Spencer’s Sanctorum Presents:
SPACE: 1999 – SEASON 1, EPISODE 3 – “Collision Course” (1975)
Review by Spencer Seams
Welcome to Spencer’s Sanctorum. This column is about old TV shows in the vein of Twilight Zone, One Step Beyond, and Kolchak the Night Stalker. I seek out the weird, goofy, and underrated episodes, the ones that nobody talks about.
1999, the future…wait a sec, well, it was in 1975. No one knew what was going to happen. Were the Commies gonna win? Will the Hartford Whalers capture everyone’s hearts and minds? Is Goodluck Jonathan going to grow up to be the President of Nigeria in 2016? Will humans colonize space?
One out of four came true. Goodluck Jonathan lost re-election in 2015. The Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes in ‘97. The Commies did not win. Space colonization is real, not like in SPACE: 1999. We aren’t living on the moon…yet.
SPACE: 1999 debuted September 4, 1975 in both the US and Great Britain. It was the last time both Gerry and Sylvia Anderson produced a series together. The Andersons were a powerhouse of television, animated and live action. They had a slew of hits including THUNDERBIRDS (1965-1966). As you could probably tell, Gerry and Sylvia were a married couple. SPACE 1999 was their final project together. They divorced in 1980 after 20 years and a few children together. In showbiz years, that’s a long run.
The episode “Collision Course” launched on September 18, 1975. The notable crew includes: Director – Ray Austin (MAGNUM P.I., 1981 – 1986); Writer – Anthony Terpiloff (THE AVENGERS, 1962 – 1963); and Makeup – Basil Newall (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, 1963, GOLDFINGER, 1964). The cast includes: Commander John – Martin Landau (ED WOOD, 1994); Helena Russell – Barbara Bain (SKINHEADS, 1989); and Victor – Barry Morse (THE CHANGELING, 1980).
Just like in ARMAGEDDON and DEEP IMPACT (both 1998), a massive asteroid rockets closer to the Earth, er, Moonbase Alpha in this case, every second. Commander John and the beloved crew need to blow it up with nukes, which are plentiful and many on Moonbase Alpha. Twelve to be precise, because the fragments won’t be big enough to cause any real damage. Eleven are done. The timer is set. One left. Alan is having problems. A sexy space-witch speaks to Alan. She hypnotizes and jams his Eagle space-jet. Through sheer power of will, he powers through it. Plants his nuke and then goes MIA.
After the asteroid threat is neutralized, Alpha is on high alert. John and Victor contemplate with Helena over what to do about the Alan situation. They can’t go into the blast zone. The nuclear radiation is too dense. It’s a suicide mission. It’s insane, but John will do anything to save a member of his crew.
Meanwhile, Victor and Helena get intel that an invisible planet is on a new collision course, coming straight towards Moonbase Alpha. The planet is unknown to their records and 35 times larger than the asteroid. They need a new plan ASAP. Just like with the nukes from earlier, they use space mines to shift the gravitational pull from them and the incoming planet. It’s stupid but it has to work.
John rescues Alan but he is clearly affected by the radiation. Back at Alpha, Alan thinks he sees the sexy space-witch in the medical bay. She then turns into Helena. He’s insane. John goes to investigate the planet, after the sexy space-witch targets him. Despite Helena and Victor’s objections, John goes for it.
Very quickly, his jet gets boarded by the Ava Atheoria, a decrepit wrecked ship. The sexy space-witch’s lair is covered in space cobwebs from space spiders. Space dust covers everything. She is from a race of alien and human hybrids. She’s making her home world collide with Alpha to save her species. It may kill the Alpha crew or make them mutants. John is convinced of this. No one believes him.
The collision happens. End of episode.
Hmm, this was a bumpy ride. The episode wildly swings between dull and interesting. It’s rarely captivating, but Landau and Bain are great leads. They will suck you into the lunar melodrama. Landau gives it 100% and is a much better leader than Captain Kirk or the Patrick Stewart one. If you need a reminder of how wonderful Landau is, watch this show. Once he and Bain are separated, things get dull. The other actors are fine, but can’t elevate the material. Victor embodies the wise old man trope but it doesn’t feel necessary to the plot. I watched other episodes as well, but he’s a fifth wheel in every single one. Victor just makes thing clunky. Moonbase Alpha doesn’t need an old-timer who’s seen it all as a central crew member. He’d be better used as a side character that interjects on occasion. A’ la many of the residents of Springfield, especially Hans Moleman, the best Simpsons character, and Abe Simpson.
So far, I haven’t mentioned the elephant in the room. I have saved the most famous crew member for last. The Special Effects Designer for the series was…Brian Johnson (Born Brian Johncock). He’s not a household name unless we’re talking about a neighborhood full of film crew people and sci-fi nerds. Johnson’s excellent resume features the following: ALIEN (1979), 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980, which he won an Oscar for), ALIENS (1986), and the classic film SPIES LIKE US (1985). His pedigree of skill is on display here. The production quality is already top-notch, Johnson’s contributions elevates this beyond the stratosphere.
To some, the design and effects of old projects like this, looks silly. I am not of that camp. Physical sets and special effects age much better than CGI. When you see a movie or show like this, the actors are actually interacting with something real. It’s something that they can actually touch and feel. It may look goofy at times, but it just looks better than early CGI, which ages like milk after 5 years. Try watching Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN 2 now, just do. It looked great then but now…not so much.
This episode, Collision Course, wasn’t great but good. I recommend the show. It’s solid. It only lasted only two seasons. It’s on Hulu and DVD.
And RIP Martin Landau.
© Copyright 2017 by Spencer Seams