Mission of the Darians opens with the crew of Alpha looking at this vast spaceship, some 50 miles long. It’s been transmitting an SOS, so when Koenig and crew go over, they are on a mission of peace and have no suspicion of what they are getting into. Upon arrival, the 6 Alphans break into three groups. Koenig and Victor, Allan and Paul, Helena and Ensign Smith. Well, it was a pretty clear indication that we were losing 1 crewman right from the start and it took no effort to figure out who. This brings our crew countdown to 301. And that’s significant because this episode is going to draw a very important parallel between the Darians and the Alphans. It just might hint and things to come…
For the last 900 years, the Darians have been traveling but when most of their reactors exploded, they lost a massive amount of their people. Supposedly, only 14 survived, but almost immediately, I counted more than 14 in just one scene. This is not a production error but an issue with class. This is, in effect, The Time Machine in Space: 1999 where the Morlocks are the ruling class and the mutated people are the Eloi… right down to the food source they provide for the Darians. (I was also reminded very heavily of Doctor Who’s Genesis of the Daleks with the Mutts and the Norms. A common enough trope, but still thoroughly enjoyable.)
Before any of that is discovered though, the ruling class of Darians offer Koenig an option. They are escaping a dead world and suggest the Alphans join them; their ship is certainly big enough and as these Darians represent the rest of their kind, so too do the humans of Earth. And that drove home an incredibly valid point that makes my death toll for this series very sobering. When Earth’s moon was ripped out of orbit, Earth wasn’t going to remain unscathed. Just take a moment to think about that. The likelihood is, most human life on Earth is probably gone. Where some humans may still survive, it’s undoubtedly patches of humanity and they are unlikely to ever be space-faring again. In a nutshell, the residents of Moon Base Alpha represent all that is left of humanity. Every death becomes a nail in the coffin of our species. “You may be all that’s left Earth’s civilization.” That now makes every soul that much more meaningful as they go from adventure to adventure.
There’s a lot to like about this episode. Duncan from Babylon 5 is on the ship, played by Aubrey Morris. Sadly, he’s a high priest who liquifies the mutants, so he’s nowhere near as nice as he was on B5! Perhaps far more appealing is the beautiful Joan Collins looking more stunning than I’d ever seen her. Boy howdy, I never realized just how pretty she really was! City on the Edge of Forever didn’t do her justice! (Interestingly there’s a bit of trivia around this episode where Barbara Bain was unhappy with the length of Joan’s skirt – which is to say 1″ long – and put up such a fuss that she gets to wear an even shorter skirt. Alas, poor Bain does not attract the cameraman enough to warrant the effort!) Also, the set design on this episode is amazing! The ship looks great on the outside, and even more impressive inside. The devastated areas are your basic scifi ruined landscape, but the areas that remain intact are works of art.
I still find this cast a strange batch. Paul always looks like he’s pouting – just remember Salamar in Doctor Who’s Planet of Evil! Helena, admittedly terrified, seems to lose the ability to speak and while she tends to whisper a lot anyway, seemed utterly incapable of saying anything at all for the bulk of the episode. Of course, it could have been out of annoyance that Joan Collins stole every scene. And John doesn’t fair well either as he almost back-hands Ms. Collins.
This is a story that resonated because it really drove home the point that we are a finite species and may not be around forever. When the Mutts rebel and destroy their gene bank, it dooms the Darians. If they are to survive, it will be through working together with the lower class, but they will no longer be the same species that left their homeworld 900 years earlier. It makes us wonder how far Koenig will go to keep them alive, when things get dire. And perhaps it gives us a hint of what could happen to humanity on their moon-spaceship. Perhaps they will encounter a race with whom they can settle and a new species will be born from it. Maybe that’s already happened once before and we’re none the wiser. In a way, I find that very hopeful. It reminds us that we can adapt and life goes on. Yes, hope can be found in the strangest places… ML