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Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 13?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

La révolte des robots © ProcidisLa révolte de robots’ is the first highlight in the ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ series.

Unlike the earlier episodes the threat does not come from stock villain Cassiopeia, but from a rebelling robot planet called Leto. We’re introduced to this planet first, with our heroes only entering the scene after twelve minutes. Our heroes save the day, especially the little robot Metro, who battles a large robot, which looks like a copy from Grendizer (Goldorak), the famous robot from the Japanese 1970s series of the same name.

However, who is really responsible for the robots’ rebellion remains unknown. This would grow into the series’ most important story element, dominating its great last third. If anything, this episode shows the risks of man’s dependency on technology, but Barillé clearly states that humans are superior to robots, something he tries to illustrate rather unconvincingly in this episode. The whole argument of humans vs. machines would come back with a vengeance in the 23rd episode, ‘Le grand ordinateur‘.

Watch ‘La révolte des robots’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 6th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 5th episode: Les Cro-Magnons (The Cro-Magnons)
To the 7th episode: La planète Mytho (The Planet Mytho)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: November 6?, 1982
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Les Cro-Magnons © ProcidisThis is the fourth episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ in which the evil constellation of Cassiopeia threatens a green and primitive planet in the Andromeda galaxy.

This time it’s the planet Diane, which is inhabited by humans, who apparently have descended from humans from earth. Against the regulations, Pierot and Psi visit the small population, who, like the title suggests, live like Cro-Magnons.

Like in ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ this population knows its own versions of our main protagonists, so they have their own Pierrette, Maestro, le Teigneux and le Nabot. In the end, the visit by the people from Omega induces tales of Gods within the Cro-Magnon population, echoing the ideas of Erich von Däniken.

This episode opens in a neighborhood and a bar on Omega that is very similar to Mos Eisley in ‘Star Wars’ (1977), one of quite a few influences of that film on Barillé’s series. The most interesting part, however, is the computer search for the planet Cassiopeia probably wants to invade, showing several planets inhabited by weird alien creatures.

Watch ‘Les Cro-Magnons’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 5th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 4th episode: Du côté d’Andromède (Towards Andromeda)
To the 5th episode: La révolte des robots (The Revolt of the Robots)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 30?, 1982
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Du côté d’Andromède © Procidis‘Du côte d’Andromède’ is the first episode of Il était une fois… l’espace in which Pierrot, his love Psi, and the little robot Metro are presented as a team.

Psi replaces Pierrot’s former co-pilot, Petit Gros, whose star would soon fade away. The trio’s routine inspection flight turns into a disaster when they crash into the planet Clarus, which orbits a dying star. In search of fresh air, our heroes meet a people called Terks, who are outcasts from Andromeda.

They also discover that the Terks are secretly armed by the evil constellation of Cassiopeia in order to invade Andromeda, making Clarus the third of four planets in the Andromeda Galaxy Cassiopeia is trying to use for an invasion. Naturally, the Terks aren’t fond of spies, and our heroes are about to get executed, when their friends from Omega come to the rescue.

Like ‘La planète verte‘, ‘Du côte d’Andromède’ shows Barillé’s love to show and explain political manipulations to children. This episode also introduces the vague, angel-like creature who visits Psi and tells her that evil will never win.

Watch ‘Du côté d’Andromède’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 4th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 3rd episode: La planète verte (The Green Planet)
To the 5th episode: Les Cro-Magnons (The Cro-Magnons)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 23?, 1982
Rating: ★★★
Review:

La planète verte © ProcidisUnlike the majority of the episodes of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’, ‘La planète verte’ starts with politics: we witness a political conflict between Omega and Cassiopeia.

Like in ‘Les Sauriens‘, Cassiopeia tries to invade a green, primitive planet in the Andromeda section (something they would also try to do in the fifth episode). Only after more than eight minutes our heroes Pierrot and Petit Gros enter the stage. They check the planet, which turns out to be inhabited by intelligent plants, who have captured their invaders, including general Teigneux (The Pest) and ambassador Nabot (Dwarf) themselves.

This episode show us more of Cassiopeia than the two previous episodes. This society turns out to be very militaristic with Nazi-like characteristics. Because of Cassiopeia’s more prominent role, ‘La planète verte’ is more interesting than the previous two episodes, if not too exciting.

Watch ‘La planète verte’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 3rd episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 2nd episode: Les Sauriens (The Saurians)
To the 4th episode: Du côté d’Andromède (Towards Andromeda)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 16?, 1982
Rating: ★
Review:

Les Sauriens © ProcidisIn this second episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ the feisty little robot Metro gets his name.

Metro joins Pierrot and Petit Gros on their first mission. The trio explores a Jurassic planet inhabited by large iguana-like people who communicate by telepathy.

If anything, this episode shows how differences between cultures can lead to aversions and misunderstandings. Nevertheless, it is one of the slowest and weakest episodes of the series.

Watch ‘Les Sauriens’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 2nd episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 1st episode: La planète Omega (The Planet Omega)
To the 3rd episode: la planète verte (The Green Planet)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: October 9, 1982
Rating: ★★½
Review:

La planète Omega © ProcidisAfter the success of ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ (Once upon a Time… Man) Albert Barillé returned with the boldest and most artistic children series of his entire career.

Largely abandoning education, the raison d’être of his last series, he embarked on a fictional and after a while remarkably integrated story, set in the far future, telling about a United Nations-like intergalactic union, and its problems.

Even more than the previous series, ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once upon a Time… Space) is a vehicle of Barillé’s highly personal views on the world and mankind. The series expresses a strong love for nature and mutual understanding, and an aversion to imperialism, war and, to a certain extent, technology.

New is a strong spirituality, embodied by the mild, and vaguely South American-looking girl Psi, who possesses psychic powers. Unlike the other main characters, she had not been in the original series, and she is less stereotypical than the rest of the cast. Her role in this first episode (in which she’s introduced as ‘Mercedes’, but everyone calls her ‘Psi’) is still minor, but soon she would become as important as Pierrot (Peter), the series’ main hero.

Pierrot, like all other good guys from ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’ has been redesigned and fixed into a single role. Pierrot now is a guy in his early twenties. Petit Gros (Jumbo), too, has changed. He is less dim, less strong and less obese than in the original series. In fact, he’s only recognizable by his red hair. His dad is equally slender and has grown a blonde mustache, while a stern-looking Pierre, head of the intergalactic police, is fixed at an older age (say 50).

The most surprising transformation may be that of Pierrette, who is head of the Union, and who has received a modern hairdo and some fancy glasses. By placing her as head of the union Barillé makes a strong feminist statement that was still pretty bold in the early 1980s. The only characters to remain the same are Maestro, and the two villains Le Nabot (The Dwarf) and Le Teigneux (The Pest). Remarkably, children are totally absent from the series.

In this first episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ Maestro conceives the little robot Metro, who would play a major part in the series, eclipsing his master, while Le Teigneux and le Nabot are introduced as the ambassador and general of Cassiopeia, a galaxy with militaristic ambitions, but which is part of the Union nonetheless. Taking time in introducing all these characters, there is very little action in ‘La planète Omega’. Nevertheless, the stage is set when the Union is confronted by an unknown spaceship of some supreme alien race…

Apart from Barillé’s original story and its classic characters, ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ is a highlight of television animation because of its great music by Michel Legrand and its superb backgrounds by Philippe Bouchet, Manchu and Afrula Hadjiyanakis. This trio clearly draws inspiration from contemporary science fiction illustrators like Lukas Foss, Colin Hay, Angus McKie and Tony Roberts.

The animation itself, by the Japanese Eiken studio, is better than in ‘Il était une fois… l’homme’, but it’s still mediocre and uneven, and especially the designs of Psi are far from consistent. This would remain a problem throughout the series, together with a sometimes terribly slow narration. These drawbacks, however, do not overcome the series’ merits, and ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ may be praised as Barillé’s masterpiece.

Watch an excerpt from ‘La planète Omega’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 1st episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 2nd episode: Les Sauriens (The Saurians)

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