As mentioned yesterday, over the years, there’s been quite a vogue for TV shows about humans upgraded through technology. In a little game of “spot the odd one out”, though, I included Northstar in that list. Did you spot it? Naughty me, hey?
In fact, Northstar actually represents a similar but subtly different genre: the ‘accidentally upgraded’ human. In these stories, through some kind of accident, usually natural but not always, someone gets superpowers. I say superpowers, because whether it’s The Amazing Spider-man, The Incredible Hulk or The Flash, the source of the story is usually a comic book, where such things used to be de rigeur*.
Often, though, these shows got stuck at the pilot TV movie stage. One ABC pilot, The Power Within (1979), for example, saw a stunt flyer struck by lightning and get the power to zap people with electricity. He also needed a special Gemini Man-esque watch to stop him from accidentally zapping things. I’d show you a clip, but there aren’t any, so here’s the video cover instead.
A few years later, again from ABC, came Northstar, starring Greg Evigan (of later My Two Dads fame). This saw Evigan playing an astronaut who gets zapped in the eyes by sunlight while on a spacewalk. Then when he gets back to Earth, whenever he’s exposed to sunlight, his body and brain go into superdrive, his eyes go all weird and flashy, and he becomes fabulously smart (stage one) and powerful (stage two). Unfortunately for our Greg, too of a good thing is bad for his health and his brain and body start to overheat (stage three), meaning that he can only go super-sun-powered for a short space of time, before he needs to sit in the shade and cool off for a bit.
Co-starring the lovely Deborah Wakeham as the scientist who has to help him cope with his newfound abilities, and Lethal Weapon/Dharma and Greg’s Mitchell Ryan as the army general he ends up working for, it wasn’t the smartest of shows, as you can probably tell, given that early on, when Evigan is presented with a numeric keypad for opening a door, he’s told there’s over 1,000 combinations. Or that Wakeham’s hubby is missing in the Andes as part of a 12-man anthropological expedition. But it’s fun.
PS If Northstar sounds vaguely familiar to you and yet you never watched it, it might be because it’s one of the 70s and 80s shows satirised by Jack Black and Ben Stiller with Heat Vision and Jack. Full marks if you can spot all the references in just this title sequence alone:
* Not always. There’s The Invisible Man, of course, who’s a crossover between the technology-upgraded and the accidentally upgraded. The Gemini Man got his powers through an accident with technology, too. As did Jake 2.0. So sue me, there were two odd ones out.