I can’t say this fixed the last two episodes, but it was better. Equally, I can’t say if it was better because the story was better or because it accidentally looks at the potential of NDEs (or Near Death Experiences) but no matter the reason, it was a better episode than what the last 2 weeks brought us.
On the way back from a nearby planet, Eagle 1 crashes. Victor, Sandra, Alan, and Koenig are hurt but Koenig is in a bad way and may not make it. In fact, his life signs are undetected. While we see him lying there bleeding, a rescue Eagle is sent out and it passes… Koenig himself. And I wondered if I dozed off because I thought I’d just seen him lying there a few minutes earlier. Thankfully, I did not doze off. What happens next felt like a Star Trek episode… for a while.
Alright, first off, how many Eagles are there anyway? Why is Eagle 1 always the one we hear about? I think they must rename them to keep the numbers low! Fine, let it go. More importantly is: how did Star Trek come to mind? Well, I was reminded of The Mark of Gideon for the bulk of act one. Koenig is walking around a deserted Moon Base Alpha wondering where people are. Meanwhile, we keep seeing the rest of the crew walking around Moon Base Alpha, being all concerned that Koenig is dying. Everyone is on edge and very punchy. Then act one ends when Peter Cushing turns up in a particularly bad hat. Now the story changes…
Cushing is an alien who says Koenig is the missing link of his species. We never get clarity on what that means exactly and barring the horrible title for an unfulfilled promise, it doesn’t matter. He wants to experiment on Koenig like some anthropologist. This gives us a few really disturbing images including an attack by two really weird creatures (one looking a lot like Doctor Who’s Mawdryn) before another drops from above, only for it all to change finding Koenig wrapped in webs. It’s fast, unsettling and features the creepiest moment of all with Martin Landau’s enormous mouth screaming. Great stuff, but really weird! Anyhow, Cushing wants Koenig to stay with him for he rest of his life so he can experiment. He introduces his daughter Vana. And this is where things start to look like a pear shaped copy of Star Trek’s The Cage. First Koenig is all “I’m not staying here…. arrrrr! <crash, bang, boom>”. Next thing we know he’s in love with Vana and plans to stay forever. And Cushing’s reaction? “No, I have to go play Van Helsing later today, you really should leave after all!”
So this is all ridiculous except for the fact that we’re exposed to a good NDE story where Helena is debating about turning off John’s life support. Sandra appears to him at one point and the whole sequence really felt like it was less “alien world” and more “this guy really was on the brink of death and this is what’s happening in his head”. That added a sense of intrigue to the whole thing that defined the absolutely flip-flop nature of the episode.
In the end, Koenig speculates that it’s better to “feel than to think” and I feel like I get the concept but don’t think I agree… see what I did there? No, seriously, I’m pretty sure the writer of the episode didn’t care if it made sense, provided he made us care but in the same way that I’d make a believable basketball player – which is to say, not even slightly – Bain fails in the doctor department. I mean, good for her if the actress has never been sick in her life and therefore never saw how doctors treat their patients but she just has no idea how to play a doctor. McCoy and Franklin are better doctors than she is. Her heartbreak at turning off Koenig’s life support is as emotional as watching paint dry. In fact, I might have been more moved by the paint! Shame, because the idea of what he was going through carried weight.
I do think the series teeters sometimes, and some episodes are contrived, to say the least, but in the end, even with some similarities to other shows, it feels unique. Plus I again need to compliment some amazing model work. I am starting to think I need a day away from watching because there’s been 2 really weak ones followed by a mediocre story. And yet, the intrigue of what might be coming next still lures me in. I just wish the characters had a bit more flair. Even the great Peter Cushing couldn’t help rise this story out of the mist. ML