The only two part story in the show's roster starts alarmingly with Koening acting out of control in an Eagle. Has Martin Landau finally had enough? Is Tony’s homebrew more potent than we thought? The Alphans have no time to puzzle over their commander’s wayward behaviour when an Earth spaceship turns up- a Super Swift that is travelling faster than light. On board are a coterie of relatives and friends of many of the senior crew. What’s more they claim they can get everyone back to Earth in record time. While they mingle like it’s a cocktail party, Koenig is having his brain massaged. Now you and I and everyone who ever watches this episode knows full well that obviously these arrivals are not really the people they say they are but aliens of some sort up to no good. The trick with these types of stories is when and how to make the reveal.
Unfortunately this episode does it too soon. As Koenig finally walks into the command center, he recoils at the visitors we have seen as friendly and we then see what he sees. Blobby, illuminated, tentacle covered aliens with a big unmoving eye, sort of like walking lasagne. The error here is to show us- had they just shown us Koenig’s reaction and kept the pretence up the episode would be stronger. The other reason for showing us as little of the aliens as possible is that they are a bit rubbish! Especially that eye which never moves. So as soon as we see them we can only assume Koenig’s reaction is because they’re so badly made not that they are terrifying because they are certainly not.
Matters work better when we don’t see the creatures real form- the human looking visitors’ furtive looks and crafty hypnotic spells they use would be enough to maintain mystery at least until mid story. Despite this misjudgement the rest of the episode does pan out fairly well provided you are willing to put up with the aliens ludricous appearance. The mid story cliffhanger works really well as three of the Alphans selected to go home first see the approaching Earth and then Koenig is smothered by one of the globby aliens.
The scenes of the arrivals are also well done with none of the usual falseness to the casual conversations and a lot of work going into convincing us that these really are the people they say they are. There’s plenty of action too and it looks like the production team had recently bought a device for fire effects as they certainly use them a lot. It’s a shame that one tactical move and some dodgy costumes spoil what is otherwise a well assembled, gripping tale.
Part 2 manages to build towards a tense scenario despite ending the impasse over Koenig’s lone ability to see the aliens with a rather unconvincing conversation. Having ignored everything he’s been saying till now, Helena and Maya are suddenly more receptive to the commander’s claims as he surmises that being in the brain machine thing has rendered him immune to the hypnotic trick being pulled on everyone else. Breezily Maya pops into the machine herself and –bingo- can see the monsters’ true appearance. She even turns into one to hobnob with them and learn their plans, a scenario that leads to the slowest chase sequence you will ever see!
Matters perk up
when the trio who have ostensibly been sent to Earth actually arrive at the
nuclear dump with a view to blowing it up as the visitors need the nuclear energy. With the aliens having handily run
through their plan in earshot of Maya our three heroes now know what they have
to do. The rest of the episode builds to quite a decent tension as several
attempts to thwart the plan fail. Visually we have a surreal interplay between
what is happening and what Alan and co think is happening. It works rather well
though the fact that the aliens aren’t strong enough to do anything except
stand around looks a bit odd. Thanks to director Tom Clegg’s lively direction
the repetitive nature of what is happening is largely diverted. The ending is a
bit perfunctory after all that running time but it sort of works emphasising
individuality and realism over dreams. I’d have liked a more thoughtful final
scene though instead of the usual unfunny humour. Some of the Alphans have just
experienced what they believed were emotional reunions with family and friends so
you’d think they’d have something more reflective to talk about.
It is an ambitious piece for the series in some ways though too hidebound by the literal approach of season two to make it seem more than an extended episode. The weaknesses are mainly in part one and also in writer Terrance Feely’s abandonment of the familial issues too soon. The aliens needed to be stronger visually – when they are bobbing around the base they look silly- while a good guest cast is largely wasted once we reach part 2. Still there is just enough excitement and action to make this an entertaining enough watch. Plus we now know that if she gets irritated Helena has something that can put everyone to sleep!