About The Show
Our journey begins with an exterior view of the Starcademy. In one of the classrooms, T.J. Davenport, a stern assistant principal, is taking role in a classroom full of underachievers from various planets. Davenport leaves them unattended for a moment, and the kids notice an unfamiliar alien spacecraft hovering outside their classroom window. The Earther of the group, Harlan Band, decides to make first contact, and talks the others into joining him.
On board the alien ship, the five students simultaneously touch the walls of the ship, and the ship bonds with them, opening her doors for them. They continue to explore the ship. Harlan explores the command post, where he finds Thelma, a humanoid-looking android (and accidentally damages her memory crystal), Cat and Radu explore the engine room, and Bova and Rosie explore the bunkrooms. They find no crew.
Meanwhile, Davenport and the children's teacher, Commander Goddard, board the alien ship in search of the students. They touch the walls of the ship, but the ship clearly rejects them.
Harlan learns that the ship has begun to move away from the Starcademy. Down in the engine rooms, Bova accidentally fires a bolt of electricity and triggers the hyperdrive. Our heroes are now moving away from the Starcademy at faster-than-light speed, and Thelma can't give a coherent answer as to how to get back home.
Cat and Radu are trying to shut down the engines, but not succeeding. On the ComPost, Goddard learns that the ship is being pursued by the white circle, a legendary rip in space that could spit them out anywhere. The Christa can evade it, but only if her hyperdrive engines are still online, and Goddard learns that Cat and Radu are trying to shut down the engines.
Cat and Radu manage to shut down the hyperdrive before Goddard can stop them. Goddard decides to try to maneuver away from the white circle. The kids become the crew of the Christa, but are unsuccessful in avoiding the white circle. They find themselves more than seven years from home.
Goddard is upset, because he was looking forward to ending his stint as a teacher and returning to space with a crew. But the kids convince him to think of the Christa and the kids as his ship and crew, and they begin their long journey home.
Davenport: I believe in regulations and procedure, Mr. Band. If you added those two words to your vocabulary, you
Goddard: Can you turn us around?
Goddard: Thelma, what's our position?
Goddard: For some reason, this ship thinks of you as its crew. You've got to start thinking of yourselves that way too. I saw you do it earlier; I think you can do it again.
Originally, Nickelodeon didn't want a straight-up origin episode. They wanted to reserve the right to be able to run the episodes in any ol' order, and wanted what's called the "premise pilot" to be able to be dropped in anywhere into the run. Furthermore, there was no money in the budget to build a Starcademy set, which would certainly have been necessary if we were going to do an episode that began at the chronological beginning.
As a result, this episode was originally titled, "Catalina Explains It All." The show was to open with the crew already aboard the ship, and Catalina--breaking the fourth wall to the viewer--was going to explain everything about how they wound up on the ship. There would have been simply an exterior shot of the Starcademy, and Cat's narration would have explained what happened. Then we would have cut immediately to the kid's arrival on the ship. But somewhere along the way, the PTB (Powers That Be) changed their minds: The money was found for a Starcademy set and we retooled the episode.
Although this is considered the pilot, it was actually the second "pilot." The first, which never aired because of extensive visual redesigns, was called "Breath of a Salesman" and featured David Schramm (Roy Biggins from "Wings") as a space-going salesman. It's the "lost" episode, as it were.
Background notes: The paintings hanging on the wall at the Starcademy were previously used in "Are You Afraid of the Dark" and repainted for our use (an attractive blond was repainted into a Mercurian, for instance).
Our first in-joke in the series is virtually impossible to spot: On the translucent board next to Davenport at the Starcademy, there is a homework assignment for a class taught by "Professor B. Banzai."
Episode Details provided by Tracey Rich.