Sunday, July 14, 2013


To further my Space: 1999 series of blog postings, last night I sat down after dinner and watched "Earthbound", one of the preciously few good episodes from that show.

Since I know the series very well I can pick and choose what I want to watch, if I dare. When Space premiered back in September of 1975, I was there in front of the colour tube to welcome another starfield patch... even if stars were a bit on the scarce side in this one.

Despite the chintzy-looking alien 'sleeper ship' set and its even chintzier inhabitants, the Kaldorians, the episode works because of an engaging story and a great character: Commissioner Simmonds, played to perfection by Roy Dotrice, was sorely needed as a continuing foil for the bland-as-dead Moonbase Alpha regulars. Not necessarily in a Doctor Zachary Smith (of Lost in Space) way, but of full-blooded human beings. It was not to be, however.

Simmonds is the floating variable in "Earthbound". Visiting alien leader Zantor, portrayed most effectively by some dude named Christopher Lee, is an unknown quantity in a friend-or-foe sense; but having the boisterous bureaucrat producing his own sneaky threat makes for interpersonal drama that unfortunately is all too rare on Space: 1999. (Year One, that is; Year Two is a huge improvement in this regard.) This dynamic sets up and plays out the themes of "nobility" and "trust", nicely.

The episode's middle section, involving a threatened Helena Russell, suffers a little from a false false alarm -- obviously the sequence was inserted to fill out the script's page count -- but the more driven element of the narrative picks up when the Commissioner does what he feels is right; for him. The ending is potently memorable, and worthy of EC Comics. Space: 1999, the first year, is considered by many of its fans to be more horror than SF.

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