25/01/2021

Space 1999 - The AB Chrysalis

That old novelty hit `Star Trekkin` included the line “We come in peace- shoot to kill” which adeptly summed up the attitude of many a big sci-fi series of yesteryear and Space 1999 was often one of them. Yet not always. `The AB Chrysalis` flips that over and has any attempt at resistance proving futile yet once Koenig engages in a little more conversation the results are positive. Tony Barwick’s interesting script centres around a series of ever more dangerous explosions emanating from a distant planet. Each creates a shockwave deadlier than the previous and as the episode opens the Alphans are waiting for the imminent arrival of the next one. Concluding that any further shockwave could destroy the base, Koenig, Maya and Alan journey to investigate. Tony is presumably brewing beer somewhere.

 


The civilisation they encounter seems initially to consist of spherical robot globes whose task is to guard the true inhabitants as they sleep through a regenerative chrysalis. Orange and yellow caves notwithstanding this place is less gaudy than some of season two’s decorating horrors and ends up being rather fascinating as these spheres move from one glass pillar to another by bouncing. The results are somewhat transfixing as the modern eye tries to work out how they did this. My guess, without just Googling it, is that they bounced an actual ball and then replayed it in slow motion. Mind you the globes land on the top of the plinth with some precision. The shows’ depiction of alien life forms can be hit and miss but this is excellent, other worldy and slightly surreal; aided by dreamy incidental music and Val Guest’s direction. I’m not sure why all the planet’s population go into chrysalis at the same time or what they do with themselves other than stand about naked in smoke but they presumably exist on a higher plane. They don’t wear any clothes however the girls have long enough hair to cover any revelations!

Course, Koenig tries his usual `we’re so desperate but if you don’t stop we’ll attack you` line which fails, as does Alan’s slightly unexpected attack on one of the chambers about to go into chrysalis inside a room filled with Chlorine. Not sure what he is up to here but it’s a welcome flash of the old season one wreckless Carter! It gives Maya a chance to become a chlorine breathing monster too. Otherwise she seems unduly preoccupied with complex mathematical equations. 


 

Like the best episodes the tension is stretched till the last minute as not only will three of the regenerated inhabitants deny Koenig’s request to stop the shockwaves but the Alphan trio are now too far away to get back to Alpha anyway. How will they survive? It’s genuinely surprising how thrilling this climax is as for once Koenig’s words have an effect. Rarely too we stay with the aliens after the Alphan trio have departed spurning a chance to stay safely because as Koenig puts it “”loyalty is better than logic, hope is better than despair”. It’s a satisfyingly verbal conclusion to a story that matches dialogue and visuals with some panache and keeps the viewer guessing. Just turn off a minute before the end to avoid the cringefest of a chat between John and Helena!

(PS I just Googled it and the globes were made of fibreglass and blown by compressed air. They were filmed at four times normal speed and the shots then reversed. It still looks great!)

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