A textbook example of how to create and present an episode, Johnny Byrne’s time twister proves to be absorbing and thought provoking all the way through. An unexplained space phenomena appears to create two Moons. The Alphans wake up in another solar system that looks mightily familiar and there’s the Earth- or is it? Like an episode from the original Star Trek this episode packs in so much more than just action and thanks to David Tomblin’s top class direction every nuance of the story is presented to fascinating effect. If some directors treat this sort of series as another job it really shows when someone takes that extra care. Tomblin emphasises the weirdness of the situation especially when one of the crew- Regina- is given to crazy episodes where she thinks she’s married to Alan Carter – and he’s dead. Cue some bemused looks from the head Eagle pilot.
Elsewhere Tomblin really shows off the huge sets to excellent effect even if it makes you wonder just why Koenig has to have such a giant office with hardly anything in it! And the director is careful to replicate the always well done lack of gravity walking indoors when Koenig and co explore the alternative-and abandoned Moonbase. His collection of odd angles, busy action shots and reflective close ups make this one of the best directed episodes of the series. The sequence where the phenomena first hits them sees several characters split into two which you could do easily enough now but back in 1975 to achieve it so cleanly is quite an achievement.
As is the case when a great director is involved, this is more of actors’ episode than is sometimes the case. Once again Barry Morse’s whimsical Bergman takes centre stage which proves a fine contrast to the stoic Koenig and the plain spoken Carter. If Victor is initially stumped by their predicament - “I have no idea” he says when asked for a theory he later gets his head around matters a little more. “There’s a logic to it somewhere” he says and he is determined to find it. Though Koenig is the nominal lead in the show and the commander of the base, it is Bergman who best articulates its philosophy.
Good to see Barbara Bain getting more to do this time especially in the scene where the two Helena’s meet where she offers two similar but subtly different characters. Seeing this, its a shame other writers leave her in one note mode too often. In any other episode guesting Judy Geeson’s Regina might be a little too much but thanks to director Tomblin her mood swings and visions add to our intrigue. When we land on the alternative Earth- which according to the script could either be prehistoric or post- apocalyptic future the designers have given it a gold hued sky and tall grass rustling in the wind. It looks fantastic, one of the best in studio planets the show did.
Meanwhile Johnny Byrne is busy utilising some mind scrambling ideas, each of which is deployed at intervals meaning you have to watch right to the end. Its never a predictable journey either with subtle –and in character- distinctions when we meet the alternative Alphan sporting robes, beards and even kids. The plot wraps itself up neatly leaving just a little doubt as to whether there really was an alternative solar system- does the bunch of roses we see at the end confirm there was? What I like too- and this often distinguishes the better Space 1999 episodes – is the way that solutions and resolutions are often cerebral rather than blasting their way out or some amazingly daring rescue scenario. We remain aware we’re in the company of scientists, engineers, people who think their way out of a problem by ingenuity or in this case deduction. The episode may utilise the well worn tv fantasy trope of alternative time and characters but it does so with skill and intelligence.