UFOwatch: Kill Straker!

written by Donald James

directed by Alan Perry

Following an encounter with a UFO while flying a shuttle from the Moon, Commander Foster and Captain Craig seem determined to despatch Commander Straker.

It’s surprising that it takes alien hypnotism to spur Foster into wanting to kill Straker as he has plenty of reasons anyway. In fact there are probably regular discussions by the gigantic coffee machine on Moonbase on just that topic.  Straker himself is so appalled by the idea that someone would wish him harm that it takes him most of the episode to link the duo’s behaviour with the alien encounter. The viewers of course are a step ahead courtesy of a mind bending miasma of coloured lights and deep voices that we see when the shuttle gets close to a UFO. Question is- do the aliens know Straker’s name or has their weapon honed in on already latent feelings buried in the minds of many SHADO operatives?

"And I need an axe in case anyone tries to kill me while I'm asleep..."

While Straker and Freeman go to the trouble of travelling to Moonbase they never actually question Foster properly about what happened. A cursory chat in the rest room creates so much aggression that rather than section Foster right away, Straker just does that frown and goes back to his quarters in which incidentally he has had a small version of his swirly screen installed. Soon, Craig is trying to strangle him, something he still doesn’t seem to tie in with the operative’s unaccounted for 16 hours. Perhaps it’s something that happens often which would explain the airbed he sleeps very lightly on. Meanwhile, you’d think the aliens would tune their mind bending machine to do something less liable to get the plan noticed.

The premise does give director Alan Perry plenty of opportunity to freak out with the lights or melodramatically frame shots of Craig trying to throttle the commander or later a confrontation between Straker and Foster in a sealed off comms room. This latter scene may be the best one of the entire series so far allowing both actors to cut loose and hurl the angry dialogue at each other with real menace. It’s a sign that both Ed Bishop and particularly Michael Billington are under served in roles that are too often expositional rather than involving. It ends quite dramatically; at least compared to the standard of other episodes.

If the story is a little hazily constructed, Donald James’ dialogue is better than most, blasting a hole in the too contrived words that normally pass muster and introducing things we might reasonably expect from a drama like emotions and opinions. It’s not perfect but it is a definite cut above.  For once too, there is enough storyline to comfortably fit the running time and a minimum of tedious model vehicular activity.

It’s interesting that at the end it is left slightly open as to whether Foster is completely cured; perhaps the doctors know, as we do, that further attempts to attack his commanding officer might not be entirely unjustified.

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