Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
It is hard to believe that Christmas is only about a week away. As a Christmas tradition, I take my extended family to see a movie (Preferably a Star Wars movie). There are a lot of nerd traditions that flourish around Christmas. Tto me it makes sense, being a geek means keeping the part of your imagination that believes in the fantastic alive and active. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about, isn’t that what Santa embodies. So it is natural that there are some awesome sci fi Santa treats out there. Like Galaxy Magazine December issues having a tradition of ‘Four Armed Santa” on the cover.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I remember watching this a child on Christmas Eve, waiting to go to my grandparents for Christmas. Even way back then with the innovation of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars, this seemed to be a throwback to another error. A time where science fiction was ruled by the pulps. And age where Mars had an atmosphere, and green skinned aliens looked at Earth with jealous eyes, and boxy robots where the epitome of technology. I loved it as a kid because, at that age I loved anything with space ships and aliens still I thought this was a cool change from drummer boys and Claymation reindeer.
Of course as an adult I love The Mystery Science Three Thousand treatment it gets. This along with Manos: Hands of Fate is considered by many as the gold standard of MYST3K. Everything about this one is dead on perfect, from the, “Smart Astronaut” Comments to the host scenes. And this show gives Joel and the Bots a lot to mock. With a juvenile Pia Zadora to its green skinned and antennae headed martins. It has some classic MYST3K lines like when there is baseball bats on the screen. “Those are for the LAPD” or when the teddy bares get the dolly heads and vice a versa. “It’s OK Santa we will give it to the Dyslexic children.” It also has a special place in my heart because this is the first MYST3K episode I ever watched.
St. Nick makes another appearance in the Satellite of love, with the episode that had Santa Claus. This is a Mexican 60’s movie that inadvertently shows how creepy an old man watching all the children in the world can be. Santa doesn’t fight Martians this time but the devil himself. It is a morality play by way of the Three Stooges, and it is almost as good as SCCtM after it gets the MST3K treatment.
The Six Million Dollar Man – The Bionic Christmas. Have I ever mentioned my strange memory, I can quote verbatim from a history lesson I had over thirty years ago, but forget where I parked my car. I actually remember watching this episode, which aired originally in 1976, with my father. Steve Austin investigates a government contractor because the OSI thinks they may have been sabotaged, but the damage is done by the owner’s miserly ways. He is also destroying his workers lives. The six million dollar man then dresses up like Santa, and jumps over walls with the guy to visit the families of his employees, in a Dickins tribute.
When doing some research I found this little gem. Back in 1978 Peter Pan Records made a four adventure records about Steve Austin in different Christmas stories. This one is a veritable hoot. Steve and Oscar parachute to the South Pole because the elves demand better working conditions, and Santa brings in a bunch of scabs, so the elves retaliate by hiring this international terrorist, who starts melting the Antarctic ice pack. I can’t make things like this up. It is crackly but will worth a listen.
Lobo’s Paramilitary Christmas Special. Honestly The Main Man, seems kind of passé in the twenty first century. But in the nineties he was one of DC’s top titles. Never one to take themselves too seriously, the writers had Lobo take a contract on Santa. This Santa wasn’t an overweight Jolly man who binges on cookies, but a muscular knife fighter. Of course Lobs get the upper hand and uses Santa’s lists, the mice list for future victims and the naughty list as future competition that he could take out before they cut into his job opportunities.
What I was not aware, until I did research for this post, that in 2002 a Fan Made film of Lobo’s Paramilitary Christmas Special. Warning there are swear words in this.
Robot Santa from Futurama. Futurama doesn’t get enough credit sometimes, like with the deadly Robot Santa Claus. A big murderous Santa that finds everybody but Zoigberg as naughty and tries to kill them with Christmas related weapons is funny, but it is also this awesome comment on self-rightlessness and the commercialism of Christmas. In the show he was programed to take on Santa’s duties but his standards were set way to high. He sets up on the North Pole of Neptune waiting each year, for Christmas, to come down on his robot reindeer driven sleigh to punish the evil doers.
Twilight Zone, The Night of the Meek. There are some awesome Christmas Themed Twilight Zones, Five Characters In Search of an Exit (My personal favorite) or Changing of the Guard, but only the Night of the Meek, features Santa Claus. Written by Rod Serling himself this finds a drunk department store Santa (played by Art Carney) Becomes the real thing. IT first aired on December 23rd 1960, and a color remake was done is the 1980’s Twilight Zone revival. The story seems kind of old hack now the Santa Claues, but at the time it was brilliant and original. The key element that the Tim Allen vehicles miss is that the meek inherit the Earth, by overcoming their obstacles and giving to others. This is summed up in Serling’s final voice over “A word to the wise to all the children of the twentieth century, whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas, and there’s a special power reserved for little people. In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek.”
Codename Kids Next Door: Operation Naughty. When my kids were younger I used to love watching KND with them. You may say that it not really Sci Fi, and yes it is more Spy Fi than anything else, but with its moon base and weapons made out of common items it is at least as Sci Fi as Moonraker. And in this we also get a tribute to classic X-Men with Santa’s elite team of mutant elves, Elfa Force. The X-men references from a Stan Lee type narrator to a rip off of the “Fast Ball Special” is both hilarious and loving tribute at the same time
Dr. Who. Dr Who has a long running tradition of doing something for Christmas back in 1965, the cast broke the fourth wall to wish the audience ‘merry Christmas”. The newer incarnation has made a habit of having a Christmas special starting with 2002’s The Christmas Invasion Dr. Who walks the tight rope of being campy and awesome, and well sometimes it fails and becomes camp, but not often. This could have gone into those waters, with robots disguised as department store Santas using musical instruments as weapons. Deadly Santas are like creepy clowns, they are supposed to be safe, they are supposed to be good, we all know who he is right? And he ain’t evil. The thought of invaders usurping our most beloved icon is creepy when you break it down to its basic s. This is also our first view of David Tenant as Ten. I know there is a Twelve episode where he actually meets the guy in the big red suit, but since I haven’t seen it I will let others right about that one.
From the underground bunker here at DCotU to your home Merry Christmas and a Happy holidays.