UFOwatch: Destruction

written by Dennis Spooner
directed by Ken Turner

When a Navy vessel downs a UFO, Straker tries to discover what the ship was protecting.

Renowned TV scriptwriter Dennis Spooner contributed to most of the major series of the 60s and 70s so it is understandable that this episode has a flavour of other shows, in particular espionage ones. It hinges on assumptions that are less than convincing though earns points for using a real Naval ship rather than the expected model shots. As for Paul Foster, he fails to notice perhaps the most obvious piece of surveillance equipment ever deployed and is easily talked into believing his new squeeze keeps a giant advanced telescope in her flat to look at the stars. 

"Is that a giant slug you're drawing, Eddie?" "Mmm, my lifelong acting ambition is to play a giant slug actually, Phil"
In a set up that is just this side of convoluted, a secret Naval mission mingles with the extravagantly named secretary Sarah Bosanquet who works for the Admiral but who has been taken over by the aliens. Sent undercover to get to know her, Paul Foster does what he does best- chats her up - while Virginia Lake manages to wrangle her massive hair into a small flat opposite where she sits eating flimsy sandwiches and watching like a nosy neighbour. When she sees Sarah dropping vases and walking around in circles she senses something is up. Foster on the other hand doesn’t twig that the giant telescope in the window might not be a normal purchase for someone on an armed forces secretary’s salary. Perhaps his brain is fried from too many SHADO health regimes? It would explain his outrageous crimson jacket.

To any genre TV watcher’s delight, the Admiral turns out to be Edwin Richfield presumably seconded to the Navy as he played the memorably sceptical Captain Hart a couple of years later in a similar office in Doctor Who. His secretive vessel’s captain is surly Philip Madoc clearly less than overjoyed to return after playing the equally surly partner of Straker’s ex-wife earlier in the series. Unless he’s meant to be the same bloke? He and Straker don’t appear to recognise each other during a meeting but you can imagine the off screen conversation’ Ed: “Hello, Philip; glad to be back?” Phillip; “Dunno”. For a Naval officer, Madoc is amusingly detached by the events he is supposed to marshal to the point where you expect him to go into a sulk and leave his considerably more worried second in command to sort things out.

The plot never quite meshes nor stretches much beyond a lot of questions as vessels come and go. However Spooner does introduce a tangible threat towards the end as barrels of dangerous material are off loaded from the ship which a UFO attacks. The issue of the Navy’s response to the truth about UFO’s is undermined by a line about using the “usual amnesia treatment” thus depriving us of an incredulous Admiral Richfield declaring; “Aliens? UFOs? Frankly Straker, I’d be more likely to believe in underwater reptiles spoiling my day!” I suppose it’s neat and avoids questions that the series’ writers would find hard to follow up. The episode leaves us with only one unexplained mystery then- what exactly is happening with General Henderson’s eyebrows?

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, highlighted some of the absurdities I try to turn a blind eye to! Anderson cast Philip Madoc in Doppelganger and Space 1999 and wasted him all 3 times. Shame.