Alpha frees an immortal psychopath from an asteroid tomb.
REVIEW: Another episode about the high price of immortality? That's the third (fourth? I've actually lost count!) this season, which makes everyone wondering what decision they'd have made under different circumstances ring hollow. We already know! This time, immortality is offered by an alien in a black habit, found in the SF version of the Mummy's tomb, an asteroid headed straight for Alpha. They blow up the entrance, there's some iffy physics with the astronauts visor-up in a tunnel, and they accidentally kill the alien occupant, no big whoop. Everyone's much more concerned with pilot Mike who's been put on the no-fly list for an eye injury we can't see. The alien, Balor, rises from the dead on the autopsy table anyway, and among his powers are super-strength, invulnerability, an aura of fear that - dear God - I hope explains why nameless Alphans are falling all over themselves trying to escape, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. No wait. Not that last one.
What ensues is a battle of wits between Balor and Koenig, because physically, no one is a match for this guy. We'll discover that he was a prisoner aboard that asteroid - that old SF nugget - and that they probably shouldn't have been setting him loose. The one major casualty is pilot Mike who goes mad and starts playing a little too dangerously with his model planes (doesn't he know he was just flying models even before the accident?), and dying of extreme fear. Why does Balor kill people? He's a psychopath. Nothing else really makes sense. Don't get me wrong, he's a strong, arrogant presence on the station, walking its halls like he owns the place, because he sort of does. His announcing Helena as obsolete is a very good moment, for example. The ending is a little disappointing, however. The Alphans force him to an airlock, cutting off his options remotely - that's fine - but when he's expelled, shouldn't he just be stranded on the surface of the Moon? How powerful does the rush of air need to be to achieve Lunar escape velocity?
But while there are some dumb moments like that in the script, the episode remains very watchable thanks to Ray Austin's direction. You'll remember I praised his work on The Trouble Spirit as well. Here, he again uses sound design to great effect, supporting Balor's first rampage with odd music and no audible voice or sound effects, giving him a strange deaf perspective. Pilot Mike's insane attack on Koenig is done with fierce jump cuts and Mike stabbing at the camera with a biplane. Austin gets it right every time. Horror, spectacle, violence... he just can't fill the scientific plot holes for us.
HEY, ISN'T THAT... Peter Bowles is Balor; he's been in everything from Blow-Up to The Sarah Jane Adventures.
REWATCHABILITY: Almost Medium-High - The direction is quite inventive, but the plot isn't.