DVD Review: Space Sentinels: The Complete Series/Freedom Force: The Complete Series
Release Date: August 22, 2006
Distributor: Brentwood Home Video
· IMDb: Space Sentinels
by Paul Schultz
Published: December 23, 2006
American animation company Filmation has been a prolific creator of Saturday animated morning fare, from Blackstar
to Groovie Goolies, to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, just to name a few. From their vaults come a couple of obscure series packaged in a two-disc release verbosely titled Space Sentinels: The Complete Series & The Freedom Force: The Complete Series.
Space Sentinels began life as The Young Sentinels on Saturday mornings in the fall of 1977. After a couple of month, thoughs, the network didn't feel the title was fully capturing the essence of the show, and thus the change. The premise had a group of teenagers... well, why don't I just let the opening narration do the work for me:
Many centuries ago, three carefully selected young Earthlings were transported from their native lands to my faraway world.
Here they were granted astounding powers and eternal youth.
Then returned to Earth, their mission, to watch over the human race helping the good in it to survive and flourish.
In the course of history their names have become legend.
Hercules, empowered with the strength of a hundred men. Astraea, able to assume any living form.
Mercury, the amazing athlete who can match the speed of light.
Working together with me, Sentinel One and my maintenance robot Mo, these teenage guardians form the greatest team the world has ever known: the Space Sentinels.
Basically, if you're familiar with the Green Lantern Corps origins, you've got the gist of the story. These three super-powered youngsters were guided by a super computer called Sentinel One (George DiCenzo), who appeared as a huge holographic head when it wished to communicate. Their base of operations was a spaceship inside an extinct volcano, maintained by a maintenance operator droid called Mo (short for "Maintenance Operator" and voiced by an uncredited Lou Scheimer).
The group dynamics consisted of Astraea (Dee Timberlake, who appeared on several episodes of "The Bionic Woman") leading the group, since Hercules (DiCenzo) was a bit of an airhead, and Mercury (Evan C. Kim) the immature jokester. Besides providing comic relief, Mo had a
crush on Astraea, which caused him to act goofy, and display throbbing hearts where his "eyeballs" should be.
A day in the life of the Space Sentinels:
Mercury, Astraea and Hercules hangin' out
in their spaceship crib until the next exciting
adventures occurs... and always in costume.
Episodes were light on character development and meant to be viewed in any order. The pattern of their adventures would always consist of presenting some moral truth, an adversary showing up to violate that rule, then the team making it right after minimal struggle. In this universe, time travelers are always evil -- make a note of it.
The series opened with "Morpheus: The Sinister Sentinel", bearing
similarities again to Green Lantern in that a central villain was established
who was a member of the same enhancement program as Hercules, Astraea and Mercury, only he turned to evil -- a single sentinel who had the powers of all three. Among the giant robots, ancient Egyptian deities, sorceresses, and
uncontrollably growing alien plant spores, were highly derivative villains. For example, the title character in "Fauna" will be suspiciously reminiscent of Batman's Poison Ivy.
As with their live-action Ark II series, Space Sentinels was progressively multicultural for its time, with the multi-ethnic teenagers covering the African, Nordic, and Asian bases. The animation is typical Filmation, with its re-use of a lot of stock footage, and its too-loud music that came straight out of the Star
Trek animated series. The show only lasted 13 episodes, though the
character of Hercules would soon reappear.
The Freedom Force was an 11-minute segment of the 1978 show Tarzan and the Super 7. Hercules (here voiced by Bob Denison) joined legendary heroes Merlin (Michael Bell) the magician, Sinbad (Bell) the sailor, Egyptian goddess Isis (Diane Pershing), and armored giant Super Samurai (Bell, again). Isis was the leader, and was patterned after the live action version from a few years earlier. That show (The Secrets of Isis) featured mini-skirted hottie JoAnna Cameron and while the costuming here was similar, in animated form the effect wasn't quite the same.
The group was based out of desert environs called the Valley of Time, which might explain why sea-faring Sinbad only factored into two of the adventures. While Hercules was brought back for this show, he was
unable to fly independently as in Space Sentinels, needing instead to
rely on Pegasus the flying horse for transportation. There was the usual
assortment of magical bad guys and robots.
Because of its short running time, character development really took a hit on this series. In some respects, it's hard to believe that it only lasted for five installments. Why, at the impressionable age I originally watched them, I was going to name my future rock band "Freedom Force" because I thought the name was so cool. So, apparently, some things endure, even with limited output.
The packaging includes a six-panel foldout paper insert with descriptions and interesting trivia for each episode. Among the special features is "The Magic of Filmation", a fascinating half-hour documentary on the history of the company. Also of note is a short "Talent Test" pilot for a proposed The Young Sentinels live-action series. This thing is hilariously bad and
rightly never saw the light of day. It was cool, though, to see Evan Kim,
the voice of Mercury, in person, because I immediately recognized him as cameraman Tony from the V mini-series. There are interviews with the creators of both shows, and scripts are available in PDF format. Rounding out the features are image galleries for each show and an early presentation pilot which shows its original The Young Sentinels title sequence.
Space SentinelsDisc 1 - Side A
Morpheus: The Sinister Sentinel
The Time Traveler
The Return of Anubis
Disc 1 - Side B
The Wizard of Od
The Prime Sentinel
Voyage to the Inner World
Disc 2 - Side A
The Jupiter Spore
The World Ship
Image Gallery - 62 model sheets
Interview Feature - Lou Scheimer, Michael Reaves, Robert Kline, David Wise
Scripts - in PDF format
"Young Sentinels" Original Presentation
Live Action Audition
Disc 2 - Side B
The Dragon Riders
The Scarlet Samurai
The Planet Soldiers
The Magic of Filmation
Interviews with the Creators of Freedom Force - Lou Scheimer, Buzz Dixon, Darrell McNeil
Image Gallery - 16 model sheets
Scripts - in PDF format