Space 1999 #24: The Testament of Arkadia

The Moon stops in orbit around a planet that may be the cradle of humanity.
WHEN: The episode first aired on Feb.12 1976, 23rd in broadcast order, though 24th in production order (last of the season).

REVIEW: Give or take an absurdly huge camera and a gratuitous kendo fight, The Testament of Arkadia has a wistful tone that fits the end of the season perfectly. The music is unlike any the series has showcased, and Koenig's poetic narration supports the elegiac atmosphere. On the Moon, a power drain puts everyone's lives in danger, the windows frost up and sections are closed down to conserve energy. The dead planet below could be made fertile again, but the crew just can't make the resource allocation necessary work right. And yet, Alpha didn't come here by accident, for Arkadia turns out to be the cradle of the human race. Were we always destined to return?

We already know Space 1999 had an influence on the new Battlestar Galactica. The incorporation of exciting shots from the episode in the opening credits, for example. Now obviously, the whole 13th tribe business was part of the original BSG, which came after Space 1999, but claims no such influence. Still, the new BSG's mysticism does relate to Space 1999's, it's just done more overtly. In BSG, you know very early on that the supernatural and ideas like destiny exist as forces in the universe. That's true of Space as well, but because these mysteries aren't done as arcs, and exist in isolated episodes, it's hard to see them as a true feature of the series, just a quirk of a certain writer's story.

When seen through that lens, plot holes become much more acceptable. Alpha never finds out what caused the power drain, or how the Arkadians are affecting the Moon's trajectory, or even what Luke and Anna really saw in the cave or what it means for their future. If the planet hadn't drained Alpha, it could have had its Adam and Eve, been reborn etc., AND kept a Moon where people could live while they way for the terraforming to run its course. This could have been the Alphans' new home. But instead, we get the unexplained power drain, crew members possessed and putting people in danger (I did enjoy Kano keeping a cool head while under thread; he doesn't get to do stuff like this often), and the Moon spinning back out of orbit once Luke and Anna are well away. Painted as a mystery we're not really meant to understand, it works. Look at it logically, and you might see the writer manipulating events to get the proper outcome.

HEY, ISN'T THAT... Orso Maria Guerrini is Luke Ferro; English-speaking audience might remember him best from The Bourne Identity.

- Not air-tight by any means, Testament nevertheless puts the series into a new context and succeeds with its atmosphere if not its plot.


snell said...

Now obviously, the whole 13th tribe business was part of the original BSG, which came after Space 1999, but claims no such influence.

As Glen Larson explicitly incorporated themes from Mormon theology into BSG, it's certainly possible that both shows were influenced from the same source for the whole "lost tribe/cradle of humanity" business.

Siskoid said...

Right. And let's not forget the 70s had "Chariots of the Gods" fever.


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