“There’s something out there we don’t understand!” Well, no kidding! For me, it was the fact that digital clocks wake people up, bell bottom pants are still in style and there’s breakable glass windows all over Moonbase Alpha! I’d comment on the oh-so-70’s theme music too, but the characters don’t know that exists, so we’ll give that one a pass. I do wonder about the doors that need remote controls to open but in a way, that’s more sensible than Star Trek’s “smart” doors. Trek’s doors seem to know when you want them to open vs when you just want to put your hands on them, which makes about as much sense as the phrase ice hot but the doors on Moonbase Alpha come equipped with remotes with Ring Doorbell installed. Someone knocks and you can see them before letting them in. Amazingly, this was 50 years ahead of its time!
What really blew my mind with this episode is … well, actually there are three things. The first is the one that bothered me. When I saw the title, Force of Life, my first thought was that this would be the ramifications of the pilot episode as people tried to hold on to the hope of returning to Earth. But no! Instead, everyone has gotten down to the business of staring out into the night sky to watch blue lights come to visit. That felt like a big miss. We could have explored the relationships the humans had with the cataclysm of the previous episode which would have given us a connection to what came before while still tackling some big subjects. Another mind blowing thing in episode two was looking at the main character, Anton, and thinking “good lord, I am sure I know this guy” only to realize it was Ian McShane. From Moonbase Alpha to Deadwood… this guy aged backwards! And that lead me to the last thing: the number of deaths in this episode. At the end of the last episode, we learn that there are 311 men and women on the station. McShane is responsible for freezing 3 people to death before he too dies. During his search for heat, Koenig powers down the station resulting in one more death; someone in the sickbay, presumably from last episode. So we’re down 5 people that we know of! The explosion when the reactor goes up does immense damage and I’d be hard pressed to believe no one died, but since we haven’t heard, I’ll let it go. Maybe they got lucky. So we are down to 306 people… that’s not a lot.
The general idea behind the episode is not a bad one. Anton (McShane) is inhabited by a creature that seeks heat. This can be from any power source it can find, including human beings (hence the aforementioned deaths). Now, Koenig is not proving to be the most effective commander around and, like last episode, he’s certainly no Jim Kirk. In the pilot, he did not want to risk a return trip home. In this, upon realizing there is an alien life force on the station, he makes this proclamation: “What we’ve got to do is destroy that force!” Yeah? Not, I don’t know, communicate and try to understand it? What does impress me though is that the crew of Alpha fail to do that very thing! That was unexpected. The creature gets away and I was actually very impressed by this; sometimes you can’t fix a problem.
I will say that when McShane is burned, the special effects to create the burn victim are surprisingly disturbing. The bright glowing eyes on the burned body is so strange and alien it deserved credit! Also worthy of some praise was the sudden burst of color found in the red room. Until now, everything was so whitewashed that any splash of color was a gift. To find an entire red room was nice. I imagine Helena (I-like-to-whisper) Russell was looking at color swatches to see what other paint colors could be used on the moonbase to add some zest to their lives. (Really though, what was she looking at when she had her back turned on the alien in sickbay?) And speaking of color, unlike Trek, I have no idea what the arm colors signify, but I do wonder what design genius felt the left arm needed to be a different color to signify rank! Oh, and let’s shift to Victor for a second, what happened to him while running that caused him to seize up and mention that these temperatures were not good for “a clockwork arm”? Is he a cyborg?
This show is strange. I am enjoying it, and I do think Jim Kirk would be happy on any base that has a solarium for the ladies to go tanning in, so he’d approve of some things on the moon base. It’s still too early to make an assessment on the show overall. I think the plot has been a little slow, but not unrealistically. There is a sense of a cohesive world, which is something Star Trek took far longer to get right. (Koenig asks if one of the crew has Radiation Sickness – a reference to the previous episode). But I’m definitely going to need more time to get a feel for the series overall, which is about the same for the cast; I think they need to fit their roles better and that might take time. The one thing I have learned already: avert your eyes during the opening previews. It’s like The Outer Limits, giving you a preview of what’s to come. Why do I want clips of what I’m about to watch when I know I’m going to stick with it? Such a weird production decision… ML