Programme 11 (7-May-77)

Cover: Wow – so not only is Monday going to sacrifice himself this week, they’re basing the entire marketing of the issue around that fact. Impressive!

Thrill 1 – Invasion!

Now for the second part of the first real multi-part Bill Savage story. It seems that mutant dogs have killed their resistance contact, destroyed their car, and are about to tear out their throats. The dogs certainly are big and scary, but when last we saw Savage, he and Silk were carrying guns, so I’m not sure why they don’t just open fire.

Bill’s got a better plan, though – although the wiring of their jeep has been torn apart, they can still use it! How? Well, despite this clearly not being the case when we saw them leave it last issue, now their jeep is parked on a sharp incline, allowing them to take off the parking brake and let the jeep roll down a hill into the swamps below.

Once there they flee from the dogs, but can’t get much of a lead. How are the dogs following them over water? Bill sniff the scientist’s prison togs, and realizes that they’ve been coated in dried blood, designed specifically to drive the mutant dogs mad! If that weren’t bad enough, a Volgan patrol hovercraft is approaching them across the water.

Always one to turn lemons into lemonade, Savage decides to use his enemies against one another. First blasts the hovercraft’s skirt with his shotgun, then throws the top of the scientist’s uniform into the incapacitated hovercraft. Following the scent, the dogs attack the Volgan guards, and there’s a satisfying slaughter wrapping things up.

Thrill 2 – Flesh

Safely back at the trans-time base, Reagan tries to warn the Flesh Controller (hereafter FC) that there’s a dinosaur war coming, and that he’ll need to bring in reinforcements as soon as possible to keep everyone from being slaughtered. FC responds with an extremely persuasive argument:

Seriously, what’s going on with that guy? Is he a mutant? Is there a ruling class of people in the future with giant brains? What do you want to be that we’ll never find out?

Claw, proving as treacherous as ever, sides the the FC, having found a new authority figure he can exploit. Just to prove his point, FC takes everyone on a tour of the facility. In addition to guard towers, the base is protected by an invisible laser fence that fries and dinosaur that crosses its beams. Witnessing the technological marvel, Joe is convinced that the dinosaurs will never beat the clever humans.

What none of the humans seems to know is that every flesh-eater for hundreds of miles has been driven to starvation by Trans-Time’s efficient herding of all the plant-eaters. Following the scent of the herded dinosaurs, all manner of flesh-eaters are converging on the base, looking for food!

The situation looks bad, but survivable. Except for one thing the humans don’t know about… it seems that in the caves under the base a group of prehistoric spiders have been feasting on the blood that sluices down through the killing floor, growing monstrous in size. What might happen if their food supply was cut off by some manner of dino-siege?

We won’t find out this week, though, since nothing actually happens this issue – it’s all about getting pieces into place for the big showdown.

Thrill 3 - Judge Dredd!

Big news this week! It seems that Harlem Heroes has been bumped from 3rd story position, and Judge Dredd has been promoted! I know that eventually Judge Dredd will get the coveted centerfold colour spread (all of my issues of 2000AD, from the 3 and 4 hundreds, have him in that position), but I have no idea how long it’s going to take him before he gets there. Will it be before Judge Death shows up? The Cursed Earth? Who knows?

Anyhow, remember my prediction about the robot war happening within 10-20 issues? Once again, I was way, way off. This story picks up just where the last one left off. Dredd, still angry about the Call-Me-Kenneth situation, has demanded that the Grand Judge (not called Chief Judge yet, eh?) outlaw all potentially dangerous super-robots like Kenneth. The Grand Judge refuses – robots do all the heavy lifting, and idle future humans ‘would never agree to working more than ten hours a week’. Ah, the future, you certainly are bizarre. In protest to this ruling, Judge Dredd quits!

Seriously? We’re only ten weeks into Judge Dredd existing and he’s already pulled the ‘turn in my badge and gun’ routine? This is a guy who is not screwing around, people.

Meanwhile, over at a television studio, a medical-themed documentary programming is live-broadcasting the examination of Ken, as a scientist tries to discover just what led him to slaughter those 14 people. Rather than just investigating the circuit board on its own, the doctor has gone so far as to build Ken an entirely new, much stronger body and had the personality hardware installed in it before starting the operation.

How could that possibly go wrong?

Oh, here’s how – a ‘nurse’ drops a soldering iron onto the circuit board before the doctor could repair the damaged ‘obedience’ circuit, and Kenneth is activated by the electrical shock. Here’s a memo to anyone designing giant killer robots – be sure to include an easy-to-access off switch. Trust me, it’s going to save you a lot of heartache down the road. Ken immediately goes back to old tricks:

Why do I find the term ‘fleshy ones’ so endlessly entertaining?

Proving that Justice Department censors really aren’t on the ball, the live video feed isn’t cut as Kenneth slaughters the medical staff. He then turns to the camera and speaks directly to the audience, and more specifically, the servant robots in the room with them. He announces that the robots don’t have to be slaves any more, and that simply wanting to kill a human can cause their obedience circuits to short out!

This theory is proven true immediately, as a butler robot called Graham is able to grab his two owners and throw them out the window of their luxury apartment.

Those aren’t the only victims, however – it seems that simply everyone was watching the Kenneth broadcast, and soon there’s absolute pandemonium across the city. Even in office buildings, where, for some reason, all the work is done by robot middle-management types, who are designed to resemble Clark Kent:

They stab their owner to death with the umbrellas. It’s pretty great.

Over at the Hall of Justice the Grand Judge has passed new laws enabling all-out war with the robots. But who will lead them now that Dredd has quit? That’s a question no one has to answer, since Dredd walks right back into the hall and picks up his badge – he’s always one to put personal feelings aside and do his duty. After he’s been proven right and people have been killed, of course.

Next time? All out war with the robots!

Judge Dredd Kill Count – 19

Again, Judge Dredd didn’t kill anyone this week.

Thrill 4 – Dan Dare (?/Bellardinelli)

So the battle of Jupiter is over, with only Monday’s ship and a few Biog crafts left surviving. Monday announces his intention to drag the Biog ships on a ‘Sun Trip’, killing all of them! Here’s a picture of him doing that:

Perhaps realizing that the reader will have absolutely no idea what’s going on in this panel, or what the characters are talking about, an explanatory bubble is included:

So, to be clear – if you activate an FTL drive within two ‘light months’ of a star, bubbles of tachyon space will form around all matter in your vicinity, and everything will be dragged immediately into the nearest sun?

What the hell kind of technology is this? And why wasn’t Dan’s ship dragged in as well?

More importantly, two light months? Do you have any idea how far that is? Let’s put it into proper context – Jupiter is 740 million kilometers from the sun. And that’s just 40 light MINUTES away.

A light year is around 10 Trillion kilometers. That means two light months is somewhere in the neighbourhood of of 1.5 trillion kilometers. What use is an FTL drive if you have to get that far from a sun before you can even turn it on? And how fast are the sub-light drives on these ships? Half of light speed? A quarter? Do they have to fly away from earth for a year before they can even hit light speed?

Who wants to bet this technological limitation is going to completely disappear after its once appearance here?

Anyhow, the plan works, the Biogs are destroyed, etc… Later, at Luna City (the city on the moon!) Dan and doctor Ziggy Rodan (Apparently she and the rest of the crew escaped in life pods!) are dragged in front of a court martial to explain the destruction of the earth fleet.

It seems that the court blames Dan for alerting the Biogs to the existence of Earth, so while Monday will be remembered as a hero for destroying the threat, Dan’s going to have his rank stripped from him! Dan doesn’t protest, because he’s got something more important to worry about… how exactly did the Biogs find out about Earth? It’s billion to one shot that they’d randomly come across a solar system with the kind of life they needed to survive. So someone probably told them where earth was, someone like… the Mekon!

Yeah, I’m not sure who that is either. Although, according to this final panel, it’s an evil as old as the universe itself:

Also, in a nice note, Dan acknowledges that it’s his responsibility to head to Mars to inform Monday’s family of his heroic death. Classy guy, that Dan Dare.

Other than his heartless mistreatment of living axes, of course.

Thrill 5 – MACH 1

A simple action story this week, as John Probe is tasked with getting a scientist from Dubrovnik to Paris in 12 hours. The twist? The weather is too bad for plane or helicopters. He’s going to have to do it in an Aston Martin Lagonda!

Yup, if I didn’t know better, I’d say this entire story was paid product-placement by the British auto industry. In addition to simple spy-car stuff like resisting avalanches and jumping through trains, the story makes a point of showing off how Probe is able to blast by Lamborghini and Porsches.

Even a group of motorcycle-driving assassins can’t stop Probe from getting his charge to the UN conference on time, and the episode ends with a wacky joke – sure he was able to deliver his speech, but Probe’s crazy driving has left him so stressed that he’ll need months to recover! (cue Wah-Wah sound effect)

Apparently the Lagonda was featured in the story because it was the first car in the world to use computer management of its systems and a digital display, making it a perfect thematic fit for John Probe, the Man Activated by Compu-Hyperpower. One.


A couple of fun letters this week. Mark Barber of Danford feels that sci-fi movies on television are to talky. He likes to see ‘complicated weapons and horrifying monsters’. V. Thomas of Wolverhampton, on the other hand, is something of a futurist. He believes that in the near future replacement limbs and organs will be easily accessible to the public. He also thinks we’re ‘very close’ to having hearing aids that will give people super-hearing!

Since it’s now 30 years later, I should really look into getting one of those.

Thrill 6 (?/Gibbons)

Their game broken up by an assassin, and being unwilling to wait for the proper authorities to show up and handle the situation, the Heroes all rush Gruber, who seems to have lost the ability to speak in complete sentences.

Gruber makes a relatively clean getaway after being hit in the face by an aeroball, and the Heroes rush to the medical office to check on Sammy. Apparently he was punched so heard he received brain damage, and he’ll never play Aeroball again!

This motivates and angers the Heroes, who rush out and get back to the game, which, for some reason, is allowed to continue even after the assassination attempt. They dominate the game so totally that Giant can take a moment away from the action to address the flying cameras directly, announcing that whoever hired Gruber is in for some trouble!

Naturally the scene then cuts to that very character watching the broadcast while facing away from the frame and sitting in a high-backed chair. Of course, as we established two issues ago, there’s only one character this could possibly be, so I’m wondering why they’re being so coy.

There is an interesting note in his little speech, though, as he announces that he wants to see the Heroes playing ‘rougher and harder’ than they used to. Really? I thought he just wanted them dead. Also, he’s got another threat planned, one that’ll make Gruber ‘seem like a boy scout!’

I think the following line of text sums it up better than I ever could:

Final Thoughts

Best Story: Judge Dredd – I don’t care how profoundly stupid the way they brought Call-Me-Kenneth back was. There’s a killer robot running around calling people ‘fleshy ones’. Score.

Worst Story: Dan Dare – By comparison, I can’t overlook how incredibly out-of-left-field the resolution of this particular story was. If you’ve got to introduce a new piece of technology at the last moment that solves everyone’s problems, then you’re just not writing hard enough.

Also, I’ll never forgive them for killing off the living axe. Rest in piece, living axe.

The Living Axe (2/4/77-7/5/77)
Gone, but never forgotten.

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