HUMAN DECISION REQUIRED
Some personal notes on Space: 1999
by Erkki Rautio
Ultimate Trip - to the Final Frontier
Talking about the influences of the series, we'd better not forget the patron saint of metaphysical cosmic adventure mentioned already, Stanley Kubrick - Space: 1999 was often prone to travel to the consciousness-expanding "Ultimate Trip" mystery area of Kubrick's 2001, using outer space as means to depict that journey to our inner space; as clichéd as that may now sound. Popular among the series' fandom is the discussion on the "Mysterious Unknown Force" factor that seems to be behind various plot turns of S99 - many episodes have a strange sense of pre-determination (e.g. "Collision Course", "War Games", "The Black Sun" or "Testament of Arkadia") or even of some kind of divine guidance lurking behind the otherwise mysterious situations the characters are led to. Maybe it's the only way to explain all those things the script-writers left open there... Final frontier, indeed.
Which takes us to the nearest television equivalent of the show, being of course Star Trek, though the general atmosphere of Space: 1999 is far less optimistic and grimmer - even existentialist - than its American "intergalactic UN solving the problems of outer space" and (false?) humanist counterpart: Gary Gerani talks in his book about Star Trek's "optimism factor," to which S99 seems to be a complete antithesis.
"Space: 1999 represents a very definite shift from the 1960s to the 1970s. It wasn't a hippie trip. It was the wake-up after the dream."
- One of the series' screenwriters, Johnny Byrne, to Filmfax magazine (# 88, February-March 2002)
Could it also be that S99 somehow reflected the general atmosphere of the early 70s, as the prospects seemed increasingly far bleaker than during the Swinging 60s, when optimism prevailed and the potential for the development of mankind seemed endless? Enter 1970s: Watergate, the Oil Crisis of 1974, the rise of international terrorism and the alarming reports of the Club of Rome warning of the population overgrowth, pollution and the looming dangers of eco-catastrophe. How could Man ever conquer outer space, when he could not even solve his own problems down on Earth?
The future was unpredictable; the destination unknown. Whereas the bridge of U.S.S. Enterprise ever stays the comfortable living room during all series, here we can really experience being lost in the middle of unknown, constantly threatened by unpredictable alien forces that we can't even understand nor comprehend.