Space 1999 #31: The Rules of Luton

Koenig and Maya are pit against aliens by angry trees.
WHEN: The episode takes place 892 days after Breakaway on Feb.21 2002. It first aired on Oct.23 1976.

REVIEW: They missed a good opportunity by not simply showing the flip side of the previous episode since Koenig and Maya are having a mission all by themselves in both stories. But that would have been only marginally better, as The Rules of Luton is a TERRIBLE script. According to the premise, Luton (not the one in the UK) is a planet where the plants are intelligent and dangerous and have wiped out the non-sentient seeming animals in some kind of conflict. The Parliament of Trees freaks out when Koenig and Maya pick a flower and ear a berry and are branded cannibals (that word doesn't mean what you think it means, Lutonites, nor would picking a flower or eating a berry kill the plant!). Judgment will be enacted through a gladiatorial game between our heroes and three alien uglies, themselves "cannibals" doomed to fight anyone else who eats plants here to the death (so you're never really off the hook for your crime, and this planet must see a lot of traffic despite being able to cloak itself somehow). The plant elite have the power to give the aliens powers to make things interesting - one of them can teleport, another is mega-strong, and the last can turn invisible - which can't possibly be fair (or explained properly). In the end, Koenig at his Kirkiest refuses to kill the last goon (the other two died "accidentally") and makes the lowly grass turn on the trees by telling them the Judges could easily have prevented their crimes by speaking up earlier. Plants start screeching, humans are released.

There's some action in there, but it plays out slowly and deliberately. The aliens can't swim, which delays them for a while. It takes preposterously long for our heroes to realize Maya's powers could be used to their advantage, which is absurd. And if they learned a lesson, it's that you shouldn't go around picking flowers. There's this whole coda where Tony gives Maya a bouquet from hydroponics - because Alpha's limited resources can't stop Brits from hobby gardening? - and Koenig is all like "never pick another flower in front of me". Hardy-har. Groan.

At the center of the episode is an extended scene of Maya and Koenig talking about their histories. It's the one moment of interest in the whole thing, but it's not without its flaws. For one thing, how is this the time for Koenig to debrief Maya on the events of The Metamorph? The timing is all wrong. Still, some interesting details about Mentor and her dead mother, that she has a brother who fled her planet with 1000 others. Are they setting up future story lines? I hope so. Koenig, for his part, reveals he didn't leave any family on Earth, but he IS a widower. Landau gives an excellent, emotional performance, and confides that he's with Helena because she reminds him of his dead wife. However, the back story is just unbelievable. There was a race/class/religious war in 1997, which killed his wife, but also ushered in a new era and a new civilization. This thing is called Space 1999, which doesn't give a heck of a lot of time for Earth to end this war, get back on its feet, and head to the stars with multicultural crews that have absolutely no tension between them. It doesn't even give Koenig much time to grieve! In my head, I think I'll set the war in the late 80s, which would make much more sense, and save this scene, because it deserves to be saved from the surrounding mess.

HEY, ISN'T THAT... The large animal skeleton on the valley floor is indeed the same used in Star Wars.

- It's S1999's stupid, boring and pointless answer to Star Trek's Arena. It's only saving grace is Koenig and Maya talking about their respective pasts.


LondonKdS said...

The naming of this episode can only be seen as a deliberate joke by someone, since Luton isn't just a town in Britain, it's a famously *boring* one. It's like if some American show had an incredibly exotic alien planet called Desmoines.

Craig Oxbrow said...

Apparently it's the result of a US writer seeing the name while travelling in the UK and thinking it sounded alien-y.

Siskoid said...

How correct was he?

Brian Artillery said...

That American was Fred Freiberger. Yup, the guy that was in charge of season 3 of the original series of Star Trek, and who basically was single handed in getting the show shit canned. He seemed to enjoy infantilising things, was afraid of 'hard' ideas, and liked happy endings. He did this again, with Space: 1999, pretty much ensuring it's demise with simplistic drivel like this episode, which, in the UK, was called 'The Judges Of Luton'. Luton is a town in Bedfordshire, UK, and is, well, ...boring. Sorry. Whatever, Fred Freiberger should never have been let near Space: 1999, let alone put in charge of it. I'm still bitter about this, even now. I liked season 1's darkness, the bleakness of the Alphans' plight - not everything has a happy ending; even Barry Gray's brilliant theme has a sense of foreboding. And then along comes Freiberger, and everything is happy happy joy, joy, joy, and a joke at the end of the episode. (Sigh)

Siskoid said...

At least he has a recognizable style. Haha!


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