It’s the only two-parter in the whole run of Space: 1999 and the question I had been wondering is whether this would be too much tedium or would two parts actually be worth it.
Part one, now 1912 days into their travels, opens with Koenig going mad, taking an Eagle for an erratic joy ride before crashing into one of the nuclear silos. He’s brought back to the base under observation and out cold when an alien ship arrives. Long range scans show it’s a ship of known configuration; a Superswift. (Tony still takes Koenig’s place by ordering the weapons to target the approaching vessel, because why be friends?) When the ship lands, contact is made and to everyone’s surprise, they know the crew. Tony’s brother is at the helm. They are allowed to enter the base.
We spend a full 20 minutes with dialogue of people reminiscing and discussing life on Earth. Yet again, one brilliant piece of consistency shows Maya wander off on her own when she thinks the Alphans might be returning home. Then we get the first hint that things are amiss. Two of the visitors wander off and seem to take over someone’s mind. Then Koenig wakes up and learns about what he did and that there are visitors on the base. He comes out to greet them and things go totally pear shaped.
I don’t remember this show very well from my youth. I think I watched occasional episodes but I do remember one from the 80’s: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (stick around for next year and we’ll explore that.) I recall one episode very well where Buck got sick and his sickness allowed him to see some visiting aliens for what they truly were. I had no idea that might have been influenced by this story but Koenig sees something totally alien and not at all in line with what the others see. These look like Krynoids from Doctor Who but with one great eye in the middle of their bodies. Their veins pulse blood and their bodies appear to ooze. They are magnificent! Oh, and terrifying. They seem to want to kill Koenig because he can see them. I give credit to the writers on this one; the normally stunted writing still pulls off a lot of “listen to me” and “don’t do it” over and over without explanation, but we also get Koenig trying to rationalize with his peers with logical points – a far cry from most of his discussions. It doesn’t convince his friends though and they leave him strapped to a table in the medical bay. He wakes to see one of the lumbering, oozing creatures coming up to him and smothering him, before a freeze-frame ends the episode with “end of part one” as our only indication of what’s coming…
But what’s coming might be proof that the writers were just simply not paying attention. The scene opens exactly where part one left off – that’s a good thing. But Helena says they are 2515 days since leaving Earth orbit and I immediately thought: no one cared. If they cared, that stupid, and frankly unnecessary, monologue would have picked up with the same time stamp, 1912 days from Earth orbit. Which I will accept in the fiction of the show as Helena being affected mentally by the aliens and not actually knowing what she was saying. That’s the best one could hope for. But there’s more that makes me feel that way. From Maya’s first transformation, I’ve wondered about her clothing. She doesn’t just project a psychic manifestation of the thing she transforms into or she wouldn’t be able to breath chlorine or crawl through mouse-sized holes. In this story, she transforms into a ninja and the 6 inch rod she’s holding transforms with her. It’s as if the writers just wanted to check the scifi cliches and move on. And let’s also talk about the aliens: these are slow moving lumbering monstrosities. Yet when the appear as human, they walk around at the same pace as a human. So which is it? In fairness, they seem to be able to teleport away at the end, so maybe they just gave the impression of movement before vanishing. No idea, but one hopes to find some logic where one can.
That being said, Koenig is still tied up and being smothered when Helena walks in at the beginning of part 2 but she sees her friend and mentor there and thinks nothing of it, but it interrupts the murder attempt. Once her friend leaves, Koenig does offer a sound argument, again pressing on the fact that the likelihood of a ship full of people they all know is very small. Furthermore, he again insists that they’ve been in space for “months” which on Earth would be generations so the people they are seeing would be very old indeed. He coaxes Maya to undergo the same brain therapy he had gone under at the start of part one, and suddenly Maya sees the creatures for what they are. She’s repulsed, but so are the creatures of us, which offered a really great opportunity to explore an idea, but is sadly missed. “They are so ugly; naturally they are of no consequence.”
This is an episode that does something good with Koenig though: when he finds out that the creatures are after their nuclear waste, he immediately thinks the best solution is to get rid of their dangerous waste by giving it to the aliens. Unfortunately, Maya says they need to detonate it to get the benefits of it, but I still think: offer it to them in exchange for detonating it far away. Win/win. Alas, it’s never going to be and that’s a real shame. In the end, the aliens offer “an eternity of happiness in an instant” but Koenig says it’s better to live as “your own man than a fool in someone else’s dream”. Again, missed opportunity at exploring deeper concepts. Is a dream of happiness really worse than a reality of horror? I don’t know.
I need to be very clear on one thing: this was a good two part story. There’s a lot of filler with slow motion fight scenes on the surface of the moon, but it does hold up well. It’s probably one of the strongest stories of the season. Season one was vastly superior to season two but this is not without merits. They just needed to delete the day counter at the start of the episodes and keep better track of the number of personnel on the base. The one who died in this story is just one of three all season but that hardly helps with such a wonky chronology. ML
When we think about an alien species that actually thrives on something that’s dangerous to us like nuclear waste, it can make us wish that such an alien species could come to our world for all of our pollutive substances to feed on and help to clean up the Earth. It’s indeed sad that it would have to be a missed opportunity for this occasion, which shows how pragmatically unfair our sci-fi dramas may often have to be in some areas. Thanks, ML, for your review.
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This is the most memorable of the Season 2 episodes from my experience when the show first aired. The freeze frame on Koenig freaking out with “To be Continued” was quite scary for an impressionable eight year old like me at the time.
If there hadn’t been such a conscientious effort to erase from memory all the people from Season 1 who were discarded, this episode would have been a perfect time to recall them in that it would have offered Koenig the clue that the aliens were not who they seemed to be since he could have noted “How come there isn’t a friend or a relative of an Alphan who’s DIED since we left Earth?” (like a relative of Victor Bergman or Paul Morrow etc.)
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