I’d been dreading this one. Some years back, maybe for a holiday weekend, one of the cable channels showed two back to back episodes of Space: 1999. The first one was quite good, though I haven’t come across it yet to know which one it was, but the second was this travesty. I found it laughable then, and I find it worse now. It relies on the voice acting of one man to sell the story and while that man plays the part very well, it was nowhere near enough to carry the episode. That man is Bernard Cribbins!
It’s 1150 days since the moon left Earth’s orbit and a ship is approaching Moon Base Alpha. The occupants claim to be a part of the Swift expedition of 1996. (Seems a lot happened in that year, considering season 1’s Dragon’s Domain!) The captain of the ship is a real chatty fellow; very playful and lighthearted. Remember that really happy chap in Doctor Who’s The Space Pirates, Milo Clancey? Think of that. Cribbins is a blast to listen to. He’s all excited about coming down for lunch and spending time with the crew. Koenig enthusiastically invites him to land. When the Alphans go to welcome the crew, the rooms are empty. And then the giant computer trundles out.
When I was a kid, I would play with Star Wars figures, but when I got into Doctor Who, I had to improvise to make those Star Wars guys turn into Doctor Who characters. I used Hoth Han Solo as Davros, because he had one straight arm and one that remained bent. With that, I could build a Lego wheelchair to simulate Davros’ chair. This was a massive affair because the Star Wars action figures did not have legs that bent at the knee, so the chair had to be quite large. I imagine if I then attempted to build a Lego Dalek, it might have looked a bit like Brian. Brian is a massive box with a dopey looking face atop a rotating neck. He even says he can’t go up stairs which further drives home my idea of a Dalek made of Lego! Brian is threatening in the way a boiled string bean is threatening. It rolls out onto the station, hits on a rolling trolley, lets a female tickle him under his chin, then invites Koenig and Russell onto the ship, where he promptly takes off, heading to a nearby planet, cleverly named Planet D. D, as in Dumb! Or Dead People, since his crew all died there. He wants Koenig to go onto the planet to get the fuel cells from that ship so he can live forever. Koenig declines, so Brian threatens him because he believes he and Helena love each other. They deny it, so Brian whips out the Book of Questions and tries one of the questions from that book: put 2 people in individual airlocks and start removing the air. Whoever presses a button first will relinquish their remaining air for the other thus proving they love one another. Of course they press it at the same time, Brian releases them, sings a little Carmen Miranda ditty from The Prisoner and now says he can kill one to motivate the other. So Koenig goes out, and finds Maya and Tony already on the other ship ready to help. Maya morphs into a mouse to travel back with Koenig, then morphs into Brian’s creator only so Koenig can play the part of Jim Kirk and talk Brian to death as if this were a bad remake of Star Trek’s The Changeling. She then changes back to herself once the threat is neutralized.
So the most obvious question is: what was Maya wearing? When she morphs, she’s wearing a spacesuit. Now, I understand to change into the mouse, the spacesuit might have fallen and we just didn’t see it. Then, to morph into the ships captain, she mimics his clothing; I get all that. But when she morphs back to herself, she’s wearing the spacesuit!! So is that really a suit at that point or is it a fake to make everyone feel more comfortable around her being naked…? Things that make you go hmmm. At least that was something because the episode sure didn’t make me think. It was the first one I was struggling to stay awake for. We don’t even get much great model work in this one.
I really hope this is the lowest the show sinks. No deaths: a good thing. No action: a potentially bad thing. No character: a very bad thing. No story: A supremely bad thing. Nothing in this episode made me happy. Not even the great Bernard Cribbins could carry the weight of Brian the Brain. I’m so glad I think of him as Wilfred Mott; if this were all I knew of him, I’d have a very different opinion of him indeed. ML
Interesting how kids could learn to improvise and adapt with sci-fi action figures, depending on the availabilities of what you had. Thanks for sharing that, Mike. Brings back memories of how I could be particularly adaptable with my action figures when I was a kid.
Thanks for your review of Brian The Brain and R.I.P., Bernard.
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