Space 1999 #44: The Seance Spectre

Mutiny on Moonbase Alpha, when a team of seance-happy Alphans really, really, really want that smoke cloud to contain a habitable planet.
WHEN: The episode takes place 2012 days after Breakaway on Mar.17 2005; another nonsense date since it would occur only 3 days after Dorzak, despite the fact that they've been tracking a "weather belt" for three weeks. It first aired on Aug.18 1977.

REVIEW: Just when I thought it was safe to watch Space 1999 again, they throw out THIS turkey. Wow. Just awful. Well no, not completely awful, as Peter Medak's direction has a lot going for it - strange and interesting angles, treating the crashed Eagle like news footage, and so on - but it's wasted on a script that doesn't seem to understand the program. First among the problems is the whole seance element. Four people get cabin fever, as it were, take over the Command Center, knock everyone out, dim the lights (that's not the only thing that's dim), and hold a seance to see if the dust cloud ahead hides a habitable Eden. And according to their pop occultism, it does! They hold another one, even more pointless than the first, later in the episode. What. The. Hell. What spirits are telling them this? Normally, you'd have some alien entity that wants to draw Alpha into its sphere of influence, but not here. It's just a shared delusion. And if you're pulling information from the ether like that, why do you need to be in Command Center? Couldn't Sanderson's bunch have achieved the same thing from just about any room on Alpha?

None of this would even have happened if Koenig hadn't suddenly ordered an information black-out for some three weeks while the Moon approached a gas cloud, so as not to get anyone's hopes up about a potential planet. We're pretty far from the democracy of Season 1! Not only is it out of character, but the "weather belt" doesn't look anything like a planet. And while I'm sure people on Alpha would go stir-crazy after almost 6 years in deep space, I'm not sure I understand how this group is more affected than others. They're an exploration team that spends long periods on the lunar surface, fending for themselves? Why?! This has never been an issue before. And then you have the whole problem with Alpha security being so poor. Four people walk into the Command Center and easily take it over. When they're captured, they just as easily escape even though they're armed and Sanderson isn't. The character is so irrational and dangerous, you know his days are numbered, especially once his team breaks away from him. He has to die, and does. No surprise. The rest of Alpha is then imposed green therapy, in which they stare at pictures of trees until they're so sick of them, they're unlikely to mutiny or hold seances to create imaginary planets. For Tony and Alan, it's a chance to hack the system and look at sexy pin-ups. Great sexist joke there, guys. Ugh.

And yet, I have to admit there was the ghost (not to say the spectre) of an episode here. People going insane from despair, questioning Koenig's authority, yearning for a more democratic structure, more freedom. That makes sense. That Sanderson then acts like the tyrant he accuses Koenig to be is an interesting point, and if he weren't so crazy, it might have led somewhere. The astronaut disaster movie stuff Space 1999 excels at is represented by an awful crash on the dust-blown planet, Koenig having to seal a leak, Moonbase remotely flying the Eagle out of there (a capability previously seen in The Full Circle), and Maya conserving/producing oxygen by turning into vegetation. The fight on the Moon is less interesting, but nevertheless features a silver anti-radiation suit so we don't have to suffer through yet another brawl between identical orange guys. And reproducing the Breakaway accident to veer the Moon off its collision course is trick I thought they might have used before, and well handled by evacuating the base during the correction.

Carolyn Seymour is Eva Lewis; became a ubiquitous TV guest star in American genre shows, from Star Trek to Quantum Leap to Babylon 5 and more.

REWATCHABILITY: Begrudgingly Medium-Low - Some good elements, but it's a shame they are so badly handled.


Jeremy Patrick said...

Based on the write-up, are you sure "medium-low" is more accurate than "really low-low"? What's it take to make you unhappy Siskoid? :)

Siskoid said...

It's pretty terrible, but would I refuse ever watching it again? I can't say that. Not exactly. Medium-Low is pretty mediocre, I assure you.


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