I was annoyed last week, but now I’m just utterly disgusted. I did a bit of homework this time. Seems the production crew behind Space: 1999 wanted to Americanize it a bit for season 2. So, like many sci-fi products that originate in Britain, this show took a serious hit with that decision. While season one wasn’t exactly scintillating, it frequently had a good deal of mind candy. Alas, even the opening credits take a beating, although thankfully, we got rid of those preview clips.
On top of that, I have to say Koenig is not a good leader. In most series, I connect with the leader. I imagine that it’s a question of wanting to emulate that character. Kirk or Picard, Sheridan or Sinclair… the leader is usually the hook that brings you into the show; it certainly is for me. Unfortunately, Koenig is a moron. And a hostile one at that. Upon seeing 50 badminton shuttlecocks floating through space, he decides it’s a good idea to attack them. Once he realizes they are individual life capsules, he orders a second one to be opened because nearly killing one wasn’t enough for him. Once opened, the occupant asks him to revive the rest of them. Koenig says “absolutely not”. He then stuns one just to confirm that his stun gun works on them because that’s what good leaders do!
Now in fairness, I need to give him a little credit here, because Helena says they don’t have the supplies to support more people – they can’t even allow for additional births on Alpha. That’s scary considering this may be the last of humanity, but let’s point out the moon-sized elephant on the base: the seventh episode of the series was about a child birth. Ok, hang on though because this just gets worse. This episode takes place 403 days after the moon left orbit, which is just a couple months later than the last episode when we met Maya (during which time Maya got a job on the command deck). So as a viewer who wants a narrative to make sense, this means that we can’t be viewing the episodes in order. More likely this and the previous one are sequential but most of what we saw in season one could take place sometime after this, including the birth of the Alpha Child. Why then have we never seen Maya before? Clearly she was on break for all of those episodes… or maybe she was pretending to be Victor? Maybe all the people who died between The Exiles and Alpha Child allows them to show one person giving birth, but then that disrupts some logic there as well since the woman’s husband in Alpha Child died 7 months earlier (presumably during the first episode). Granted, maybe she was pregnant so they couldn’t stop it at that point and young Adam ends up being the old kid around town. Still, what it really is comes down to is lack of caring on the writers part, but I want to attribute some internal logic to the whole thing, otherwise it loses steam.
Regarding this plot, the Exiles take over the base because they want to go back to their homeworld, from which they were exiled; they want to take over. They get back and find out they’ve been away for 300 years and all of those who exiled them are long dead. Helena scratches the lead bad guy because they have a protective plastic over their skin which causes him to age rapidly. Helena’s voice (seemingly disembodied from her frequent squinting close-ups) provides him a walkthrough of his rapid aging in case he had no idea that his rapidly growing beard was just a symptom of puberty. He dies and everything goes back to normal.
The problem is that everything about this is so weak. Koenig initially brings the exiles out of sleep because he thinks he can learn from their technology. When he finds out they can create long-range transport beams back to their own planet, Koenig should have been all kinds of nice to them. “Show us how to get back to Earth and I’ll help you revive everyone, for Alpha’s sake!” And I’d be ok with him being an idiot if someone else on the base was great, but so far, even Maya hasn’t done a great job. At one point, she changes into a puma to scare the two baddies, who drop their weapon… and then she sits on the ground and does nothing as they reach for the gun and shoot her into unconsciousness! And coupled with Pinocchio’s daughter, Helena Wooden Russell, it’s worse than you can imagine. In fact, I’d take Pinocchio over what happens here. I hope you’re sitting down for this…
Koenig walks into a room where Russell has an idea: have Maya transform into her and have Koenig guess who’s the real Helena. Maya, as Russell, ups the ante by going over to make out with (snog) Koenig. Then the real Russell does the same thing. Koenig, ever the leader to be proud of, says he couldn’t tell the difference. I felt so wrong about this on so many levels: would Helena actually be ok with this if this is “her man”? Would Maya be so willing to randomly kiss the Commander? I mean, this is a military establishment, after all! Then later, somehow, word gets out about what happened and Tony (on of the command staff) gets jealous so Maya offers him a kiss, to his delight. She then morphs into a hag and Tony bails on the kiss. In a way, it felt like they were trying to make a point that it should be based on what’s inside that matters, but it’s done in such a ham-fisted way as to come across as grossly sexist especially when Tony says the reason he won’t kiss the hag is that he’s “a man of taste!” Wow, talk about a low point!
In typical fashion they do manage to pull off a few good moments, like the scream emitted by Russell as a recently sculpted clay head of her is getting scratched up. The moment is chilling! And the female baddie gets pushed out into space in a way that was truly shocking. Alas, a few freaky moments cannot carry an episode. I’ve been watching an episode a night just to get to the Maya episodes. I may still think she’s lovely, but the show has taken a bleak turn and I need a couple of days away to recover. The sheer lunacy of this episode was beyond anything our moon should have to endure! ML
I have very faint memories of seeing this episode in my childhood. Finding it again decades later I was surprised by how different it seemed. Maybe it was the Mandela Effect. When a space age sci-fi series reaches a point where the potentials for alien takeovers over the ship or base may become more frequent, as with the classic Star Trek’s final season, it must get creatively harder to make all those episodes different enough. Space 1999 may have reached this problem sooner than Trek did and even with Maya to add some specifically new chemistry for the main cast, the realistic avenue for where this particular show’s story material could go may not have been as appealingly flexible as hoped for. Maybe Big Finish’s revitalization of Space 1999 had better fortune. I think it’s fitting that Space 1999 and Trek are back to back each week on the Junkyard to help us all appreciate the interesting dichotomy between these two space age sci-fi legacies. Thanks, ML, for your review.
LikeLiked by 1 person