Re-Watching Space: 1999

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Mysterion, Sep 15, 2019.

  1. Mysterion

    Mysterion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    So. Gonna do a thread where I watch Space: 1999 for pretty-much the first time in 44 years and provide some commentary. I watched the show back when it was first-run, but I do not think I've seen every episode - wasn't quite as diligent with 1999 as I was with TOS back then. So, technically this is a re-watch, but given the way my memory works I might as well be seeing most of this for the first time. But, I have gotten ahold of the complete series on DVD and decided to give this a shot.

    Now, I'm not going to go into the whole issue I had then, and still do with the basic premise and it's utter improbability/impossibility. Might revisit that when we get to the end of the series, but for now I'm just gonna take this series at face value and try to judge it on that basis.

    I request folks who are bigger fans/more frequent viewers to please not post open spoilers in the thread - am going into this with the fairly vague memory of a 58 year old and in many ways this is an "almost first reaction" and I'd like to keep it that way, please.

    Breakaway
    Good introduction to the setting, premise and characters. The production values are better than I remember - and I dare say better than pretty much any other SF series made for TV in the 70's, including the original Galactica which came along a couple years after Star Wars had revolutionized special effects. While the moon as seen from out in space looks quite modally/plaster, the scenes set at the surface seem to have done a fairly creditable job to resemble what we saw during the Apollo missions.

    AS this is a pilot, I am inclined to give the acting a bit of slack and I'm sure the actors are still trying to find themselves in their characters. Although tow things do stand out on that front: Barbara Bain is just as wooden as I recall from my first visit to the series and Barry Morse's Victor Bergman comes across immediately as the most fully-realized character present. Landau is not bad, but seems at time to be trying perhaps a bit too hard. Carter seems to be an interesting likeable character, and Paul in Main Mission potentially so. No one else really strands out yet, but I'm sure that will come with time.

    The script does a good job of setting all the needed balls into motion to go forward, checking the boxes without coming across as being too rushed. Had forgotten that they had stranded Koenig's nemesis Simmonds on the base with everyone else and trying to remember if he remains an ongoing thorn for the crew or not - NO SPOILERS PLEASE!

    Not scared off at this point, and will post about episode two soon. And while I welcome all comments and criticisms, I say again: PLEASE: NO SPOILERS! Thanks.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Judging Space: 1999 season 1 by its scientific plausibility is a category error. It wasn't trying to be realistic science fiction, it was more in the vein of Twilight Zone surrealism, portraying space as a realm of unknowable mystery governed by cosmic forces that made a mockery of human understanding. The inexplicability was the point. (Season 2 was just dumb, though.)

    And yes, the effects were top-notch, and the tech and set designs were even better than Star Trek's. It's interesting how similar the casts were -- the core triumvirate of commander, science officer, and doctor, and the multiethnic foursome of supporting characters including a pilot and a female communications officer. Although 1999 did a better job fleshing out its supporting foursome than TOS did.
     
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  3. Marc

    Marc Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I read once that the initial cut for Breakaway was 2hours but much of that was reaction shots rather than adding anything to the story and eventually lead to the director being canned.

    From my own experience if you watch a few eps in a row, the stock footage of Eagles taking off really starts to stick out. Well it's either stock footage or some-one was always leaving a moon buggy on the edge of the pads :)
     
  4. Spectre Of The Fun

    Spectre Of The Fun Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    That's what I did while watching it all last year. I never saw much of it in the 70's. I think it was run on the CBC in 1978 and watchable in the USA if your rabbit ears could pick it up because you lived close enough to Canada (which I did).

    I was only seven in '78 and allowed to see Star Trek reruns and Battlestar Galactica but not so much Space 1999. Some of my schoolmates did and I remember some playground debates about Space 1999 being better and more realistic than Galactica. Now virtual playground debates about everything are held here on the Trek BBS.

    Everything about pop culture seems so big when you are in your first decade of life and Space 1999 was made during that time of my life. It was out there in the pop culture even though I didn't see most of it until 2018. I satisfied a nostalgic curiosity by finally seeing all of it. I enjoyed most of it despite the ways in which it is flawed and particularly enjoyed the UK cast and guest stars.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The Eagles are a great design... as long as you don't think about the details. They share a fundamental flaw with Trek shuttlecraft, in that they have no airlock between the pressurized interior and the vacuum of space. Also, the extendable docking tunnel on the miniature corresponds to nothing in the interior set. It just magically materializes out of nowhere when it's needed.
     
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  6. Mysterion

    Mysterion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, they look fantastic at first glance presenting a really nice sort of "post-Apollo/NASA" aesthetic, IMO. And they way the set them up with the swappable specialized modules was pretty slick as well. An airlock woulda been nice, though. As for Trek, they could have fixed the issue with a smaller version of the forcefield we see at work in 1701-D's shuttlebays, maybe not so much in TOS, but later on.
     
  7. Noname Given

    Noname Given Admiral Admiral

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    The implausibility of the whole thing was hilarious in that even if the Moon broke away and reached relativistic speeds, (and reach a new star system every week) - there's NO WAY the Eagles could/should be able to slow themselves enough to be able to land on any other planet, or reach the speeds need to catch up/land back on the Moon afterwads. :vulcan::rommie:
     
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  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The problem with force fields is that they have no safe failure mode. If a closed door loses power, it just stays closed; it doesn't cease to exist. Sci-fi likes to show force fields and energy beams and hover fields and so forth replacing good old-fashioned solid objects, but it's prioritizing flashy futurism over common-sense engineering, because it is utterly stupid to rely for your survival or structural integrity on something that disappears entirely if there's even a momentary loss of power.


    Again, season 1 was trying for surrealism and borderline mysticism, not plausibility. However, if you pay close attention, "Breakaway" does have a lot of dialogue about the nuclear waste dump generating a freakishly powerful magnetic field, and there's a line about "the magnetic output from the artificial gravity system." And Bergman mentions "facing a new effect," a phenomenon never encountered before So I suspect maybe the idea was that the explosion, which was bigger than any in history, generated some kind of hitherto-untheorized magnetic/gravitational effect that negated the Earth's pull on the Moon, and maybe even created some kind of space warp effect, like a subspace field in Trek.

    Okay, it's tenuous at best, but is it any more absurd than the TARDIS being bigger on the inside?
     
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  9. Mysterion

    Mysterion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Ok, viewing order? I'm viewing the A&E set. The next episode after Breakaway on the discs is Matter of Life and Death which feels like there's been quite a bit of time passed since stuff blowed-up. Is there a preferred viewing order for the series, or is this one of those situations where they made stuff interchangable for syndication?

    Sure, but short of changing the shuttle as seen in the series, it seems the quickest fix. Never seemed like a good idea in the shuttlebays either as slow as those big doors seemed to close.
     
  10. JD

    JD Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I should check out more of this one sometime. I watched the first couple episodes a while back on Hulu and I enjoyed it, but I got distracted by other stuff and never went back to it. That happens to me a lot with older shows like this.
    Hmm, I just saw them showing this on the US digital network Comet last week, but I just looked and they've apparently pulled it, because it's not on their list of shows and nowhere on their schedule for the next week.
    It is available for free on Shout Factory TV, so I might watch it there.
     
  11. DarrenTR1970

    DarrenTR1970 Commander Red Shirt

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    CometTV did a marathon of the first season last Friday the 13th to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the moon getting blown out of orbit in 'Breakaway'.
    After re-watching the pilot episode I've come to think that the whole Meta Probe/Planet Meta could have been excised from the plot as being extraneous as it's never followed up on in subsequent episodes. Or maybe it could have been altered to be the first mission to Mars.
    Also, Roy Dotrice has to have the worst haircut I've ever seen. Most of the haircuts seem unprofessional. (Yes, I know it was the 70s and long hair was in fashion and that Moonbase Alpha was more of a civilian rather than military operation, I just would liked to have seen a little more 'short back and sides'. I'm reminded of the ever-lengthening hair of the U.N.I.T. soldiers in the Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Who.)

    There's a fan website called Space: 1999 - The Catacombs that managed to track down the surviving audio of the pilot episode, which adds up to about 15-30 minutes, and pair it with stills to recreate what the missing scenes would have looked like. Most of it is doesn't add much to the episode, but there are one or two nice character moments.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Maybe they did initially plan to follow up on Meta, but the plan was abandoned after the pilot, as sometimes happens with pilot elements. Still, ongoing threads between episodes were not a huge priority in '70s series TV. Whether a plot element served the episode it was in mattered more than whether it had an impact on later episodes.
     
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  13. Galileo7

    Galileo7 Commodore Commodore

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    Mysterion, great thread.

    Space:1999 season one has always been my favorite season of my favorite series.


    For those unfamiliar with Space:1999, this site is excellent:
    http://catacombs.space1999.net/
     
  14. Marc

    Marc Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Big Finish have expanded their audio range so it now covers Space:1999 and to mark the 20th anniversary released the first episode which is a reimage of Breakaway.

    They address the issue of the moon being "blown out of orbit" and relativistic speeds by having the moon get sucked through a wormnhole.

    the idea of a wormhole had been mooted as a better explanation if the series ever a rumoured re-makes (which obviously never happened given that was 2012 according to wiki) in a thread in here.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I used to imagine how I'd reinvent Space: 1999 with a more credible, hard-SF explanation (like replacing the Moon with a large asteroid containing an ancient alien base with a malfunctioning FTL jump drive), but now I think it'd be truer to the intent to embrace the fantasy and surrealism, the sheer existential dread of a crew of scientists facing something totally impossible that shouldn't be happening and they can't begin to explain in any rational way. Maybe lean more into season 1's occasional vague hints that there were larger cosmic or even divine forces guiding the Moon's journey.
     
  16. Mysterion

    Mysterion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^^^
    I've tried that, too. Settled on leaving the moon where it is but making the Earth inaccessible (really short version: terrorists unleash virus everyone human on Earth dies, Alphans can't go home until cure found). This way you still get the people stranded at the moonbase trying to survive and get home plot, but retain a lot more scientific plausibility, and a bit more actual hope of an eventual homecoming. Maybe a lot less surrealism/fantasy, but perhaps a good venue for some solid dramatic story-telling.

    On viewing order: So, looked around the interweb a bit and have found that there are three or four competing suggested viewing orders (at least) kicking around, as well as some pretty solid "Doesn't matter as long as you watch Breakaway and season 1 first, followed by season 2" opinions. Appears the episodes are mostly loosely connected and it ultimately doesn't matter that much, but some rearranging of order does bring some amount of narrative flow. If that seems like too much work I'll just go in production order and /or the order they show up on the discs. Gonna sleep on it tonight and will pick up with a new episode tomorrow.

    Thanks all for the positive reaction to the thread thus far.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2019
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  17. Mr. Adventure

    Mr. Adventure Admiral Admiral

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    Nicely said.

    Stargate Universe did OK with this, I've always said SG-U was a spiritual successor (or remake or whatever the right word should be) to Space 1999.
     
  18. Dr. San Guinary

    Dr. San Guinary Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Wormhole?
     
  19. plynch

    plynch Commodore Commodore

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    Funny it's not literally meang, but the design details are so plausible and realistic looking. Post-Apollo is apt, from an above post. Maybe I'll jump in and watch. Started a while back and got disgracted.
     
  20. Yossarianator

    Yossarianator Commodore Commodore

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    Third flaw of the Eagles: if Alan Carter's not inside them, nine times out of ten they explode.
     
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