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Space: 1999

By Jim Gay

When it was first broadcast in 1975, there had never been a more lavishly produced science fiction TV series than Space: 1999, a British production whose budget for the first of its two seasons ran an astounding 3.25 million pounds. What keeps us fans enthralled after all these years has only partly to due with the first-rate production values, the plausibly constructed spaceship models, and expert special effects. The tone of the show is one of scientific dispassion, setting it apart from its TV sci-fi predecessors such as Star Trek, whose mood was more convivial. Our heroes here are in dire circumstances that require cool heads as a survival trait. Those circumstances: the 311 crew members of Moonbase Alpha experience a cataclysm that causes the moon to break away from Earth's orbit and travel endlessly through space, turning our heroes into unintentional explorers. No TV series has created a more palpable feel of hard science fiction than this. Of course the show is not without its detractors; it has been soundly lambasted for its many scientific errors. No less august a figure than Isaac Asimov criticized the show for its premise in the opening episode, "Breakaway," which had nuclear explosions on the "dark side of the moon" somehow propelling it out of Earth's orbit and flying through space without regard to any physical laws. In "Earthbound", aliens traveling to Earth state it will take them 75 years to reach their destination, making one wonder why it didn't take the moon that long to encounter the aliens. While these are serious complaints, fans tend to remember the scientific seriousness of the series and the sense of awe created by the many strange creatures and phenomena that the crew members encounter on their journey through the galaxy.

 

Episode 1--"Breakway":. In this opening episode, it is September of 1999. John Koenig (Martin Landau), the Commander of Moonbase Alpha, must solve the mysterious deaths of nine astronauts and oversee the launching of the Meta Probe. With the aid of Chief Medical Officer Dr. Helena Russell (Barbara Bain) and Professor Victor Bergman (Barry Morse), the race for answers will lead to the dark side of the moon. There, a new and terrifying source of magnetic radiation from buried nuclear waste threatens to engulf the moon and forever change its relationship to Earth. Guest Star: Roy Dotrice (Beauty & the Beast) as Commissioner Simmonds.

Episode 2--"A Matter of Life and Death": A reconnaissance ship returning from what seemed like a compatible planet for the lost humans on Moonbase Alpha lands with an additional crew member, Dr. Helena Russell's long lost husband, Lee (Richard Johnson)--a man thought dead from the disastrous Astro 7 mission. Unknown forces have changed him into a being who slips from matter to anti-matter, wavering between life and death. He brings a dire warning: avoid the planet at all cost, or face total obliteration. Guest Star: Richard Johnson (Khartoum and the original The Haunting) as Lee Russell, with Stuart Damon (General Hospital).

Episode 3--"Black Sun": The runaway moon is drawn into the inescapable gravity field of a "black sun." This hole in space, where even light is captured, begins to drain Moonbase Alpha's power, slowly consigning its inhabitants to death. In a desperate attempt to survive, Commander Koenig launches a ship staffed with a chosen few to flee in the opposite direction. Now, as the moon enters the black sun and the Alphans submit to their fate, the line between science and mysticism fades, opening the way for an encounter with the eternal mind of the universe. With Paul Jones as Ryan and Jon Laurimore as Smitty.

Episode 4--"Ring Around the Moon": A probe from the planet Triton immobilizes the journeying moon in a ring of light, drives technician Ted Clifford (Max Faulkner) mad, and then abducts Dr. Russell. When Helena is later returned to the moonbase, Alphans soon realize that she has become a living "link," transmitting vital data about Alpha and the Earth to the aliens. Koenig and Eagle pilot Alan Carter attempt to confront the aliens and thwart their plans before the final transmission can be sent, and the implanted probe in Helena is ignited, thus destroying her. With Max Faulkner (Goldeneye) as Ted Clifford.

Episode 5--"Earthbound": Humanoid aliens bearing gifts make an emergency landing on the traveling moon. After learning of their sorrow-filled sojourn, Koenig grants them aid and rest, and learns their destination is Earth! Their leader, Captain Zantor (Christopher Lee), makes a dramatic offer--one Alphan may return with them. Zantor would like to have Dr. Russell go along, but Koenig assigns Main Computer to make an unbiased choice. Will everyone agree? Guest Star: Roy Dotrice (Picket Fences) as Commissioner Simmonds. Special Guest Star: Christopher Lee (Dracula) as Captain Zantor.

Episode 6--"Another Time, Another Place": The moon is struck by a spectacular shower of color and light. Regina Kesslann (Judy Gleeson), screaming that she has seen two moons, has obviously been affected by this cosmic disturbance. Only she possesses the knowledge that the Commander and Alan Carter are dead. The fabric of time has been torn asunder, leaving the Alphans with no place to die. Guest Star: Judy Gleeson (To Sir With Love) as Regina Kesslann.

Space: 1999 on DVD!
Space: 1999 is now available on DVD! Get it at Amazon.com!
Season One, Season Two, Season Three, Season Four, Season Five, Season Six, Season Seven, Season Eight

 

Share Your Memories In Our Forums!

Check out our Space: 1999 forum! Do you have a favorite episode of the show? What do you remember about the series? Do you have any questions about it or its stars? Now you can post comments and questions directly to our TV forums! Click here to see what other Space: 1999 viewers have said or to post your own comments about the show!

Your Memories Shared!

Space:1999 remains one of my favorite shows of all time - from the obviously way ahead of their time special effects to the highly believable set and hardware designs (ie, the mini vid phones!). The stories for the most part are good if a little campy by today's standards. I really enjoy the rapport that Commander Koneig and the professor share. My favorite line from the professsor is when he says "Im a scientist- what do I know about God...." It got a little corny towards the end with Mia aboard Moonbase Alpha... the shape shifting alien. But still it was an enjoyable ride while it lasted.

--MoonBase Fan

Note: This is just a random sample of the Space: 1999 messages in our TV forums! Click here to see what others have said or to post your own comments!

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: 1974-1976

Cast: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Catherine Schell, Barry Morse, Clifton Jones, Tony Anholt, Nick Tate

Network: Syndicated

Genre: Drama

Theme song

Image courtesy of ITC


   
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