07/01/2021

Space 1999 - Catacombs of the Moon

A curious episode that doesn’t quite put across the point it is trying to make that faith is stronger than we think. With his wife Michelle dying of a heart condition, mining engineer Patrick Osgood is understandably out of sorts though this manifests itself in fire filled visions of Alpha being consumed by an inferno. For the viewer’s benefit this sees his wife stranded in a four poster bed surrounded by flames looking rather like a spoof of some early 80s pop video. That she is played by a very young Pamela Stephenson is even more odd. Meanwhile Helena keeps making artificial hearts for Michelle and when one doesn’t work she knocks up another one about an hour later! Of course had Victor been here with his mechanical heart he may have been able to help but- hang on – Victor no longer exists. Instead we have to be content with a lot of soft focus medical meandering as Pat goes loopier by the minute. Koenig meanwhile goes to see what is causing waves of heat driving the temperature up.

 

Though we’ve never seen him before it turns out that Pat is a good mate of Tony to the extent that the latter was best man at his wedding. Played with some intensity by James Laurenson, Pat is an interesting character in the sense that he refuses to have any faith in medicine and instead wants to whisk his wife down to the catacombs. While scientifically and even logically there is a lot wrong with all of this, the actual results manage to weave a web that keeps fascinating the viewer. Do the couple have some form of telepathy? Is Pat somehow in mental touch with the cause of the heat waves?

The rising temperature causes the crew to break out Alpha’s summer collection of bikinis and vests while all concerned sport liberally applied sweat. Yet as we progress so much of what is happening proves unnecessary – the lengthy pursuit in the caves looks like time wasting while Koenig’s journey to check out what is causing the heat involves a journey there, take a look, come back. Even the dithering about supplying Helena with a vital mineral (yep Terranium again) ends up with her getting it anyway.

Obviously some of the oddness of the episode is because Martin Landau and Catherine Schell (and presumably Nick Tate) were filming another episode so their appearances here are brief. Amusingly Maya is just strolling past with her hair in a bun when they need her to change into an Alsation. Later in the caves Tony gets her to turn into something that can track Pat and Michelle in the dark even though it is not that dark at all. Later still though she does leave Tony to clear piles of rocks on his own even though she could turn into a gorilla or something. Perhaps she doesn’t want to disturb her hair? The ending is rather nice and for once nobody dies horribly – is this the only episode without fatalities? Even the dreaded impact of the heat waves causes fewer casualties than they were expecting.


The visuals of the approaching heat wave are well put together using a deep yellow and orange version of the slit scan technique, always a small screen delight, while the spinning thing at its centre is impressive. In the first season more cerebral episodes like this asked deeper questions and provided cleverer sequences. This feels strained and oblique as if nobody concerned could quite put their finger on the kernel of it. Maybe that’s the idea?

 

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