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Sunday, May 01, 2016

Logan's Very Brief Run

Thanks to the miracle of cheap DVDs, I can now lay claim to having seen every episode of the short-lived Logan's Run, the television series that followed in the wake of the successful 1976 movie.

As in the film, the basic premise is simple: after a nuclear holocaust, a society arises in which humans live in luxury until age 30, at which time they endure the ritual of Carousel in the hopes of finding Renewal, or rebirth. Of course it's all a sham, and Carousel is simply an execution. Some citizens realize this, and become Runners, looking for Sanctuary. Sandmen are the state's policemen, charged with executing all Runners.

Logan 5, a Sandman, has doubts, and those doubts are fed by Jessica 6, a member of the underground helping Runners escape the city. Logan decides to run, and he and Jessica set out for Sanctuary, pursued by Francis 7.

The fundamental details of the movie and the television series pilot are the same, though all roles are recast and the television series replaces the computer overseer of the film with a group of old men who run things behind the scenes. In the series, Francis 7 is charged not with killing Logan and Jessica, but with bringing them back to the City of Domes so they can repent. The old rulers promise Francis 7 renewal if he can do so.

Once they escape from the City of Domes, with Francis and his Sandmen in pursuit, Logan and Jessica find a solar-powered car and the android Rem, who accompanies them on their trek across the blasted wastelands of the former United States of America.

The series premise is solid, and a couple of decent episodes hint that the show could have achieved greatness, given enough time and budget. In one episode, "Man Out of Time," a scientist time-travels into the future to see if it's possible to avoid the nuclear war that's imminent in his time. He discovers it's not, and that inventing time travel actually triggered the war in the first place - a nice twist. On top of that, the episode gives the audience a glimpse of post-1970s, pre-war Earth, giving the series a richer backstory and a sense of what's been lost.

In the next-best episode, "The Crypt," Logan, Jessica and Rem discover an underground nuclear shelter in the middle of a ruined city. At the shelter's entrance, a recorded message explains the vault below contains six of humanity's greatest scientists, people who could help raise humanity from the ashes. But they were infected by plague, and had to be frozen. Luckily, a cure was invented just after they were put into suspended animation, and all Logan, Jessica and Rem have to do is awake the frozen humans and administer the cure.

Unfortunately, an accident ruins half the doses, leaving the protagonists with an interesting moral dilemma: which of the six should be saved, and which must die?

Sadly, most of the other episodes don't have nearly as much ambition, and the series sputtered to a halt after only 14 episodes. It's too bad; there are glimpses of something special here. 

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