Happy Birthday, Lee Majors!

The Six Million Dollar Man himself celebrates his 84th birthday today!

Yes, I know he’s had a long, full career, both before and especially well after his bionic adventures, but he’ll always be Colonel Steve Austin to me. Okay, with a side of Colt Seavers. And maybe a dash of Christopher Chance. And Pop Scarlet.

A check of his IMDB page shows he’s still finding ways to keep plenty busy. I’m actually kind of tired just reading it all. He’s currently involved in a handful of upcoming projects, and recent interview appearances just show he still looks like he could outrun me pretty easily. Here’s hoping I can find my way to having half his energy when I’m his age.

Also? I fervently maintain that Lee Majors has the manliest running stride in the history of running men. Fight me. I offer into evidence this bit of bionic bravado from the very first episode of the TV series, “Population: Zero.”

And yes, I was definitely one of those kids who would offer up my best bionic sound effects as I ran around the neighborhood in something attempting to resemble “Steve Austin slow motion.” I somehow managed to avoid breaking any bones while performing all manner of “bionic” stunts.


Geek Fact: When I was a kid, I so wanted a jacket like the one in this pic.

Geek Fact 2: I kinda still do.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Majors!

Happy 50th Birthday to The Six Million Dollar Man!

That’s right! Fifty years ago today, television audiences got their first look at Steve Austin: a man barely alive, and got to watch as he was made better, stronger, and faster for the tidy sum of just six million dollars.

Title card from the original The Six Million Dollar Man TV film.

Based on Martin Caidin’s 1972 novel Cyborg, The Six Million Dollar Man was the first of what would be three television “movies of the week.” Adapting the original book in rather broad fashion , this initial outing gives us the story of Steve Austin, a test pilot tasked with flying a new experimental “lifting body” craft which at the time was a prototype for what eventually became the Space Shuttle. As in the book, Austin suffers horrific injuries when the aircraft crashes, including the loss of both legs, one arm and one eye.

Along comes the government, in the form of Oliver Spencer (substituting for Oscar Goldman in the novel and played by the always delightful Darren McGavin, showing up between his own first two appearances as Carl Kolchak in The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler TV films), who proposes taking Austin’s mangled body and marrying it to a revolutionary form of prosthetics known as “bionics.” Once fitted with new cybernetic limbs and other necessary components, Austin will be far stronger and faster than any normal human, making him the ideal candidate for special missions in which his new abilities will be well-suited. Spencer’s cold, even callous outlook on the plan and its need for a human test subject (“Accidents happen all the time. We’ll just start with scrap.”) will be echoed years later in a film with a similar origin story for its central character, RoboCop.

Steve Austin running to test his new bionics, as first seen in the original TV film and later in the opening credits sequence of the weekly series.

After all the surgeries along with the accompanying rehabilitation and physical and emotional therapy, Austin is sent to the Middle East on a top-secret mission (very much watered down from the assignment he’s given in the book), where his special nature helps see him through to the end. What’s next? Well, I guess we’ll see.

It’s worth noting that the Steve Austin we meet in Caidin’s novel really isn’t all that likeable a guy. To be honest? He’s kind of a dick, though you can understand and even sympathize with his attitude given the situation into which he’s been thrust. For TV, Austin is definitely someone you want to root for, owing in large part to an understated performance from Lee Majors. Yes, Majors has always taken heat for appearing to lack a lot of acting range at this point in his career, but it actually works here as he navigates the bizarre circumstances visited upon his character.

The original telefilm was popular enough to warrant a pair of follow-ups — Wine, Women and War and The Solid-Gold Kidnapping — later in 1973, which of course begat the weekly television series which premiered in January 1974. This first movie doesn’t have many of the things people remember about The Six Million Dollar Man: No iconic opening credits sequence, no Oscar Goldman, no bionic sound effects, no bionic eye reticle, none of that awesome music by Oliver Nelson which would become such a vital part of the weekly episodes. Even the slow-motion running effect is used very sparingly here, and even then not in the same way which soon would come to personify the whole “bionic action” sight gag.

What? You said you want to see what still ranks as one of the absolute best opening credits bits ever? Well, BAM!

Following the original Cyborg novel, Caidin would pen three sequels, which would be published while the television series was in production. Several novelizations of TV episodes also would be published, and the authors of these books would–more often than not–model their characterizations of Steve Austin more on Caidin’s version than the show itself.

As for the television series, it would last five seasons, the last three alongside its spin-off, The Bionic Woman starring Lindsay Wagner. These were followed by three reunion movies, 1987’s Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, 1989’s Bionic Showdown and 1994’s Bionic Ever After?

Bionic Woman was a 2007 attempt to remake Lindsay Wagner’s series, though it lasted only one season. There are also on-again/off-again rumors of a big-budget cinematic remake of one or both of the series.


In the meantime, here’s to you Steve Austin: You’re the man! The Six Million Dollar Man!

It’s Jupiter 2 Launch Day!

October 16th, 1997:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jupiter2onlaunchpad.jpg

“This is the beginning. This is the day. You are watching the unfolding of one of history’s greatest adventures–man’s colonization of space beyond the stars. The first of what may be as many as ten million families per year is setting out on its epic voyage into man’s newest frontier, deep space. Reaching out into other worlds from our desperately overcrowded planet, a series of deep thrust telescopic probes have conclusively established a planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri as the only one within range of our technology able to furnish ideal conditions for human existence.

Even now the family chosen for this incredible journey into space is preparing to take their final pre lift off physical tests. The Robinson family was selected from more than two million volunteers for its unique balance of scientific achievement, emotional stability, and pioneer resourcefulness. They will spend the next five and a half years of their voyage frozen in a state of suspended animation which will terminate automatically as the spacecraft enters the atmosphere of the new planet.”

Lost In Space, “The Reluctant Stowaway”


Happy 50th Anniversary, M*A*S*H.

We try to play par surgery on this course. Par is a live patient.

Fifty years ago tonight, an odd, seemingly out-of-place TV series made its rather quiet, almost overlooked premiere on CBS. It would struggle through its first season and even face cancellation, but would soon find its audience. Carrying on for ten subsequent seasons, it eventually would go on to become one of the most influential series in the history of television.

M*A*S*H, the TV series, was based on Robert Altman’s 1970 film MASH, as well as the novel of the same name (actually MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors), which was written by “Richard Hooker” (a pen name for Dr. Richard Hornberger and W.C. Heinz). Developed by the late, great Larry Gelbart, the series began as something of a hybrid. It didn’t so much adapt or continue events from either the film or the book as it used both works for inspiration and points of departure. Certain scenes or lines of dialogue from the novel or the movie were the basis for plot points and even entire episodes during the show’s early seasons.

M*A*S*H first-season cast

As another part of their research, Gelbart along with writer/producer Gene Reynolds and other members of the writing staff interviewed doctors and other servicemembers who had served (or were serving at that time) in real MASH units overseas. The transcripts of those interviews along with other stories, anecdotes, little asides and other details as conveyed to them by the men and women for whom this was or had been real life served as inspiration throughout the life of the series.

Several of the characters, already re-interpreted to one degree or another for the movie, were given still new spins for their television incarnations. Most notable in that regard is the character around which the series would center, Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce as played by Alan Alda. Though Hawkeye bore a decent resemblance to his film and novel namesakes at the start, Alda’s influence not just in his own portrayal but also the writing (and later directing and producing) of the series would see Hawkeye, the rest of the characters, and indeed the entire series evolve in numerous ways as the show progressed.

From the beginning, Gelbart and his crew wanted M*A*S*H to be something more than a simple situation comedy (according to interviews over the years, the cast and crew have said that they never referred to the show as a “sitcom”). In their minds, the setting, a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, demanded that attention and respect. Even the earliest scripts, played largely for laughs, featured the occasional drift into more dramatic subject matter.

It wasn’t until late in the first season that Gelbart and the writing staff seemed to find the perfect balance between comedy and drama, with the pivotal episode “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet,” in which Hawkeye is reunited with an old friend who later dies on the operating table. By all accounts, this was the episode when the producers realized the true potential of what they could do with the series and its format, provided they had the proper front-office support. Once that support was demonstrated with the show’s renewal for a second season, all bets were off, and M*A*S*H never looked back.

The series would continue unabated for ten more years, earning more than 100 Primetime Emmy nominations (winning 14) and over 20 Golden Globe nominations (snagging 8). It also earned seven Director’s Guild of America, including three for Alan Alda himself, as well as 28 Writers Guild of America Award nominations, of which it took home seven. Its movie-length series finale episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” still ranks as the most-watched non-sports program in television history nearly 40 years after its original broadcast.

After the series concluded in 1983, there was an attempt to continue on with some of the characters and leftover storylines. This took the form of AfterMASH, with Colonel Potter, Corporal Klinger and Father Mulcahy working together at a stateside VA hospital after the war. The show actually did pretty well during its first season (despite there being a noticeable lack of, well, M*A*S*H), and was notable for attempting to bring attention to the ongoing post-war treatment and care of soldiers.

Its second year would be its last after CBS unwisely chose to move it to Tuesday nights, opposite a show you might remember called The A-Team. Whoops. AfterMASH was spanked in the ratings, and was cancelled part way through its second year. I’ve not seen the show since its original airing, and then only part of its first season. It’s not yet been released on any home video format, but I remain hopeful, as I’d like to revisit it with fresh eyes. There also was another spin-off attempt, W*A*L*T*E*R with Gary Burghoff reprising his Radar character, but the pilot was rejected. It aired once on television, but I’ve never seen it.

As for M*A*S*H itself, I came to it rather late in its broadcast run. I think I started watching it around the seventh or eighth season, as I recall. By then, reruns of the earlier seasons were airing on local UHF stations, so I started watching them over and over. I remember wondering why the book and film were so different from the show, but once I figured out that I had it backwards, I came to love them on their own merits, and the novel is something I still reread from time to time when the mood strikes. I own the entire series on DVD, and it’s one of those shows for which I’ll stop channel-surfing if I happen across an episode. I’ve read all of the Richard Hooker sequel novels (their continuity feeds off the original novel, not the film or the series), and I even own a copy of the stage play script.

I know there are people who prefer the first three years–before the first of the various cast changes–to anything which came later. There also are folks who don’t watch the latter three or four seasons, because they feel the show began to lose steam at that point. While I agree to an extent with that second stance, for me, I can and do enjoy the entire run, and there are definitely gems and favorites even in those later seasons. The eighth season episode “Old Soldiers,” in which Colonel Potter comes to terms with knowing that the last of his friends from his youth have died, remains one of my absolute favorite episodes, as much for Harry Morgan’s performance as the subject matter.

Other favorites? Wow. How much time do you have? We could be here a while. Suffice it to say I have a lot of favorites, and I’m thinking I’ll be checking out some of them later today.

Happy Anniversary, M*A*S*H.

Attention, all personnel: Due to conditions beyond our control, we regret to announce that lunch is now being served.

Happy Breakaway Day!

Yep. On this date 23 years ago, the lives of the 311 men and women living and working on Moonbase Alpha…took a turn.

Moonbase Alpha, September 13th, 1999: And you thought your day sucked.

This is another one of those holidays I think are tragically overlooked by the various greeting card companies. Come on, Hallmark! You’re leaving money on the table!

Anyway, here’s hoping you can spare a thought or two for the Alphans while you’re going about your day.

Tied-Up With Tie-Ins: seaQuest DSV!

So, yeah. It’s been a minute since the last one of these. Where does the time go?

For those among you who are new to following the questionable expenditure of electrons that is my blog, one of its “irregularly recurring features” is something I like to call, “Tied Up With Tie-ins.” It’s here that I take a fond look back at a favorite series of novels based on movies or television series.

Given my penchant for nostalgia and collecting old books, I figure this is a nice intersection for those two interests, which often means I’m revisiting something older, such as the many different tie-ins which were all over the place during my childhood and early adulthood. That said, I’m certainly not above babbling about something published much more recently if it trips my trigger. A few of the subjects previously tackled represent books or book series which inspired a film or television series, so that’s obviously on the table. One example I’m pondering for a future entry is the series of “Walt Longmire mysteries” penned by author Craig Johnson and the basis for the Longmire TV series. I guess we’ll see, eh?

Meanwhile, for this entry, we’re setting a course for the 1990s and heading back to the ocean, “for beneath the surface lies the future.” At least, that’s what they told us in 1993 about the far off year of 2018 and the undersea world of seaQuest DSV.

Continue reading “Tied-Up With Tie-Ins: seaQuest DSV!”

Happy 70th Anniversary, “Superman and the Mole Men!”

There are actually a couple of geek milestones being observed today. Getting more notice among my friends and colleagues is the 58th anniversary of the initial airing of “An Unearthly Child,” the first-ever episode of the long-running BBC television series Doctor Who, broadcast on November 23, 1963 and starring William Hartnell as the first of what is now thirteen (and counting!) “official” incarnations of the venerable time-travelling Doctor…plus one more if you count John Hurt’s self-exiled “War Doctor,” and another one if we consider Jo Martin’s “Fugitive Doctor.” Oh, and plus yet another one if you count Peter Cushing’s outings in a pair of theatrical releases.

And I do count all of those.

Meanwhile, I’m going to back you up several more years to this day in 1951, which brought with it the premiere in theaters of Superman and the Mole Men. Already a staple of comics and radio by this point as well as the movie serials starring Kirk Alyn, this “full-length” feature film introduced audiences to actor George Reeves as the Man of Steel and paved the way for a whole new era of Superman stories.

Though serving as something of a trial run for the weekly Adventures of Superman television series which would premiere the following year, Superman and the Mole Men features very few of the trappings which ultimately would become commonplace on the show. George Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman and Phyllis Coates as reporter Lois Lane are the only familiar characters.

The iconic series opening sequence is absent, of course, as is anything resembling the equally memorable theme music. A brief bit at the beginning introduces us to Superman, including a shot of Reeves in costume and standing before a waving American flag which would end up being used in the TV show’s opening. That’s all the exposition we get, though, before we’re hip deep into the “action” as the story unfolds, taking place at an oil field on the outskirts of a small town called Silby. There, the “world’s deepest oil well” has broken through to the subterranean world of the “Mole Men,” who naturally come up to have a look around and see who’s been partying with the music cranked up too loud.

Kent and Lane, sent by the Daily Planet to cover the event of the well having reached its milestone depth, get caught up in the craziness as the local townspeople freak out over the presence of the Mole Men in their midst. They’re organizing with torches and pitchforks to hunt down the little guys, and only Superman can stand in their way. Duhn duhn DUH!!!!!

(Trivia: some of the behind-the-scenes goings-on from this movie and even some filming sequences were recreated in 2006’s Hollywoodland, the pseudo-historical retelling of the investigation into George Reeves’ death in 1959.)

As a standalone film, Superman and the Mole Men really isn’t all that great. It was produced on a very low budget, which is pretty evident in just about everything from the obvious back-lot exteriors to very little in the way of flying or other “super stunts.” Still, its nostalgic value comes from being Reeves’ first turn in the cape and tights, a role which he would make his own in the years to come. However, there’s still a bit to enjoy here. First, I love, love, love black and white TV and movies, and this flick does look pretty darned good.

Next, this movie, like the first two seasons of the ensuing television series (also filmed in B&W), was played straight and aimed at an adult audience, rather than harboring any of the near-camp/kid-friendly tone which would become more prevalent beginning with the series’ third season. Despite the story’s subject matter, there’s still a feel of great old-school mystery/crime drama at work here. The focus is more on Clark Kent (with Lois Lane’s able assistance) delving into the mystery, only to switch to his Superman persona when circumstances require it. That approach would continue into the first year of the series, only to have the balance shift a little more toward “tights and flights” with each successive season.

Phyllis Coates, the actress who portrays Lois Lane in the film, would reprise the role in the TV series’ first season. When she was unavailable to continue with the second season, Noel Neill replaced her, returning to the role she had first performed in the Kirk Alyn Superman serials. Though Neill is the Lois Lane people think of most often when considering George Reeves’ Superman, I’ve always preferred Coates’ take on the character. Of course, it would’ve been nice if they’d given either actress more to do than be the damsel in distress for Superman to rescue.

Superman and the Mole Men would be cut in half to serve as the two-part episode “The Unknown People” to finish out the TV show’s first season, though the original version is included as a special feature on the first-season DVD set. I’d only ever seen the story in its two-part format before picking up the set, so being able to watch the theatrical version was something of a treat.

Although Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of the Man of Steel is the definitive screen Superman for me, George Reeves and the Adventures of Superman series are a couple of those fondly remembered bits from my childhood, as the show ran regularly in syndication when I was growing up. After all, he’s the one I portrayed when I tied a towel around my neck and took a leap over a tall building down the stairs in my house.

Happy Anniversary, Superman and the Mole Men!

Hey! 2021 is a big movie “birthday year!”

As something of a movie nerd, I’m usually aware when favorite films celebrate “milestone” birthdays (or anniversaries, if you will). This past weekend, I yammered a bit about Top Gun on the occasion of its 35th birthday, as it was released on May 16th, 1986. Back in April, I found time to wax nostalgic about the classic science fiction film The Thing From Another World, turning 70 this year after being released on April 7th, 1951. I think anyone who’s spent any amount of time here knows I’m pretty reliable so far as remembering things like the various Star Trek films, but there are plenty of other favorites, like the original Alien or Superman movies to name just a couple of prominent examples.

(I also remember to take note of favorite television series, too. This is especially true of older series from days gone yet I still remember with fondness. Alien Nation, M*A*S*H, Planet of the Apes, Space: 1999, and so many others.)

2021 seems to be a banner year for celebrating movie milestone birthdays. I’m not just talking about old black n’ white flicks, though a few of those are marking anniversaries of distinction this year, as well. I don’t even mean to stop with movies I saw first run in a theater as a kid or even a young(er) adult, in many cases before the age of home video and all that jazz. We’re deep into that era, progressing from video tapes, LaserDiscs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs to streaming video, all of which have for more than thirty years allowed us to revisit fondly-remembered films any time we feel like it. However, none of that equals the thrill of my young eyes being glued to one of those giant movie screens all those years ago as the lights dimmed and the music started to ramp up. Even today, with so many options at my fingertips, there are still films – old and new – I want to see on that giant movie screen, just as their creators intended.

So, what have we got? Well, here’s a sampling of what’s still to come in 2021:

On Friday, May 21st, Escape from the Planet of the Apes – the third in the “classic series” of Apes films, turns 50. YOU READ THAT RIGHT.

Celebrating its 40th birthday on Saturday, May 22nd, is Outland, Sean Connery’s low-key, even underrated “High Noon in Space” riff, which opened in 1981. Still one of my favorite 1980s science fiction films.

Also on May 22nd but celebrating its 25th birthday after being released in 1996 is the first Mission: Impossible movie. As I write this, Tom Cruise and company are working to finish that series’ seventh film, with an eighth already waiting in the pre-production wings.

Thelma & Louise. Don’t call them names on the CB radio.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Thelma & Louise embarking on their infamous road trip, which began on May 24th, 1991. On that same date, Ron Howard brought to us his wonderful drama about firefighters, Backdraft, starring Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, and Robert De Niro.

Sweet hat, amirite?

Those are just the things I’ve got for the remainder of May. June and July will bring a whole truckload more, as we remember our first encounters with Ferris Bueller, Snake Plissken, Jack Burton, and Indiana Jones on the occasion of their respective “milestone” anniversaries. We’ll also say “Welcome Back!” to Ellen Ripley, James Bond, and (he says, grudgingly) Robin Hood for similar reasons. And that’s just for starters.

Don’t worry, TV friends. I haven’t forgotten you! On television, May 23rd will mark the 20th anniversary of the Star Trek: Voyager series finale, which saw Captain Kathryn Janeway and her crew make their triumphant return to Earth on this date in 2001.

2021 is also “important” for remembering our first meetings with Jack Bauer, Captain Jonathan Archer, and – if you want to reach even farther back – Colt Seavers, the unknown stuntman who made Eastwood look so fine.

Jack, Jonathan, and Colt….all celebrating milestone “birthdays” in 2021.

I don’t know that I’ll get to individual entries for most or even several of these. I guess it’ll all come down to time available, but I’ll try my best because these sorts of look-backs are fun, and 2021 is a banner year for me and my fellow movie nerds. When it’s not making me feel old, of course. While I ponder that notion, feel free to throw your personal favorites into the comments section.

You! Down in front! The movie’s starting!

Herbert F. Solow, 1930-2020.

In April of 1964, Herb Solow was the vice president in charge of television production at Desilu Studios. It was in this capacity that he took a meeting with a writer/producer looking to pitch his concept for a new television series.

By the end of that meeting, Solow decided to give the writer a shot at developing his premise, after which he convinced NBC to green-light a pilot episode to be produced by Desilu. When NBC studio execs passed on the resulting film, Solow persuaded them to let Desilu try again. NBC liked that second effort enough to commit to a television series order, and the rest is history.

The writer/producer was Gene Roddenberry, and the TV series was, of course, Star Trek.

While there are a large number of people who contributed to the original series, Herb Solow along with Roddenberry, Robert. H. Justman, Dorothy Fontana, Gene Coon, and Matt Jefferies were — as I see it, anyway — the core group of people who laid the foundation upon which rests everything we’ve come to know collectively as Star Trek. Solow, the last of these “Old Soldiers,” passed away on November 19th, not quite a year after we lost Ms. Fontana.

Variety: Herb Solow, Producer Who Sold ‘Star Trek‘ to NBC, dies at 89

Though his role on the series was that of a “suit,” a front-office position which normally did not include input to day-to-day creative aspects of a show’s production, Solow’s ongoing collaboration with Gene Roddenberry and Bob Justman in particular kept him more involved than might be the case on another show. Such was the collaborative atmosphere on the series that Justman even saw fit to honor Solow with his own title card displayed at the end of each episode for the first two seasons, something typically not done for studio executives.

After selling Star Trek to NBC, Mr. Solow shepherded the series through its first two seasons. Along the way, he also oversaw the development of the original Mission: Impossible TV series as well as Mannix for Desilu, both of which aired on CBS. When Desilu was sold to Gulf+Western, the small studio was merged with the television arm of Paramount Pictures. Ultimately dissatisifed with his new role, Solow left Paramount to assume duties as the vice president in charge of television production at MGM, leaving before the start of production on Star Trek‘s third (and final) season. His later television credits include the fondly remembered Bill Bixby series The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and in 1977, he returned to the realm of science fiction TV when he created with writer Mayo Simon Man from Atlantis, the cult series starring Patrick Duffy which ran for a single season on NBC.

Much as been written about the development of Star Trek by writers far more gifted than me. This includes Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, a book Solow himself authored with Bob Justman which was released in conjunction with Star Trek‘s 30th anniversary in 1996. Some might quibble with some of the recollections from 30 years after the events in question – and there are also some straight out factual errors, only some of which were corrected in reprints of the book – but Solow and Justman provide that “first-person” narrative from people there at the beginning that other accounts lack. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The book makes an excellent companion to The Making of Star Trek, the iconic 1968 tome written by Stephen Poe (as Stephen E. Whitfield) while the show was still in production, as well as David Gerrold’s The Trouble With Tribbles, the book he wrote about the development of his own classic episode of the same name.

Unlike other alumni of the original series, Mr. Solow never worked on any future iteration of Star Trek, but his contributions to what became “the Star Trek franchise” are no less indelible and continue to be felt to this day. May his memory be a blessing.

Herbert Franklin Solow
December 14, 1930 – November 19, 2020

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – 25 years of “Little Green Men!”

“We’re helpless! We’re harmless! We just want to sell you things!”
— Quark

2372: Quark is ferrying his brother, Rom, and nephew, Nog, to Earth to deliver the latter to Starfleet Academy. Nog is set to become the first Ferengi to join that august institution, blazing a path for his people the way Worf did for Klingons a generation earlier. As it approaches Earth, the ship, Quark’s Treasure, encounters a strange malfunction that results in it being sent back through time to the year 1947, after which it crashlands on Earth near the town of Roswell, New Mexico.

Knocked unconscious during the crash, the three Ferengi awaken to find themselves in what appears to be some form of laboratory. Soon, they’re being interrogated by members of the United States Military, who are certain these “aliens” are must be part of an invasion force coming to conquer the world.

Meanwhile, Quark is sure he can be running the entire planet within a year.

Little Green Men,” one of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s most memorable episodes, was delivered on November 13th, 1995 to first-run syndication. Developed as an homage to the great science fiction B-movies of the 1950s (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing from Another World, The War of the Worlds, etc.), the episode delights in sending up the genre. You’ve got your hard-charging general, the no-nonsense Army officer who’s ready to do anything to protect his country from the Commies and his planet from Martians, the academic who wants to understand and communicate with the aliens in order to benefit from their obviously advanced technology, and (of course… :: cringe ::) the nurse who’s tasked with injecting a little empathy while representing the otherwise cold, calculating, and even callous humans around her while doing what she can to avoid harm being visited upon the aliens.

The idea of Ferengi visiting “ancient” Earth and having to interact with “primitive” humans sounds like a concept where the jokes write themselves, and in the early going that’s exactly what seems to happen. Professor Jeffrey Carlson and Captain Wainwright attempting to communicate with Quark, Rom and Nog — with neither group either to understand the other due to the Ferengi’s malfunctioning universal translators — is good for several chuckles at humanity’s expense. Then we turn things up a notch with the reveal that Odo stowed away aboard Quark’s ship, because Rene Auberjonois was always masterful at playing the straightlaced end even stuffy constable for every laugh he could get.

Of course, things start to take a sinister turn when Captain Wainwright threatens to torture and kill the Ferengi if they don’t tell him the truth about their visit here and their motives, but then Carlson and Nurse Garland help free them from the Army’s clutches long enough to make their escape and return to the 24th century.

25 years after its original broadcast, “Little Green Men” remains one of the best episodes from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s seven-year run. It breaks well away from the series’ normal formula, which at this point (in the early 4th season) is starting to take a darker turn as war with the Dominion looms. As a time-travel episode, it ranks up there with the more lighthearted ventures into this realm like Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home or even the instant classic episode that will come in DS9’s fifth season, “Trials and Tribble-ations.” If you’re a fan of the movies to which this episode is written as a Valentine (and I am, by golly), then you’ll get most if not all of the subtle nods, winks, and Easter eggs to those 1950s gems.

“Little Green Men” also has the benefit of giving a Star Trek twist to a bit of actual modern-day conspiracy theory. Though accounts of something weird happening at or near Roswell, New Mexico in July of 1947 have existed since the say such weirdness supposedly happened, the folding of “aliens crash at Roswell” into UFO lore didn’t actually happen for decades afterward. Films, TV shows, books, and comics have offered different versions of what they think happened (The X-Files, Dark Skies, and the Roswell TV series being prominent examples), but “Little Green Men” proved to be a fun way to spin the tale in a whole new direction.

As with many stories that leave a lasting impression, the episode has provided fodder for a few other tales told in other media, most notably the Star Trek novels published by Simon & Schuster. Greg Cox was able pick up Professor Carlson and use him rather effectively in his two-part storyline The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh. And hey! I was able to take several threads from this and other episodes and weave them all through a few stories of my own. First, there was “The Aliens Are Coming!” published in 2000’s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds III anthology. Then, in 2013 I went hog wild with the concept of what happened after the episode in my novel From History’s Shadow. That book begat two sequels, 2016’s Elusive Salvation and Hearts and Minds from 2017, which continued fleshing out concepts I introduced in the first novel.

It’s been a while since I last watched this one. May have to rectify that in the coming days.

Until then…keep watching the skies!