The best thing about Catacombs of the Moon is the title. Conceptually, I think there’s a good idea under the surface, maybe buried deep in a catacomb, but it ends up being 50 minutes that felt like swimming through treacle. Patrick Osgood is digging into the titular catacombs looking for a rare mineral that can be used to save his wife, who needs a heart transplant, but he starts having visions and claims only faith will save her. As Helena works to build an artificial heart, Patrick wants to take his wife to the catacombs to wait out a heat storm, convinced that all of Alpha will die and he alone can save his wife.
And that’s about the extent of it. We get a huge amount of time watching Patrick wander the caverns while Tony is out looking for him interspersed with Helena working on the artificial heart. Mercifully, Koenig is away for most of the story, busy looking into the cause of the heat wave on Alpha (because of course it would be coming from deeper space…) And I could not wait for the episode to end!
I think a major issue is how much this series feels like it was being worked on by a dude with a clipboard, checking off the various things that were needed in a SF series. There’s so little care taken with the story so far that it’s like the writers just didn’t care what went before. This story takes place 1196 days into their adventure, which means it takes place before the last episode; we’re watching in reverse order. Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t lose the unknown people, like Patrick and his wife Michelle, but the threat from the heatwave is fairly minimal. But what’s worse is that season one had this great character named Victor who had an artificial heart. Where the hell is he? Where’s even a mention of him?!?! Did the writers totally forget about him and his artificial heart? Meanwhile we go back to Maya only knowing to transform into earth animals. To overpower Patrick, who seems determined to blow himself and the base up, she turns into a dog. Was that really the best option? And for vision in the dark? A tiger! Why?? And why does she seem to only think like the animals she is? As a dog, you’d think she wouldn’t actually bite one of her colleagues, no matter the situation!
The worst part is, this episode seems to be a weighty debate between science and faith and I think there was something to be explored. In the end, neither work alone. They build a working heart and it’s perfect, but Michelle’s pulse is too low and she is going to die. Then they wheel in her husband and her faith is restored, and she ends up being ok. It’s a message that neither science nor faith operate in silos. They work together and great things happen. I think that’s a really strong message, but by the 50 minute mark, the better message was that the episode had ended.
“Hey, what a cloud!” “There’s no reason to state the obvious!” John is the worst commanding officer in SF history too. He refuses to give up a few ounces of the vital mineral to save Michelle because it’s “one life against hundreds”. The base is under immense stress from the heat, and a few ounces are his concern? The thing is, no one is that sharp on this base anyway. Tony says to Sandra, “I don’t need a computer printout to tell me it’s hot and getting hotter!” But he keeps his jacket on, so maybe he did need a printout with diagrams!
Just as I was starting to feel like the series was making headway, it takes a depressing turn by going back to basics and not giving us much at all. I do understand why this show was never revived and why it often makes the list under “worst SF shows”. It’s not that it was bad, it was that it was inconsistently good. Episodes like this just did nothing to help it succeed. ML
“One life against hundreds” is another depressing sci-fi reminder of how the greater good can seem too cruel to be good at all. It is a sad sign when a sci-fi series at any point gets repetitive with basics that it could be losing its magic. Big Finish thankfully cared enough to give it a good shot. As for all the sci-fi shows that are called the worst despite some fans who still have good reasons for favoring them, ‘inconsistently good’ may be the best way to describe them at times. Thank you, ML, for your Space: 1999 reviews to remind us how special in its own right this show can still be.
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