Season One: Exploring STARBRIGHT (1-3)
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
Coming as it does so early in proceedings, the Starbright trilogy is made up of the following named parts: "Falling Star", "Colliding Stars" and "Rising Star." It feeds directly on from the end of Truly Outrageous/The First Five Episodes, and many of the accepted rules of character begun there also apply. However Starbright does give us a little more depth on some of the characters - and of course, introduces us to yet more new ones!!
THE MONTGOMERY RIVALRY
One of the important threads in this episode is the rivalry between Clash and Video. Both appear for the first time in Starbright - Video being introduced to Jem by Anthony Julian and Clash neaking her way on set to get in with the Misfits. Their rivalry is interesting. Not only does Video assume automatically (and correctly) that it is Clash who has obtained her pass, but also she sees the need to warn Jem right from the off that her cousin is there, as if anticipating trouble before it happens. This tells us that the Montgomery rivalry existed long before the Jem/Misfit one did!
Equally, from Clash's side of it, there is just as much hostility (if not more!). It has been said that Clash simply adores Pizzazz and therefore does whatever she's told to do unquestioningly because of this. I disagree. Much as she likes the Misfits, and idolises them, the foundations of their friendship suggest something else - that Clash sees Pizzazz and the others as a useful way to keep up her harassment of Video. Reactionary as she becomes later in the series, at this stage it is easy to see that Clash has her own agenda and that she has worked out very carefully the best way to ingratiate her with rock's most temperamental rockstar - through blatant flattery!
The Montgomery situation adds a new dimension to the rivalry between Jem and the Misfits and often the boundaries between them become blurred together. Video on several occasions lets things slip that she should not, telling Clash that one of the Starlights need an operation, and telling the backstage crew the same. But what interests me is something she 'tells' Clash. Clash repeats the message to Pizzazz that "Jem and the Holograms are going to make you look like the phony trash you are." But we never hear Video actually give her message, and the phrasing sounds distinctly unlike the normal wording Video would use - even when antagonised by Clash she rarely resorts to name calling. So what if Video's message to the Misfits is far more innocuous, and what if Clash used this opportunity to further rile up the Misfits to keep them involved for her own ends? Perhaps it's Clash's way of ensuring that, even though the Misfits have the movie set to themselves, she keeps them interested in Jem's own low-budget production, so she has some kind of excuse to keep digging away at Video in the way she does so well!
Starbright also brings to light a clue to the kind of ally Clash will prove to be in the future, as Georgia the make-up artist transforms her appearance to make her unrecognisable. Clearly she's learnt a lot from this, because in later episodes (Video Wars and One Jem Too Many spring to mind), she uses a disguise as part of a scheme against Jem and the Holograms.
ERIC RAYMOND AND JEM'S SECRET
This is another of those things that jump out at me when I watch Starbright. Eric's roles in this episode seem essentially twofold - revenge on Jerrica, Jem and the Holograms for the events of Truly Outrageous and secondly, to keep Pizzazz and company happy (never an easy task!) and under his command (almost impossible!). The first of these two options seems the most obvious motive for making Jerrica his assistant in return for allowing Jem and co back on set. But I think he has another motive too. In Truly Outrageous, Eric has a private detective discover Synergy, and give him the suggestion that Jerrica and Jem are one and the same. Eric dismisses it at the time because he believes he has seen them together, but by part 2 of Starbright, he seems to have reflected on this for some time, and decided to put the theory to the test. Having Jerrica as his assistant means that he can keep her in his line of sight while Jem is filming, and at one point he forcibly prevents her from leaving to find Jem, whilst uttering all kinds of dire threats about what will happen to the singer if she doesn't appear. Eric never really queries the Jem/Jerrica identity possibility again, so evidently the events of Starbright convince him that they are indeed seperate people.
His second role of keeping the Misfits happy is one which really forms it's familiar setup in Starbright. Eric has never been able to control them by giving orders and the introduction of the wealthy Harvey Gabor tips things against him - Pizzazz wields the power and clout and he knows it only too well. This is illustrated most effectively towards the end of Starbright when Eric complains about Pizzazz's plans for the movie and she says, "Shall I call Daddy? You can be replaced too, you know!" And as things progress it becomes clear that the only way that he is going to keep a hand over them is through manipulation.
But then again, maybe he has already benefited from Pizzazz's money, since somehow he got out of prison after Truly Outrageous fairly unscathed, thanks to the wonders lawyers can perform "if you pay them enough". Did Harvey's money bail Eric out of jail? Perhaps. Eric is no fool and, though he is playing with fire by sticking with Pizzazz and the Misfits, he also realises the financial power that he is associating himself with, allowing him to do far more than he would otherwise be able to do.
Of course, the idea of Eric's revenge against Jem and Jerrica is also a valid one for the taking over of Starbright. When you come to think about it, it is Eric, not Pizzazz, who goes mad at crew and sacks willy-nilly various important backstage people, including Anthony Julian as the director, and the cinematographer, Colin. Eric is no fool and would not do these things impulsively or haphazardly. Can we perhaps call this irrational behaviour a covert form of sabotaging Jem's movie?
Being that it's a Jem episode, there are several "romantic interludes" in Starbright - including Kimber's first of many ;) The most prominent is the onoing Jem/Jerrica/Rio saga which dominates the mood of the first two Jem music videos "(Who Is He Kissing? and Jealousy). Who Is He Kissing gives a good glimpse inside jerrica's muddled mind - it is sparked off by a careless remark by Rio that makes her question whether he likes Jem better than her or not. Jerrica's jealousy of her alter-ego is not cemented yet, however, and Starbright relies on the involvement of outsiders to create the romantic trauma. When it comes to the Jealousy video Rio takes a fist to Jem's arrogant co-star Nick Mann - the video and song are obviously about and aimed at Rio, but there is a note of payback, almost, in Jem's words. It's like she's saying "You mess me around - well, now you know how it feels."
The other player in the Jem situation is Pizzazz, who makes pretty much her last attempt on Rio in Starbright. But this has no hint of love or anything like that about it. Pizzazz is playing manipulator, protecting Rio from Eric's wrath in order to have a measure of control over him. One thing I find very telling is that the first time Jem quits, Rio does not. He is still there when they return, criticising Jem for her about-face. Evidently Pizzazz's power over Rio is enough to keep him on-set even after Jem has walked out! Pizzazz also has something of an interest in Nick Mann, but it appears superficial and designed to drag attention away from Jem and onto her, so there's not much point in dwelling on this for very long :)
The second - and probably the most bizarre - love thread revolves around the unlikely competition of Kimber with Roxy for the affections of stuntman Jeff Wright. It's true that superficial Kimber begins with a crush on Nick, but she's happy-go-lucky enough to change her affections when Jeff saves her life, and Jeff seems struck by her from the off. The fact that he is not her ideal man seems not to have occured to him - but this is better illustrated in later episodes, particularly Hollywood Jem. Roxy's involvement with Jeff is something, which, quite frankly I find ludicrous (and thankfully it's not a theme which the writers ever bothered to repeat, preferring to pitch the more likely Pizzazz as Kimber's love rival in future episodes.) Of course, it is possible that Roxy's attraction in Starbright can be explained by the kind of job Jeff does. He lives dangerously, using gadgets and driving motorcycles, which is a world that on many occasions we see appeals to Roxy. At one point he warns her to be careful when she's near his motorcycle - I think she probably is more attracted to that bike than she is to him, in truth - and when she sets off the explosions in revenge for Jeff liking Kimber more, she knows exactly which switch to flip without hesitation. Ironically, despite his infatuation with Kimber, Jeff probably has more in common with Roxy!!
The final love thread I'm gonna mention is the ongoing romance between Shana and Anthony, which by this time is beginning to blossom into something of a serious and secure attachment. In the Love Is Doin' It video, Shana and Anthony are shown together, evidently very close, and when Anthony is thrown off the set, Shana is distraught. This is the most secure relationship in the Jem series, and suffers few traumas!
PIZZAZZ ON SHOWBUSINESS
Right at the start of part one, we discover a lot more about Pizzazz than the five parts of Truly Outrageous put together told us. We learn that her father is rich, that they have numerous huge estates and, most importantly, that she does not care about money. Pizzazz's raison d'etre is fame and attention - I always use this quote when summing this up, and I'll use it again: "I want my name spoken with awe, I want people to throw themselves at my feet!".
We also see for the first time her dubious relationship with her father, Harvey, who's modus operandi is to keep her happy and out of his hair, whatever the cost. Pizzazz can usually get her way by him by throwing a tantrum, but she is not overall dominant over him, because his business instincts still hold good - at the end of the episode he returns control of the movie studio to Howard Sands and says "indulging you is one thing but losing this much money is unacceptable." Perhaps here we have one of Pizzazz's reasons for monetary indifference - it's something her father occasionally puts between her and her goals, as well as between her and him. It doesn't take much to see that Pizzazz's behaviour in Starbright is all about attention - she wants more scenes than Jem, even if it wrecks the script. Its a short step to connect that with her distant relationship with her father.
The Misfits also have three songs throughout the three parts which tell their own story. Universal Appeal - Pizzazz's announcement to the world that she's here and people should sit up and take note. Congratulations - your average, run of the mill 'Jem, you suck' song...and Welcome To The Jungle, which I consider Pizzazz's autobiography, somehow. She sings about 'a creature on the prowl' and a predator - I think she sees herself as this predator, preying on anyone or anything that stands in her way to fame and glory. Maybe the jungle is a metaphor for showbusiness - who knows?
STORMER and BEING A MISFIT
Stormer's early forays into Misfit-hood are altogether amusing. Despite playing it tough whenever the others call on her, it is still very apparent that she is not quite with the program. When the Misfits tell the Holograms to get out of the main dressing room, Stormer oddly tells them not to forget their toothbrushes! This is just one example of her saying the first thing that comes into her head in order to play her part in 'not being soft.' But despite this, she still has a conscience. When Pizzazz lies to cover for Roxy after the explosions, Stormer's Misfit loyalty makes her agree, but she lowers her gaze, as if ashamed to be lying.
We do also see her love of music, however, and her reason for being a Misfit is probably that desire to play and perform. Not only is she skilled with keys, though, but also we find with rhythm. It is her hands which clap the intro to Universal Appeal (not as is commonly thought Pizzazz's, because there is no jewellery on the clapping hands!) and Stormer (along with the also versatile Roxy) plays drums in Welcome to the Jungle. (Later episodes and parts of Truly Outrageous also show her with both electric and acoustic guitar).
Whatever is said about Stormer in terms of her character, it's clear in Starbright that she is a loyal Misfit. When Jem first quits, she and Clash are jumping around shrieking "the Misfits are it! The Misfits are it!" with great excitement, and when Jem and co return, she is part of the hairbrush-flinging attack on Eric. But she is sweet Misfit to the last - she wants to know which Starlight girl needs an operation, and while Roxy and Pizzazz dismiss autograph hunters, Stormer tempers it with a "maybe later", showing that she really doesn't want to disappoint the fans.
BANEE and THE MANY USES OF JEM
When thinking about Starbright, BaNee's eye problem is not the first thing that springs to my mind, yet it is intrinsic to most all of the plot. There are a few key reasons - Jerrica's clear love for BaNee and concern over her health, the survival of the 'forgotten' music company Starlight Music, inspired by Jerrica's need for money for the surgery (isn't it interesting how she goes to so much trouble to wrest it from Eric and then lets it get into a worse state by neglecting it?) and of course, the making of Starbright itself. That BaNee is protected from much of the goings on is hardly surprising - the kid is only eight - but it is simply more evidence that Jerrica in these early episodes is still very much the dominant personality and is utilising Jem to generate funds to pay for BaNee's eye operation. You can tell how important this is to Jerrica because she is not only willing to put up with much abuse from Eric, she also signs the paperwork for the operation before she has the cash in hand, risking Starlight Mansion in the process. If nothing else it shows that she has absolute faith in Jem's ability to shine, despite the obstacles, and this is a sentiment BaNee shares, convinced as she is that Jem will come through for her. People Who Care, the closing song, is not about jem's movie plot or Rio's character being taught how to care. It's about all of the people who agreed to work for free in order to help BaNee recover her eyesight.
I still feel that Jerrica took a big risk when they quit the set after Kimber's accident. Torn as she is between helping her foster girl and her sister's safety, blood does prove thicker than water (one of the few times where Jerrica's affection for Kimber is shown without them having had a fight earlier in the episode!). It is another example of her faith in her Jem persona - Jerrica never quits the show, or challenges Eric on anything within the episode. Being Jem gives her the confidence to do all of that, without Jerrica's nagging conscience in the background. But Jerrica is still in command, because at the start she forgets she is Jem when one of the Starlights calls for help, immediately trying to go to their aid without changing back, and getting a shock when she looks in the mirror!
Starbright as a trilogy is a good early episode and by far a better plot in my opinion than Truly Outrageous because it fleshes out characters far better. We are introduced to Video and Clash - both of whom are important characters for later episodes. And of course it has my favourite Misfit song/video - Universal Appeal. What more do you want?
Episode rating: 8/10.
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This version c.2014
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