upon a time, a junkman had a dream...
“I want to build a spaceship, go to the moon, salvage
all the junk that’s up there, bring it back, and sell
So he put together a team. An ex-astronaut...a fuel expert...they
built a rocket ship... And they went to the moon. Who knows
what they’ll do next?
In the tumult
of the late 1970’s, when double-digit inflation gripped
the nation and US hostages languished in Tehran, Americans were
able to fondly recall their nation’s stunning victories
in the space race, and revel in the still-fresh memories of
the highly successful Apollo program. It was during this time
that a former Navy electronics technician turned industrial
training film producer named Michael Lloyd Ross caught a newspaper
article about the millions of dollars of space hardware that
had been left behind on the moon’s surface.
Inspired, Ross formed an idea for a feature film that would
detail the efforts of a team of ordinary Americans who would
build their own spaceship from scratch, and fly to the moon
to salvage the equipment NASA had left behind. Ross pitched
his idea to producers Harve Bennett (who would go on to make
a name for himself as the producer of the most successful Star
Trek movies) and Harris Katleman. While Bennett and Katleman
were enamored of the idea, they convinced Harris that such a
story was better fitted to the small screen. Thus, Ross teamed
with writers Bert Swanson and Ruel Fischman to pen the script
for Salvage, a two-hour made for television movie/pilot
that premiered on ABC television at 8:00 pm on Saturday, 20
television star Andy Griffith was cast in the lead role of Harry
Broderick, owner of Jettison Scrap and Salvage, the “junkman
who had a dream.” To aid him in his efforts, a fresh-faced
actor named Joel Higgins (Best of the West, Silver
Spoons) was cast as a brilliant former NASA astronaut-turned-used-car
salesman named Addison “Skip” Carmichael, who’s
unconventional “Trans-Linear Vector Principle” theory
would serve as the basis for Harry’s unconventional mission.
Rounding out the lead cast was actress Trish Stewart (The
Young and the Restless) as Melanie Slozar, a former NASA
explosives expert who would ultimately create the extremely
powerful but highly volatile “mono-hydrazine” based
rocket fuel that would transform the Trans-Linear Vector Principle
from theory into reality.
Jay Saunders and Raleigh Bond led the supporting cast as Mack
and Fred, respectively, two former NASA engineers who came to
work for Harry at Jettison Salvage after being laid off by the
space agency, while Richard Jaeckel (The Dirty Dozen,
Starman) portrayed FBI Special Agent Jack Klinger.
Initially the Salvage team’s adversary, Jaeckel’s
character became a reluctant supporter of the Salvage mission
by the end of the pilot, and tenuous ally in the ensuing series.
Finally, Jacqueline Scott (The Bold and the Beautiful)
was cast as Harry’s ex-wife, Lorene, who oversaw the business
operations at Jettison Salvage.
The script for the Salvage telemovie benefited not
only from Ross’s own extensive electronics background,
but also from the services of SciFi writer Issac Asimov, who
was making something of a second career out of serving as “Scientific
Advisor” on any number of science fiction television programs,
including the original Star Trek. Together, Ross and
Asimov ensured that the Salvage 1 team’s plan for getting
to the moon and back, and the design of their spacecraft, “The
Vulture,” weren’t too “out of this world.”
The optimism and entrepreneurial victory embodied by Salvage
captured the imagination of a downtrodden nation burdened with
escalating oil prices and skyrocketing mortgage rates. The telemovie
was a ratings smash for ABC, which immediately ordered 12 episodes
of a Salvage 1 series as a mid-season replacement to
be aired on Monday nights at 8:00 pm during the 1978-79 television
season. Raleigh Bond’s “Fred” was the only
principal character that didn’t survive the transition
from telemovie to series. Failing to acknowledge the lessons
learned from Battlestar Galactica, however, ABC rushed
the new series into production, leaving little time for the
development of quality scripts. The first of the new episodes,
“Dark Island,” premiered on Monday, 29 January 1979.
Salvage 1 ended its first season on 28 May 1979, with
an episode titled “Confederate Gold,” which is largely
regarded by fans and critics alike as the weakest episode of
the entire series.
1 the series was met by the American viewing public with
much less enthusiasm than was Salvage, the made-for-TV
movie. As columnist Robert Mackenzie wrote in the 24 March 1979
issue of TV Guide: “Once you have been to
the moon, some astronauts say, everything afterward is a letdown.
That should have provided a clue to the makers of this ABC adventure
But it wasn’t only the audience who was feeling let down
by the quality of Salvage 1, the sentiment was shared
by the actors who, frustrated by the rush of production, did
everything in their limited power to improve some of the stories
while fleshing out their characters. "It's not that we
get bad scripts,” said Stewart in a 1980 Starlog
interview, “it's just that everything has been so rushed
all season. We did the pilot, and then a week later got the
go-ahead for the show. They just didn't have time to get those
scripts together. They're still working on the scripts while
we're shooting it."
Salvage 1 ultimately drew lackluster ratings, and by
the end of the first season ABC had not announced its renewal
for the 1979-80 television season. The network did, however,
order 13 new episodes to be aired as a mid-season replacement
for the first ABC series to fall under the cancellation axe.
ABC ordered the addition of a new child character, Michelle
(Heather McAdam), and directed that the scripts be written to
accommodate a move to the 7:00 pm Sunday time slot, a time slot
which was largely geared toward children at the time, and which
carried a stifling prerequisite for educational content (ironically,
this is the time-slot that was eventually foisted upon the ill-fated
Galactica 1980, and which served as that show’s
on the second season was to have started in the Summer of 1979,
but, again to their frustration, the actors and crew were kept
waiting until shooting finally resumed in the Fall. When shooting
did begin, the actors were crestfallen to discover that, rather
than improving, the quality of the scripts had actually declined.
With only 7 hours of the 13-episode order in the can, ABC abruptly
halted production. The future of Salvage 1 was once
At the end of the Salvage telemovie, a City Councilman
who wanted to send the Salvage 1 team to the North Pole in order
to bring back an iceberg, thereby staving off the threat of
drought, approached Harry. Interestingly enough, this plotline
was never revisited during the first season of the show, but
did serve as the basis for “Hard Water,” the two-part
episode what was to have been the second season premiere of
Salvage 1. “Hard Water” part one aired
at 7:00 pm on Sunday, 4 November 1979, part two aired a week
No new episodes followed.
On 21 December, 1979, with four unaired episodes of the shelf,
ABC lowered the boom. Salvage 1 was officially cancelled.
The remaining four episodes were never broadcast on ABC, but
were seen in the UK.
Stewart faded from the acting scene shortly after the demise
of Salvage 1, while Joel Higgins went on to star in
another short-lived ABC program, a 1981-82 post-Civil War sitcom
called Best of the West. Higgins portrayed Sam Best,
a former Union soldier appointed Marshall of a small town on
the western frontier. A highlight of Best of the West was
a guest appearance by former Salvage 1 co-star Andy
Griffith as Higgins’s Confederate father-in-law. After
the cancellation of Best, Higgins found success on
the NBC sitcom Silver Spoons, which also starred Buck
Rogers alum Erin Grey. Spoons ran from 1982 to
1987, after which Higgins, like Stewart, faded into obscurity.
Griffith continued to enjoy a busy career well into the 1990’s,
reprising his best-known role as Sheriff Andy Taylor in 1986’s
Return to Mayberry. Griffith went on to star in the
highly successful Matlock television series, first
on NBC (1986-1992) then on ABC (1992-1995). His last appearance
was in the 2001 Billy Bob Thornton film Daddy and Them.
by Commander Taggart