I enjoyed it when it was done in The Outer Limits with Fun and Games. I loved it when Star Trek did it with Arena. But when Space: 1999 did it with The Rulers of Luton, boy oh boy did they go off the deep end. First off, both of the earlier shows had god-like beings calling the shots. In Space: 1999, The Rulers of Luton are… I’m not even kidding… they are trees!
As you may recall during the last episode, Koenig and Maya had run off to be alone without Helena being around… ugh, sorry, that wasn’t really why they were gone. Last episode was a Koenig/Maya-lite episode because they were exploring the newest planet that they are passing. So this episode is all about showing us what was going on with them. Upon arriving on the planet, something goes wrong with the Eagle, so Tony heads back leaving Koenig and Maya to explore. Maya picks a flower, Koenig eats a berry. And man are the plants angry! So these three trees put Maya and John in a trial to the death against 3 monsters. I really wanted them to say it but they left me to come up with the line myself: “You ate a berry, now you fight to the death!”
As daunting evil entities go, these trees don’t inspire fear. Frankly neither do the three goofy monsters but it’s still fun to watch. One looks a bit like a caveman with a long beard, one a birdman and the other… not really sure… a mummy maybe? Each has a special ability. One can teleport, one can turn invisible and one is super strong to the point where the Alphan lasers doesn’t hurt him. Why they don’t try shooting the other two is anyone’s guess, but so be it.
This episode gives us a chance to explore the two main characters. John tells Maya he had a wife who died during a global war on Earth in 1987. He misses her and says she was a lot like Helena, which actually really improves on their story; it makes sense why he takes to Helena. Maya tells John she had a brother who went missing. This gives me hope that we may meet another of Maya’s kind in some future episode, but I take that with a grain of sand because this series has thrown logic out the window the moment episode 2 aired. Let’s just talk chronology for a second. This episode opens with Helena saying it’s 892 days since they left Earth. In the last episode, which takes place at the same time as this one, it was 640 days. Now, even if you consider the 42 day space storm that’s mentioned, I broke out the calculator to make sure of my numbers and guess what? 640+42 is NOT 892!! Hopefully you didn’t need me to tell you that, but I’m there for you if you did…
Koenig is once again made to look like a weak commander. First, Maya asks, “Must we kill them?” and Koenig answers, “Yes, if we want to survive!” Now, while we get the remake of Kirk standing over his fallen opponent with a sharp stick, declaring that he won’t kill, there’s a few blunders along the way. When Koenig shot the large caveman, it had no effect, but he fails to shoot the others and in a 3 vs 2 scenario, the Rulers couldn’t possibly be upset had he tried. But then at one point the enemies are using a log for buoyancy to get across a lake; I thought Captain Kirk would have shot the log and been done with it. But that’s not Koenig’s only moment of embarrassment. During his fight, his arm is scratched and he’s nearly at death’s door from it and fails magnificently at looking like a strong commander. I was even fairly sure he yelled at the caveman character, who has caught Maya in bird form and locked her in a cage, that she’ll be “quished.” (Later he says it again and it’s “crushed” but that first time didn’t sound like a word…)
Maya fares much better. I don’t know why the writers constantly have her turning into Earth animals and a repeat of them too. She goes back and forth a few times and I understand why a bird is a good option, but it gets me every time that she takes animals from our experience. If she took a dove, I might understand since Moon Base Alpha has doves on the base. But what about transforming into beasts we don’t know? Why are they always earth animals? The best line of the episode comes from our resident Psychon: “People killed people just because they were different? That’s disgusting!” I already loved Maya, but I love her so much more after that!
This is a fun episode. It’s senseless and repeated by at least 2 other classic sci-fi shows of the 60’s and probably will be least remembered but it’s still enjoyable and offers us the reminder that brains win out over brawn in the end. I’m not sure Koenig has the brains to have won but he had Maya with him, so that made all the difference. ML
I suppose this kind of sci-fi story would be a most attractively reusable one for shows like Star Trek, The Outer Limits, Blake’s 7 and Space 1999. Speaking of Blake’s 7, good casting for the Alien Strong: David Jackson who was Gan on Blake’s 7. It may be enjoyable for the proof that brains may win out over brawn. Very interesting that it was written by Fred Freidberger under the pseudonym Charles Woodgrove, knowing how his production of the last seasons of both Space 1999 and the classic Trek is frowned upon in retrospect. It’s nice that he could still make some fun contributions. Thanks for your review, ML.
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