Space: 1999 – The Séance Spectre

breakawayIt’s a title one expects to find in a ghost story, but there are no ghosts.  This isn’t a horror story or anything of the kind.  We only lose a single crewman, so it doesn’t even come close to falling into that realm.  I’d barely say there’s even a séance, although the chief villains do sit around holding hands and chanting.  But there’s no evil entity of any sort short of the one guy, Sanderson, who is part of a team who explore the surface of the moon.  So let’s ask the Ouija board if this is a good episode…          

Looks like the eye is pointing to no.  Here’s the thing: the show sometimes takes a very basic idea and uses it well.  Even if these are rarely 5 star episodes, we usually come away with something reasonably solid.  This is about a group that doesn’t trust Commander Koenig and they have a (sort of) séance to conclude that Koenig is keeping secrets from them, so they decide to take over the base, but at a critical time.  The moon is drifting on a collision course with another planet…

So first off, the “planet” appears to be a swirling gas like a nebula.  Inside it, there is a planet, so maybe we can let that go.  But Sanderson and his cronies think Koenig is a dictator and is keeping a habitable world from them.  Helena identifies that Sanderson is suffering mental strain from spending months at a time exploring the surface of the moon with only his team.  So question one: what are they searching for and how long can they be away from the base without coming back??  It’s never explained and hardly makes sense.  Maybe they are looking for some of the minerals we’ve seen in other episodes, but I don’t buy that they’d be out for months.  Then the question must surely be asked: if there were a habitable world, doesn’t Sanderson and his crew think they might notice if everyone left the base?  I suppose if he feels he’ll be on the surface, he might be overlooked, but why would they do that to him??

The problem with the episode isn’t even one of logic though, but plodding, interminable moments of Sanderson holding some of the cards while Koenig and crew try to reason with him.  Here’s the catch: they have to detonate the nuclear waste on the far side of the moon to change their trajectory so they don’t crash into the oncoming planet.  (Koenig and Maya do go to explore it and find it far from safe!)  Now this explosion comes with a 0% chance of survival, so Koenig orders the base evacuated until after they trigger the explosion.  You’d think that would destroy parts of the base, but evidently not; it would have given everyone murderous whiplash though, so my question is: why not offer Sanderson the same ride offered to everyone else and if he turns it down, just get on with it?  Sure, I wouldn’t want to lose a guy either, but I’d be far more concerned about the overall safety of myself and everyone else. But there’s another big problem with this episode in that it comes off Bringers of Wonder where the aliens were dying and just needed to detonate some nuclear material to survive.  They fail because Koenig stops them, but just one episode later, they do that very thing and all is well.  Maybe it’s good that they did not help the aliens because they’d be dead now, but who knows?  Maybe they’d have new friends too.

On the other hand, Helena might give us a clue to all that with those status reports she does.  This takes place 2012 days into their journey (roughly the year 2005).  Bringers of Wonder is a two part episode wherein part one is 1912 days into their journey (2004) but part two (which takes place the same day mind you) is 2515 days into their journey (2006).  I’m going to assume that the alien influence on Helena and the rest of the crew was messing with her by her second status report and Bringers of Wonder really takes place in 2004 which can help this story, The Seance Spectre, because those events might have given Koenig some insights into what their options are if they ever encounter such a threat again.

Don’t get me wrong: I know this is just crappy writing at worst or poor script editing at best, but I’d like to believe my stories have some kind of logic to them.  I’ve been saying this a lot recently about another love of mine (Doctor Who), but if you can’t have a logical cohesion between stories following the same cast, why do a series at all?  Do an anthology!!  Keep the premise but write speculative works with a different crew: what if the drifting moon were on a collision course and this happened?  Then you don’t have to worry about internal logic.  Each story could be self contained.

I realize I’m watching a series from the 1970s.  It’s dated and it shows.  There’s even a scene where the crew is made to watch nature videos and they all sit around in a large viewing room watching scenes of nature (to make them feel better, since that’s what Helena attributes to Sanderson’s condition).  They watch on small 13″ screens mounted all around the room.  Sure, they didn’t have our large screen TVs back then, but neither did Trek and Roddenberry had the foresight to think it might happen some day!  Tony and Alan watch images of nature too: women in very sexy attire, which they claim is nature.  Even if Maya were not sitting right there next to them, it was cringe-worthy… yes, I remind myself, this is a very dated show indeed.  ML

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1 Response to Space: 1999 – The Séance Spectre

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Always curious how space age shows and films seem to get dated the easiest out of all the old sci-fi stuff. There may be some exceptions, like one film from the 90s that I re-watched for the first time in so long last night, which was Screamers, and still enjoyed. It can make one grateful for enjoying all these sci-fi classics during childhood in the 20th century from a most innocent perspective. The futuristic elements might seem less advanced and therefore still feel dated. Who knows how many more recent sci-fi shows will someday suffer that problem? But it’s still curious to look back on the way that such shows for their times could work their ways around them. To quote Mr. Sulu in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, “Old, yes, but interesting.” Thanks, ML, for your review.

    Liked by 1 person

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