Back in 1986, Galaxy High School was the big push on the Saturday morning cartoon schedule. It had been developed by Christopher Columbus, who was part of Steven Spielberg's team, having at that point written Gremlins, Goonies, and Young Sherlock Holmes. He was a year away from his directorial debut, Adventures in Babysitting, but his writing credits were already earning him enough buzz to encourage the network to give his series a prominent position on its line-up.
I was fourteen, and I was psyched. Galaxy High School had an awesome concept: two Earth teenagers are chosen to be the only humans at a high school in deepest space. They fit two obvious paradigms. Aimee Brightower (voice by Susan Blu) is the smart and unpopular girl, while Doyle Cleverlobe (Hal Rayle) is the athletic star and big man on campus. Once they are at Galaxy High, however, they find their roles are reversed. Only in another universe do grades actually matter over sports. How alien! Doyle finds it particularly hard to fit in because the male population outnumbers the female by three to one, making him terribly common, and most spacelings have nothing good to say about humanity. If not for the help of class president Milo De Venus (David L. Lander), an eight-armed bookworm, Doyle would have no allies, particularly once the school bully, Beef Bonk (John Stephenson) and his gang set their sights on the new guy. As Beef's T-shirt consistently reminds us, "Earth Stinks!" (There is a good gag in one episode where Beef is scolded by a teacher for his favorite expletive, and he modifies it to the much less harmful "smells.")
The pilot episode of Galaxy High School holds up very well. I must have seen it a million times as a kid, because I remembered just about every scene (in fact, all the episodes were familiar). The animation is smooth and stylish, and the script plays on the central concept. Aimee is quickly adopted by the other girls, her good grades making her the exotic star, and Doyle must battle for acceptance. It works really well and should have set the tenor for the rest of the series; however, from there it's a show of diminishing returns.
By episode 2, Galaxy High School has quickly settled into routine. Sitcom plots and simplistic morals become the order of the day. Milo feels neglected and ends up turning to the wrong person for help, requiring his friends to prove their loyalty and bail him out; Booey Bubblehead (Jennifer Darling) desperately needs tickets to see intergalactic rock star Mick Maggers, and while the gang scrambles to help her out, she of course meets the singer while he's in disguise; Doyle's new friend is an obnoxious prankster who no one can tolerate, until he proves himself to be a good guy in the end; etc. These would be slightly more tolerable if the animation maintained a consistent quality, but the look of the show is so up and down, it often fails even as spectacle. The core characters are creatively designed (Rotten Roland and his never-ending supply of eggs is a particular favorite), but the secondary characters are increasingly bland. A giant cat? A villainous alligator named Gatori? No thanks.
Still, the series does manage to stay entertaining enough to create a nostalgic diversion. It's nice to remember what it was like to get up early on Saturdays and plop down in front of the TV. Plus, some gags still work, particularly ones that probably went over my head when I was a kid. Like, I'd have never seen the double entendre in the name of Gatori's specialty glove shop, the Leather Scene. Similarly, Columbus' film geek side shows through in christening his haunted planet the Tingler in honor of shockmeister William Castle. Simpsons fans may also be amused to hear Nancy Cartwright lending Bart Simpson's tones to Gilda Gossip's multiple lips and Flat Freddy's one-dimensional body.
The last episode on the disc provides us with a glimpse of what could have been. In "Dollars and Sense," Reggie Unicycle (Gino Conforti), a one-wheeled rich boy, returns to Galaxy High and instantly falls for Aimee. His flirtations--including a box of dancing candy reminiscent of vintage concession stand ads from movie theatres--distract her from her studies. Once again, it's not the newest plot in the world, but the animation is mainly back up to snuff, and it's the first episode where the writers remembered Aimee is one of the two main characters and not just background material. Plus, it has breakdancing!
While it's expected that there will be dips in quality in any episodic television series, Galaxy High School tips dangerously towards the low end being heavier than the high end. It manages to stay close enough to the center, though, to make this DVD worth a look. That said, it does make me worry some about diving into volume 2.
There are no subtitles.