I'm returning once more to a topic raised in the second part of THE AMPLITUDE ATTITUDE: on what occasions is it possible for a given series to achieve the combative mode, less because of an emphasis on the continual encounter of megadynamic forces than because of an emphasis upon the outward *form* of such an encounter? In the aforesaid piece I noted that the majority of the Golden Age Spectre's adventures pitted him against mundane crooks, as opposed to devils or demigods-- yet the crooks did have the effect of being "the evil that forces the undead avenger to keep up his crusade." By way of exploring this "outward form" possibility further, I'm going to devote a series of posts to a television series whose status with regard to the combative mode has always been dubious to me.
In my various reviews of STAR TREK episodes, I've made no bones about labeling the entire series as "combative," even those episodes that don't climax in combat-scenes. Few persons familiar with pop culture would doubt that the series stressed the image of Captain Kirk, and occasionally other crewmen, heroically battling super-psychics and lizard-people and so on, all firmly in the "superhero idiom."
The 1965-68 series LOST IN SPACE seems more ambivalent. In contrast to TREK, which was clearly a series with military overtones, SPACE followed the travails of a group of castaways as they bounced around various planets, sometimes resolving their conflicts through spectacular violence, sometimes not. I've decided to examine all the episodes purely in terms of how often they used spectacular violence. If an episode used such violence in a manner typical of the "superhero idiom," it will fall into the combative mode; if not, it will fall into the subcombative mode. Since I'll only talk about the climaxes, it may be possible to get through all three seasons with dispatch. "C" meets combative; "SC" subcombative.
"The Reluctant Stowaway"-- The sabotage of the Jupiter 2 culminates in the Robot going berserk and seeking to destroy the ship: there's some violence as the Robot fends off the male space-jockeys but it is defeated when Major West pulls off its power pack. (SC)
"The Derelict"-- the ship is trapped inside a derelict and must blast its way out. (SC)
"Island in the Sky"-- Jupiter-2 makes planetfall, and their land-chariot is attacked by an electrical tumbleweed. (SC)
"There Were Giants in the Earth"-- the spacefarers must fend off a gigantic Cyclops with their ray-weapons. (C)
"The Hungry Sea"-- the spacefarers seek to escape devastating waves of heat and cold on the planet (SC).
"Welcome Stranger"-- the spacefarers meet their first oddball human: Hapgood, an astronaut who preceded the Jupiter into space. Hapgood and West have a brawl but it does not occur at the climax nor influence the main plot (SC).
"My Friend, Mister Nobody"-- Penny befriends an invisible cosmic force. When she's hurt, the force goes berserk and attacks the other spacefarers. The Robot discharges energy at the creature but the group is only spared when the creature backs off. (SC)
""Invaders from the 5th Dimension"-- aliens try to take Will Robinson away, to use his brain as their new computer: they're defeated not by force of arms but because Will's humanity undermines their devices (SC).
"The Oasis"-- Doctor Smith temporarily changes into a giant (SC).
"The Sky is Falling"-- an alien family lands on the planet; mutual suspicions lead to a ray-gun fight but the quarrel is obviated by peacemaking overtures (SC).
"Wish Upon a Star"-- Smith acquires a wish-fulfilling machine; an alien comes to reclaim the machine and does so with no violence (SC).
"The Raft"-- Smith and Will are held prisoner by a plant-humanoid, who is summarily killed when John Robinson shoots the creature with his raygun. (SC)
I note that "the Raft" comes close to the combative in presenting a menace that is vanquished by violence. However, said violence is over and done with so quickly that I tend to label it "functional violence." In contrast, the incidents in "There Were Giants" shows a dramatic buildup, in which the spacefarers face considerable menace from the giant before they defeat it with their lasers. This "buildup" is essentially what I'm looking for in terms of exploring the "outward form" of the combative mode.
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