UFOwatch: The Dalotek Affair

The Dalotek Affair
written by Ruric Powell / directed by Alan Perry

When the Moonbase communications are down with tragic results, SHADO blames equipment operated from the private research company Dalotek who are operating nearby. But is there another force at work?

Despite the unpromising title, this episode is one of the better ones to far even if it slowed down by too much technical dialogue. Ruric Powell appears to specialise in ideas that spin off from ordinary things. Last week’s discussions on refuse collection are replaced by this week’s ones on interrupted radio signals as Moonbase’s video screens suffer the sort of interference familiar to 1970s viewers’ old style analogue television sets. Perhaps Powell’s domestic life inspired these scripts? Despite the seemingly trivial nature of the issue, matters build towards something more substantial. Had the production tried to be a little more covert in its revelations things might have been even better.

Jane hopes that if she pretends to be a puppet he'll go away

This sort of script demands a sleight of hand that the episode does not quite deliver. We see a strange light descending towards the Moon after a trio of UFOs has mysteriously flown in and out as a diversion. Unfortunately unless we forget this, it is obvious from the get go that the Dalotek scientists are not responsible for the interruptions to communications that is causing Cmdr Foster to frown even more than usual. Powell also makes the scientists’ motives quite bland; had there been some doubt as to what they were up to, the mystery would have been more substantial. “You’ll have to excuse me, I have the seismic metres to service” has to be one of the best brush offs you can offer and reflects the antagonism between the two sides but it peters out too quickly. Powell also can’t resist unsubtle foreshadowing by mentioning the amnesia treatment that the scientists are ultimately given so they forget their experiences.

Where the episode does work better is in the potential relationship between Foster and Dalotek’s Jane Carson. Their mutual attraction adds a little human side to what would otherwise be a fairly dry technical sort of episode. Let’s face it, talking about what’s interfering with radio signals is never going to get the pulse racing, but when these two discuss it over the phone there’s another level reflecting in the slightly flirtatious exchanges.. It certainly gives a double meaning to the episode name too!
There is a more mature feel to parts of the episode and the various SHADO vehicles are also well utilised rather than feeling like extras tacked on as they have in some episodes. An increased sophistication is starting to creep into parts of the scripts even if they are still somewhat lacking in emotions. This week for example the loss of another two operatives is barely acknowledged yet everyone is rabbitting on about the scientists’ equipment endlessly. 

Alan Perry gives the episode a very stylish beginning with monochrome freeze frames during a prologue that takes place six months after the events we see. We also have the odd sight of Lt Ford, the hitherto harassed comms officer interviewing a UFOlogist in a very interesting opening scene that debates the likelihood of UFO contact. This is later explained as being from 1969, twelve years ago in the series’ timeframe. While this reminds us that the SHADO personnel had different lives before, it does suggest that poor old Ford- who was given a real dressing down in the first episode- is far too talented to be stuck in the post he is. Plus he hasn’t aged a day or changed his haircut in a dozen years!

`The Dalotek Affair`, while far from perfect, suggests that the series is headed towards a better balance between mature themes and toy-led hardware action. Carry on like this and we might even see Commander Straker smile….

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