Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

SPACE: 1999 (1975-1979) * * 2/3

At the end of the 20th century, Earth dumps its nuclear waste on the dark side of the Moon. Due to magnetic interference, on September 13, 1999 there is an accidental explosion that sends the Moon out of orbit and far into deep space. Moonbase Alpha, a scientific research colony of 311 men and women is taken along. Isaac Asimov and other science writers have expressed their astonishment at this silly, extremely unlikely scenario.

Commander John Koenig (Martin Landau) is the leader of Moonbase Alpha. Dr. Helena Russel (Barbara Bain) is head of Medical Section, and Professor Victor Bergman (Barry Morse) is science advisor. During their interstellar journey, the Alphans encounter alien societies and civilizations as well as strange phenomena. John Koenig says, "We've had a lot of success so far. We know what dangers to expect out there from black suns, neutron storms, radiation and the like, but if we think we know everything that goes on out there, we're making a terrible mistake."

John Koenig: "We're all aliens, until we get to know one another."
Lee Russel: "Nobody dies. Matter never dies, Helena. It changes its form."
Maya: "You mean, people killed people, just because they were different from each other? That's disgusting."

SPACE: 1999 has some similarities to STAR TREK, except it tends to be less entertaining. The characters rarely interact very well, and this includes Landau and Bain who were married in real life, and they're emotionally flat. Stories are frequently incomprehensible nonsense masquerading as profound statements or symbolism.

This British sci-fi TV show was produced by Sylvia and Gerry Anderson. Because the ratings were low in the first season, producer Fred Freiberger replaced them for the second season. Freiberger is infamous for producing the third season of STAR TREK, which is considered to be the worst.

Many changes were made for the second season. Professor Bergman departed and was replaced with Maya (Catherine Schell), a shapeshifting alien. There were many other cast changes that were never explained on-screen. Freiberger emphasized action and adventure, as well as improving the character interaction and friendly liveliness. He turned it into a different show. It was too much, too late.

Freiberger also replaced the wonderful opening credit introduction and its great theme music by Barry Gray with an inferior one with music by Derek Wadsworth. One guy on the internet rated SPACE: 1999 as his # 2 favorite TV show "Opening" and wrote, "We are ignoring the hideous second season opening, just as we ignore the hideous second season." He has a point, for syndication broadcasts are mostly from the first season.

Professor Victor Bergman's last message before evacuating Alpha: "We are Mankind. We came from planet Earth, and we built this base, called Alpha, to learn more about space. But human error blasted this Moon out of the Earth's orbit. And so, we have traveled the Universe searching for a place to live. Now, we can no longer live here, and we go to face an uncertain future on the planet that has nearly destroyed us. You, whoever you are, who find this empty vessel of Alpha, come and seek us out, if we still exist. Come and teach us all you know. Because, we have learned many things, but most of all, we have learned we still have much to learn."

The cast from both seasons also includes: Tony Anholt (Tony Verdeschi), Nick Tate (Alan Carter), Zienia Merton (Sandra Benes), Prentis Hancock (Paul Morrow), Clifton Jones (David Kano), Anton Phillips (Dr. Bob Mathias), John Hug (Bill Fraser), Yasuko Nagazumi (Yasko), Alibe Parsons (Alibe), Jeffrey Kissoon (Dr. Ben Vincent), and Sam Dastor (Dr. Ed Spencer). Guest appearances include: Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Ian McShane, and Brian Blessed.

SPACE: 1999 premiered in 1975, although the first episode had been filmed in 1973. There are 48 episodes, with a running time of 52 minutes. Four feature films were created from the series. DESTINATION: MOONBASE ALPHA (1978) is derived from the two-part episode, "Bringers of Wonder". ALIEN ATTACK (1979) was made from the pilot "Breakaway", "War Games", and new footage. JOURNEY THROUGH THE BLACK SUN (1982) combined "Collision Course" and "Black Sun". COSMIC PRINCESS (1982) combined "The Metamorph" with "Space Warp". For Italy only, SPAZIO: 1999 (1976) was made from "Breakaway", "Ring Around The Moon", and "Another Time, Another Place".

With an original look and style, the series has excellent special effects, a unique set, good costumes, and many well designed scale models such as "Eagle", a space shuttle. The shows are required viewing for sci-fi fans. It's somewhat boring and serious, as space travel can be, and it's not as good as STAR TREK, but it is superior to BATTLESTAR: GALLACTICA and BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY.

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