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Early in 1975, an episode for the animated Star Trek, "How Sharper Than A Serpent's Tooth," written by David Wise and myself, had been submitted by Filmation Studios as the only entry when the studio received its first ever Emmy Award nomination. On the basis of that credential, Filmation Studios received the Emmy Award for Best Achievement in Children's Television. Naturally, the names 'Russell Bates' and 'David Wise' carried more than just a little coin of recognition with Filmation. I had returned to Oklahoma (I am Kiowa Native American) and received a notification from Dorothy Fontana to get in touch with Producer Arthur Nadel at Filmation. The studio was launching its second live-action film series, namely Isis, and Mr. Nadel wanted stories from me for his new series.
As quickly as possible, they sent me the storylines, series situations and character backgrounds, and I had to admit that their proposals were intriguing.
Isis, created by Marc Richards (who had been one of the producers on the animated Trek and who later went on to create Filmation's The Ghost Busters starring Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker), was about a modern-day criminological consulting team that was headquartered at MidState University in California. The founder, Dr. Elias Barnes, was an old-line "Sherlock Holmes"-type investigator who valued inductive reasoning as much or more than the technological and forensic methods of crime solving. Now up in age and less able to do the footwork required, he had formed an investigative team with the finest young minds that he could find.
Rick Slocum was the computer technician and profiler, more willing to solve criminal matters from the confines of his cybernetics lab than doing the actual physical legwork.
Andrea Thomas was the forensic criminologist who balanced Rick's abilities by feeling the need to gather the forensic evidence first-hand, claiming that she needed to see crime scenes and to experience the special 'feel' of the locations themselves.
Cindy Lee was a MidState junior in criminal studies, always anxious to get her nose into the actual work rather than merely studying about the subject and bases of crime/criminals.
Together, the team was to act as a consultant to various state or local authorities in solving particularly spectacular or puzzling crimes. Unbeknownst to the others, Andrea also led a double life: she was the possessor of an amulet necklace, a magical Egyptian artifact that actually allowed her to assume the secret identity of and all the powers of the goddess Isis.
Based on this original premise, I dashed off three stories in a weekend, sent them on, and Arthur Nadel was so surprised to find out I was a quick study that he bought all three the very day they came in. And so I had the money to go to LA and begin work.
The three stories were "Lights of Mystery Mountain" and two unfilmed stories, "Two Eyes, Two Serpents" (a two-parter) and "Wilderness Trek." Then, in the midst of it all, CBS changed vice-presidents in charge of children's programming and the man (his first name was Duke) came to Filmation to meet all of us who were going to write for the show. He said, "I don't really think that CBS should be doing a show for children about crimefighters. No, instead I see them as... schoolteachers! Dr. Barnes is the principal, Andrea is the chemistry teacher, Rick is the math teacher and Cindy is a high school student who helps them." So, that was that.
"Lights" was re-written by Arthur Nadel even after I had done three re-writes to order. In my script, Andrea wasn't just left on the roadside by Rick and the kids! I'm too careful a writer for that. Instead, they split up, with Andrea driving Rick's "Jeep thing" back to the mountain cabin, where she then became Isis.
When she overheats the bad guy's engine with rays from the sun, she chases him down the dry river bed, calling upon the Sphinx to confront him with his own lies. Then, suddenly, a large, silver flying saucer stands in the riverbed ahead of him, smoke rising to show it has just landed, and a doorway even opens in its side. This scene was re-written to feature the lights instead because the rent of such a large prop and hauling it up Mulholland Drive was seen as unnecessary expense, but most of what I wrote made it to the screen.
Editor's note: time permitting, Russell has also providd the story outline for his unfilmed "Mountain Trek" episode and has agreed to provide the story synopsis of his other unproduced script and the outline of the original version of "Lights of Mystery Mountain" before the change in format forced a re-write.