Space 1999 #11: Force of Life

A wandering energy force inhabits the body of Alpha technician Anton Zoref, turning him into an energy-absorbing being.
WHEN: The episode first aired on Sept.11 1975, 2nd in broadcast order, though it was the 9th produced.

The French version is called "Puissance de vie", "Power of Life". I don't remember it. I'm starting to think I only committed Season 2 to memory storage on account of Maya.

REVIEW: Force of Life gives us some insight into the lives of some of the Alphans who don't work in Main Mission, but they're not treated like "little people" (except those that die, I guess). Anton Zoref and his wife Eva (yes, a married couple on Moonbase) have some pretty homey quarters for technicians (well, I don't actually know what Eva does), a little on the retro side, especially that alarm clock, but larger than you'd expect astronauts to live in. Either everyone has such quarters, or being  a married couple allows them to "double up" on space. Certainly makes the endless journey through the void of space (hey, where's the light coming from?) a little more bearable. The Zorefs are played by some quality guest-stars - the intense Ian McShane and the beautiful Gay Hamilton - and you never once wonder why you're following them instead of the regulars. The episode also shows the solarium, which explains why the Alphans don't all look as pale as ghosts.

But while I'm always interested in Moonbase living, the episode must unfortunately have a plot. Alien light possesses Zoref, he starts absorbing heat, and goes around freezing people solid until he can get to the nuclear generator and drink his fill. It's essentially a monster/slasher story, only made interesting by the guest performances and David Tomblin's direction, which uses distorted points of view, moody lighting and slow motion to make those scenes really sing. The scene where a zombified Zoref opens the reactor door is amazingly edgy, like something out of a found footage movie. Well ahead of its time. The script provides some tension on its own of course, particularly through the device of Koenig cutting all power to lure Zoref to the reaction room, people in intensive care immediately dying and the stakes for the rest of the base well spelled out.

But then we have a very strange ending. The zombification is already a bit much, but a big chunk of Moonbase Alpha is shown to explode, the Moon's surface cracking one one spot. That's fine, even if it's possibly problematic for continuity, except the crew is soon celebrating the fact they're all going to be all right. Did the effects people let their enthusiasm get the better of them? Because it looks like they're pretty far from all right. As usual, sensible explanations are hard to come by in the Space 1999 universe, and Victor jumps to the rather amazing conclusion that the satiated ball of energy will become a star or something. Even if he'd collected ANY evidence about the entity during the episode, that's just not how that works. Stars aren't born as little balls of energy that suck in more energy until they're suns. There's a weird poetry to the show's sci-fi plots, but it's, as always, at odds with its more realistic speculative elements.

HEY, ISN'T THAT... Deadwood and Lovejoy's Ian McShane is Anton Zoref; need I go on? Gay Hamilton is his wife Eva; she was Jean on Softly Softly, but the same year this episode went out, appeared in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. Eva Reuber-Staier is the girl in the solarium; she was General Gogol's secretary Miss Rublevitch in three Bond films. And John Hamill is Dominix; I knew him as the Shrieve in Doctor Who's The Ribos Operation.

- Good guest-stars and direction, but an ordinary monster plot that turns magical the minute you look at it too closely.