Space 1999 #18: Mission of the Darians

Alpha is invited to stay on a generational ship where a catastrophe has left a huge gap between social classes.
WHEN: The episode first aired on Oct.30 1975, 9th in broadcast order, though it was 22nd in production order.

I have a vivid memory of the set design in this episode. Why those backlit abstract pastel splashes have stayed with me, Neman only knows.

REVIEW: A lot of money on the screen in this one. The city in space looks gorgeous both as a model and as a matte painting, there are plenty of sets, and a lot of guest stars too, including a certain Ms. Joan Collins. I suppose we can forgive the extras for just standing around transfixed whenever they're in shot. I know the director likes tableaux, judging by the final shot on Daria, but some of these people are zombies who react to absolutely nothing. So it's pretty. What else?

Well, Daria is meant to be a mirror for Alpha. It too has suffered a disaster. It too is doing all it can to survive. And it too is looking for a new world on which to settle. Can they maybe pool their resources together? We may share a biology with the Darians, but not a morality, so no, not culturally compatible. Darian culture is rather inward-looking anyway. They probably haven't changed much since the disaster 900 years ago, and are obsessed with safeguarding their technically lost civilization. There are only 14 of them, at least until they activate their gene bank, although there are more who are considered impure (physically and/or culturally), subjugated by a religion created by the Darian 1%. These people dress like gladiators and barbarians, worship Neman the Darian elder, and revere the silver astronauts who come and take their "chosen ones". It reminded me of the second Planet of the Apes film; just substitute DNA for the atomic bomb. The physically imperfect are ground up as protein, while the best stock is used for organ transplants so the 14 can live forever. That's what they mean when they say "pool our resources". Anyway, it's all for naught when Alan essentially blows up their culture, leading one of the barbarians to throw his false god head first into the DNA bank. Oh man. Talk about having egg on your face. They'll just have to work together, something that has never occurred to anyone in 900 years. Sigh. It's all a bit... pulp SF cliché, you know?

Alpha hasn't yet sunken to barbarity, at least not permanently, and it's this week's platitude to have Koenig muse about whether or not he'd even let it get to that point. Of course he wouldn't. The other platitude is that we're supposed to care about the one Alphan who was killed on account of his missing finger. He's a nobody who gets killed to horrify Helena before it becomes her turn to play the human sacrifice, and for a second, you appreciate that they gave him a little quirk. He likes to hum a little song. It's probably annoying to co-workers, but it's more humanity than is usually afforded cannon fodder. By making Helena imagine his voice humming over a shot of his empty seat in the very depressing epilogue, they're trying to tug at our heart strings. But he's still just a guy we'd never seen before and who hardly had any lines.

HEY, ISN'T THAT... Joan Collins as Kara; she really needs no introduction. Robert Russell as Hadin; he played the Caber in Doctor Who's Terror of the Zygons. Gerald Stadden as the "Male Mute" was one of Jedi's Ewoks.

- Looks quite good, but it's hard to muster any real enthusiasm for these well-worn SF tropes.


Anonymous said...

"Do you know what goes into your pizza toppings? Get your slice here and it's probably pork, beef, nitrates, and missing crewmembers! Cannibals in space, tonight on 'Sick, Sad World'!",_Sad_World

Siskoid said...

Soylent Green is pizza!!!--I mean, people!!!


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