Space 1999 #28: One Moment of Humanity

Androids want Alpha to teach them how to hate and kill.
WHEN: The episode takes place 515 days after Breakaway on Feb.9 2001. It first aired on Sept.25 1976.

REVIEW: I know I often use the expression "buy the premise, buy the bit", and it's usually to say I was willing to buy the premise, but not this time. Everything hinges on life-like androids needing to be shown an example of hate and violence so they themselves can copy it and start murdering their human creators. It's very hard to believe they WANT to kill people, but can't imagine violence unless someone shows them. And then still don't get it when the read our violent literature, or when, I dunno, Alan shoots one of them (in vain) with a laser pistol. We're even told their paralysis power could prove fatal in time, so why can't they just dispassionately kill? What will it take? Well, it must happen in exactly those conditions that also force the android to learn love - aww - so that he can't kill once he learns to. It's all very Trek fable and all, but it's so extreme and so poorly thought-out that it can't possibly work.

It's too bad too because the Vegan planet has some very nice production design (even some live birds) and Helena's "seduction" at android hands is a nicely choreographed dance, even if they do push the limits of coincidence to get her into a gown (of Maya's curtain rod dress, the less said the better). Of all the tests, it's the one based on Othello that eventually works, except the episode doesn't really understand the play. They try to create jealousy in Koenig so he'll kill Helena (presumably), but since he knows this, it can't possibly work. So really he just comes to her defense when the android essentially tries to rape her. I call that justified violence. But it's enough to turn Zarl into a punching machine and then die from a broken heart because he really did feel something during that sexy space tango. And when he goes on the blink, they all do. Whatever. Couldn't this have tied into Maya's secret cockroach mission into their computer room instead of making her come back empty handed?

Notably, the people on Vega call themselves humans, have parrots (which resonate with the copy-cat theme) and use Arabic numerals. Are they actually future humans who settled there, and is the Moon now warping into a universe where Terrans have already been seeded? Nobody really talks about it, so who knows. One secret they're not so tight-lipped about is that Tony loves Maya. Geez. It hasn't even been established between them and Koenig is calling them out on it. Obviously, he's just using their flirtation as an excuse to get Maya on this trip. Instead of getting Othelloed, she can fly to the computer room and stuff. Nice played, Koenig. Stupid androids just got Kirked.

HEY, ISN'T THAT... Billie Whitelaw is Zamara; the BAFTA winner has been in tons of things, from The Omen to Hot Fuzz. She passed away only 5 weeks ago, age 82. Geoffrey Bayldon is Number 8; known for children's fare like Magic Grandad and the Crowman in Worzel Gummidge opposite Jon Pertwee, he was famously considered to play the original Doctor Who and so played an alternate version of him on Big Finish audio.

- Barbara Bain's dancing skills are well used and the episode has the best sets of a Season 2 episode to date. But again with the dumb-ass plot.


Anonymous said...

"But it's enough to turn Zarl into a punching machine"

That sentence, in isolation, makes this sound like the sort of episode I'd like to see as a ten-year-old.

Sadly, as a ten-year-old, I saw the actual episode, and I was embarrassed to watch it. That sums up much of my experience with season 2.

Jeremy Patrick said...

Never seen the show, but the more you describe the plots to me, the more it's hard to imagine what was going on in the writer's room. The Silver Age comics have plots equally (or more) inane, but at least they have a goofy gonzo charm.

Siskoid said...

What S1999 usually has is atmosphere, frequently interesting direction, and neat model work.

Doing research on the behind the scenes reveals that Landau was especially peeved about the situation and a lot of his scripts, margins filled with angry criticism, exist to be examined. Also, it seems the head of ITC who was making the show had his own wrong-headed ideas about science-fiction and imposed them on the production. For example, he thought the next episode was the best script he'd ever read. I'm about to press Play on it now. We'll see how it does, but I'm not expecting 2001.


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