UFOwatch: Reflections in the Water

written & directed by David Tomblin

The aliens have established an underwater base – but for what purpose?

“Probably one of those latest submarines” suggests a fisherman when he spots a UFO underwater. Moments later, he and his boat are in smithereens. The report suggests something like flying fish attacked them. Luckily SHADO is there to attest to the fact that the whole thing is not the terrible result of over inhaling sardines but that the aliens are up to something underwater. Cue lots of scale models and that thing Gerry Anderson always does when trying to get water tanks to mimic the roll of the ocean. If this sounds peculiar then you want to see what’s in the dome the aliens have somehow managed to build underneath a volcano. Clearly, they’ve been watching too many James Bond movies.

Straker was not pleased with his re-designed office

For the second time David Tomblin both helms and pens an episode ensuring it is chock full of explosions and coloured lights. Having been economical until recently, there is a sense of the show stepping up several gears to try and grab more attention. This week we conclude with a terrific full on battle between UFOS and SHADO, underwater, in the air, in space and you can’t help feeling if they’d gone for it like this ten episodes ago maybe a second series would have been earned. Tomblin is a real demolition man; blowing up the Moonbase’s nifty rocket launcher and ensuring that we always feel something is at stake. This jeopardy makes the episode work however much credulity is stretched by the underwater sections.

Not that guesting Anouska Hempel is impressed with anything much. Cast as the least likely Lieutenant to ever board a vessel she appears to have no duties other than to watch a screen and look as if she wants to change channel to the soaps. At the end when Straker and Foster’s improbable mission concludes successfully she wears the expression of someone who’s found their lost kitten. Bless. Of course only Straker and Foster are capable of diving to discover the nature of the alien construction; never mind the fully equipped Skydiver crew who just have to wait for their superiors to get here and do the real work. Perhaps they are the Saturday temps?

Tomblin builds impeccably to a point where whatever is inside this thing is going to have to be fairly special and it doesn’t quite match expectations. It does look interesting though and appears to be made of light canvas with multi coloured lighting projected onto it. Straker and Foster manage to find their way around identical corridors until they uncover a replica of SHADO HQ.  Yes, it’s that always perplexing sci-fi standby of aliens building a replica of the goodies base for some or other reason. Here, they make the whole thing and man it with replicas just so they can send contradictory messages to allow a massing alien fleet through the defences. They use tape recordings to do the voices and it looks like one of those American adverts where the dubbed sound is a millisecond behind the lip movements. It seems unnecessarily extravagant from the aliens’ point of view (though handy for the series’ budget) and it is baffling why they should want to build it underwater.

Once again Straker jumps to conclusions that someone of his experience would surely be more cautious about- when he and Foster spot what appears to be one of their officers - Lt Anderson -inside the dome (conveniently standing at exactly the point where they look) it is assumed he is a traitor. Even when they see him later having imprisoned him they imagine he has somehow escaped and got back to the dome before them. How exactly could he have done that? Anderson by the way is played by an alarmingly young looking James Cosmo, now a Game of Thrones regular.

Tomblin directs with panache easily managing the feat of characters fighting their double and keeping matters brisk at all times lest we see the narrative cracks. The big end of episode battle more than justifies the excursion but you do wonder at times if the rush to impress visually has overwhelmed common sense.

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