Some personal notes on Space: 1999
by Erkki Rautio


[Warning: this page contains spoilers.]

End Of Eternity

Here's an example of a typical First Season Space: 1999 episode in all its eerie, Gothic style:

In "End of Eternity" Moonbase Alpha's crew discover a lonely prisoner captured in a maverick asteroid, who has as his only companion the scary, Expressionist-like paintings [making me think of those used in Roger Corman's The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)] which are there - as we later come to see - to remind Balor (Peter Bowles of Blowup), the prisoner, of the ghastly crimes he committed against his planet's populace, and for which he was condemned to this life-time sentence in the solitude of outer space.

The people of Balor's planet, Progron, it seems, had managed to find the secret of immortality which was also to become their hubris as their unceasing lives proved in the course of time to be only purposeless and dull, with no more that meaning only death can give to life (as is the idea put forth in the episode). So Balor starts to unleash unspeakable terrors on the planet's denizens, with something like a twisted sense of conscience, as if to punish his people for their fall into the slack self-indulgence of immortality, in a way which can only be described as something like God's wrath on Israelis in the Old Testament. But Balor is more of a Satanic than divine force, so he is to pay for his sins and is, as a consequence, cast away from the planet Progron, which has now become to resemble more Hell than the paradise for immortals.

It could well be claimed that Balor is a creature created by the over-reliability on the force of science. Goya said that "The sleep of reason breeds monsters," but Balor could be described a monster borne out of "The Age of Reason," a counterpart to all our Hitlers and Charles Mansons, a syndrome of the world's falling to its technological hubris at the expense of cutting out its spiritual side, it seems. (In Irish mythical tales we can find "Balor of the Evil Eye," who was believed to be able to destroy by means of an angry glance, though I don't know if the character's name was chosen intentionally.)

Balor Balor represents a sinister threat to community, as being some unwanted destructive force emerging from the recesses of subconscious, reminding people of their dark side, the existence of which they barely want to admit to themselves, so in order to maintain the status quo Balor has to be destroyed. First by the people of Progron, then by the Alphans, since Balor's being there threatens their sheer existence. But is it possible to banish Evil for good, or will it continue its existence in our own minds?

This episode includes some very powerful images which linger in the mind of a viewer, starting from Balor's horror paintings, to the scene where the pilot Mike Baxter (Jim Smilie) attacks Commander Koenig with a model plane, filmed in an experimental way with abrupt jump cuts, as the maniacal Baxter fiddles around with his toy plane like a child, hitting Koenig harder each time until he loses consciousness, and also in those scenes with no sound where the giant (those 70's platform shoes probably do that) black-clad Balor haunts Moonbase Alpha's corridors.

It's interesting that this episode makes me think somehow of John Boorman's sci-fi epic Zardoz of the same era (1974), with the idea of corruption inherent in immortality.

Episode guide @ Space: 1999 Catacombs

More favourite episodes of mine

Another Time, Another Place

Another  Time,  Another  Place Another favourite episode of mine can be found through this link as a beautifully rendered, fully illustrated script. Basically an "alternative reality" story, the sort of which has become popular in science fiction with the developments in quantum physics, indicating that the existence of alternative universes might be in the limits of possibilities. (The "duplicate Earth" idea was already used in the Andersons' 1969 film Doppelgänger, a.k.a. Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun.) Surreal, dream-like, scary, disturbing but also strangely beautiful; with some of the most striking and haunting imagery in the whole series: Regina's nightmare visions of death, her painting with strange geodesic house, the remains of the duplicate Moonbase Alpha, and its cape-wearing survivors in a Gothic-looking garden of alternative Earth... this really made an impact on me when I was a child - and still does.

Episode page @ Moonbase Alpha | Another episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs


Here we meet again the annoying Commissioner Simmonds of the pilot episode, "Breakaway". Some of the most impressive and stylish aliens in the whole series, residents of the dying planet Kaldor - looking like long-haired albino Indians - are found sleeping in suspended animation. Kaldorian spaceship, with Hammer's horror king Christopher Lee as its captain, reminisces somehow the Finnish design classic, Futuro house of the late 60s. It's extraordinary for the series to have for a change benevolent aliens, as Simmonds - with his relentless obsession to return to Earth, which goal he is ready to reach by any means necessary - turns out to be the actual villain of this episode.

Episode page @ Moonbase Alpha | Another episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

Black Sun

In "Black Sun" our heroes go through what nowadays would be called "black hole" (or maybe what the techno mystics would call Omega Point), aging tens of years and encountering a God-like entity claiming to be the prime mover of the Universe. Probably a mini-tribute to Kubrick's 2001; with a mention of the Unified Field Theory ("Everything is everything else"), the existence of which scientists have been struggling for years to prove.

Episode page @ Moonbase Alpha | Another episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

Dragon's Domain

This episode preceded Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) some five years, with its claustrophobic space monster scenes. The episode has its moments of some undeliberate humour, though, with Tony Cellini trying to fight the large monster with only a tiny fireman's axe as his weapon. Also featuring a "graveyard" of spaceships, some nice interior spaceship designs, and a serene sequence paying another tribute to 2001, when Ultra Probe sails on in the silence of space while Albinoni's 'Adagio' plays in the background.

Episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

The Last Sunset

An amazing episode where the Moon gets an atmosphere and the barren lunar landscape starts to bloom after having received its first rain ever. Also: Paul (Prentis Hancock) attacks Commander Koenig after having ingested a psychedelic mushroom.

Episode Guide @ Moonbase Alpha | Another episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

The Troubled Spirit

Includes an eerie "teaser" sequence with Moonbase Alpha's personnel intensely concentrating on the hypnotic Indian Raga music of a sitar player (Jim Sullivan). Talk about Woodstock in outer space. The scene has not actually anything to do with the episode itself (except setting the atmosphere), but is one of those strangely haunting moments that make Space: 1999 so memorable.

Episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

Death's Other Dominion

Alphans arrive to the snow planet Ultima Thule (a name itself taken from Norse mythology) inhabited by the people of 1986's space mission from Earth, who claim they haven't aged a single day in 880 years. With a Shakespearean theme of a doomed "king" (Brian Blessed) and his "jester" (John Shrapnel), a mad soothsayer, who turns out more lucid and sane than the "king" himself. In fact, Barry Morse has suggested that John Shrapnel, who played Jack Tanner, was cast because of his stage version of King Lear's fool around the same time. The episode climaxes with an astoundingly graphic horror effect that could be straight from some splatter movie.

Force of Life

Another great horror episode, with trippy scenes filmed with fish-eye and wide-angle lenses and the hero, Ian "Lovejoy" McShane, turning to a ghastly monster. Also featured is a memorable scene in Moonbase Alpha's solarium.

Episode Guide @ Moonbase Alpha | Another episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

Testament of Arkadia

Alphans encounter a planet where they find human skeletons and inscriptions in Sanskrit, the ancient language of Hindus, which indicates Earth's life originated from this planet. Two reseachers, Luke and Anna, go maverick, destined to restore planet's life, which was apparently lost in a nuclear war. A finale with stupendous fanfare music concludes the episode as the planet comes to life again.

Episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

Space Brain

An episode where Alphans encounter a gossamer-like alien entering its victims' brain. Memorable scenes feature mysterious hieroglyphs filling Moonbase's monitors, Commander Koenig's psychedelic monologue while on trance, and finally, the bubblebath-like alien filling the Main Mission; looking like a scene from 60s art performance, with spacesuited astronauts trying not to drown beneath it.

Episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

Guardian of Piri

Alphans go hippie and find the peace of mind on a planet reminiscing a surrealistic fantasy disco; controlled by a computer and its beautiful servant, played by the future Second Season regular Catherine Schell. Petter Øgland compares this episode to the Ulysses' encounter with Lotus Eaters in Homer's ancient epic Odyssey.

Video clip @ Rudi Gernreich page

Episode Guide @ Moonbase Alpha | Another episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

Collision Course

Koenig encounters an old woman who claims that Alpha's journey has been predestined. She tells him: "I have been waiting a long time to meet you, John Koenig. We have expected you for many millions of years... your destiny has always been our destiny... our separate planets have met in the body of time for the great purpose of mutation... the change shall reverberate through the galaxies and universes of eternity."

Episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

The Infernal Machine

The title of this episode is taken from Jean Cocteau's 1934 play (which presented Oedipus as a marionette in the play of the gods. The work was based on Oedipus Rex by the ancient Greek playwright Sophocles.) For me there's something similar, though, in Gwent's and Companion's (both played by excellent Leo McKern, who was also in my other TV favourite, The Prisoner) dominant/subservient relationship as with Vladimir and Estragon in "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett, the same existential loneliness. There's a lot of reminiscing of a spoiled and self-centered child in Gwent, which approach makes me think of the Theatre of Absurd, and basically the whole episode is a sort of a chamber play.

Victor: "Oh, my dear Gwent. You were wrong from the beginning. To attempt to preserve one's personality is the ultimate vanity."

Episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

Missing Link

While lying unconscious at the medical section, Koenig goes astral travelling on the planet Zenno, where he is subjected as a guinea pig to experiments of the scientist Raan (Peter Cushing, another Hammer Horror heavy). Memorable trippy scenes with Koenig strolling through the deserted corridors and Main Mission of Moonbase Alpha, and some disturbing nightmare sequences where Koenig is subjected to his worst fears. Also a Star Trek-like love interest (remember how Captain Kirk always got to kiss those beautiful alien girls) with Raan's daughter Vana (Joanna Dunham). Well, what Doctor Russell does not know, can not hurt her.

There's also a scene when the "disembodied" Koenig enters the Medicentre of the mock-Alpha on Zenno, he contemplates his own life-signs monitor, and appears not to notice that his name is spelled "Keonig". It's a question of some dispute if this is a blooper, or if the mispelling is intentional, to emphasize the unreality of the scene. (Thanks: Ronald Zajac.)

Episode Guide @ Moonbase Alpha | Another episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

War Games

I own a 3-D View-Master reel set of this episode. The egg-headed aliens are a sight to remember, also the hallucinatory mood of the episode is not easily forgotten, as Moonbase Alpha apparently perishes in chaos and destruction. Also evoked by the aliens are the visions of death with the worst archetypal nightmare image of our culture, the mushroom cloud.

Episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs

Mission of the Darians

Alphans enter a city-size spaceship floating in space and meet a society divided in two classes (reminiscing of H.G. Wells' classic sci-fi novel The Time Machine with the underground-dwellers Morlocks and the elf-like Elois). The ruling Darians keep themselves immortal through cannibalism, with organs stolen from the ship's underclass, who worship Neman, a Wizard of Oz-style false god (making me think of John Boorman's Zardoz again), the leader of Greek god-like Darians. Very disturbing scenes with sacrifial deaths of crewman Lowry and a mute dwarf, who are condemned as mutants. Guest starring Joan Collins of Dynasty.

Episode guide @ Space 1999: Catacombs


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