Space 1999 #45: Devil's Planet

Koenig fights alone on the penal colony of an otherwise dead world.
WHEN: The episode takes place 2306 days after Breakaway on Jan.5 2006. It first aired on Sept.1 1977.

REVIEW: Devil's Planet has a strong enough set-up. An entire race dies from a plague, and the only survivors are its penal colony on the world's satellite. The designs are strong, with colorful costumes and large, striking sets. What it doesn't have is a clear motivation for Elizia, its distractingly cross-eyed villain, whose hold on power is tenuous at best. In fact, it's unsustainable if even her staff must soon end their tour of duty and ask to return to the home planet. We're definitely in some kind of Orwellian territory then, where prisoners who are released - usually at the end of a sadistic hunt - are unknowingly beamed to their deaths, while fake news continues to be broadcast about a planet that can no longer generate any news. If Elizia has an end game in mind, we don't know it, so we must assume she has simply embraced extinction. If everyone knew the truth, they could at least start over as a species on that moon; the guards need only mate with the political dissidents. And perhaps that's what the script had in mind for after she is killed by her own treachery, but as it stands, it's just an excuse to have pretty girls in leotards brandishing whips. Not the first time Space 1999 has seemed to present a battle of the sexes and not followed up on the theme.

For Koenig, this is a fairly good action adventure episode. He gets to run and fight, even kiss the villain as a distraction before making his escape. He manages to get back to his crashed Eagle and is clever in the way he uses what's left of it to his advantage. His final solution is a good one, attacking the conspiracy at its core, though he'll never know how he's really impacted what's left of this society. It's all pretty exciting while it lasts. However, it doesn't quite fit with Alpha's mission statement. If there's a whole Earth-like planet, with abandoned cities no less, and we humans are immune to its plague, why not evacuate there? Humanity can even help rid the air of its deadly toxins so the penal colony people can return. These two small populations could certainly share the world, no? But there's no mention of it.

One thing that's very odd about Devil's Planet is that Koenig is the only regular cast member to star in it (I can't possibly count his flashbacks to others, which are all clips from other episodes). I understand they saved time and money by splitting the cast in two, and filming two episodes simultaneously, but this is hardly a fair split. It just feels wrong that the Command Center is run by all new people, Koenig taking advice from a doctor who is neither Helena nor Ben. The only recurring character to show up (though a couple others will be seen in later episodes) is Bill Fraser, who takes what should really be Alan's role piloting the rescue mission. Not because there aren't other pilots, but because Alan has always been rather obsessive when it's come to saving his commander's bacon. Here he's presumed dead, but they couldn't even spare Barbara Bain for a single scene where she shows shock, sorrow or concern? The schedule wasn't very well thought out.

HEY, ISN'T THAT... Roy Marsden is Crael; most recently seen by fans of this blog on the Doctor Who episode "Smith and Jones" as Mr. Stoker. Alibe Parsons is Alibe; the character will appear in two more episodes before series' end, the actress was in Doctor Who's Mindwarp and also played a med tech in Aliens. Angus MacInnes is Jelto; Gold Leader in Star Wars, he also played Judge Silver in Stallone's Dredd film and Tostig in Vikings. Alan Harris is the Enta prisoner on trial; like many actors on Space 1999, he's played bit parts in the Star Wars franchise, in his case the bounty hunter Bossk.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium
- Koenig gets to play the dashing, resourceful action hero. What the episode really needs is a sharper villain and perhaps another member of the main cast in there somewhere.

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