Space: 1999 – Devil’s Planet

breakawayLast week I made the observation that a Koenig-free episode was excellent and Koenig himself may play a part in why some episodes are especially weak.  This episode comes along and features only Koenig from the main cast (with no explanation of why, I might add) and the episode peters along at such a staggeringly slow pace, that I was looking for things to munch on throughout the episode, determined to keep my eyes open.       

I don’t claim to have much memory of history class, but I do remember reading about a French penal colony called Devil’s Island.  My guess is that it was referenced on Doctor Who; the source of all my remembered historical knowledge, but it popped back into my head when I was watching because, for a while, I was trying to understand what made it a “devil’s planet” otherwise.  (Sort of like that “Séance Spectre from a few weeks ago where no one really performs a séance!)  The thing is, this features political prisoners talking about freedom of speech.  Ah, this could end up having a serious message for us huh?  No!  Of course not.  Instead we get this…

This one has Koenig and Random Dude (you knew he was going to die the moment you laid eyes on him) are flying around exploring a habitable planet.  They land and find a bunch of dead people lying around.  Moments later, another person materializes in a nearby phonebooth, steps out and dies as well.  Then the red leotard-wearing, whip-wielding women show up and capture Koenig.  For the first 20 minutes, he barely has a thing to do.  The people on the planet are political prisoners and Elizia rules with an iron fist.  She sends people on a hunt with the promise of releasing them if they don’t die first, but they remain unaware that their reward sends them to a place where they are going to die anyway.  The best part of the episode has John turn the tables by making his fellow prisoners turn on Elizia.  But it takes the better part of the episode to get there and some really embarrassing fight scenes that amount to him ultimately giving up.  Again this is no Jim Kirk!

BORING.  It’s one of the worst things to say about an episode of a show, but there’s so little that I really have to say about this.  Elizia is pretty, but I couldn’t get past how often it looked like her eyes were going cross throughout the episode.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but it made me think the actress was struggling to stay awake with such a lame script.  She’s also into having some “fun”, which made this episode feel like it would have been better in a different timeslot, but that never manifests, thus leading to further boredom.  (Not that I want to see John getting it on with any alien women, but at least it would have made the episode stand out!)

Actually the episode does stand out for entirely the wrong reasons.  I like my in-story facts; by now, all of the readers of the Junkyard know this.  It’s why I was keeping track of the body count and why I follow the day-counter Helena provides at the start of most season 2 episodes.  This episode takes place 2306 days since leaving Earth orbit which puts it in January of 2006.  The Metamorph is the earliest episode (barring Breakaway) to give us a day-count at 342 days into their journey; August 2000.  Why bring that up?  Because that episode specifically said there were 297 crewmen on board Alpha.  In this one, 6 years later, there are 298.  While that might be explained by Maya or even the birth of Jackie (Alpha Child), it totally ignores the fact that people have died.  Even if the death toll for season 2 is low, it’s not zero.  This sort of lame storytelling really bothers me and even though we’ve had a few good ones this season, it puts me off terribly.  If not for the fact that there are only 2 episodes to go, I might need to throw in the towel.  And the main reason for that isn’t that they get things wrong; it’s that they never had to say these lines to begin with!  They could just as easily have said “some 300 people” which is a rough estimate that anything over 280 could be rounded without anyone batting a cycloptic eyelash.  Worse: what value do the day counters add if we’re not going to do anything with them?  And that says nothing of aliens that claim they are being treated “inhumanly”.  Why would they want to be treated like humans instead of whatever race they are!?  And who calls a transmat beam a transbeamer?  Even the typically impressive model work couldn’t save this one.

I am happy to have made this trip through our sci-fi history, but I seriously wonder what was going on in the minds of the writers and producers of this show.  Some months back, Roger speculated about why there were so few female fans of the genre I loved.  We can now cite another reason right here… ML

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3 Responses to Space: 1999 – Devil’s Planet

  1. Roger Pocock says:

    Not sure about the Doctor Who reference. The only thing that comes to mind is the shared episode title with an episode of Daleks’ Master Plan, but I don’t remember any reference to Devil’s Island.

    Liked by 1 person

    • DrAcrossthePond says:

      It was a guess at where I would have learned about Devil’s Island. I’m quite certain it wasn’t ACTUAL history class as I found that as dull as John Koenig so I reached from Who. If it wasn’t that, who knows where I’d heard about it. ML

      Liked by 1 person

  2. scifimike70 says:

    From what I just saw of this episode on YouTube, the guest casting of Roy Marsden couldn’t save it either. As for shared episode titles between sci-fi shows, I don’t think about it as much as I used to even if specific titles like Devil’s Island remain significantly memorable. Thanks, ML.

    Liked by 1 person

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