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
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
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.
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