Recently, I decided to watch and write haikus for the classic Space Ghost cartoon. I watched these original shows as reruns during my early childhood in the late 70s. Most of my memories of Space Ghost come from later, though. In 1980, Space Ghost returned to the airwaves with brand new episodes, featured in an hour long cartoon called “Space Stars”.
Space Stars was an anthology, with six different stories each week. Every Space Stars episode began with a Space Ghost cartoon, followed by a short with The Teen Force, a trio of new characters (more about them below). The well-known Herculoids returned with new episodes for the third segment. After the halfway point came Space Ace and the Space Mutts (one of which was Astro from the Jetsons). The finale was the highlight of each show, with two or three of the teams working together to save the universe. I loved Space Stars, and have many fond memories of watching it.
I purchased the Space Stars DVD a couple years ago, and it was great rewatching the show after nearly forty years. I had forgotten, but was enchanted to rediscover short segments between the longer story episodes. These bits were more educational in nature. “Space Magic” taught viewers a simple magic trick. “Space Fact” was essentially a science lesson taught by the heroes. In the first episode, for example, Space Ghost shares info about comets. A later segment, “Space Mystery”, presented viewers with a perplexing situation before a commercial break. When the answer was revealed, it was always related to the Space Fact. Hope you paid attention!
One of the strangest bits in Space Stars came halfway through the show, right after the Herculoids. Viewers were treated to a brief musical interlude. The trippy backgrounds appear to be early computer graphics, or at least special effects designed to LOOK like computer graphics. As these multicolored designs shimmered in the background, animation cells would pass across the screen. I suppose the heroes were supposed to be exploring space anomalies? These little bits are wonderful slices of the pop culture of the time. You can check one out below.
The latter half of each Space Stars hour was punctuated by “Space Code”. In these bits, one of the Space Stars presented a code to kids watching at home. Guessing the code gave you a clue to the grand finale of the episode. The codes were very simple but hey, at least you’re using your brain, right? These bits must have been included due to the increased focus on “education” in cartoons at that time. They remind me of the PSAs in G.I. Joe (“Knowing is half the battle!”) and the “moral of the day” in He-man.
Let’s move on from that “learning” stuff and get back to the cartoon characters! Space Ghost and the Herculoids are well-known now and were in 1980, as well. The other characters were brand new. The worst of these were Space Ace and the Space Mutts. This was a really bad cartoon, more slapstick and obviously “kiddie” than the other shows. Yeah, yeah, I know… they’re all intended for kids, but Space Ace is terrible. Poor Michael Bell, the voice of G.I. Joe’s Duke and my second-favorite Autobot, Prowl, was wasted in the role of Space Ace. (No relation to the Don Bluth arcade game, which is 1000% superior.)
The Teen Force was way better, though! They were a team of five, uh, teenagers. Well, technically, three teens and two adorable alien sidekicks of indeterminate age. The group hailed from another dimension, and travelled through a black hole to fight baddies in our universe. Their mode of transportation? Cool space motorcycles!
First up was Kid Comet. He had super speed, and could run fast enough to turn into a fireball! His powers were sort of a cross between the Flash and the Human Torch. Kid Comet looked like Fred from Scooby Doo with a cool orange spiked helmet. He was often seen in the company of Space Ghost’s sidekick Jan.
Elektra (no not that Elektra) was probably the most powerful member of The Teen Force. She could do everything Jean Grey could do, and then some: telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, whatever else the script needed. As a tradeoff to her great strength, using her powers took a physical toll on her, so she often got sweaty and weak and complained of headaches.
Moleculad was the last of the three teenagers, and had the sweetest name, by far. This fellow could control his body at the molecular level, which makes him sorta Mr. Fantastic with a tamed-down version of the Silver Surfer’s “power cosmic”. As with Elektra, his abilities were vague enough to let the writers get out of nearly any situation. Moleculad also had a bad pun for every situation. I love bad puns!
Plutem and Glax were strange alien sidekicks that followed the Teen Force everywhere. We are never given any background information on them, but they are definitely vaguely smurf-like. These two little dudes are quite fun, mostly because they were voiced by Michael Winslow using his trademark sound effects.
Teen Force’s primary antagonist was a nasty dude named Uglor! (I guess the writers used up all their creativity when naming Moleculad.) Uglor was a mutant from a planet of space-ape-creatures. His enhanced abilities allowed him to fly, shoot lasers, and whatever else you might expect a villain to do. He was featured in most Teen Force episodes, several of the finales, and a handful of Herculoids and Space Ghost shorts.
I enjoyed rediscovering Space Stars the first time. Having watched the series again immediately on the heels of the classic Space Ghost, I can confidently say that Space Stars is an inferior series in nearly every way. It’s still quite fun, and I love the Teen Force especially. Space Stars is definitely worth checking out for fans of 80s cartoons, but make sure you watch the original Space Ghost, too.