|JOHN KENNETH MUIR's RETRO TV FILES|
|LOGAN'S RUN: THE SERIES
A Retrospective by John Kenneth Muir
|Logan's Run was a short-lived American TV series that ran in prime time in 1977, but is remembered today as part of the franchise that includes the 1976 movie and a series of excellent original novels (and briefly, a Marvel Comics series) Cinescape ran my Vintage Vision piece on the series in January/February 2001, but because of space considerations, there was more information than could be included in the issue, and so I have introduced some of that previously included material here in an endeavor to offer more complete information. This is a franchise/property that may is being resurrected as a big movie (to be directed by Bryan Singer). - John Kenneth Muir
As many genre fans who grew up in the 1970s remember so vividly Logan's Run is the saga of a post-apocalyptic future society where denizens dwell in a paradisical utopia, one governed by a computer and policed by officers of the state called Sandmen. Life in the City of Domes is good, but short. In fact, every citizen faces mandatory termination in young adulthood (21 in the books; 30 in the movie). And if you don't succumb to state-sponsored execution (a sleep chamber in the novels; Carousel in the film and TV show), you can choose to run for an enigmatic place of freedom called Sanctuary. One Sandman, Logan, accompanied by a beautiful dissident named Jessica, escapes the city. Another Sandman, Francis, in hot pursuit, is always after them...
The novel Logan's Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson was a runaway best seller and critical hit that was first produced as a colorful, entertaining film in 1976. In the movie, Michael York played Logan, Jenny Agutter was Jessica and Peter Ustinov played an Old Man dwelling in a ruined Washington D.C.
The same property also spawned a short-lived TV series in 1977. Author William Nolan was working on a movie sequel script, a 40 page treatment with producer Saul David, when CBS paid MGM nine million dollars to buy the franchise and transform it into a television project. Though Nolan would have preferred to do three Logan films and then think about a TV series, CBS was gung ho on the project, and a TV adaptation came into being. Gregory Harrison (Trapper John M.D.) replaced Michael York, Heather Menzies (Pirahna ) stepped into the role of Jessica and the experienced Donald Moffat (The Thing ) played the series' new character, an android companion named Rem (originally OMO - Operational Machine Organism). Though reluctant to work on the TV series, Nolan wanted to safeguard his property and originally wrote a pilot introducing Rem and other new elements.
"I think we created some interesting things," Nolan remembers of his pilot script. "The Stone City was a place where all the humans were dead, but robot servants still operated.This is where Rem came from. He was my metallic Mr. Spock, someone with the wisdom to temper Logan and Jessica's inexperience."
Moffat remembers auditioning for the part of Rem and being challenged by the character, a forerunner of Brent Spiner's android Lt. Data. "I thought he [Rem] had the potential for humor, and great curiosity," Moffat recalls.
As the series was cast and its initial episode written, a shake-up behind the scenes occurred, as writer Shimon Wincelberg recalls. "Saul [David] and I were working on an MGM project that never got made, Timescape. He asked me to write for Logan's Run, so I came up with a story." Unfortunately, the shake-up shit-canned Wincelberg's contribution. "Saul called me up one day and said, 'Guess who got fired? Me!'"
With Saul David and Wincelberg out of the picture, Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts and Leonard Katzman came aboard the production as producers. Among Katzman's new ideas was the notion that a Council of Elders would run Dome City, instead of a Computer. Nolan felt the Council was a mistake that undermined his concept, but was nonetheless offered the slot of story editor on the series.
Retro TV File
Land of the Lost
Star Trek: The Animated Series
Tales of the Gold Monkey
|Click on the book cover to the left to order John Kenneth Muir''s analytical study of the 1970s TV series Space:1999. EXPLORING SPACE:1999, from McFarland.|
|John's Terror Television (A 2001 Booklist Editor's Choice) examines horror TV series that ran from 1970 - 1999, including Night Gallery, Kolchak the Night Stalker, The Evil Touch, Space:1999, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Millennium and more.|
|John's History and Critical Analysis of Blake's 7, the British Space Adventure, a book from McFarland. Click on the cover to visit McFarland's web site and visit the page.|
|John's Analytical Guide to Television's Battlestar Galactica is a provocative (and controversial) examination of the flawed but fascinating TV classic. Click on the cover to go to McFarland and order the book!|
|"When I was offered the position, I asked the producers where they wanted to take the series. Their idea was to run Logan around in a car every week and encounter new societies underground. After solving their problems, he would return to the surface, get in his car and drive away. I felt that wasn't the way to handle the concept," says Nolan.
Accordingly, Nolan left the production and experienced TV scribe D.C. Fontana was hired as Logan Run's story editor. She felt there was "definitely a Fugitive-type angle to the format decided on by the new producers, but also that the series represented an "examination of a world that had destroyed itself. It was an alien place to Jessica and Logan and our stories were about isolated individuals or strange enclaves...places that revealed how the whole world had suffered."
Fontana remembers that the mood on the production was very positive, even though there was only a low budget to toil with. Even though the series' budget was reportedly as high $350,000 per episode, Fontana recollects the number may have been much closer to $170,000 per installment. "We had to be spare," she stresses, "we had to be light on cast, physical locations, and do as much stage work as possible."
Despite limitations, Fontana was confident in Logan's Run's chances, because many talented artists contributed to its unique look, part Studio 54, part sexy futurism. "Bill Thomas was the costume designer and he had an impressive history in motion pictures. He was creative and didn't just pick up stuff off the rack. Mort Rabinowitz, our production designer, was sharp and clever and knew how to present things to the best advantage."
Nolan agrees that the "sets were wonderful" and the "props were great," ; but felt that there was a "descent" in quality from novel, to movie, to prime-time television series, and that the new program did not strive for a "level of maturity."
Fontana points out that Logan's Run did not last long enough to pay off the story threads established in early shows. "The Council of Elders gave us a human perspective. "How did those people get there? How had they manipulated things to be in charge? If we had been on the air more than half-a-season, we would have explored that. In fact, we planned a confrontation between Francis and Logan, resulting in their return to the City of Domes to wage a war of sabotage against the Council."
Such grand plans aside, the series had trouble with interfering executive producers. "Initially, they [Goff and Roberts] assured us that we would be the people writing the scripts since we understood science fiction, but they persited in coming behind us and re-writing, often adding stupid ideas," recalls Fontana.
The same executive producers also short-changed the aspect of the series that would have won it accolades among the critics: character development. Randy Powell, for instance, played the relentless pursuer, Francis and every week he was expected to chase - and lose - Logan, a real problem for a realistic character. "We tried to give him some vulnerability," Fontana reports about the Sandman pursuer. "If the series had continued, he would have switched sides to join Logan." In fact, in Fontana's episode "Capture," there was a tete-a-tete between Francis and Logan in which the nemeses questioned their respective choices. Typically, the scene was trimmed by the executive producers down from one-and-a-half pages to a scant half-a-page. "Sometimes on TV, people have to stop and talk," Fontana emphasizes, "and it was an interesting scene."
Moffat, who feared being typecast as an android Mr. Spock, enjoyed some episodes more than others. He liked filming "Futurepast," the episode wherein Rem romanced a fellow android, Ariana (guest star Mariette Hartley). "She was a friend," Moffat remembers, "and it was fun to romance so beautiful...a machine."
The repetitive weekly format, aka the civilization of the week, wasn't Logan's Run's only stumbling block. The series was on the air shortly after the premiere of Star Wars, and many industry experts felt that the low-budget CBS show simply couldn't compete with the production values of a ten million dollar feature film. Fontana doesn't necessarily agree. "Logan had a history and context before Star Wars," she argues, pointing instead to the fact that CBS moved the series from its regular time slot frequently and did not heavily promote the series.
Whatever the cause, Logan's Run's Last Day on network elevision arrived in January 1978, scarce months after its premiere. Still, Fontana remembers the buzz the series generated with fans during its brief life. "I went to a convention in San Diego with Gregory, Heather and Randy, when the show was still on. The fans were playing 'The Runner Game.' A designated room in the hotel was Sanctuary and fans split into two teams: Runners and Sandmen. Randy encountered a runner in a stairwell and shouted 'Run, Runner!!!' in character. It was great seeing people make a game of our jobs."
It was that enthusiasm that has ";renewed" for a quarter of a century now with many fans of this TV show, so let's all hope the Sci-Fi Channel hauls it out of reruns when the Logan's Run big screen remake hits theaters in 2003 - 2004. A fun show, it deserves a second look.
Episode titles included "The Collectors," "Capture," ;"The Innocent," "Man out of Time," ;"Half Life," "Crypt," "Fear Factor," "Judas Goat," "Futurepast," "The Visitors," "Turnabout" and "Stargate." Guest stars on Logan's Run included Jared Martin, Kim Cattrall, Mary Woronov, Barbara Babcock and Mariette Hartley. Writers included Harlan Ellison (Crypt) and a disguised David Gerrold (as Noah Ward...) for "Man out of Time."
(c)Copyright 2003, John Kenneth Muir
|Above: Five of John Kenneth Muir's recent releases, including (left to right:) An Askew View: The Films of Kevin Smith, Horror Films of the 1970s, The Films of John Carpenter,The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television and Eaten Alive at a Chainsaw Massacre: The Films of Tobe Hooper. Click on the cover to visit publisher web sites and order these books!|
|John Kenneth Muir is the author of a dozen books in the fields of science fiction and horror film and television. His first original novel, Space:1999-The Forsaken is being published by Powys Media in early 2003 (January 17). John's other titles include An Askew View: the Films of Kevin Smith, An Analytical Guide to TV's One Step Beyond, A Critical History of Dr. Who on TV, Terror Television, Horror Films of the 1970s and Wes Craven: The Art of Horror. John has written for magazines including Cinescape, Filmfax, Collectors News and Farscape: the Official Magazine. He has appeared on Sciography and Destinies: the Voice of Science Fiction. Visit him at his web site, or read his latest monthly column at Far Sector.|