Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wonder Woman: "The Deadly Toys"

Premiered December 30, 1977

"You should have stuck with the toys you were best at, Hoffman ... the harmless ones!"  - Wonder  Woman

Three military scientists have been working for months on a project known as XYZ.  One of the scientists, Dr. Royce Tobias (Donald Bishop) announces that Project XYZ is too dangerous to implement and  he and his colleagues have destroyed all their paperwork on it.

As soon as he makes this statement, he suddenly melts, revealing that he's an android!  This means the real Tobias and all of his knowledge of XYZ are missing.

Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter) and Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) of the  Inter-Agency Defense Command (IADC) are called in to investigate.  Steve has some personal interest in the case since his old friend Major Dexter (John Rubinstein) was spearheading Project XYZ.

Diana begins her investigation  in Tobias' laboratory.  When she encounters a suspicious man in the lab, Diana turns into Wonder Woman and confronts him.  He turns out to be another android.

While searching the lab, Diana finds a collection of toy soldiers.  She learns that the scientists play war games with toy soldiers in order to relax.

Dr. Prescott (James A. Watson, Jr.), another XYZ scientist, receives a box of similar toy soldiers.  One of the soldiers shoots him with a dart that puts Prescott in a trance.  He then receives a phone call that orders him to "do exactly what I tell you."  Prescott walks out of his apartment in a trance and is replaced by an android.  Diana visits Prescott and discovers the android. This leaves the third scientist Dr. Lazaar (Ross Elliott) as the only Project XYZ researcher left.  When Diana sees similar toy soldiers at Lazaar's home, she suspects there's a connection between the soldiers and the androids.

While all of this is happening, Christmas is approaching.  Steve asks IRA -- a supercomputer -- to help him pick out a present for Diana.  IRA tells Steve that the best to find out what Diana wants for Christmas to "talk to Wonder Woman."

We learn that the androids are the creation of a maned named Orlich Hoffman (Frank Gorshin), who runs a toy store in Georgetown.  He's holding the real scientists captive in his basement.  Diana visits Hoffman's store when Lazaar tells her it's the store that sells the toy soldiers.  When Diana tells Hoffman she wants to buy toy soldiers, he plays dumb and says he doesn't have any.  Hoffman gives Diana a Santa Claus dashboard ornament and sends her on her way.

The dashboard ornament turns out to be a homing device.  Hoffman dispatches a model airplane armed with real bombs and weapons to kill Diana.  Thankfully, she transforms into Wonder Woman and stops the plane.

Diana later discovers that Dexter has been working with Hoffman the whole time.  Dexter is tired of taking orders from "idiots" and wants to get a lot of money and live the sweet life in exchange for information on Project XYZ.    Dexter and Hoffman decide to deal with Diana once and for all and hatch a plan to capture Lazaar and send him out of the country with the other scientists.  To do this, they will activate Hoffman's greatest creation: an android duplicate of Wonder Woman!

Can even Wonder Woman stop a duplicate of herself?  Will Dexter and Hoffman get away with their plans?  Will Steve figure out what to buy Diana for Christmas?

J.A. Morris says:

This is a fun episode, even if the plot isn't very strong.  Dexter's motivation for betraying his country and his friend Steve isn't very strong. 

Dexter is frustrated that things aren't quite going to plan.
But Wonder Woman was a generally fun series, and this episode is no exception.  Lynda Carter made this series enjoyable because she always played Wonder Woman in an earnest manner, never slipping into camp.  Lyle Waggoner is equally good, playing Steve Trevor in a very cartoony manner, and I mean that as a compliment.  Plus, we get an entertaining fight scene between Wonder Woman and her android double.

Frank Gorshin is also fun as the villainous Orlich Hoffman.  Sure he's a bad guy, but Gorshin makes him likable and almost sympathetic.

 Of course, Gorshin is best remembered for portraying the antagonist of another DC Comics superhero.  He played the Riddler in ten episodes of the 1960s Batman series, plus an appearance in the movie. It's a shame he didn't play Hoffman again because he's a good antagonist for Wonder Woman.

Christmas is not central to the plot of "The Deadly Toys," but the holiday season is certainly "in the air" throughout the episode.  There are Christmas decorations everywhere, "Joy To The World" and "Jingle Bells" play over the soundtrack, and Hoffman gives Diana a homing device that looks like Santa Claus.

"The Deadly Toys" is also a reminder that toys that talk, walk and play music can be a bit creepy sometimes.

Speaking of toys, my younger self owned two of the toys seen in Hoffman's store.  This image features Dragun, one of the giant Shogun Warrior toys:

Dragun on the right.  Did you own any Shogun Warrior toys as a kid?
And I also had Chimpy, the monkey drummer seen in this episode.

Chimpy (on the left, in the yellow hat) showed up under my Christmas tree in 1978.
Seeing these toys gave me pleasant memories of childhood.

The hairstyles and men's fashions on display are also amusing today.

This episode can be found on the Wonder Women:Season 2 DVD set.  It also streams on iTunes and Amazon.

"The Deadly Toys" is an exciting and funny nostalgic trip back to the 1970s.  It's recommended even if Christmas isn't its driving force. 

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 candy canes.

RigbyMel says:

This is a fun episode of a fun series.   The plot is paper thin, but the actors involved sell it well.  

Although the fight between Wonder Woman and her android double is entertaining to watch,  it did cause me to wonder what happened to the double afterwards?   Does she melt like the other androids or is there an android doppleganger running around out there somewhere?

The melting androids are actually kind of intense for a family show.   I did not see this particular episode until this year, but the melting faces and resultant puddles of goo would have definitely creeped me out had I seen this when I was little.

Yappy dachshund toy preparing to take down a guard.
Toys turning on people is kind of a trope in Christmas action shows.   This is probably not the first TV show to have someone be strafed by a model plane, but the scene is effective.   There's also an interesting bit where mechanical butterflies are used to incapacitate Diana -- that's not something one sees everyday!

Nobody suspects the butterflies!
Gorshin does a great job as Hoffman.  It's interesting that although they share characteristics, Hoffman does NOT seem to be the same character as long running D.C. comics villain the Toyman, who first appeared in 1943.

As J.A. Morris says,  Christmas is a bit in the background of the episode, but the toy angle and Steve wondering about what to get Diana as a present add to the atmosphere.   We also get a nice shot of Wonder Woman using a can of spray "snow" to decorate the toy store window at the end.

This epsiode works reasonably well, despite the somewhat flimsy plot, due to the great work of the actors involved.  It's a fun way to include Wonder Woman in your holiday viewing if you're so inclined.  (And why wouldn't you be inclined?  Wonder Woman is awesome!)  It's not an essential episode, but it's enjoyable.

Wonder Woman uses proper punctuation (of course!)  since she's only signing with initials.
RigbyMel says:


2 and a half candy canes

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