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Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: February 19?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

La revanche des robots © ProcidisIn the opening scene of this episode Pierrot, Psi, Petit Gros and Metro are honored for their heroic deeds in a.o. ‘L’imparable menace‘.

Adventure immediately announces itself, however, when the planet Leto (see ‘La révolte des robots‘) asks especially for Metro to mediate in a new conflict between robots and humans. This time, the robots want Metro to fight two of their battle robots, generals Goldenbar II and III, improved versions of the giant robot Metro defeated in ‘La révolte des robots’. Metro wins both fights, but surprisingly, the robots regard these losses only as temporary setbacks on the way to success. The last six episodes will show why…

Like ‘La révolte des robots’, ‘La revanche des robots’ is a highly enjoyable episode, with a star role for the matter-of-factly little robot Metro, battling two giant Grendizer (Goldorak)-like robots, with a rather improbable, but scary capability of duplication.

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

This is the 20th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 19th episode: L’étrange retour vers Oméga (The Strange Return to Omega)
To the 21st episode: Les humanoïdes (The Humanoids)

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Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: February 12?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

L’étrange retour vers Oméga © ProcidisIn the opening sequence of this episode the brave little robot Metro (who had been destroyed in ‘Les anneaux de Saturne) has been repaired and he joins Pierrot and Psi when they leave earth in a cruise ship called the Cosmopolitan.

Strange things are happening there, however, and our heroes are shadowed continuously. They discover that part of the crew has been replaced by robots…

‘L’étrange retour vers Oméga’ has a great mystery plot and together with ‘La revanche des robots‘ it forms a great prelude to the one-story-finale, which consists of the last six episodes.

Watch ‘L’étrange retour vers Oméga’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 19th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 18th episode: L’Atlantide (Atlantis)
To the 20th episode: La revanche des robots (The Revenge of the Robots)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: January 15?, 1983
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Les anneaux de Saturne © Procidis‘Les anneaux de Saturne’ follows three boring episodes that rather stood on their own.

How different this episode is! Like ‘La révolte des robots‘, ‘Les anneaux de Saturne’ is no less than a key episode. With this episode starts the finale of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’, the long continuous saga that makes the series such a remakable effort.

Because Pierrot has to recover from his injuries he got on the Jurassic planet in ‘Chez les dinosaures‘, Psi is allowed to go on a holiday – alone. Together with Metro she wants to explore the asteroid belt of our own solar system, but near Mimas, one of Saturn’s moons, she’s intercepted by unknown spaceships. These appear to be from a secret society of humanoid robots, and General Le Teigneux’s mysterious allies. Psi and Metro are thus the first to encounter this new threat, which will dominate the episodes 19 to 26. In an attempt to escape, Psi and Metro crash on an asteroid, leaving Metro in shambles. Luckily, Pierrot and Petit Gros come to the rescue…

This episode is not only mysterious and exciting, but also educational on Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter and the asteroid belt.

Watch ‘Les anneaux de Saturne’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 15th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 14th episode: Chez les dinosaures (In the Land of the Dinosaurs)
To the 16th episode: L’imparable menace (The Unstoppable Menace)

Director: Albert Barillé
Airing date: December 4?, 1982
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

À Cassiopée © ProcidisEpisode 9 of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ is closely tied to episode 10 and 11, constituting the first episode-exceeding story within the series.

It’s also one of the more political episodes. Indeed, its first half is about politics only. It starts with general Teigneux (Pest) reflecting on the past, how he failed to colonize planets because of Omega, referring to the events in episodes 2-6. Then consul Le Nabot (Dwarf) shows him the tapes from earth he had stolen in the previous episode.

The images of earth shows Barillé’s cynical view on the earth’s future: 30 billion people, many of which overfed, a lot of pollution, age-long traffic jams (reminiscent of those from Halas & Batchelor’s cartoon ‘Automania 2000’ from 1963), and a pride in producing weapons. After watching these images, Cassiopeia plans to invade earth.

After this long introduction, our heroes are sent to Cassiopeia to find out what their plans are, but they’re immediately captured and sent into prison. The second half of this episode consists therefore of a classic prison break, with a starring role for the rather matter-of-factly Metro. Our heroes eventually escape using the same meteor trick the Millennium Falcon did in ‘The Emperor Strikes Back’ (1980), one of the numerous influences of George Lucas’ films on Barillé’s series.

Watch ‘À Cassiopée’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 9th episode of ‘Il était une fois… l’espace’ (Once Upon a Time… Space)
To the 8th episode: Le long voyage (The Long Voyage)
To the 10th episode: La planète déchiquetée (A Planet Blown to Pieces)


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: 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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