Take me to your leader!
Throughout the history of television, our beloved (and overlooked) science fiction, horror and fantasy adventure characters answered to a higher power than themselves—their leaders! So in the TV column Take Me to Your Leader, we will take a look at some of the boob tube’s most cherished (or despised) leaders/bosses/supervisors/commanders and determine their worth and purpose in the world of small screen entertainment.
Sometimes in order to strive to be the top dog you must experience the slings and arrows of being the bottom puppy. Again, let’s review some of television’s authority figures as we assess their significance.
Frank’s selective ten sci-fi/horror/fantasy leaders or bosses in charge are:
Commander Adama from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (science fiction/drama):
Deep-voiced, silver-haired Commander Adama was in charge of the surviving battlestar remaining in the seventh millennium A.D. in the aftermath of the attacking dastardly Cylons. As Galactica’s authoritative figurehead, Adama was conflicted as he saw the tragedy of his son’s demise by the hated hands of the Cylons. Thankfully, Adama had another fighter squadron son Apollo who has joined in the cause to protect Galactica’s interests along with hotshot shady womanizer ace pilot Starbuck. Commander Adama was stoic and his booming presence loomed in this vastly expensive 1978-80 ABC-TV sci-fi series that was influenced by the worldwide success of cinema’s sensational Star Wars at the box office.
Orson from MORK & MINDY (science fiction/comedy):
Orson was the unseen planetary leader of Ork—the place where cheeky alien Mork hailed from as he made his egg-traveling trip to America’s western city in Boulder, Colorado. As Mork shared a living space with his pretty earthling galpal (and eventual wife) Mindy Beth McConnell, he would report to Orson the strange human customs and existences that he encountered to his curious leader. Mork was not exactly thrilled with Orson as he often called his superior unkind and unflattering names. How much of an insufferable leader Orson was to his minion Mork is for speculation. Still, the unknown Orson served as a comical curiosity to the TV audience for four year (1978-1982).
Captain Kathryn Janeway from STAR TREK: VOYAGER (science fiction/drama):
Sure, the obvious omission of not mentioning noted Star Trek leaders in Christopher Pike, James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisko and Jonathan Archer is intentional. But let us look beyond the boys club for a moment and recognize female leader Captain Kathryn Janeway as the stern and disciplined leader of the small spaceship Voyager. Janeway had to keep together in harmony her crewmembers and the former Maquis ship terrorists forced to join them in an awkward alliance of survival as all involved concentrated on getting back to their realm of the galaxy in the aftermath of a severe storm that blown them off course into oblivion.
Big Giant Head, Supreme Leader from 3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN (science fiction/comedy):
Dr. Dick Solomon was the High Commander to cohorts Sally, Harry and teen Tommy as they visited Rutherford, Ohio and made this venue their home base as they were looking to study the planet Earth—“the 3rd rock” if you will. The Solomons were aliens in human form and tried to assimilate with their humanized surroundings. Posing as a professor of physics at Pendelton University, Dick and his rag tag trio reported to the cad-like mentality of the Big Giant Head (played humorously by William Shatner). Big Giant Head was a reckless rogue who knew no boundaries and challenged the exasperated Dick at every turn.
Fearless Leader from THE BULLWINKLE SHOW (cartoon fantasy):
The 1960’s animated show The Bullwinkle Show (commonly known as Rocky and Bullwinkle) was a clever and skillful satire that catered to the Cold War era with its sophisticated ridicule aimed at adults and goofy-minded tendencies to appease the kiddies. Our heroes Bullwinkle J. Moose and Rocket J. Squirrel were under the watchful eyes of klutzy Russian spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale determined to scrutinize our duo’s every move. The devious Boris and Natasha reported to their bossy contact Fearless Leader, a crotchety and rough-around-the edges figurehead that was not exactly a fan of Boris’s feeble attempts to distract the irksome moose and squirrel.
Emperor Ming from FLASH GORDON (science fiction/comic book):
Comic book hero Flash Gordon is an intergalactic icon whose battles to save the Earth from alien intrusion and dominance was the staple of escapist entertainment in the 1930’s and 1940’s. When television came calling in the 1953-54 season (not to mention the 1979 cartoon series later on) Flash Gordon wanted to make an impish impact concerning the All-American athletic male out to protect the vulnerable interests of mankind. Flash’s main foe, the devilish Emperor Ming of Mongo, was the cruel-minded catalyst for wanting to destroy the planet Earth…you know…just for warped kicks. Emperor Ming was a cutthroat reprobate out for sadistic pleasure to ensure that human lives were mere pawns in his game of doom and destruction. Everybody repeat, ”FLASH…Savior of the Universe!”
FBI Agent Bill Maxwell from THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO (fantasy/superhero/science fiction):
Youthful Los Angeles-based high school teacher Ralph Hinkley just happened to stumble upon some extraterrestrials in the desert that presented him with a mysterious red suit that gave him the abilities to fly and other miscellaneous powers such as turning invisible and possessing super-powered vision. Although Ralph’s “gift” was extraordinary from the generous aliens, he did not know how to properly control the red suit when flying which resulted in him bumping and banging into any objects in sight. Based upon the urging of an inept FBI agent named Bill Maxwell, Ralph was recruited to fighting crime whenever he wore this magical garb. For two years (1981-1983) Maxwell was Ralph’s unofficial boss and mentor as he oversaw the clumsy crime-fighter become a well-meaning but unlikely bumbling hero in the cause to combat crime in this fantasy-based parody of superheroes.
Gateman, Goodbury & Graves from THE MUNSTERS (horror/comedy):
Herman Munster (the boob tube’s answer to the Frankenstein monster) was a goofy but good-natured freakish family man that resided at 1313 Mockingbird Lane with his equally bizarre-looking brood (with the exception of his blonde bombshell niece Marilyn whom they considered hideous within their familial circle). Poor Herman toiled at his place of employment at Gateman, Goodbury & Graves Funeral Home. His bosses were indifferent to allowing Herman the opportunity to do more than the trivial tasks they assigned him. For two seasons (1964-1966) Herman was always on the lookout for a better job than the meager morbid minds at Gateman, Goodbury & Graves afforded the affable but quietly frustrated Herman Munster.
Commander John Koenig from SPACE 1999 (science fiction/drama):
Research colony Moonbase Alpha was the setting where base commander John Koenig was in charge of the proceedings. Koenig and his crew were stationed on the surface of the moon when the unthinkable occurred—an inexplicable nuclear waste explosion caused Koenig and his 300-plus space colleagues to drift outside of the Earth’s gravitational radius. Thus, the Moonbase Alpha staff and their leader find themselves encountering all sorts of sci-fi villains, intergalactic intrigue, various space-aged life forms and galactic dangers that awaited them. Koenig, much like his contemporary peers of this genre, was solid and alert. Koenig was a rational leader surrounded by capable professionals as they thwarted the corrosive confines of their planetary predicament.
Harlan Band from SPACE CASES (science fiction/children’s programming):
Co-creators Bill Mumy (Will Robinson from “Lost in Space”) and Peter David developed this mid-90’s Nickelodeon produced sci-fi kiddie vehicle Space Cases that chronicled the wayward adventures of five Star Academy cadets from different parts of the galaxy trying to deal with their dire situation in being stranded on an errant spacecraft. As the human leader of the minor group of cadet species, Harlan Band (no doubt named after science fiction fixture Harlan Ellison who provided the opening narration) was determined to get his colleagues back to Earth. The ship, called “The Christa”, was also inhabited by some grown-up presence including the clueless Commander Seth Goddard. But we knew better that the heroic Harlan was the true leader that showed some adult-oriented savvy in dealing with the unknown peril at hand.
One thought on “Take me to your leader!”
I love how your articles bring attention to some of the seldom mentioned sci-fi shows. You always throw in a few familiar shows but the not so familiar shows are what I enjoy reading about. Just as you did with portraying Captian Janeway when the other captains you listed briefly would have been the easy way out. Nice job!