04/01/2020

Space 1999 - Collision Course & Death's Other Dominion


Collision Course
We enter the action right away as the Alphans prepare to blow up an asteroid that would otherwise collide with them. Worryingly the Alphans go-to solution for most problems appears to be to break out the nuclear charges which have a rather neat B&Q look about them. During the mission Alan Carter’s Eagle malfunctions and at first it looks as if he doesn’t make it back before the blast. However for reasons that are not initially clear John Koenig goes out on a limb to find him only to uncover a second and more serious collision course. A massive planet it headed right for them. And this makes Prentis Hancock, already simmering, even more irritated. 



I like the slow way that the plot unfolds despite the urgency of the situation and of course Anderson and co are masters of creating interesting planets and spaceships. When Koenig goes to attract the attention of the planet he’s got an idea that again involves nuclear charges never the best way to enamour yourself to someone you’re visiting. He meets Arra, the Queen of the planet whose one of those enigmatic types sitting in a sort of shroud surrounded by artily arranged lamps. It’s a rather effective though simple way of conveying her alienness. She has a way with words- “I go to shape the future of eternity” - but her over-riding message is that Koenig should do nothing and save those nuclear charges for the next command deck works outing instead!

Its not made explicitly clear whether he believes her because of the force of her argument or because she’s somehow hypnotised him but once he gets back the others of course think he’s crazy and he’s locked up in his quarters in silk pyjamas. What the script is really getting to the kernel of is faith in leadership. The others have surely seen enough of their commander’s actions by now to realise he’s not likely to endanger them so put his behaviour down to radiation sickness. However in what proves to be an increasingly desperate scenario he and the similarly convinced Carter have to hold command deck hostage as the countdown to the nuclear charges going off gets closer. 
It’s interesting to see how quickly the decorum of command breaks down with a full on brawl breaking out and a rather impressive stunt- courtesy of the legendary Alf Joint- when  a crew member leaps on Koenig from three floors above. Martin Landau is so good at this kind of material as Koenig strains at the leash of common sense to try and convince everyone of what seems like an absurdity.  Out of context it all looks a bit silly yet tight direction and editing mean it really does provide a tense climax to the episode. Thankfully Helena is just a bit too slow and by the time she reaches out to stop the countdown, its too late. As it goes the planets don’t collide, they touch kickstarting a whole new non corporeal evolutionary stage for the planet which blinks out of existence…hang on isn’t that more or less the same conclusion plot as `Force of Life`? At this rate Koenig and co will be getting blasé the next time some giant undulating threat pops up!



Death’s Other Dominion
This episode is a sudden fall from grace from a series that has mostly been reliable and sometimes exceptional. It features Brian Blessed, an actor to whom subtlety means only shouting rather than yelling and who here is accompanied by a hopping and deranged former space captain called Tanner, thus the stage is set firmly in Star Trek season three mode. They and their compatriots are survivors of a Uranus expedition (don’t say anything….) and live in ice caves on a bitterly cold planet. Yet while the men wear big furs and boots, the women cope fine in bikinis. Granted, there is a large glowing pizza in the middle of their icy home, but even so, you can see just quite how sexist 70s telly sometimes was without probably even realising it.
Alpha’s main people (except Paul who is rarely allowed to leave his post) travel down and start to get lost. “I just took a look around” supposedly dependable Aussie pilot Alan Carter tells Koenig. “Don’t!” replies his commander and so of course Carter does, becoming separated from the others. How many times in the series has Alan disobeyed orders or gone off on his own crazy mission? “Victor, grab my belt!” yells Koenig who seems very bossy this week. Eventually all except Carter are rescued from foam and walking against the wind miming by Brian B and co.
You can write it yourself from here of course; the people are friendly, but there’s something nasty hidden away (brain altered zonk outs who can’t die) and they want the Alphans to stay forever so they can cook their brains or something. What really lets this traditional enough yarn down is the casual way that all the other Alphans except Koenig are quite happy to stay here just because Brian B tells them they’ll be immortal and everything is great. “I think it’s true John,” says Victor despite there being absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support it. In fact every time Brian tells them something, Victor nods vigorously in the background. Its fair to say everyone is out of sorts this week. “I’m not behaving like a Doctor” says Helena but she’s not alone in leaving her common sense back on Alpha. Victor, who is supposed to be the clever one later volunteers to pop into a metal box and have his brain fried because they tell him it’s safe! Then, when it becomes clear he’s in trouble all the others Uranus people rise up and rebel against big Bri even though they’ve known about the experiments all this time!
 Anyway, Big Bri gets to travel in the Eagle and because he’s left the planet surface is no longer immortal and turns into a smoking skeleton which is a bit of an extreme method of getting Brian to pipe down. Very amusing, if you watch it for a laugh it’s great otherwise not.
(This is an amended version of a review that was first printed in the fanzine `Andersonic`. You didn’t think I was going to watch this episode again did you?!)



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