Otherworld (TV series)

Last updated
Otherworld
Otherworld TV series.png
Genre Science fiction
Written by
Directed by
Starring
Theme music composer Sylvester Levay
Opening theme"Otherworld"
Composer(s)
  • Sylvester Levay
  • Jim Roberts
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes8 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Roderick Taylor
Producer(s) Lew Hunter
CinematographyBradford May
Editor(s)
  • David Blum
  • Diane Rothberg
Running time48 minutes
Production company(s) Universal Television
Distributor CBS Television Distribution
Release
Original network CBS
Original releaseJanuary 26 (1985-01-26) 
March 16, 1985 (1985-03-16)

Otherworld is an American science fiction television series that aired for eight episodes from January 26 to March 16, 1985 on CBS. It was created by Roderick Taylor as a sort of Lost in Space on Earth. Taylor gave himself a cameo role in each episode. The series was later shown in reruns on the Sci Fi Channel.

Contents

Series overview

In the first episode, the Sterling family (Hal, June, Trace, Gina, Smith) take a tour of the interior of the Great Pyramid of Giza at the same time as a once-in-ten-thousand-years conjunction of the planets. Inside, they are abandoned by their guide, and as they try to get out, they are mysteriously transported to another planet which may or may not be in a parallel universe.

On this other planet (called 'Thel'), which is inhabited by humans, there are no familiar countries or states. The area they are in is divided up into self-contained "Zones," each with a wildly different style of government and way of life, although the province of "Imar" (ruled by a Praetor) appears to be the central seat of government for this entire Earth. Most of Thel's history is not revealed, although the pilot episode contains references to 'territories', android creators, and 'wars of unification'. It is thus unknown whether Thel is an alternate universe version of Earth, or another planet entirely.

Travel between Zones is so strictly regulated to the point that no one can travel outside their home zone province (save for the Zone troopers), and all maps have been banned by the state. Thus, the inhabitants of each zone know absolutely nothing about life in other areas. The family could not know about the travel ban, and approach a soldier (the first Thel native they met) in all innocence, seeking help, while the soldier - Kommander Nuveen Kroll, reputed to be the worst, and most ill-tempered of all Zone Troopers - views them as lawbreakers and treats them as such. When Hal insists they need help, Kroll attempts to arrest them and gets rough with Smith, the youngest of the Sterling sons. The Sterlings resist and, in the struggle, Kroll's sidearm weapon goes off, and the ricocheting laserblast renders Kroll unconscious. The Sterlings take his access crystal, (which is possessed only by Zone Trooper officers, and which gives them security access to state-controlled equipment and information data banks) his vehicle, and his sidearm and drive away. For the rest of the series, Kroll is resolute in his attempts to recover his crystal, capture the Sterlings (whom, in a report to his superior, he would later regard as a band of "armed terrorists") and subject them to severe punishment.

The Sterling family's first night in Thel is spent in a province called Sarlax. This province is an ages old mining colony where sophisticated androids labor at mining a radioactive mineral named "Sarlax". The mineral is just radioactive enough to make humans sick which necessitates the android labor force. The androids are sophisticated enough to have created a culture of their own and are related to the once ancient robots that ruled Thel in the past. It is here that a friendly android couple gives the Sterlings a historical book called "The Book of Imar" which chronicles the history of not just the planet but the androids and the culture of Thel.

The Church of Artificial Intelligence is the official state religion of Thel, and no conflicting ideologies are permitted. Very few actual details about this religion are known, except that it appears to be centered on the worship of robots, computers and cybernetic technology (adherents are, in one episode, said to use "Worship Modules" which are electronic in nature). There is mention in the first episode of a race of humans that created primitive robots and then died out. Eventually the robots evolved themselves through continued upgrades and modifications until they created what is known as a plasmoid being: an android that was a biomechanical equivalent of a true human in almost every aspect. These plasmoids were so in love with their creators that they even built in lifespans into their being so that they would be able to emulate death much like their onetime human masters. Eventually they began the process of recreating humans by a process that is not explained but once again Thel was populated by a majority of human lifeforms.

A series of Egyptian-like stone markers (Obelisks), each with one eye, are supposed to mark the way to Imar, a city with beautiful buildings and a suspension bridge (the city shown in the opening credits, apparently intended to be Imar, is a photographic negative of New York City).

Each episode has the family dealing with the bizarre ways of life in each "Zone," and at the end of the episode, fleeing one Zone for another, pursued by Commander Kroll (Jonathan Banks) and his Zone Troopers. Kroll is intent on revenge, given that the Sterlings stole his high security access crystal, acquired during their disastrous encounter in the first episode.

Contact with Earth was evident by several references to Earth history:

Technology in Otherworld

Though Thel had many similarities to Earth of the 1980s, there was quite a bit of advanced technology displayed throughout the series. First, a state religion was the unifying ideology of the land. The Church of Artificial Intelligence, a rigid, computer based ideology without equal, the church wields powers of censorship, worship and could even put people to death in cases of heresy. The Church of Artificial Intelligence, however, may be just a means for the government to add one more measure of control to the everyday lives of the peoples of Thel.

Computational machines were advanced enough in Thel that certain facilities were maintained and monitored by artificial intelligences that substituted for human control when humans were busy with other concerns. For example, the Sarlicon brain was an ancient but artificially intelligent computer tasked with the safekeeping of the memories of the android population of Sarlax. The computer was subject to humans with high level access crystal keys but could defend itself from human attempts to circumvent the machine's operations. In Thel there also existed robot technology that allowed android design including androids so advanced they were indistinguishable from flesh and blood humans. These advanced androids are known as "Plasmoids" and they occupy the province of Sarlax serving as miners that can tolerate the minerals' radiation.

Access crystals were the method of securing high level databanks, travel, power sources and other high security areas of Thel. The crystal was basically a faceted glass appliance, several centimeters long, purplish in color, with a series of electronic chips and components inside. They are individually numbered and have the "mark of Imar" engraved on the bottom. Though not fully discussed in the series, it might have operated by being optically read or perhaps the electronics were of an RFID type. The crystal was read by a reader that simply allowed insertion of the crystal less than halfway into its interface shaft. A light would illuminate the crystal as it was being accessed and most readers were shown tied to computer terminals but in some cases they were freestanding units not unlike keyholes and used to secure doors. It was mentioned in the pilot that Kroll possessed a "class 1" access crystal, which is possibly the highest access class. What the lower class crystals' abilities were was never revealed.

It was mentioned in the episode "Metraplex" that advanced electronic entertainments known as "wave games" and "gratification intensifiers" existed. How these devices functioned was never revealed but it was also mentioned in the same episode that the province also produced "particle beam" weaponry had access to a "disintegration chamber" and subjugated an entire underclass population with "Vibratory Behavior Modification Modules". In another episode, weapons called "electrum bolts" are mentioned; they are supposedly deadly and exotic in what they do to living tissue.

The state soldiers, the Zone Troopers, are armed with a sidearm known as a "bioruptor". Bioruptors are sleek, black tubes with a rear-facing pistol grip at the butt end and are held with the barrel flipped from a natural pistol fashion with the trigger on top of the pistol grip. A single switch on the side of the bioruptor barrel serves as a "safety" to prevent accidental discharge. Though the devices could be quite deadly in the right hands, the weapons were capable of being adjusted from a light stun to a kill setting. The weapon's bright blue laser-like beams were said to affect the heart so they could be an electrical discharge type of weapon.

There also exists in Thel the ability for rudimentary holographic video which is used not only as entertainment but for education and telepresence communications. In the pilot episode we see a vehicle that sounds and looks like a hovercraft of some kind, however there also exists combustion engine technology as seen in the episode "Village of the Motor Pigs". Though it is suggested in the episode "Rock and Roll Suicide" that wind-powered turbines may exist (the father designed windmill blades) there is probably more than one source of energy available to the various provinces of Thel. In addition to these, we also were shown advanced biological research that could stop the aging process as well as weather control and shielding that can protect from laser storms.

Cast

Episodes

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Rules of Attraction"William A. GrahamRoderick TaylorJanuary 26, 1985 (1985-01-26)
In the Sarlex province, underground mines are used to produce a material needed for industrial purposes. Since humans cannot tolerate the radiation for long, robots were built to do the mining. The robots improved themselves until they were virtually indistinguishable from humans, with human-like appearance, behavior, a sense of humor, and aspirations. However, they are still a subject people, and the Imar authority and the zone troopers can perform "memory audits" to discover information needed for investigations. The Sarlex android people protest it as a violation of their rights. When the Sterling family arrives in this province, problems and a struggle for freedom ensue.
2"The Zone Troopers Build Men"Richard ComptonTeleplay by: Coleman Luck
Story by: Roderick Taylor & Bruce A. Taylor
February 2, 1985 (1985-02-02)
Low marks in school can lead to being drafted... for life... into the Zone Troopers. Troopers (other than officers) cannot resign, do not get leave for any reason, and are the only ones who may operate between zones. Cmdr. Kroll is guest speaker at the graduation, and administers the oath to the top three cadets who become officers... including Trace. However, the graduation ceremonies are VERY demanding, and call for extreme measures, including murder. Guest stars Mark Lenard as Perel Sightings, the camp commandant; Brian Thompson and Robert O'Reilly as drill instructors.
3"Paradise Lost"Tom WrightTeleplay by: Josef Anderson
Story by: Roderick Taylor & Bruce A. Taylor
February 9, 1985 (1985-02-09)
One region of the planet of Thel exhibits the odd phenomena of laser storms: laser bolts shooting from the clouds just like falling rain. These laser storms, in fact, guard an island that appears to be a luxurious resort, but actually is a scientific research facility that has been built upon the old site of an military experiments base. Now, at this new resort, doctors are researching the attainment of immortality. Their research, however, exacts an extreme price from the resort's guests.
4"Rock and Roll Suicide"Roderick TaylorRoderick Taylor & Bruce A. TaylorFebruary 16, 1985 (1985-02-16)
In the Centrex province, Trace and Gina introduce rock 'n' roll music, and record songs written by the Beatles and other classic artists. The music has an emotional impact that takes the province by storm; creating fans and foes. The Church of Artificial Intelligence - intolerant towards any dissenting ideologies - angrily protests the idol worship of Trace and Gina, whom the church views as subversives undermining their control, and sends both their officials and the Zone Troopers. Cmdr. Kroll is sent to deal with the problem, and he likes the music! – then he recognizes the two singers.
5"Village of the Motorpigs" Paul Michael Glaser Roderick Taylor & Bruce A. TaylorFebruary 23, 1985 (1985-02-23)
A raid by a camp of Thel-style hippies rescues the Sterlings from the zone troopers, but puts them at the mercy of the camp's leader, who intends to break up the family. Cmdr. Kroll is investigating the assault on a group of zone troopers, and arrives just a bit too late.
6"I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar"Tom WrightTeleplay by: Bruce A. Taylor & Coleman Luck
Story by: Roderick Taylor & Bruce A. Taylor & Coleman Luck
March 2, 1985 (1985-03-02)
This episode features a province where "Women's lib" is taken to extremes and men are second-class citizens. Angered by Hal's independent presumption at speaking within her abode and thus suspicious of the Sterling family, the neighborhood "block warden" pokes around the apartment she rented to the Sterling's and finds Kroll's access crystal. When word gets to Imar, Nuveen Kroll comes, but his authoritative and chauvinistic attitudes get him into trouble! Hal Sterling is dumbfounded when a local employment office routinely gives him increasingly "advanced" yet very simple reading assignments, and is shockingly amazed at how intelligent he is in being capable of reading! Hal is then issued a job selling "Vorpleware". When June and Smith go to the supermarket, they find that the automatic IR door sensor forbids entry by females but only admits males. Men in this zone are forcibly and stringently relegated to all manner of societal chores and duties that - in the Sterling's world - are expected of women. However, men are expected to do these things to the point of being meek and facing severe discipline. Also, meat purchased from the supermarket has no different varieties, such as pork, veal, steak, chicken or even a species of fish - it all comes in a drab gray can and looks like drab gray pulp. Finally, Trace gets into trouble by baring his naked upper torso on a hot day while preparing a barbecue grill out in public. (This is his second offense – first was walking into a school gymnasium area reserved only for women.) He is arrested and, like Kroll, is placed on the province's male slave public auction block. A kindly married couple saves Trace from an obnoxious buyer by buying him publicly and secretly releasing him back to his family. The couple remarks that they remember a time when relations between men and women used to be different. This could be a memory of a time in Thel's history, perhaps before the Unification Wars. One hilarious point of interest in this episode is watching Nuveen Kroll puff up his chest after he glances at the physiques of the other, more well-built auction slaves. Thel's (or, at least, this province's) equivalent of Tupperware is "Vorpleware"; the expression, "As snug as a bug in a rug" is also known on Thel. The house they stay in while filming this episode is the Innes House (Hallowell House from Charmed) and most residential filming was done on Carroll Avenue.
7"Mansion of the Beast"Corey AllenTeleplay by: Roderick Taylor & Coleman Luck
Story by: Roderick Taylor & Coleman Luck & Bruce A. Taylor
March 9, 1985 (1985-03-09)
The Sterlings pass through lands claimed by a mutated human, a "beast", who lets them go only as long as June stays to be his companion. Hal and the children meet a man who tells them about the "beast"... his brother, mutated by a combination of space exploration and experiments that carried him into areas of knowledge and experience beyond mans's understanding. The result is that Virago know possesses knowledge, super-human powers, telepathy and an inhuman, leonine yet beast-like appearance. Steadily, however, Virago's human personality is diminishing as his powers and mutation increases. He is also terribly lonely as he doesn't know the way back to his humanity and June's kindness towards an Owl in his forest kindles feeling within him of the love that he lost after mutating. He once attempted a takeover of Imar and was banished to the outer forest regions where the Sterling's encounter him. The planet Thel exhibits yet another odd phenomenon: a falling piece of glowing space rock which can be forged into a mystically-powered substance capable of destroying the beast. Guest stars Alan Feinstein as Virago and John Astin as Akin.
8"Princess Metra" Peter Medak Teleplay by: Douglas Lloyd McIntosh
Story by: Roderick Taylor & Bruce A. Taylor
March 16, 1985 (1985-03-16)
In the final episode, Gina is believed to be the long-lost princess Metra in a province where one of the royal household's icons is a 200-year-old John F. Kennedy half-dollar. Gina accepts the post, and the Sterling family discovers a group of power-holders who don't want to give up their control, as well as "rebels" who are sick of being controlled. After stopping a potentially murderous coup, the Sterlings introduce the principles of democracy to the province. The Kennedy half-dollar's age makes the Sterlings wonder what year it will be if they ever get home – time appears to pass at a different rate between the respective universes of Earth and Thel. Guest star: Carolyn Seymour as the Prime Manager.

Syndication

The series was rerun on the USA Network, and re-shown several times on the Sci-Fi Channel. Otherworld was aired in the United Kingdom on the ITV network, except in the Thames/LWT region.

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