Space: 1999 – Earthbound

breakawayWhen Roy Doltrice appeared on screen, I remembered that he was the commissioner from the pilot episode Breakaway.  I could not help but wonder where he had been hiding all this time.  Wherever it was, he should have stayed there.  But his presence was a reminder of his role in Babylon 5, which made me realize that this series shares some commonalities with B5.  Things like the self-contained world, hanger bays and the train-car tubes used to get around the city.  They also both seem to have floating cameras to give the members of the base a chance to see what’s going on in random places (as we saw in the last episode too.)  At least B5 has the courtesy of showing us those floating cameras.  If this series were a bit more continuity-conscious, it might have been the first really detailed science fiction world to hit our TVs.  But many scifi shows could make these claims so it’s probably a mediocre observation.  However, this episode is far from mediocre.  It’s a pretty straightforward affair but it pulls off a Twilight Zone-like ending that left me numb for several minutes!

When an alien ship is detected heading to Alpha, the crew investigate.  They find a remake of Star Trek’s Space Seed with a number of people in cryo-sleep, including screen legend Christopher Lee, looking suspiciously like his Middle Earth counterpart, Saruman.  Helena and Victor examine the sleepers to the best of their abilities using their computers, but since they are in individual caskets, the Alphans decide the only way to properly study the seemingly-dead crew is to open the sleep chambers.  Shame they didn’t know what happened when Kirk did that!

My first thought at this point was: did Helena go to the same medical school as Dr. McCoy?  Has she never heard of airborne pathogens?  Maybe my post-2020, Covid-aware mind has viruses on the brain, but I would have been very reluctant to open those seals without protection first.  Ironically, the humans are fine, but the occupant of the casket that they are tampering with gets vaporized.  When the others awaken, they accept Koenig’s apology, offer them Babylon 5’s Glopet Eggs as a gift, and then tell their story.  Their planet, Kaldor, was dying and they are looking for a home. They are on their way to Earth; it will take 75 more years to reach it in suspended animation.  When Doltrice’s Commissioner Simmonds finds this out, he wants Koenig to commandeer the alien ship to at least get 6 humans back home.  Koenig won’t hear of it but the alien captain offers one person the opportunity to travel with them in the now-vacant casket.  Koenig says he will only let the computer decide who it should be so that the decision is fair.

Simmonds is a jerk, determined to get home at any cost and takes over the base, threatening to allow everyone to freeze to death if he isn’t selected.  Koenig reluctantly accepts, knowing that Simmonds has no real function on the base anyway; he’s a politician not a useful member of society!  But Simmonds doesn’t trust the Kaldorians and fails to give them time to configure the suspended animation chamber for his biology.  After a brief sleep, now off the moon, he awakens and immediately believes he is near earth and attempts to communicate.  The Alphans hear the message, but are powerless to do anything about it, as the ship is too far away to attempt to chase.  Simmonds is trapped in a casket on a 75 year journey to Earth…. To compound the zinger ending, Koenig reveals that the computer did select Simmonds after all!

This episode was another of season one’s refreshingly realistic stories.  There is no alien menace, just friends from another world.  The threat comes from the greedy human.  His departure has reduced the crew now to 296, but it also serves as another reminder of what we saw in recent episodes: the question still lingers as to whether Earth survived the Moon being ripped out of orbit.  Simmonds wants to go home, but 75 years means even if Earth is intact, the people he knew and loved would be dead.  And that’s assuming the Earth is even close to habitable when he arrives.  It’s another sobering realization that the Alphans really do represent all that may still exist of humanity.

I have said it before and I’ll reiterate it here: this series is really holding my interest and I am enjoying it immensely.  It’s not perfect and makes some silly mistakes, but I blame that more on the era it was made than anything else.  It’s refreshingly believable in many ways… not so much the basic premise of the series, but you can’t have everything, can you?  ML

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3 Responses to Space: 1999 – Earthbound

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Blaming a sci-fi series’ errors on the era it was made in is starting to make more sense in this era. I am grateful when some special guest stars like Christopher Lee can help make some episodes more positively memorable. But Space 1999 was, in retrospect, a more refreshingly believable space age show than Star Trek. The notion of the Alphans representing all that may remain of humanity can enrich the awe and wonder that we like to see in sci-fi. Whether it was Space 1999, Doctor Who or reruns of Star Trek, the mid 70s were a time when the genre could succeed despite what was most lacking for its time. Star Wars of course had overwhelmingly changed all of that. Thanks, ML, for your review.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I definitely enjoyed this episode. It was so very rare that Christopher Lee was cast as sympathetic characters, so I appreciated his performance in this, where he brought a genuine sort of nobility, dignity and class to the role.

    The thing bout that ending is that even though Simmonds was such a reprehensible individual, and he was totally hoisted with his own petard, what happens to him is nevertheless an absolutely ghastly fate that I couldn’t help feeling at least a little sorry for him. Slowly starving to death, and undoubtedly going completely insane in the process, is a horrifically drawn-out way to go for anyone, even a bastard like Simmonds.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. epaddon says:

    The ending is indeed chilling and probably the most memorable in the whole series because the expressions on the Alphans reveal how not even they would have wished such a fate on Simmonds. And yet, I’m troubled by the fact that the episode basically hinged on the fact that Koenig decided to shirk the responsibility of making a sound command decision and instead passed it off to the computer. He could easily have decided that yes, Simmonds was total deadweight on Alpha and was the most logical one to go. Considering that the end of “Breakaway” hinged on the fact that Koenig had to rise to the occasion to make the command decision judgment because the computer was unable to, this inconsistency wasn’t something I could easily brush off.

    Liked by 1 person

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