Space: 1999 – A Matter of Balance

breakawayI started on high alert with this one.  The pre-credit sequence sets the stage: random crewmember Shermeen has a crush on Tony who is depressed when his latest attempt at making beer doesn’t work. Tony seems to blame her for no readily apparent reason.  She runs to her room, sees the ghost of Yul Brynner, and the credits roll.  Helena opens the episode then stating that we are 1702 days since leaving Earth, which means this episode should have been viewed before the previous one, but that wasn’t even the big red alert.  It was the writers: Pip and Jane Baker, of Doctor Who fame… or maybe that should be infamy?

So now that means I’m ready to pick nits.  Should I be bothered that Tony is drinking beer on duty?  Perhaps that’s not a big deal since we all know his beer is not amounting to much.  What about the fact that Helena gives Shermeen tranquilizers then sends her back to work?  I realize she’s just the botanist, not a doctor, but should she go back to work right after taking tranquilizers?  Or get upset when Shermeen gets annoyed with Tony and says “I don’t ever want to see you again”.  At a minimum, he’s a commanding officer on the station, but on top of that, this is a small group of humans in a very confined space.  Is this how Pip and Jane think people would react?  How about when Koenig, near the end, sets a machine for self-destruct before knowing how to open the door to escape?  Ok, I’m getting head of myself.

The Yul Brynner ghost is made of antimatter and he’s trying to get his people to come into the matter universe.  Interestingly, his people devolve.  They started at the high end of the evolutionary spectrum and are changing back to the slime.  While it’s not stated directly, I think the awesomely cool reptile man who attacks the landing party might be a devolved form of the same species.  The problem with this story is that the Alphans can’t help these people because to do so means, as a matter of balance, there’s got to be a trade: for every antimatter person who becomes matter, a matter person has to become antimatter.  Shermeen steals a “portable nuclear generator” and begins helping before she becomes the first victim.

Ok, not a bad story and the temple structure and its alien guardian were cool but therein lies another problem.  The alien guards the temple so Koenig sneaks around to the other side, then calls to the creature who comes charging at him.  He stands still as the creature runs through him.  When Tony runs over to see what happened, Koenig says “It had to be antimatter!”  First off, that’s a totally random belief, but even if he was proven right, shouldn’t he have tried to dodge the creature with the harpoon in hand?  Then when they are locked in the temple, Maya has to find a way in and after being a far more appropriate bird a few episodes ago, she turns into a small monkey to spend extra time climbing then dropping down into the temple!

Once in the temple, Tony and John play hide and seek with Vindrus (Yul’s no-longer-ghost).  When they get the jump on him, it’s with Maya transforming to look like Shermeen so Vindrus will go back into the device that changed him to matter and sent her to antimatter.  But once again, the mind boggles.  He’s in the device with a laser in hand.  Knowing that the alternative is a backward evolution in antimatter, why doesn’t he try to blast his way out?  At the very least, even if the rest of his people were condemned, he would have survived!!

Needless to say, I’m not being kind even though the episode actually flowed fairly quickly.  This wasn’t a tiresome one and it did have the benefit of a very cool effect at the end: the crew make it back to their Eagles before the aforementioned explosive goes off.  Before they even lift off, the planet vanishes leaving the two Eagles just floating there next to each other in space.  I can’t say that the ending made up for some of the weaker moments in this episode, but it was not a bad one.  There have been far worse.  This episode kept pace and I actually found myself caring about the random crewmember of the week.  I didn’t care about Vindrus though.  I still have no love for aliens wearing bikinis with capes!  ML

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2 Responses to Space: 1999 – A Matter of Balance

  1. scifimike70 says:

    I’m current watching this episode on YouTube. Interesting to see Stuart Wilson in one of his earlier roles as an alien being on Space: 1999. One of Canada’s distinguished actors too: Nicholas Campbell as Eddie Collins. Alien wardrobe issues may persist. Maybe Pip & Jane Baker would have felt better if the same wardrobe artist for the Lakertyans (Time And The Rani) had worked on this episode. As for how anti-matter plays its sci-fi role this time around, it’s one of the most easily nostalgic changes from how seriously we can see anti-matter nowadays in both science fiction and science fact. But it can still be adventurously exciting as it was in Dr. Who for The Three Doctors and Planet Of Evil. In this episode we may accept as the simplest understanding for how the villain operates. Thanks, ML, for your review.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I spent the entire episode waiting for Pip and Jane Baker’s characteristically verbose dialogue, and much to my disappointment there wasn’t any of the loquaciousness they would demonstrate such zeal for a decade later on Doctor Who. Where was the catharsis of spurious morality when we really needed it?

    Liked by 1 person

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