With Gamboule dead and Kaufman ready to share the cure for the bacteria with the rest of the world, what dramatic tension remains? Well, for a start Kaufman wants to make money in the process, a slightly more sane and businesslike version of Gamboule’s plan to hold the world to ransom, but it has already been established that the cure won’t work unless it is used worldwide, so he’s gambling with an empty hand and has no real power base of his own, so the main thrust of the story fizzles out rather predictably, with the running time instead made up with distractions such as an odd scene of some Azarans being entertained by a dancer, and the sad fate of Abu Zeki.
The latter is quite affecting, and reminds us that joy is often accompanied by sadness. We are told that Azaran is “enjoying another spring”, followed by a montage of scenes of flowers growing, and then we immediately cut to a crying baby who has lost its father. It’s probably the most powerful moment of the episode.
The moral conundrum of whether to use or reject the alien influence has been present all across this season, and it is also a big part of the final episode. It is used as a springboard to questioning the dangers of meddling scientists in general, a hot topic in the Cold War era. Madeleine has a great speech in the middle of the episode where she basically shrugs her shoulders and tells Fleming she’s going home for a well-earned rest, and it’s up to him to decide what to do next.
“I started the storms. I had no idea what I was doing. It’s often the way in science. You do something that seems perfectly innocent and suddenly you lose control of it.”
Importantly, she doesn’t attribute the environmental disaster to the aliens, so much as the way the power they offered was used.
“It was we who turned the world upside down. It was Andre who saved it.”
Considering the formula for the bacteria was offered by the computer without explanation, and Madeleine innocently poured it away, that seems charitable towards their alien benefactors to say the least, but the cautionary tale of meddling scientists, tempered with a respect for the need to learn, is a good one, and I think what we are supposed to take from it is the idea that knowledge is dangerous only when it is being used selfishly.
I never really expected we would get to see the aliens, but late in the game my wish came true. That unintentionally resulted in another lesson for the viewers: be careful what you wish for, because the aliens turned out to be a very obvious model shot of a barren landscape, with the aliens represented by… I dunno… bits of metal stuff?
“Really big brains cannot move, and they have no eyes.”
They have no anything, as far as I could see. But this is television sci-fi in its infancy, similar to Quatermass, and informed by the success of 50s radio serials such as Journey into Space. It’s all about the jeopardy, and building the tension. Sci-fi as a visual spectacle was something for the future. But this does something that all good sci-fi does: blends alien threat with human emotions. It gives us the large scale (global catastrophe) and the small (a love story). The latter has been on the back-burner since the beginning of the series, but the final episode takes time to examine the nature of Fleming’s relationship with Andromeda, and it looks like there is a future for them after all. Much like real life, when the human race emerges from the other side of a global threat, it’s an uneasy happy ending. RP