Culture

Sgathaich: Space 1999 Breakaway

sgathaich bannerAs we continue adding new things I can review let’s add a new sci fi series. Space 1999 is a 70s sci fi series created by Gerry Anderson (yes I was surprised too. Guy behind Thunderbirds and all those amazing puppet shows that are endlessly repeated since they are that good ).

Set during the year 1999 (so get rid of all your silly jokes about that happening and us being too obsessed with YTK to notice) on Earth’s Moon Base Alpha. Right away we see something odd is happening. An eagle (their space craft well known for crashing) lands at Nuclear Disposal Area Two on the far side of the Moon. After some routine work one of the 3 men goes crazy and starts attacking the other two.

Space 1999We are introduced to the key characters of Professor Victor Bergman (Barry Morse) Doctor Helena Russell (Barbara Bain) and Commander John Koenig (Martin Landau). We learn that Man is on the verge of its next big leap as all things are set for a manned mission to the mysterious planet Meta which they have now been getting readings from indicating life. This is hampered by the strange illness incapacitating many pilots. However what they don’t know is the “sickness” though severe and fatal is really just the precursor to a far greater disaster. (Namely the moon being blasted off into space out of Earth’s orbit.. look if you know about Space 1999 you know that as the whole thing is set on the moon that’s now adrift in space.)

One thing I must warn viewers about before watching this, this is not Star Trek. While Star Trek was very optimistic about what we find in space, Space 1999 is very bleak. Yes there is life, but space is treated as this terrifying unknown with horrors that man can barely stand against. The bleak tone (not a depressing tone mind you) is very much the style for season 1 making it stand out against its contemporaries like Star Trek and Breakaway shows it clear.

While Koening is pressured by his superior Commissioner Gerald Simmonds to push forward with the Meta probe pointing out its importance to mankind, Koening is trying to find out the cause of the strange sickness and refuses to launch as it would be a death sentence if the men flying the craft were to contract it, as so many of the other candidates have, many Koening whom knows and we see his reaction to seeing their brain dead bodies relying on life support in the medical bay ( a very haunting sight indeed).

One of the strengths of Breakaway is the characters. They are all acting rationally given their station and there is no plot required stupidity (namely the plot only happening because someone was acting uncharacteristically dumb, seen many shows do that and I despise it). The closest you get is Simmonds but you can feel the importance of this mission to mankind and when he sees the potential calamity that might happen he doesn’t stop them from trying to fix it. When someone does something rash they are called out on it and the severity of what is happening is shown, be it the transition from Earth or of seeing the pilots slowly die from the “sickness”.

Space 1999 is bleak, not depressing. It’s about the dangers of what could be out there. Forces that sometimes are so beyond us we can’t understand. If this was done in modern times there would probably be whole episodes about them struggling with supplies and it would be depressing fortunately that’s not the case here. But as we see in this episode something Man had been doing for ages had a consequence we had never conceived of. The last message they receive from Earth talks about the damage the moon being blasted away has had on the planet before the feed fades out of range, replaced by the signal from Meta.

Breakaway is a great start to the series if some of the science is questionable but at no point the lengths of techno babble Star Trek would get known for ( though Next Gen started in the late 80s the earlier episodes are often really bad because of Gene Roddenberry so don’t expect me to do any of those). It is not for children as the dark bleak tone is not for them and some of the episodes get very VERY scary (Dragon’s Domain). But it’s a great taster if you want to see if it’s for you. Season 2 was a lot lighter than season 1 but I feel that diminishes what makes season 1 unique.

Rating: spear spear spear spear

Space 1999

2 replies »

  1. Aye the harsh and some what bleak (but not depresing) tone of season 1 makes it stand out so well from its contemporary. Season 2 with its magical shape changing alien girl and all the rubber monster suits looses what makes the show memorable. Plus none of those rubber monsters have the lasting impact of dragons domain.

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