A world ruled by a powerful matriarchy has always been common in SF. Jody Wallace has an interesting article on this topic in the latest issue of SFR Quarterly. (full disclosure: I write reviews for SFRQ) An SF show in which women have the economic, political, and social upper hand could be an interesting exploration of power and gender. STAR MAIDENS was an attempt at the concept of gender ‘role reversal’ and a criticism of sexism, but unfortunately it’s buried under the silly.
STAR MAIDENS was first broadcast in 1976 as a collaboration between British ITV and a German company. Many of the sets were adapted from those used for Space:1999 due to budget constraints. The cast includes Judy Geeson and Lisa Harrow both who appeared in episodes of Space:1999; German actors Christiane Kruger and Christian Quadflieg and French actor Pierre Brice plays a lead character named Adam. And Gareth Thomas, once the title character of Roj Blake in Blake’s 7.
Even though the costumes and sets of shows like Blake’s 7 and Space:1999 look dated, both shows had some good episodes and intriguing ideas. STAR MAIDENS however…
It is very, very hard to take anything that happens in STAR MAIDENS seriously. The premise is that on a planet in another galaxy (1000 orbits away, wherever that is) on a planet called Medusa, is/was an intellectual, technologically society ‘dedicated to peace’ and dominated by women. A comet hits the planet, knocks it out of orbit, and the planet drifts around in space. In the meantime, the surface becomes cold and barren due to the comet and all, but deteriorates slowly enough so that the Medusans can rebuild their cities underground. Eventually, the little floating planet ends up in our galaxy and just sort of parks near Jupiter and hangs out.
This is all explained in an overly long voice over prologue complete with floating planets and ships going across the screen as if this somehow justifies all the nonsense science you are being subjected to.
Adam is a male domestic of Supreme Councillor Fulvia. There are a lot of supreme councillors and a president that all are apart of a ruling body that I could never figure out. There are also Medusan security forces who wear high heeled boots, hot pants, and helmets and subdue male domestics with a ‘vulcan death grip’ type of move.
All the men have hair dye jobs with stripes in the middle that make them look like skunks and shirts with triangular cut-outs in them, which I guess is to show off their hot bods…but this is 1976 so it’s just lots and lots of body hair peeping out.
Anyway, domestic Adam and domestic Shem decide to steal Supreme Councillor Fulvia’s ‘space yacht ‘and go to Earth where, as Adam declares, “men can live as men.” Shem is just the buddy along for the ride as far as I could tell. Using nonsense science they make a quick trip across the solar system to Earth, which kicks off the ‘battle of the sexes’ between two worlds. Shem and Adam end up hiding out on earth and some Earth scientists are taken hostage by the Medusans. The episodes are about the captives adjusting to the opposite culture; and whether or not Fulvia really loves Adam; and a machine that predicts the future; and a rebellion of domestics; and another set of aliens. None of this threads together or makes any kind of sense.
There are 13 half hour episodes. I made it through three, glanced at a few more and decided that was enough of my life spent on STAR MAIDENS. It has a groovy theme song. Apparently, it’s one of the first shows to refer to using a ‘microwave’ for cooking so it enters the journals of the obscure for that bit of trivia.
There is a special DVD release available. Have fun.
What say you SMART GIRLS readers? Know of any movies or shows which feature a matriarchy or gender role reversal theme done well?
7 thoughts on “SF OBSCURE: from files of best forgotten…STAR MAIDENS”
I’ve only seen female-dominated societies in individual Star Trek episodes (TNG and DS9), and they were not well done. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever seen where that was done effectively. Admittedly, it’s hard. You can’t just put the females in power and treat the males like subservient pawns. Real power is subtler than that. I should take a stab at a short story on this topic…
hi. thanks for commenting. Yes, I remember the DS9 and TNG episodes. Not terribly good. I know that Gene Roddenberry had a pilot episode produced of an SF show that was a female-dominated society. It seems to be a topic that hasn’t been tackled successfully in TV.
I do remember that the Cardassians on DS9 featured and episode in which the Cardassian scientists kept criticizing and putting down Miles O’Brien-an it turned out that on Cardassia men aren’t viewed as ‘fit’ for science and math. I think this was a more realistic view of how sexism works with the subtle put downs, and wielding of power.
OMG – Star Maidens sound too funny. Probably best watched with friends and libations.
Love this “All the men have hair dye jobs with stripes in the middle that make them look like skunks and shirts with triangular cut-outs in them, which I guess is to show off their hot bods…but this is 1976 so it’s just lots and lots of body hair peeping out.” I can totally see it!
And “There are also Medusan security forces who wear high heeled boots, hot pants, and helmets and subdue male domestics with a ‘vulcan death grip’ type of move.” Just can’t make that stuff up!
Thanks for another great post. I don’t any movies or TV that have done matriarchy well off the top of my head. The only thing that comes to mind even close would be the Wraith from Star Gate Atlantis. Did you ever read Dara Joy’s Ritual of Proof? I don’t think it’s available new anymore, but it’s one of my favorites. The premise is the planet was settled primarily by females and they modeled their society after what they’d read in regency romance novels with the rolls reversed.
STAR MAIDENS is definitely one of those bad movie night type of adventures. LOL. I had forgotten about the Wraith. I’m going off to order the Dara Joy book. I don’t know how I missed that. I see a few used copies available.
Years ago I read Melanie Rawn’s second series, starting off with The Ruins of Ambrai: http://www.amazon.com/Exiles-Ruins-Ambrai-Book-1/dp/B0027XW196/ , which had a matriarchal society. It did some interesting things, like men had to keep their hair covered for modesty. Love Rawn’s writing and the first 2 books were good but the series itself sort of fizzled due to I believe, the author becoming ill.
I used to watch this show and Space: 1999. Used come on Saturday afternoon in my neck of the States. Wow, time does fly. It was laughably cheesy but it hooked me in.
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