Sometimes less is truly more. Take The Beta Cloud for example. A mysterious cloud appears and half the base is weak and dealing with Covid… I mean a fever and lack of energy. They are dropping like flies. The cloud communicates: it wants their life support system. Of the still-healthy Alphans, an Eagle is sent to investigate the cloud and comes back with no life signs onboard but a gigantic ape-like creature. 85% of the episode is focused on the fight with the indomitable creature. And it’s very exciting.
The crew throw everything at this creature too. They lock it in an airlock and decompress the chamber. They shoot it with rockets. They lock it in a room filled with chlorine gas. They inject it with tranquilizers. They electrocute it. Maya even attempts to morph into a matching version of it to fight it equally but can’t manage it. Something about the creature makes the ability to mimic it impossible. And then Tony makes a comment…
The comment is simply an observation: what kind of life form could take such a beating. And Maya realizes that it’s not a life form – when the Eagle was returning, they specifically stated that. It’s got to be a machine and if she could get inside it, she might short circuit it. So she transforms into a bee, flies inside it and wins the day. The cloud disappears as mysteriously as it appeared leaving everyone a bit mystified and the episode is over. Simple but totally effective. But that doesn’t stop the observations!!
We are not at 1503 days since Alpha broke away from Earth orbit, which means this takes place before the last few episodes. But that seems to be ok as there’s only one death: a pilot who I didn’t recall having heard of before. However, that leads to a far more interesting realization: this is the first death of season 2. We are 16 episodes into Season 2 and there have been no other deaths, which means the opening of season 2, with its count that doesn’t match mine, doesn’t actually break continuity as badly as I thought. The Metamorph, the season 2 opener, takes place fairly early in their journey – less than a year since Breakaway. Since we don’t have timing on a lot of the episodes, that could mean the bulk of the ones where people died took place between Breakaway and The Metamorph. This show surprises me more and more.
I was also very impressed that they wrote in a scene where Tony and Maya are about to die at the hands of the creature and Tony tells Maya he loves her. This allows for a humorous epilogue, but it’s nice to finally have that acknowledged freely rather than the flirting that’s gone on up until now. I wonder if that will be acknowledged further. I can hope! Another triumph for this episode has Sandra telling Bill that wires he just placed for an electrical barrier should be safe; she says this as he crawls under them and bumps them. Rather than ignore that he actually bumped them, he says they are safe. “I just tested them!”
I still say this show is a very hard one to track as far as where it lands on a scale. It’s different than most SF I’ve watched in my life and runs the range from some truly brilliant moments to some really abysmal ones. I wish the production crew paid a bit more attention to things like continuity and, you know, science, but if you can get past some wacky ideas, it manages to be enjoyable more often than not. Although, maybe I’m just giving extra credit because of Maya! Oh, and I also wish the episode order had been numbered to fall in chronological order but there too, it hardly impacts the overall experience. ML
I grew up with Science Fiction shows like this and get a big kick out of watching them now. It’s funny how at the time they are AMAZING, but now, with all the modern techno marvels they are just silly. Oh, and I still LOVE anything that has to do with Harryhausen!! His stop-motion was amazing. Thank you for the memories!
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I come to terms with how silly a lot of my old sci-fi favourites may now seem, even Star Trek and Dr. Who. Old Sci-fi shows may suffer this problem the most due to how the genre has progressed in this TV generation. Yet I too am always grateful for all the memories.
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I too love Ray Harryhausen’s stuff. One day I may even tackle the Sinbad movies for our site! ML
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