9 details from Columbo ''Mind Over Mayhem'' that will delight sci-fi fans
Robby the Robot, Lucius the Ape, an Enterprise geologist and Electra Woman can all be spotted in this episode!
The most underrated element of Columbo is its humor. Peter Falk's physical performances are brilliant. "Mind Over Mayhem," a season-three mystery, delivers several amusing moments, mostly thanks to Columbo's interaction with his Bassett hound, "Dog," who gets a lot of screen time.
The episode also features a robot flipping over a chessboard in frustration. Columbo later shakes hands in an awkward introduction to said robot, who is named after a Disney character. It's fun stuff.
Perhaps because of its futuristic-ist setting in a computer lab, "Mind Over Mayhem" also comes stuffed with several science-fiction references and actors. You might have missed these connections. Let's take a closer look.
Watch "Mind Over Mayhem" on MeTV this Sunday, April 26, at 8PM | 7C.
1. "Boy genius Steven Spelberg" was an homage to the young director.
When "Mind Over Mayhem" premiered in February 1974, Steven Spielberg was hardly a household name. The then-27-year-old director had helmed two fun chase flicks — Duel and The Sugarland Express — but Jaws was still a year away. He had some TV credits on his resume, too. Marcus Welby, M.D. and Night Gallery gave him early experience. And Columbo, as well! Spielberg directed "Murder by the Book," the 1971 premiere of the Columbo series. That episode like "Mind Over Mayhem" was written by Steven Bochco, who paid homage to the precocious Spielberg by naming this "boy genius" robot builder "Steven Spelberg." Though the kid (Lee Montgomery) prefers to go by "Steve." Further deepening the reference — Spielberg's father, Arnold, was an electrical engineer working in the nascent field of computers, much like the characters in this episode!
2. Robby the Robot was a regular fixture on 1970s television.
The iconic Robby the Robot is most associated with the silver age of science-fiction, debuting in the 1956 mold-setter Forbidden Planet. Of course, Robby hardly went to the scrap heap after production. He became a television regular. The clear-headed marvel popped up in The Twilight Zone ("Uncle Simon") and Lost in Space ("Ghost in Space," "War of the Robots," "Condemned of Space"). In the Seventies, he ventured more into comedy. In Columbo, his name "MM7" was a reference to "Mickey Mouse." Later, you could find him at a comic-con on Wonder Woman ("Spaced Out"), as "Chuck" on Mork & Mindy, and sporting a bowtie as "Bix" on The Love Boat.
3. Electra Woman had a tiny cameo.
Sid and Marty Krofft's Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, airing as part of the Saturday morning spectacular The Krofft Supershow in 1976, was one of the earliest superhero series devoted to female heroes. Deidre Hall portrayed the blonde dynamo Electra Woman. A few years early, she appeared in a blink-and-you-miss-it role on Columbo as a receptionist in "Mind Over Mayhem". Look for her early on wearing a purple sweater.
Image: The Everett Collection
4. Robert Walker was one of several Star Trek actors.
The Columbo casting director must have been a Trekkie. Several memorable character actors from Star Trek: The Original Series appeared in "Mind Over Mayhem." The first one you are likely to recognize is Robert Walker Jr., the actor who had previously played the central role of Charlie in the early Trek outing "Charlie X." Again, he gets to show off his dramatic skills in a climactic scene.
5. Arthur Batanides was was the senior geologist aboard the Enterprise.
In the Star Trek adventure "That Which Survives," Batanides wore the blue sciences division uniform as Lt. D'Amato. In "Mind Over Mayhem" he again sports blue — as a mechanic named "Murph."
6. Muscleman Ed Fury played a plainclothes policeman.
Digging deeper now, we come to Ed Fury, a bodybuilder who was a sort of Schwarzenegger of the 1950s and early 1960s. His most notable role was that of Ursus, a he-man raised by lions in a series of sword-and-sandal flicks produced in Italy. He also starred in B-movie fare such as The Wild Women of Wongo (1958) and Colossus and the Amazon Queen (1960). He oiled up and slipped into a loincloth again for a small part on Star Trek. Spot him banging a drum and playing a guard in "The Omega Glory". Here, in Columbo, he is a plainclothes cop, gathering evidence at the murder scene.
7. Jessica Walter later voiced the mom on 'Dinosaurs'.
Younger television fans will know Walter best as Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development or perhaps as the voice of Mallory Archer on Archer. She has a long, fascinating career. Not only did she land small guest roles on Columbo and Wonder Woman, she played the part of Fran Sinclair, the sitcom mom on ABC's puppet-based Dinosaurs.
Image: Buena Vista Television
8. Lou Wagner was also Lucius in 'Planet of the Apes'.
Wagner had no aversion to wearing prosthetics on his face. The actor earned one of his earliest and largest roles as Lucius in the iconic Planet of the Apes film. Years later, he was the Ferengi Frax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — not to mention a different Ferengi, DaiMon Solok, on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
9. José Ferrer narrated the series premiere of 'Bewitched'.
Yes, José Ferrer is an esteemed Hollywood legend, the first Hispanic actor to win an Academy Award. (He took home an Oscar in 1950 for Cyrano de Bergerac.) He also married Rosemary Clooney and fathered Miguel Ferrer, who you might know from RoboCop and Twin Peaks. But one of the prestigious thespian's hidden roles was that as the uncredited narrator at the start of Bewitched, heard in the pilot episode. On Columbo, his role was credited and much meatier — he was the killer!