There’s something cool sounding about the name Ultima Thule and that’s the best pun I could come up with as an opener. Thule, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, means the northernmost part of the habitable ancient world. Ultima is the last, or one might consider the word ultimate, as in the way we think of something being the best. Ultima Thule is therefore the coldest planet the Alphans could imagine. But the name is the only good sounding thing about the planet, because the perpetual wind storm wears on the viewer’s nerves. It does, however, also create an extremely tense opening act. The Alphans get an invitation to visit the planet. Ever on the lookout for a new home, Koenig, Helena, Allen and Victor pay a visit but it’s a freezing blizzard that immediately clings to them in ways polystyrene snow never does. This is because the effect is created using some kind of foam that was undoubtedly bad for the actors health, but made for a much more believable viewing experience. They are almost immediately lost in the blizzard, unable to even hear one another as they wander the dreadful landscape. Luckily Ultima Thule has one thing that can help… the only man who could be heard through any blizzard: Brian Blessed!!
By the second act, we’re basically in a better version of Zarabeth’s cave (Star Trek: All Our Yesterdays), complete with lots of scantily clad women, a bunch of scientists (because that combination happens…) and one raving Shakespearean, Colonel Jack Tanner. The chief scientist is Dr. Roland (Blessed) and he wants to bring the Alphans to Ultima Thule. This is where the episode peters out a bit. We get a lot of tension building up around Roland. He’s sneaky and prevents communication with Alpha, and also has a room full of mindless zombies, but Helena seems to be in agreement with him. The planet has allowed them to live for 800 years; the inhabitants are immortal but in experimenting to save themselves, they’ve wiped the minds of some of their people. But here’s the rub, it’s almost like we had two different ideas and the writers forgot which way they were going with it. These people recognized the moon and knew it was Earth’s moon. Jack had even foretold it’s arrival (even calling it Moon Base Alpha!). Which that too seems to be a contradiction because they were part of the Uranus Expedition of 1986. That was, as Victor even verifies, “14 years ago”. Now, I’ve never claimed to be great with numbers; I know how to pay my bills and whatnot, but 14 and 800 aren’t close to one another, especially when talking about years. I believe I could still be alive in 14 years. I can’t say the same of 800, to my dismay.
So let’s ignore that and assume that somehow they’ve been sent into a time warp, which is what Roland implies anyway, but then that means they made it back close enough to the Alphan’s time to meet them which makes no sense. They seem to have a line that tries to make sense of it when Victor says he tried to ask the computer questions but he had the wrong premise and the computer is 800 years more advanced than they are. Whatever, it doesn’t pay to think too hard about it so let’s move on. It’s already clear the writers didn’t care about the logic of it. The kicker arrives when Allan, who was separated from the others, makes it back and finds a veritable paradise; he wants to stay on Ultima Thule. I can’t say I blame him, barring that I dislike the cold, but a cave full of lovely women might coerce me. Koenig proclaims, “Freedom of choice is out of the question!” Good to know he’s a dictator! “We’ll have a vote.” They either all will stay or none will, so they decide to head back to Alpha to try to convince everyone. One woman offers to go with Roland and the Alphans but Jack screams that no one should go. So therefore only Roland opts to go and Koenig will “make the case” for the woman… without ever asking her what her case actually is. Jack says that the planet is a jealous woman and with that, they leave.
Now if you didn’t see where this was going, I failed to explain it well. While traveling back to Alpha, Roland melts and I have to say, it’s a gloriously disturbing image. The picture doesn’t do it justice! The realization is that once you’re part of Ultima Thule, you can’t leave or you’ll die. So of course, no one goes back; problem solved. The problem of the dictatorial commander is resolved by the jealous woman that is Ultima Thule. Koenig ponders, “death gives meaning to life.” Melancholy and a bit confused really as morals go. See, that’s like telling me if I stay on this planet and never leave, I can have eternal life. OK, done! I won’t leave. Sorted! I hadn’t any plans to find a way offworld and, though I’ve hoped to meet aliens all my life, they haven’t come calling yet, so… eternal life it is! If the Alphans made a life on Ultima Thule, why would they even consider leaving it? The curse would not have been a curse; the moon is hardly likely to make it back to Earth, and certainly not in their lifetimes!
I’m blasting holes in this episode left and right but I actually was mesmerized by it. I thought Blessed was going to be the star but that honor really goes to Jack Tanner (John Shrapnel) who goes from madness to clarity throughout the episode. His performance is stellar. But the main cast still leaves something to be desired. I really like Victor but he’s definitely not on his mark yet and Helena still could be a child of Pinnocchio. Koenig (Landau) is a class act, even if he doesn’t fare well in the command department this week. In fairness, I feel like this show is still finding its space legs and it’s coming along, albeit slowly. I’m far from disappointed with it, but I do wish someone was hired to review the script and point out the massive leaps in logic, but otherwise, I’m happy to be along for the journey. ML