UFOwatch: The Cat With Ten Lives

written & directed by David Tomblin

As the frequency of alien attacks increase threatening the Moonbase, SHADO obtain shocking new clues as to their intentions.

If you’ve wondered what would happen should the aliens choose to send more than three UFOs at a time, then the answer is that SHADO would be stretched. At the start of this episode, three interceptors and the Moonbase’s ground defences are no match for a sustained attack which itself is cover for a more daring plan. David Tomblin writes and directs a tour de force that shows up the lack of inventiveness in a lot of previous episodes. Combining action and tension with a surreal quality, this is genuinely good stuff.
"Darling, I think you've left the opening credits on the floor again"

David Tomblin has form having produced The Prisoner for which he directed several episodes and from the start seems determined to stamp a different approach on this show. The opening salvo is more action than we’ve probably seen in the entire series. He then chooses to focus on an Interceptor pilot called Jim Regan leaving Straker and co less in the foreground than usual. A complete red herring is a séance that Regan and his wife go to though it sets the slightly eerie tone that pervades portions of the episode. On their way back the couple are kidnapped by aliens in a most stylish sequence which sees point of view cameras and swirly patterns galore. Hallucinogenic scenes then mingle with the action ones as Regan and a cat, both possessed by the aliens, set out to cause havoc.

Tomblin manages to make the real cat seem mysterious and dangerous; it must have taken ages to get it right. We watch it padding around the SHADO headquarters or sometimes see through its eyes. As matters hot up, Tomblin bring inventiveness to every twist in the plot and each scene including a fight between Regan and Foster and a great edge of the seat sequence in which  Regan is trying to crash an Interceptor into the Moonbase. The range of scenarios allows spaceships to cut to hounds hunting the cat giving the episode a verve all of its own.

As a direct comparison with last week’s episode the plot goes somewhere interesting and there is a surprise revelation regarding the antagonist’s intentions. It seems that the humanoid aliens we have thus far seen are kidnapped humans whose bodies have been augmented to facilitate the invasion so we haven’t really seen any aliens at all. As well as being quite a horrific idea, it is also a clever way of limiting spending on some alien prosthetic which may not convince. It is as surprising as it is unusual in its inventiveness. 

The episode is so good you can forgive the odd unconvincing elements; for example would even the super-efficient Straker send Regan back to work so soon? Would everyone simply ignore a cat wandering around the control room? And would Regan really be able to get to the Moonbase having poleaxed Foster without anyone either noticing or challenging him? In the end it doesn’t really matter because the viewer is carried along by the sheer vitality of it all. Plus as a bonus you get Lois Maxwell (aka Miss Moneypenny) and Steven Berkoff to spot in cameos. If all UFO episodes were like this, the series would be a classic.

1 comment:

  1. The first block of episodes seems so flat in comparison to this and subsequent outings. Much better directors in evidence straight away.