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Robbie Parry
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Joined: 17 June 2007
Location: United Kingdom
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Posted: 24 January 2018 at 4:33am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

The SPACE: 1999 episode "End of Eternity" is an extremely dark episode of the show, one I watched again last night.

It's chilling. So chilling I believe some UK networks edited out a violent scene. Slight spoilers ahead.

In the episode, Moonbase Alpha find an asteroid. Inside is a being called Balor (Peter Bowles), who has been imprisoned in there for 1,000 years. He is immortal. He gives them some bull about his people having unfairly exiled him, but it transpires that he is a sadistic killer who takes pleasure in torture.

He wants to use the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha as his latest "project", torturing them so that they can transcend limitations (whatever that means). How do you stop an immortal killer?

When Balor attacks people, there's no dialogue or music. Just silence. The likes of NuWho could learn from that (they overdo music).

Bowles' performance as Balor is chilling. He goes from a charming gentleman when first rescued ("I am deeply in your debt, Commander.") to a charming-but-evil sadist when Commander Koenig refuses to let his crew be experimented on ("There will be death and destruction on this base until he agrees."). 

The lack of lighting and the sombre mood in the first season really helped make this episode one of the best. It's one of my favourite sci-fi episodes ever. 

Worth a watch. As a lot of classic shows didn't have arcs, you can watch them in any order (the intro always explains what the show is about). Make this your first experience of SPACE: 1999 if you haven't seen it.

If you have seen it, any views?

EDIT: Clarity.


Edited by Robbie Parry on 24 January 2018 at 4:37am
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Andrew Saxon
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Posted: 25 January 2018 at 4:39am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Not my favourite episode of season 1 but it is very good. Bowles gives a most chilling performance once Balor reveals his true colours. There is something childlike about Balor - but it's the child who would pull the legs off a still living insect or burn ants with a magnifying glass.The direction of this one is particularly strong. Not sure I'd recommend End of Eternity as the first episode to watch (personally, I really would advise watching pilot episode 'Breakaway' first) but, yes, it is a good 'un.

By the way, Robbie, we were both watching 1999 last night. My wife is also a fan and we treated ourselves to a marathon of episodes consisting of The Infernal Machine, Earthbound and Mission of the Darians. Great minds, hey?!! I think we'll watch End of Eternity tonight in your honour.

PS Robbie, if you can track down a copy, you might want to check out William Latham's Space: 1999 novel, 'Resurrection'. I'll say no more but I suspect you would enjoy it.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 25 January 2018 at 4:57am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

Thanks, Andrew, I shall look out for the novel.

Yes, great minds, eh?

It is chilling and the direction is strong. Really horrific when the episode goes silent as Balor attacks people. I suspect, sadly, that many serial killers may well be charming when they get close to people. At least if an angry guy heads for you with an axe in a mall, you *may* stand a chance, but when a charming person enters your life, who can see it coming? Scary.

Erm, where was "Head of Security" Tony Verdeschi in "End of Eternity"? Off-shift? Hiding in a wardrobe? ;-)

I did quite like the second season, it was certainly fun, but cannot compare to the first season. I also missed the dark lighting and sombre mood that the first season gave us.

Using a comics analogy, I wonder if I should think of Season 2 as "Earth-2 Space: 1999". Many characters disappeared without explanation (quite hard to do when the moon is travelling through space), Tony Verdeschi appeared out of nowhere, and the whole tone was different. 

Incidentally, "New Adam, New Eve" is my favourite Season 2 episode. Guy Rolfe as "God" makes this a top-notch and fun episode. 
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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 02 February 2018 at 1:54pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

There were radical shifts between seasons, mostly as a result of the show bringing on Fred Freiberger as showrunner after his stint on Star Trek. Freiberger had a different sensibility than the season 1 team and it showed.

For my money, season 1 of Space:1999 is far superior and is what I think of when I reflect on that show.

Seems there was talk of reviving it some years back and nothing appears to have happened. Maybe one day we'll get Space:2112 (shades of JB!) or similar.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 02 February 2018 at 5:41pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Season 1 is definitely my favourite, everything from the plots to the lighting.

Season 2 has its moments - e.g. Guy Rolfe as "God" - but for the most part, it does feel like an "Earth-2 Space: 1999" (or should that be Moon-2?).

I did like Maya, though, although not sure she'd have suited the tone of the first season.

Have there ever been other shows which had such a drastic change in tone? 
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 03 February 2018 at 2:47am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

A syndicated late night adventure series "She Spies" started off as a funny, knowing, meta-commentary on the spy genre and TV shows in general.

For season two, they ditched the shlub boss, gave the team a vicious, military commander and tried to do action-adventure stories in a straightforward and humorless fashion the characters would have laughed at last year.

This might be a good topic for its own thread, if you emphasize the major shift in a show's overall tone as the point of the question rather than simple "I never felt ***** was the same after ***** left" responses. On the other hand, I'm not coming up with another example of this phenomenon so I don't know that this occurred too frequently. James Garner's "Nichols," perhaps?

I did just pull my piecemeal collection of Space: 1999 off the shelf and watched the episode "Ring Around the Moon," and while I enjoyed the look and odd pacing of the program, it was thinly plotted, with orders being shouted for no good reason*, characters needing to be told to call security well into an open attack, and a resolution where our team, rookies to space travel and out there with no prep, is able to tell a "planet" of aliens something about their home world they didn't know and offer conclusive proof of it, despite the planet being in another part of space altogether. Did they get hold of an alien database in an earlier episode?

There was also an odd moment where they reason the alien environment must have oxygen and find that the thing the aliens keep having our possessed crewmember do reduces their previously impenetrable forcefield to just about nothing. Weird that we didn't notice that before. They mount their next attempt to break through to coincide with the next possession and don't wear spacesuits, because, well... oxygen! But one of the earlier attempts resulted in a crash on the moon's surface, so you'd think you'd still want the spacesuit on for the space travel portion of the trip, right? I mean, if I'm heading over to a friend's house to enjoy the sauna and it's snowing out, I don't drive there dressed in a swimsuit...

It was as if the writers had a collection of scenes and cliched dialogue they wanted to include, but didn't bother coming up with a logical throughline or actual reason for any of them to be taking place.

On to the episode you suggest here...

* "Did you try the most obvious thing?!?"
"Yes, Commander. It told us nothing..."
"Well, try the most obvious thing again!! And keep trying it!!"


Edited by Brian Hague on 03 February 2018 at 2:57am
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Andrew Saxon
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Posted: 07 February 2018 at 4:47am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Sad to say, Ring Around The Moon' is one of the weaker episodes of the wonderful first season.* That said, it's very well directed and, between its incidental music and sound FX, has a very atmospheric soundtrack. So it's at least good to look at and listen to - if you switch your brain off first.

* There was no second season of Space: 1999.
You did not see that.
It did not happen.
Repeat - there was NO second season of Space: 1999 (let's all keep saying it until we warp reality enough to make it true).
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 07 February 2018 at 8:09am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

For me, it works better as an "Elseworlds" season. ;-)
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 08 February 2018 at 11:44pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

SPOILERS for END OF ETERNITY:

Robbie, I've watched a small number of Space: 1999 episodes now, and I've gained a deeper respect for the show than I once had. 

I liked the show back in the day, and even had the lunchbox, but the slow pace (which stood out, even then) and the lack of naturalism in the performances (Helena Russell... Lady Penelope... One and the same?) stood out and became the only real impression I formed of the show. Of course, by the time I got my lunchbox, it had become a monster-of-the-week program, even if the Alphans had to supply the monster in the form of shape-shifter Maya*. 

I'm struck revisiting the show by how trippy and ambitious the filming is, even if the scripts sometimes fall far short of such pretensions. "Ring Around the Moon" is not a good episode, but some of those shots of Barbara Bain aboard the alien ship are fascinating. That view of her, backlit, in her spacesuit when she returns is flippin' brilliant. What in that script deserved that level of cinematography? 

Since then, I've come to the conclusion that the show borders on a David Lynch level of conceptual weirdness and visual elan at times. "Another Time, Another Place," which precedes a couple of Trek spin-off episodes with a similar theme, is much better conceived, with the end collision in mind from early on. Some scenes, like the meeting of the two Helenas, are only missing a jazz soundtrack and some finger-snapping to make them lost pieces of the "Twin Peaks" puzzle.

"End of Eternity" was not at that level for me, but I can see where it would have left an indelible impression on a child, with just the scenes of the shrieking paintings (horrifying!), the attack on Koenig (Holy cow! This was on a syndicated "kid's show??"), and the subtle snapping of the medical attendants neck. Yeah, those images are all going to stay with you... I'm kind of glad I missed that week's episode myself... 

As effective as those moments were, the rest of the show played differently, moving at that intense crawl that is both very realistic and oddly unsatisfying as well. When Balor first presents himself, two Alphans are startled, and as he moves past them, they attack him. Then the young woman in the assembly area screams her head off and everyone runs around like idiots. When confronted by security, Koenig himself orders "use the kill ray" before any attempt to even speak to the alien is made. He even pleads for the opportunity to talk with them after the blast proves ineffective. You couldn't get much more anti-Star Trek than all of that.**

One thing the show excels at is keeping the audience guessing at what is going to happen next. I remember some episode I saw a couple of years ago where the Moonbase receives a message from Earth some 70 years in the future (700 years?) and the whole thing winds up back in the middle ages with our heroes about to be killed as witches. Well, say what you will about it, from commercial break to commercial break, you really could NOT sit back and say, "I see where this is going..."

From that opening, except for the paintings in his cell, you really don't have any idea what Balor's purpose is until he tells you, and takes delight in doing so. From then on, yes, its kind of scary... Especially those two rapid-cut sequences and the neck snapping. Afterwards, the luring of Balor to the airlock is pretty by the numbers. 

I wondered what that was supposed to accomplish, though. The airlock, being at ground level, would presumably simply open up onto the Moon's surface, and Balor could easily force his way back in, having no trouble with the doors in any other scene. But no, somehow it opens into space, presumably because the episode is out of time. Clearly, Balor survives and will likely make similar trouble for the next group of sentients who fly past...

I liked the episode overall. The actor playing Balor had sort of a Q's younger, but taller, brother quality to him, and again, those brief sequences were effective, as was the cast's reactions to having a powerful psychopath loose in their city. Thanks for inviting us to take a look at these again, Robbie.

* I was at a convention and saw a beautiful, tall woman in an excellent Maya costume, complete with tiny Cheerios in her eyebrows. When the opportunity to speak to her arose, I asked, "When you wear that, do people ask you if you'd like to party like it's 1999?" It got me an invitation to her private room party upstairs... Which was attended by about fifty young people, all drunk, with nothing much to say to some overweight, forty-five year old clown who does not drink, but hey, it was nice to be asked just the same! 

** Although, yes, the Gold Key comic did manage it.


Edited by Brian Hague on 08 February 2018 at 11:47pm
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Robbie Parry
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Joined: 17 June 2007
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Posted: 09 February 2018 at 6:01am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Thanks for inviting us to take a look at these again, Robbie.

***

Thanks for commenting, Brian. Fascinating stuff. 

I will watch "New Adam, New Eve" soon (it's my favourite Season 2 episode). Join me in doing that (so to speak). :)
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Andrew Saxon
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Posted: 09 February 2018 at 8:25am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

For me, it works better as an "Elseworlds" season. ;-)

You're not the first person who has told me they regard season 2 as being set in a parallel universe, Robbie (I even recall, many years ago, reading some fan-fic that had the two sets of Alphans encountering one another). It's a theory that makes sense in regard to the shift in tone, updated costumes and new cast (I suppose Tony might have been off duty the entire first season and now it's Paul Morrow's turn to get some shut eye... Nah!). I could accept all of that, but what I really didn't like was the dumbing down of the scripts to make it a 'monster of the week' show. If Space had always been like that it wouldn't have been so bad. Going from something aspiring to be a small screen 2001: A Space Odyssey to something mimicking the worst of Lost in Space was just excruciating for this viewer. The only season 2 episode I can bring myself to watch is The A B Chrysalis, which always seems like a season 1 episode trapped in season 2.

Not that season 2 ever existed, of course. ;-)

PS to Brian, I really enjoyed reading your review of End of Eternity and thoughts on the series.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 09 February 2018 at 9:13am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I've enjoyed all the views here!

You are right about SPACE: 1999 mimicking the worst of LOST IN SPACE.

By the way. I am not usually pedantic about some things (I accept, for instance, that Khan could very well have looked up or encountered Chekov in STAR TREK), but having Verdeschi come out of nowhere was a tad jarring. I suppose he could have been off-duty during the Season 1 exploits that we saw, but all of them? Especially when Balor, one of the biggest threats they faced, was aboard? Nah!

I did watch "New Adam, New Eve" earlier. Spoilers to follow:

The episode begins with a robed figure, whose name turns out to be Magus, materialising on Moonbase Alpha. To all intents and purposes, he is akin to depictions of the Judeo-Christian God. However, he does not wish for the inhabitants to genuflect in his presence. He is dismissive of earth's religions.

Magus, seemingly benevolent, promises Koenig and his crew a new beginning. He directs them to a planet that can become the new "Eden". However, Magus' real personality is revealed: he is a dictator, one who demands that Koenig, Helena, Maya and Tony Verdeschi mate and create a population. Non-negotiable, of course, and no-one else on Alpha is allowed to partake in Eden's delights.

As Koenig and others try to find a way out of their predicament, Maya learns that Magus isn't totally omnipotent. He has a mechanical power source in his body, one that has limits - and which is dependent on sunlight. Koenig and crew create a booby trap, a hole covered by camouflage. Koenig goads Magus into arguing - and insults him. As an angry Magus marches towards Koenig, he falls into the hole. No sunlight, no powers.

As the planet they are on begins to suffer natural disasters, the crew head back to Moonbase Alpha. Like Balor, Magus' fate is left unknown, but there's a good chance he died (or not, perhaps, like Balor, he is still out there. "Magus Returns", anyone?).

Guy Rolfe nailed the part of God/Magus. In the hands of another actor, I am not so sure it would have worked. The light-hearted - and possibly camp - aspects of the episode, and the season as a whole, are no problem here. Like Balor, Magus hides his sinister behaviour behind a charming, likeable face. We go from the "God" who insists the crew don't worship him to the nasty piece of work who treats everything as non-negotiable.

And it is gripping. Seeing any fictional character take on a near-omnipotent opponent will always be gripping. Until the moment that Maya discovers Magus' power source, it looks hopeless. Even when we learn of his power source, it is very reliant on getting him in that hole. Note to bad guys dependent on sunlight: don't get angry. Ever. Doing that will only lead to defeat.

Second note to bad guys: don't be dependent on sunlight. The vastly powerful Nuclear Man got his clock cleaned in SUPERMAN IV when Superman blocked the sun. Magus' plan could have worked. If you're gonna be a bad guy dependent on sunlight, have a back-up plan.


Edited by Robbie Parry on 09 February 2018 at 9:18am
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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 22 February 2018 at 3:11pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

This is off the course of discussing episodes, but if I was going to reboot SPACE:1999, I'd have it be set in something like 2212, where the Moon is well colonized (Moonbase Alpha through Gamma) and they're testing an experimental warp drive in lunar orbit that pulls the Moon through a wormhole.

That would be how they bounce from system to system. And they spend some episodes trying to get that drive operational again, at least enough to get them back into the solar system.

Just thinking out loud.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 22 February 2018 at 5:00pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Count me in, Andrew.
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