Space Mutiny (1988) (part 3 of 7)


And now we meet our last main character, MacPhearson, played by small-time martial arts actor James Ryan. Ryan, as we’ll soon see, is an unabashed ham. Just by himself, he makes me glad I bought the uncut movie, because a lot of his most enjoyable moments were cut from the MST3k version. And by “enjoyable”, I mean, “would be irritating in most other contexts, but actually improves this movie”.

MacPhearson is Kalgan’s right hand man, and the two of them gloat about all the residual damage their little act of sabotage inflicted. MacPhearson happily (and dramatically!) notes that no one’s getting on or off the ship for two weeks as a result.

Kalgan responds with a big speech that reveals his entire motivation.

Kalgan: Excellent. They no longer have a choice! [maniacal laugh] It was cruel fate to be born in space. But I have vowed we will not die here. It is my destiny to set my feet upon a real world, to accumulate wealth and power beyond our wildest dreams! [maniacal laugh] I have offered the people of the Southern Sun a rich, new life. And now, they have no alternative but to accept my generosity, and alter course for Corona Borealis! [maniacal laugh]

Not to belabor the point, but if all he wants is to “set [his] feet upon a real world”, along with all the decadent capitalistic benefits that come along with that, what’s stopping him? Apart from the fact that he just blew up the exits and they’re all trapped aboard for two weeks.

Speaking of which, how does this act of sabotage force the ship to “alter course” for anywhere? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way, so you don’t have to think of an answer. The movie sure won’t.

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Meanwhile, Captain Useless and Lt. Lemont discuss the impact of the sabotage. It seems they’ll have to reduce speed by two-thirds. Notice they don’t talk about “changing course” in any way, direct or implied. Maybe Kalgan’s thought is that if they slow down enough, a “real world” will catch up with them, or something. I don’t know.

Against a shot of Galac—oh, alright, “the Southern Sun”, we hear someone say, “We’ve been in space too long!” Hey, someone’s figured out why everyone on this ship is acting like idiots!

Caption contributed by Kevin

The McLaughlin Group just isn’t what it used to be.

Cut to five men seated at a rectangular table, with MacPhearson standing at the head of the table. The guy at MacPhearson’s right suggests they land the ship, adding for emphasis that this is something they can actually do. So… if they can land the whole Southern Sun somewhere, there’s no reason why they couldn’t open up the doors and let off anyone who… oh forget it.

MacPhearson steps in, backing up the guy’s assertion that landing the ship is possible. “But,” he adds, “this would directly oppose the Law of the Universe, the Law of the Galaxy!” The what and the which now?

Actually, what I think they’ve come up with here is their own version of the Universal (pardon the expression) Plot Hole Excuse. Consider this unspoken (but implicit) line of dialogue from a marginally better film:

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Well, as long as I’m leaving Anakin to die here anyway, I could finish the job and cut off his head, just to make completely sure he can’t be miraculously rescued and come back to make trouble for everyone over the course of three more movies. But this would directly oppose the Law of the Universe! The Law of the Galaxy!

Or, the Jedi way. Same thing.

Getting back on track, the First Guy wants to tell the Law of the Galaxy where to stick it, but every party has its pooper. In this case, it’s another guy named Engineer Pooper—I mean, Engineer Parsons. He whines that they have to uphold the Law, whereupon James Ryan takes scenery chewing to a whole new level as he notes the dissent.

Parsons, still unhappy, declares, “This is mutiny! This is treason! Which I warn you I must report!”

Now, you might think that’s the most colossally stupid thing a person could say under the circumstances, but we’re not done yet. MacPhearson, leaning in sideways with such draw that the whole room practically tilts with him, intones to the others:

MacPhearson: Willlll youuuu… allowwww hiiiiiiim… to spoooooooil… your am-bitions for a greater future???

I think you had them at the lean-in, Mac. Shatner‘s got nothing on you! Other than more money than he can count, and the adoration of millions. But hey, I’m starting to like you. Sort of.

First Guy grabs Parsons, and the whole group drags him onto the table, which promptly collapses. That actually seemed to be planned, because it gives MacPhearson the opportunity to administer the killing blows to Parsons, which come in the form of a couple of (dramatic!) stabs with his cane.

After he’s dead, MacPhearson dismisses the group, letting First Guy know he will be “rewarded” for his actions here. By which I think he means, he gets to take the rest of the movie off, because we never see him again. I’m also pretty sure we never see anyone from this scene again, save MacPhearson.

Back to the bridge. David Ryder enters and greets Captain Useless, and shortly thereafter, he also greets Commander Adam-Not. It looks like this is the first time they’ve met. Wait, if Ryder’s never been on the Southern Sun before, then where exactly did he come from? And why don’t Kalgan’s men just go there?

Captain Useless obtains Ryder’s “space status” card, and—oh geez—he sticks it partway into a 5 1/4″ floppy drive of a nearby IBM PC. Incidentally, the computer display proceeds to spell Dave’s last name as “Rider”, even though it’s “Ryder” in the credits.

Caption contributed by Kevin

“Now, where’s the ‘any’ key, again?”

The three of them stroll over to Lt. Lemont’s desk. Here, they watch a “video” (read: wire graphic representation) of the shuttle crash.

And then it’s back over to check on the Bellerians again. They’ve set themselves up pretty well, considering. They have a bunch of plasma lamps (AKA those electric glass balls they sell at Spencer’s Gifts) set up all over the place. Why yes, this was filmed in the ’80s! How did you know?

Caption contributed by Kevin

It could be worse. Five years ago, they were dancing around Rubik’s Cubes.

The Bellerians are now dancing all around these plasma lamps. Yes, dancing. And if the intercuts are to be believed, the Bellerians are somehow injecting themselves into the dreams of some of the officers. Not that they probably mind, given what we’ll soon see passes for entertainment on this ship.

This winds up inspiring one officer to pay the Bellerians a personal visit. Unfortunately, his intentions are quickly scuttled when a man in a white uniform, whom I’ll call Admiral Cockblock, steps in and tells the officer that the Bellerians are “off limits”.

Back to the bridge, where they’re still mulling over the crash. They extol the virtues of the “high-density de-atomizer escape system” that saved Ryder’s ass, in a way that darkly hints at a sequel featuring an improved version of it. Unfortunately for the dear departed Professor, there’s only one to a ship. Or perhaps fortunately, since it means he never had to appear in this movie.

Lea shows up, and Captain Useless and Adam-Not very properly start chewing her out for her boneheaded actions at the crash site. Lea, all defensive, tries to blame everything on “the pilot”. Lea… meet the pilot. Awk-ward!

Or at least it would be, for someone who has some semblance of tact, which Lea does not. After Lea basically takes offense at the fact the Ryder is still alive, Ryder stands up for himself in this exchange:

Ryder: Listen, lady…
Lea: [interrupting] Doctor!
Ryder: [unfazed] Doctor…


…I have no words. Apart from my earlier reference to the B Ark. It’s the only way to explain how the standards for getting a doctorate could have sunk this low. And that’s not even getting into how massively pretentious it is for someone with a doctorate to expect total strangers to automatically address them by title.

But this scene at least has a satisfying ending. Ryder reiterates the facts, and when they finally start to sink in with Lea, he storms off, leaving Lea with no sympathy from anyone.

Over on the Enforcer’s Bridge, Kalgan is making eyes with a woman whom I shall call Nameless Floozy. Another woman interrupts to hand him a report, which is apparently an inventory of all the explosives under his control.

Cut suddenly to the catwalks above the factory floor, where another wiry engineer—this time, the bespectacled and mulleted Engineer Steve Codell—is walking anxiously. He’s holding some kind of report, which I guess is a copy of the same report from the last scene. Surreptitiously, he picks up a phone (a phone? On a spaceship?) and asks for a connection to the bridge. Unluckily for him, Kalgan’s bodyguard is monitoring for just this kind of activity, and he immediately alerts his boss.

Caption contributed by Kevin

A young Janet Reno in a surprise cameo.

Codell proceeds to have a rather strange conversation with his contact on the bridge, who just so happens to be Lt. Lemont. Why is this conversation so strange? Well, for starters, Lt. Lemont carefully enunciates her name and title, for the benefit of anyone who might be listening in. Also, we see her face on a monitor, except there’s no monitor anywhere in Codell’s vicinity.

Furthermore, Codell’s first words sound like they’re from the middle of a conversation. When I saw this on MST3k, I suspected this was one of the cuts they made, and that the first part of the conversation was edited out. Alas, the actual movie is like this.

As Kalgan and Company listen in, Codell blabs about all the detective work he did, trying to discover the identity of whoever misappropriated a large amount of explosives. Of course, he neglects to say the name of that person. Given that, I’ll bet you can pretty easily guess what’s in store for our engineer friend.

Lt. Lemont instructs Codell to report to the bridge in person with his findings, and again carefully pronounces her name, just to make sure everyone got it.

Engineer Codell continues along the catwalk when, surprise! He encounters a couple of armed Masked Goons, which are this movie’s equivalent of Stormtroopers. Codell attempts to flee, but eventually runs smack into a maniacal laugh. Sure enough, the laughter is followed shortly by the appearance of Elijah Kalgan.

With Codell cornered, Kalgan is quite magnanimous, offering him the opportunity to come over to Kalgan’s side. Or, alternatively, Codell can go into something called “the deep freeze”, which we’ll learn more about later. But the issue becomes moot when Codell picks option (c): jump to his death.

This suits Kalgan just fine, and he even ups his prickishness quotient by giving Codell a helpful shove over the catwalk rail. Cut to Codell hitting the floor, just as the actor bites a blood capsule. It’s actually fairly effective, but not for long, because after a brief cutaway to Kalgan (for another maniacal laugh, naturally), they cut back to Codell, and his glasses are now suddenly back on his face.

Kevin Podsiadlik

I've been a writer on the web for just about as long as there's been a web, writing mostly about pro wrestling in the 1990's and lately branching out into whatever catches my fancy. Sometimes (as a product of the golden age of the video arcade) I go by my initials, "KJP".

Multi-Part Article: Space Mutiny (1988)

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