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.

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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!

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Jeffrey 50 months ago
Arthur Batanides another fav side actor of mine
"the kid breaks me UP"
can anyone guess that line from that show?
1st one gets a cookie:)
dkjb0719 51 months ago
Love the information and the episode
TVFF 51 months ago
The barking dog was incredibly annoying. Two things drive me up the wall. Crying babies. And barking dogs. Other than that it was very enjoyable. Couldn't remember ever having seen this one.
TheDavBow3 51 months ago
I love the movie, "Ensign Pulver". Robert Walker, Jr. was really funny. Along with Walter Matthau, Burle Ives, Tommy Sands, Larry Hagman and Peter Marshall. Cool cast. I thought it was a great sequel to "Mr. Roberts".
ElijahSteinbrecher 51 months ago
Hazel season 2 episode 2 has Robby the Robot
Patsy 51 months ago
Why can’t I watch Columbo now. It is past 8 o’clock
ElijahSteinbrecher 51 months ago
Robby the Robot was also in an episode of Hazel
Lacey 51 months ago
Robbie was also co-host of the afternoon movie show "Tronic Theater" in the Tidewater area of Virginia in the early to mid-1960s.
DouglasMorris 51 months ago
Lou Wagner also played Harlan Arliss on The TV Show Chips as a mechanic in the regular role.
JosephPetro DouglasMorris 51 months ago
He also played J5 in the last season of Lost In Space. I think iit was called The Haunted Lighthouse.
JudithReboy JosephPetro 32 months ago
Lou is still working, most recently filming a role in Doula, produced by Chris Pine, the son of his TV "boss" on CHiPS, Robert Pine.
frenchman71 51 months ago
Jessica Walter was quite an actress but how can anyone forget her role as a psycho in "Play Misty for Me"? She deserved an Oscar nomination just for that role. She played that part to perfection. I'll never forget her standing over Clint Eastwood's bed holding a 12" butcher knife.
cperrynaples frenchman71 51 months ago
I already talked about that movie! Eastwood's girlfriend was Donna Mills, who played Abby on Knots Landing! Bonus Question: Mills did a sitcom in the early '70's with another prime time soap star, Name the series and her co-star.
Lacey frenchman71 51 months ago
She was also in the criminally short-lived series Amy Prentiss where she was "San Francisco's first female Chief of Detectives!" and the first head of a police department on TV. AND she did it with style, not bullying.
frenchman71 cperrynaples 51 months ago
It wouldn't be Dallas? I remember in some primetime soap op.
cperrynaples frenchman71 51 months ago
Well you got Dallas right, but shouldn't it be obvious which star? Hint: The sitcom was The Good Life, and it wasn't that actor's first nor last sitcom! You get my respect if you can remember the third sitcom!
BuckskinBob 51 months ago
That’s a lot of interesting information .
BuckskinBob 51 months ago
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MaryEdithSomerville 51 months ago
Miguel Ferrer also played the part of Assistant Director Granger in NCIS Los Angeles.
Sadly, Jose Ferrer is probably best remembered today as being George Clooney's uncle by marriage.
cperrynaples F5Twitster 51 months ago
Yes, and Miguel died after completing the Twin Peaks reboot!
He was also Garrett on Crossing Jordan.
frenchman71 cperrynaples 51 months ago
I remember Miguel in "Robocop". Too bad he had to die...he was one of the good guys.
cperrynaples frenchman71 51 months ago
Actually, he was sorta the bad guy, and proably played more evil than nice over his film career! Crossing Jordan and NCIS:LA were his only real good guys!
Wapkep1982 51 months ago
Boo! Hiss! Check your connections before sending out your emails! The one for the James Arness Quiz and the Columbo information both come to this page!
jvf 51 months ago
For #2, I don't think Robby the Robot was in the Lost in Space episode titled "Ghost in Space".
MichaelAllenGates jvf 51 months ago
Robby the Robot appeared in three Lost in Space episodes, in “War of the Robots,” where Will finds and repairs him, in “Condemned of Space” as a guard and in "Ghost in Space". In "Ghost in Space" he is seen only in the last minute, which sets us up for the next episode which was "War of the Robots".
jvf MichaelAllenGates 51 months ago
Thank you!
Wiseguy MichaelAllenGates 51 months ago
That last part of the Lost in Space episode, even though it is shown as if it's part of the episode that just ended, it really just a preview of the next episode. It would be the same as if an announcer said, "And now a scene from next week's episode..." Would you still say an actor appeared in the previous episode if he appeared in the scene from next week?
cperrynaples Wiseguy 51 months ago
BTW, I always wanted to know, wasn't LIS' Robot just Robby with a few different parts? Compare that picture to a shot from LIS!
ScarlettKaiju 51 months ago
I have had the privilege of working with Lou Wagner several times on my local movie host show in Buffalo, NY. He is an absolute joy and one of the dearest people in the world!
john 51 months ago
Where's the James Arness quiz? Columbo was a dip..it
Pacificsun john 51 months ago
The Columbo Deep Dive is a story not a quiz. Different Tabs. Came up directly for me. Chrome user.
Augo 51 months ago
Kim Catrel, in Disl M , was another Columbo hot chick
RGD1 Augo 51 months ago
Yes, in the Rosebud attack dogs episode
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