Friday, November 17, 2017

UFO Kidnapped

UFO Kidnapped
Geoffrey Darby

Back in early days of Nickelodeon, the cable channel had not yet clamped down on a particular formula for its programming.  At the time much of its output consisted mainly of imported shows and reruns. One of its early hits, and the show really defined Nickelodeon, was the Canadian sketch comedy show You Can’t Do That on Television. It was the first thing that was a bonafide hit for the channel. It was where Nickelodeon’s green slime fetish came from, which is still occasionally seen today over thirty years later. Nickelodeon also brought over some repackaged science fiction: The Tomorrow People, The Third Eye, and the TV movie/pilot for UFO Kidnapped, which was both an SF show, and from the creators of You Can’t Do That on Television. It seemed a surefire success, but it was never picked up as a series.

Sam Smythe (Les Lye) is a would-be burglar who is scooped up by a green ball of light emitted by a mysterious disc shaped craft. Nearby, two boys, Alasdair (Alasdair Gillis) and Kevin (Kevin Kubusheskie), along with their dog are transported away too. On board, the boys discover that they are the prisoners/pets of a couple of lumpy aliens called the Shandrillas. They also meet Klea (Klea Scott), a young woman in Victorian age dress who has been a guest of the aliens for some time. Together, along with Sam, a couple telepathic of mini-Wookies, and a horned devil-boy, they must find a way to elude their captors and get home.
The Assheadians of Altair VI
UFO Kidnapped is an SF adventure story that treats its young audience with respect. It throws out a number of concepts (aliens, black holes, time travel, parallel universes, rooms formed by thought, relativistic speeds, etc.) in a short amount of time and it expects the viewers to keep up. The children are bright without falling into the trap of making them wunderkinds. Sam is the only adult human of note in the whole show, and at first he’s bumbling and just a little dangerous, but he shows some nobility by the end which is more characterization than I expected.

UFO Kidnapped was a low budget television production from early 1980s, so the special effects are not astounding, but they are made with care. The models and the composite shotswork better than you can imagine from such a production. The alien make-up and costuming is actually good and a cut above some movies of the time. The Shandrillas look like the This Island Earth (1955) Mutant’s distant cousins. I had concerns that the Loolis (red-nosed hairy telepaths) were going to be cloyingly cute, but they are used sparingly enough to keep from becoming annoying.

"OK, that's close enough you smell like beef jerky on a wet carpet."
Why UFO Kidnapped was not picked up for series, I am not sure. It may have been too expensive a prospect for Nickelodeon. It has never been officially released, but there is a VHS sourced version available on YouTube. UFO Kidnapped is a weird footnote in children’s shows, SF, and Canadian productions. It’s definitely worth 51 minutes of your time.

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