I won’t deny that I’m angry with this show now. It’s the inconsistency of it that’s getting under my skin. Two lame episodes open the season and then this one comes in as a pretty strong story… but forgets the science of it. And that’s ok for most shows, but one of the great things about season one is that it showed us a science fiction series that actually recognized science! Go figure.
So here we go: Moon Base Alpha is contacted by Space Station 1, Texas City, Earth. They have a way to transport them home using neutrino waves. Build a transporter using these specifications (that were undoubtedly given to them by someone named Scotty) and they can be beamed back to earth, three at a time. Alas, they’d better hurry because a galactic eclipse will take place; if they don’t do it now, they won’t be able to rescue them for 100 more years! Koenig is skeptical but soon realizes this isn’t a trick. The Alphans can go home! But Earth isn’t the same as when the left and an unexpected earthquake occurs just at the point of transporting John, Helena and Alan. They beam out of Moon Base Alpha, but fail to show up on Earth as expected…
Conceptually, we have an excellent idea here. In all of space, where did Koenig and team end up? Can they be found again and in time to rescue them from whatever they are? (Of course! This isn’t the end of the series, after all!) But there’s a lot of painful moments even with such a good story. “We’ve been in space for months,” says Tony. “Which in Earth terms means decades,” says Koenig. (Earth says the year is 2120, so 120 years have passed without the moon!) Ok, so that would imply they are traveling at great speed indeed, yet they always end up near a planet for a few days. This also derails the idea of what’s been going on from a chronology point of view. “Months” is not years, and by the 8th episode of the series, we’d established that at least 3 years had gone by, so when the hell are we? Well, that might be the precise question we need to ask!
Koenig and crew find themself on Earth after all… except in Scotland of the late 1300’s. This is a really clever and scary idea. Even the way they make the realization is when Helena, struck by a random burst of viral pneumonia which makes her already wooden acting seem like balsa in a hurricane, looks up and sees the moon. She tells Koenig it’s the moon so, in typical leader mode, he decides not to look up right away, telling her she’s hallucinating. When he does look up, he realizes this is the actual moon and it’s in Earth orbit. Again, really great idea but it opened a door that was just ignored. Yeah, 1300’s Scotland wasn’t known for it’s high tech solutions, but you’d almost think John would have tried to come up with a way to warn the people of the future earth not to store radioactive waste on the moon. Hell, even if they just discussed it, I would have been happy. Instead, they use their wristwatches to morse-code their whereabouts back to Moon Base Alpha to get beamed back. Success… just as their window to be rescued closes one more.
There are loads of things to examine though, no matter how wrong the episode gets things. Helena finds a way to make antibiotics in a day and they start working immediately. Ridiculous, but hey, science. A message about the Earth being really badly destroyed after pollution destroyed most of the natural beauty of the planet is a strong message and clear reminder of where we may be going. (No, not Orphan 55…) There’s something to be said for the devil you know being better than the one you don’t, when one of the crew is asking if they want to go to this unknown Earth. But the most interesting part of the episode for me was a far subtler one: Maya. It may be little wonder having me say that, considering I still have the most incredible crush on her, but it’s an unspoken thing carried by a smart writer and an excellent bit of acting on Catherine Schell’s part. When the crew talk about returning to Earth, Maya looks dismayed. She never actually says it though. Yet when Tony makes beer and everyone finds it gross, she tells him it’s not that bad (after first comically transforming into Mr. Hyde!) She snuggles with him to make him less interested in going to Earth. There are a number of moments when she simply looks upset knowing the humans are going home. When it all fails, she goes back to her bubbly, happy self. I was remarkably impressed by this and wish they focused more on that than the actual plot. Mostly because the actual plot focused on Bain’s acting, and it was terrible. Almost as bad as the random disco lights that appear on Koenig’s face before a fight!
“With history like that, who wants to go back to Earth anyway?” Helena wraps the story up by realizing there was no safe place in Earth history to go anyway and resigns herself to the fact that Moon Base Alpha is home, at least for now. If only she knew what the 2020’s held in store for her, huh? At least the Alphans can rest a little easier knowing they are not the last humans left in the universe. That’s got to count for something… ML
Space 1999’s opportunity for a time travel story into Earth’s past may have at least been given a commonly vital issue for SF fans to appreciate. Namely that relocating the past would not be a viable option when the anachronisms that the Alphans would be inevitably burdened with are to be considered. Women of true equality from the Alphan crew would naturally have a major problem knowing the sexisms of the past. Also of course the racisms of the past for the racially diverse Alphans. Good to have two noteworthy guest stars: Freddie Jones and Isla Blair. Thank you, ML, for your review.
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