Moon Zero Two (1969): a recap (part 5 of 10)

Hello, and welcome back to my Moon Zero Two extended recap. In case you’re new to the Booth, you can catch up by checking out the links to the first four parts here, here, here, and… here! So, lets revisit the far flung year of 2021 (May 10. A Monday. Admit it, you were wondering what day it was), where our heroes Bill Kemp and Danko Kaminski try to earn a living. Just some good old boys, never meaning no harm…

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Bill spots his new employer Hubbard approaching with his entourage.

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When has orange ever looked good on anything other than a traffic cone? And looking at these two guys is giving me an urge to go buy a tractor (although, credit to the costume designer for the foresight to put characters in different colored space suits; once they put those helmets on, it’s almost impossible to tell who’s who in some shots.). I’m looking at Hubbard’s outfit and I’m wondering if this is what passes for lunar formal wear. Was he on his way to a wedding before stopping by? I better take a pass on the second woman and those wigs before this extended recap turns into some sort of futuristic fashion show.

Damn, that might be a good idea, to do a web series devoted solely to the fashion of a sci-fi television ser…

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Dammit.

Bill tells Hubbard he wanted the man to stay out of sight until “they were ready”, but Hubbard says he and his garish entourage are just down to watch the Earth Express lift off, which is apparently something all the tourists do. Riiiiiight, and guys like Donald Trump and Richard Branson spend time watching airplanes taking off from an airport all the time and go “oooh and “aaaaaah”. Danko shows up after getting clearance (and insisting this time they can pay) and is surprised to see the group. He wonders if they’re taking passengers, so Bill explains the one guy has a computer in his briefcase, and it’s so small it could almost fit on his lap! And “Harry” can help with the heavy work. Because yeah, pissing off a guy before you head off with him into the most lethal environment known to man is a wonderful idea. Bill shows some smarts, though, and insists Harry leave the gun behind, because taking a gun into space might not be the smartest thing a body can do. Although how Harry got a gun on the space plane and why Bill’s cop girlfriend isn’t confiscating it makes zero sense; I would think a no-guns policy on the Moon would… Oh, wait, it wouldn’t be much of a “Moon Western” without the guns, would it? Just a case of common sense being locked in the closet for the sake of the plot.

Harry has to give his gun to his boss, and judging by the look on the thug’s face, his penis feels three inches shorter. Judging by the look on the one woman’s face behind him, I’m thinking that’s three inches he can’t afford.

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The four head to the ship and strap in, and Kaminski is surprised that Whitsun is going to be navigating. Bill explains that the man’s got a better computer, and when his engineer asks if the man knows how to navigate, Bill pretty much says there’s not much difference between “miles per hour and dollars per second”. And it’s at this point that I’d be getting my ass off this ship. Seriously, Whitsun punches in numbers as the computer makes cute little sounds like those old-timey calculators with the paper rolls used to make, and I’m starting to wonder if his computer was repurposed… or if he brought the wrong one and is too embarrassed to tell Bill.

Why do I get the feeling this gang is going to be running into Bob Denver and Chuck McCann pretty soon?

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Bill calls the tower for clearance and there’s this pregnant pause, like something’s gone Horribly Wrong and someone’s onto them. Frankly, I’m shocked they didn’t throw in tension music and do super close-ups of everyone’s eyes, it’s so obvious. And then the fake tension passes and the lunar control guy tells them they’re good to go, and that the Mars Express is coming in twenty minutes. Bill says they’re trying to miss it, and normally I’d say it’s a pretty good bet they will, but we’ve got Whitsun in the back with his calc-puter and I’m thinking the gang is going to be lucky to miss the Moon when they take off. But Moon Zero Two takes off without a hitch, with Sheriff Murphy looking on, seemingly wondering why Hubbard and his harem have taken such an interest in a space-going shitbox.

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Bill asks Whitsun for a course heading, and the man rattles off some pretty sweet technobabble that almost sounds coherent. Kaminski says, “It sounds as if he knows,” in a tone that suggests he’s both impressed and disappointed. Whitsun shows up on the flight deck and he asks if Bill has a… a…

Okay, I’ve replayed the scene twelve times and I don’t know if it’s Whitsun’s supercilious delivery, his British accent, or the distracting soundtrack, but I have no freaking clue what he says. It sounds like an “autbitograph”, but god help me I’m not sure. Not knowing what he says may haunt me the rest of my days.

Bill shows Whitsun the… something something-agraph, and the man is shocked, like he’s amazed the pair actually went up in space with a piece of crap this old. I guess you could call his expression “Leia face”.

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Once it’s warmed up, Whitsun explains how this week the sapphire asteroid will be on its closest approach since 1998. Hmm, a crashing asteroid… in 1998? That sounds juuust a little like Armageddon to me. I’m not saying Michael Bay ripped off Moon Zero Two, but this is the guy who claimed he had no idea he was ripping off Parts: The Clonus Horror when he filmed The Island.

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Whitsun explains the plan, and although I’m assuming Bill heard all of this the night before, even he admits he got pretty shit-faced on scotch (and honestly, with the availability of such high priced booze, who’s going to blame him for getting blotto? Not I), so Whitsun doesn’t seem to mind going over it again. I also think Whitsun is the kind of guy who loves to talk and sound like the smartest guy in the room. The fact that it’s a useful bit of expository dialogue for the benefit of the audience doesn’t hurt either. The plan is to strap the three rockets to the asteroid, change its trajectory so it slows down and flies to the Moon’s far side where there are no radar listening stations, so no one will notice the change in course and speed. The gang will then go back to the asteroid a couple of days later, fire the rockets again, and then the asteroid will smacks into the Moon.

What could possibly go wrong?

Other than the obvious.

Other than the obvious.

Back on the Moon, a woman comes rushing into the bar in a panic, crying out that the miners have arrived. The bartender hides the expensive brick-a-brack while the boutique lady puts a “closed” sign up in her window. My God, just how many miners have come into town? What fearsome horde of horny and bored beasts have rolled in off the space train?

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There must be a… dozen of them! No, wait, not a dozen; a baker’s dozen! Get the wimmenfolk and children off the streets! I guess the obnoxiously loud outfits make up for the small numbers… and lack of guns. Honestly, I’m not sure what everybody is afraid of; I think the “go jos” could probably take half of them. Speaking of the go jos, they’re wearing even stupider outfits this time around. Before, they seemed intent on insulting the whole of South America. Now it’s North America’s turn:

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I can’t wait to see what they wear when it comes to alienating all of Europe. Over-sized berets, wooden shoes and leiderhosen? I shudder to think what they wear during Japan Night.

Also, was the “LazyBSaloon” sign up before, or do they just roll that out special for this crowd? And what does the “B” stand for? I get the feeling the producers were too lazy to figure it out.

Man, between the go jos’ cheezy outfits, the new entrance, and the canned country music, they’re really laying the “space western” stuff on thick. It’s like someone took subtle out to the back alley and gave it both barrels.

A woman rushes up to one of the miners, a guy wearing a (comparatively) restrained plaid jacket, which suggests his time on the Moon has not yet destroyed his fashion sense. Turns out the woman is Clementine, this time sporting what for this movie is a pretty understated wig. Damn, has it been twenty minutes since we last saw her? God, how I’ve missed you, Catherine Schell.

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I don’t care how unflattering the wig and ensemble are, I don’t care how much the Powers That Be try to hide her natural sensuousness: Schell is still a cinematic goddess. Turns out she mistook plaid man for her brother Wally, but it’s no joy. Later, after the miners have settled down, Clementine approaches Mister Plaid and his wingman to talk about Wally. Both guys know him, but they haven’t heard or seen him in four months. Four months?! I don’t know about you guys, but if I was employed in a dangerous profession on the most hostile real estate known to mankind, I think I would at least do a head count of everybody every few days to make sure they were all, you know, still alive.

Murphy ambles on over to make sure the miners don’t get any ideas regarding spoiling Ms. Taplan’s virtue, and when she hears what the three have been talking about, the Sheriff tries to be positive and suggests Wally just missed the convoy. The guys back up Murphy’s suggestion with false smiles.

Yeah, Mister Spock might have said once you can’t smell in space, but the stench of death is all over Wally…

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…and everybody but Clementine seems to know it, too. I’m starting to wonder if there’s some conspiracy here, or if everyone’s so jaded as far as fatalities are concerned that one more corpse littering the lunar landscape is considered more of a traffic hazard than a tragedy. Murphy says to Clementine to let her know if she needs help, but I don’t think it’ll be necessary; a body weighs only a sixth on the Moon what it does on Earth, so Taplin shouldn’t have much trouble with Wally’s remains when she finds them.

Back on Moon Zero Two, the gang reach the sapphire asteroid, and the approach is every bit as boring as this screencap implies.

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On the one hand, I appreciate the realistic approach to what traveling in space must be like. On the other hand, staring at my Star Trek: The Motion Picture poster is more exciting. The ship pulls up alongside the asteroid and makes it look easy, although I’m sure the real-world math involved would make my brain melt. Bill admires the rock and says, “A six thousand ton jewel. How would you like to meet the broad who can hang that around her neck?” I can think of one guy who would love to meet her:

Even his thumbnails are immense.

Even his thumbnails are immense.

I’d love to see what his Match.com profile looks like.

The gang start to move the engines out of the ship, and… Look, sometimes writing comedy can be hard. You watch minutes of footage, trying to find something funny or at least clever to say, and when you can’t, you try to distract the reader maybe with a reference to something else, dreading even a short, one minute stretch of video where absolutely nothing of note happens. Yeah, sometimes it can be a big, hard problem.

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Oh, and speaking of big and hard…

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Some days the jokes practically write themselves. I can’t help but wonder if the director knew what he was doing and was just wondering if he could get this past the censors. Or maybe this was some artsy metaphor about man’s need to kill as represented by phallic symbolism. It was the ’60s; this sort of thing was considered impressively intellectual at the time, especially when your audience was high on pot and LSD.

Now? It just makes me want to keep coming up with dick jokes. We’ve come a long way, baby. I’ll try my best to remain tasteful for as long as I can, to uphold the proud tradition of the Agony Booth.

Bill warns Harry that the rocket he’s sporting is number three, the one that’s been so problematic. According to Kemp, it could go off too soon or not at all. Yeah, it figures Harry’s would have performance issues.

Yeah, that didn’t last long.

The trio reach the asteroid, and the cheap-ass set looks like it could have been slapped together by Irwin Allen’s production team. I’m beginning to wonder if the budget all went to wigs and giant hats.

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Bill, Whitsun, and Harry secure the rockets, and I have to admit that it’s a nice bit of cinematography when they show Kemp “under” the asteroid. Whitsun explains the three rockets have got to ignite in precisely three minutes and nine seconds. Bill plans on staying behind to make sure the plan is executed without a hitch. Kaminski is worried Bill won’t leave the asteroid in time, but Bill’s a man and he knows precisely the right time to “get off”. I’m not worried about Bill, though; that spacesuit looks like it affords him a lot of protection.

Will the contentious Number Three rocket go off as scheduled? Will Bill get off? Is Clementine’s brother still (snort) alive? Tune in next time and find out!

Multi-Part Article: Moon Zero Two: a recap

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  • Cristiona

    And I was just wondering when the next part would come out!

    • Thomas Stockel

      Yeah, August has been an insanely busy month, both job wise and with personal stuff. I’m hoping to get the installments out in a more reasonably timely manner.

      • danbreunig

        You’ve been hitting the marks thus far, so I wouldn’t stress it.
        Actually I’ve been digging these multi-part recaps far more than the
        site’s recent one-off articles about the fleeting trends in pop-culture
        and social media. However a snarky look back at a long-lost gem such as
        this one is like getting back in touch with a long lost friend you
        forgot you met so long ago. Warm feels there. And a few quick thoughts
        while I think of them–

        So now we get to the part with the sci-fi equivalent of dynamiting the train bridge.

        How
        I missed Cathy Schell as well. Heck, all of Moon Base Alpha for that
        matter. Personally I would’ve referenced The Lost Saucer about the
        rebuilt calciputer, by I digress.

        [snort] a set courtesy of Irwin
        Allen. 🙂 Ironically it was an Irwin Allen feature that brought me to
        Agony Booth in the first place so many years ago. A certain recap
        involving a volcano blowing up a tropical island and its all star by
        very 1980 standards cast.

        • Thomas Stockel

          You could have something there regarding Dr. Strangelove. 🙂

  • Low Mileage Pit Woofie

    If I recall, Whitsun in that last scene questions if Harry will be okay, Harry throws him a snappy comeback… but then notes his appreciation for Whitsun’s concern. I don’t know why that bit of dialogue stuck with me all these years, except maybe it offered a character nuance you don’t get nowadays.

    • Thomas Stockel

      It’s an excellent point and you raising it has made me look at that scene again.

      • Low Mileage Pit Woofie

        Thank you – like I wrote, don’t know why it stuck in my head, except that it was something I don’t see much of these days, where the bad guys are written with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It wasn’t much, of course, but it was there, at least for me

        PS – I got the novelisation of Moon Zero Two, because I collect them. It was told from Bill’s POV, and is as dated as you’d expect.

  • Yeah, that didn’t last long.

    That’s okay. We can just talk.