1 9 7 6 (UK/West Germany)
13 x 60 minute episodes
Star Maidens was an Anglo-German co-production, shot on 16mm film at Bray Studios in England with a budget of £50,000 an episode. Though basically a space-bound soap opera, it did provide some interesting science-fiction concepts.
The series introduced the planet of Medusa where the female of the species reigned supreme (and were all drop-dead gorgeous in very revealing uniforms) while the males took care of domestic chores, nursery duties and other menial tasks.
When Medusa entered the orbit of planet Earth, and word got around that it was a planet ruled almost entirely by men, two of the most rebellious Medusan menservants managed to escape.
The first four episodes dealt with the arrival on Earth of the two rebels, Adam (Pierre Brice) and Shem (Gareth Thomas of Blakes 7) and their constant endeavours to remain.
In subsequent episodes the action alternated between the two planets, resulting in each episode having a self-contained storyline within the series.
After narrowly avoiding being killed when they crash-landed on Earth, the two renegade males appealed to the authorities to allow them asylum from the pursuing women – but onboard the Medusan ship Nemesis, Chief Security Controller Octavia (German actress Christiane Kruger, daughter of movie star Hardy) and Adam’s mistress – and lover – Grand Councillor Fulvia (Judy Geeson) were already heading for Earth.
Fulvia wanted the return of her runaway servant (who she treated more like a pet) and it wasn’t long before aggressive super-bitch Octavia was ordering several Earth police officers about, expecting them to react like the men on her home planet.
Meanwhile, after trying to communicate with a herd of cows, (and following their lead by eating grass) Adam and Shem found their way to a large castle where they sought refuge.
Unable to resist their curiosity, Earthling Doctor Rudi Schmidt (Christian Quadflieg) and Liz Becker (New Zealand-born Lisa Harrow) from the Astronomical Institute explored inside the unattended Nemesis.
Rudi accidentally triggered a device which blinded him, and the panic-stricken Liz turned to the craft’s occupants for help upon their return. They activated a medical droid who performed a brief operation and a much relieved Rudi made a perfect recovery.
Octavia then piloted the ship to the castle where she had tracked Adam and Shem and activated something called the ‘Nightmare Cannon’ – a weapon that feeds upon a person’s fear – forcing both men outside to plead for mercy.
Unfortunately, before Nemesis could land it was struck by lightning and damaged, and had to return to space for repairs.
Octavia kidnapped the two scientists in the hope of arranging an exchange for Adam and Shem – much to the annoyance of Professor Evans (Derek Farr) on Earth, who was enjoying picking the alien’s brains in his quest for more knowledge.
Meanwhile, Fulvia was drugged with champagne and kidnapped by a foreign power – including enemy agent Dr Gregori (Terence Alexander) – who wanted the secrets of Medusa’s advanced technology, while up on Medusa, Dr Rudi Schmidt crossed swords with Octavia and was tried by a jury of computers and sent onto the barren surface of the planet to join a work detail.
While here, Schmidt organised a breakout and destroyed the hovering patrol vehicle by reflecting its own ray back against it with a mirror.
The escape bid was foiled by President Clara (Dawn Addams), whose pleas worked on the dumb male escapees as their conditioning caused them to obey the women’s orders and open the hatch to admit the red-helmeted female security guards with paraguns – a ray gun that causes temporary paralysis.
Octavia meanwhile ordered Liz Becker to be attached to a bizarre machine called the sexometer, which worked on the mind – On a large video screen we saw a muscle-bound, macho, blonde guy, but Liz rebelled and the image changed into a hideous snake.
Octavia boosted the power and restored the hunk until Liz changed it again by sheer willpower. Over and over again it changed back and forth from man to beast until the machine blew a circuit – Shades of Barbarella . . .
Down on Earth, Adam rescued Fulvia and the pair decided to try and live together as man and wife (but in reverse, with her working for the British government and him staying at home to do the housework), but Adam tired of Fulvia’s jealousy and called it a day.
Packing his bags and leaving her, he rescued the weak-willed Shem who had been dominated by two women’s libbers and forced to show them how to use a paragun (most of this sequence was shot on a Barratt housing estate – a sign that the budget was running out).
Back on Planet Chicks-R-Us, Rudi worked out that the rain was disintegrating Medusa’s crust and it was only a matter of time before all the Medusans were killed.
Toxic waste dumped on the surface of Medusa by the government had created chemical deposits that were eating through the crust of the planet. Rudi ultimately had a dangerous atmospheric processor system shut down and saved the day.
In the end, Rudi and Liz were returned to Earth in exchange for Adam and Shem. On the way home, Adam shot down an age-old enemy of the Medusans and saved Octavia’s life. Reluctantly she voiced her gratitude to the MAN who saved her.
The chief filming location was the head office of grocery chain MacFisheries in Bracknell, doubling as the Institute of Radio Astronomy, with other occasional settings including Black Park, Windsor Police Station, Eton High Street, Cookham Weir, Shoppenhangers Manor hotel in Bray and Cambridge University’s Mullard Observatory.
The Nightmare Cannon provided the crew’s furthest sortie to Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire.
If Medusa looked in many ways like a discarded Space: 1999 set, this is because the production designer was Keith Wilson who worked on both seasons of the Gerry Anderson series.
Wilson designed a stunning two-level city centre of futuristic walkways at Bray, with side sets covering Medusan spaces such as the President’s court, laboratories, the males’ dorm and Fulvia’s quarters.
Star Maidens shared Space: 1999’s mid-70s Habitat-inspired vision of futuristic design, Wilson reproducing Moonbase Alpha’s predominant look of banks of black rack wall computers in white frames, while again fashionable futurist designer furniture dressed the Medusan sets, using plastic chairs, tables and lighting from iGuzzini and Artemide.
At first glance, the model sets looked quite impressive, but on closer inspection, it was revealed that they were made of everyday items. Take for instance the model of the Medusan city; It was built out of everyday objects like table tennis balls, plastic straws and cotton reels. Unfortunately, it was also obvious that a part of this futuristic engineering feat was nothing more than an egg box!.
The German-language version of Star Maidens, titled Die Mädchen aus dem Weltraum (“The Women From Space”) aired in Friday primetime during April-June 1977 with German voice artists post-dubbing all characters.
Several lead characters changed names so that Fulvia became Brisba, Octavia changed to Ossrawa, Adam to Akam, Shem to Schemm and Clara to Ela. Curiously, the German-sounding Liz Becker and Rudi Schmidt were Anglicised to Liz Barry and Richard Smith.
Healthy global sales to over 40 territories included Austria, Australia, numerous Arab states, Hungary, Switzerland and, contentiously, South Africa. Canada showed French language dub Les Filles du Ciel (“Girls of the Skies”), while a Dutch language dub Vrouwenplanet Medusa (“Medusa, the Planet of Women”) aired in the Netherlands.
Respectable US syndication sales included Saturday evening broadcasts on New York’s WNEW-TV in 1978.
Grand Councillor Fulvia
Security Controller Octavia
Dr Rudi Schmidt
Escape to Paradise | Nemesis | Nightmare Cannon | The Proton Storm | Kidnap | The Trial | Test for Love | The Perfect Couple | What Have They Done to the Rain? | The End of Time | Hideout | Creatures of the Mind | The Enemy