Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Alien Entertrainment: Enter the Phoenix


  A reader dropped this link in a recent post and needless to say it blew my mind. This was a very short-lived show from 1982 starring Judson Scott, a face familiar to Star Trek, V and X-Files fans. 

The ancient astronaut angle was a bit late in the game, considering we were a year and change into Reagan's term. But the Machu Picchu opener is quite ahead of its time, as it would become a New Age hotspot just a few years later. 

 Believe it or not there's a Phoenix fansite. I found this there, taken from the series' bible:
DID SPACEMEN VISIT EARTH THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO? Erich von Daniken, author of "Chariots of the Gods" and "Gods from Outer Space" says we now have proof. The television special, "In Search of Ancient Astronauts" gave us a glimpse of some of the evidence von Daniken described with such fervor in his books. 
Scientists, from time to time in history, have been confronted by fantastic objects and archeological marvels which refuse to fit conventional theoretical molds. The question in their minds: Could these things have been the product of a superior intellect from another world? 
The world's sacred books are full of descriptions of gods who came down from the sky in fiery chariots and who always promised to return. An ancient Sanskrit text contains an account which can only be a journey in a spaceship, complete with a graphic description of the force of gravity. We find electric batteries many thousands of years old. 
We see depicted in ancient bas-reliefs, strange beings in perfect space suits with platinum fasteners. We are confronted by numbers with fifteen digits - something not registered by any modern-day computer. Archeology accepts such mysteries as puzzles. And stops cold.
Pretty impressive rundown of the basic AAT thesis, which may one day become a litany. So given all that, where does our hero fit in?
But landing here, these ancient astronauts, searching for intelligent life, discovered that we had not yet reached the point of our own development where they could help speed up the process. It was still not time to make such a move mutually beneficial. 
So they left behind them a watchman, a caretaker: BENNU. A superior being, like themselves, carefully hidden and suspended in a state of deathlike sleep who awaits the moment he would be awakened to complete his mission. WHY? 
To make certain that men on this planet would one day be ready for contact with the forms and species of life existing in galaxies of infinite disparity. The mission of this caretaker is to subtly influence Homo sapien toward the peaceful uses of outer space, and to help make this planet, with its multi-spectrum of problems, fall into its proper relation with the cosmic processes. 
Bennu is homo superior. In other words, he is one evolutionary step upward from man as we know him. He is a superior being, intellectually, emotionally and physically. He has supernormal faculties and abilities which only Tibetan monks, Yogis, Buddhist priests, and some futurists might begin to understand.
You see some hilariously obvious symbolism in the opening credits, though I'm quite certain the show itself would be the same inert and formulaic fodder that TV reduced every interesting genre concept to. 

But the "Bennu" name is only one indication that the producers were a bit more savvy than you'd might expect. The show's villain was named Aiwaz:
But it was also the corruption of this new science which led to the banishment of a man named Aiwaz. Long after the seeding of Bennu on Earth, a struggle for power had ensued between the Luciferian Aiwaz and the elders of the old and wise order. 
The elders recognized Aiwaz was creating discordant emotion and destructive passions that had been eliminated from their society long ago. He was introducing hatred, lust and fear through sound-discord into the physical bodies of those who disagreed with him, thereby lowering their tone and interfering with their normal functions. 
As opposed to the life-giving properties and warmth of the sun which is the symbol and energy source of Bennu, the moon is the source of occult power for Aiwaz. 
The moon rules over the hidden processes of nature, the hollow spaces of the earth, and the movements of all the fluidic elements within and upon the earth's surface.
Quite timely, given the lunar theme of recent posts here. I'm not sure if I'd have watched this show even if I'd been aware of it. I didn't watch much TV outside of Hill Street Blues back then, since I was locked into my punk rock social realism phase.

I wonder if the Religious Right complained about all of the New Age symbolism in it and forced it off the air. It wouldn't surprise me, given how they were on the warpath against pretty much everything back then.

 Either way, The Phoenix obviously made an impression on someone since there's not only a fan site but a generous selection of fan fiction.

The symbolism in The Phoenix credits reminded me of A Man Called Hawk, the Spenser: For Hire spinoff which starred Avery Brooks, whose next major role would be playing a character not entirely dissimilar to the Phoenix. We've talked about all of that before, but it bears repeating given how quietly ubiquitous AAT has become in nearly every major sci-fi franchise. Part of an ongoing disclosure/conditioning campaign? I'll have to get a hold of Bruce Rux and ask his opinion.

The Phoenix might have been the right show at the wrong time, like The Man from Atlantis. I'm not sure if that show delved into the AAT angle, but they probably would have gotten around to it. There was an Atlantis episode titled "The Hawk of Mu," just to keep it in the family. Speaking of keeping it in the family, don't forget that there's a tangential link between Atlantis and the Amy Bishop story, though maybe not as direct as the Dallas one.

The problem with all of these shows, however, is that the tired old Hollywood journeymen who worked on them didn't believe in what they were doing. Genre/sci-fi was seen as a ghetto for a very long time on TV, as you can tell by the appalling production values on all of these shows. 

The Secret of Isis was a perfect example; it was shot in the same bland, dusty neighborhoods every other show was done in with the same inertia and the same lack of conviction. They were always trying to force these concepts to conform to the stultifying norms of network TV, something that reached it's absolute nadir with the ridiculous Captain America TV movie.

I remember watching this through my fingers when I was a kid. I was a huge Captain America fan and this was like watching someone take a piss on my hero. Today I can look back and laugh, particularly at all of the stock riffs like the obligatory car chase on Route 1 in Big Sur, which passed for excitement back in the bad old days of genre TV. 

It's really no wonder superheroes were in such disrepute back then- the people putting them on TV obviously hated the genre. But maybe not so much the producers of The Phoenix

Definitely something I need to track down video of.