Eric Paice, Ian Stuart Black, John Lucarotti & Otto Strang
Dir: Freddie Francis, Wolfgang Storch, James Gatward & Hans Heinrich
Cast: Judy Geeson, Christiane Krüger, Pierre Brice, Gareth Thomas, Lisa Harrow, Christian Quadflieg, Derek Farr & Dawn Addams
Prd: James Gatward
Country: UK & Germany
Star Maidens is out on DVD now.