Space: 1999 “Breakaway” (part 2 of 6)
Koenig gets a video call from earth. It’s from the vaguely evil Commissioner Simmons, played by vaguely evil character actor Roy Dotrice, seen previously on this website in the Olivia Newton-John sci-fi musical Toomorrow.
Right now, his job is to exposit. And exposit he does, in a vaguely evil manner. It turns out that the current mission of the moonbase is to launch a manned probe to “Meta”, which is some sort of wandering planet that’s getting ready to wander near the moon. They’ve just learned that Meta has an atmosphere and could support life. But there’s been a bit of a snag. As the Commissioner explains, “The Meta probe astronaut virus infection must not be allowed to stop us.”
I don’t understand this. First of all, how do they know there’s a Meta probe astronaut virus infection if they have yet to send astronauts to Meta? Second, even if there is a virus infection, all this means is the mission would be a one-way trip, and anyone sent to Meta would most likely have to live out the rest of their lives there. But I’m sure they’d still find lots of astronauts willing to volunteer. Astronauts love to volunteer. In fact, last I checked, our astronaut program was staffed entirely by volunteers.
In any case, I hope Lloyd Kaufman is reading this, because Astronaut Virus Infection would be a great name for a Troma movie. An even better name? Astronaut Naked Infection.
Commissioner Simmons then appoints Koenig to be the new commander of the moonbase. So wait, Koenig left for the moon before he was even appointed? That takes some balls. Also, we learn that the name of the moonbase is “Alpha”. That’s the name: Moonbase Alpha. You’d think that a show that gave us “Meta probe astronaut virus infection” would be a little more creative in its moonbase naming.
Back at the nuclear waste dump, the astronauts are still futzing with the waste, but they report no radiation leakage. Suddenly, one of the brainwave monitors goes crazy. Dr. Russell shouts, “Steiner, get Nordstrom out of there!” I’m kidding. She delivers the line like she just shot heroin. On the surface of the moon, Nordstrom grabs his helmet and screams.
Steiner tries to help him, but Nordstrom loses it. He jumps over the moon buggy, lifts Steiner over his head, throws him about twenty feet, and then runs straight for the laser barrier. The laser barrier, for those of you curious, is a barrier made of lasers. And being a barrier made of lasers, it electrocutes Nordstrom and damn near busts his helmet open.
By the way, this whole fight in low gravity looks great. Both guys are on wires. They’re leaping over stuff and throwing each other around. It’s fantastic. A TV show today would be hard-pressed to do a better job.
Perhaps it’s the realism that causes Dr. Russell to look so horrified. I’m kidding. She looks like she’s on heroin. And from that blank look, we go to… credits.
There’s not much to talk about with the credit sequence for Space: 1999. It always consists of clips from the episode we’re about to watch, which I hate. Plus, it’s false advertising. The clips almost make it look like something actually happens over the next hour.
The next minute is taken up with shots of the Eagle landing. The puppeteer lowers the model onto the table, and the world gets a step closer to Blade Runner.
The hatch opens, Commander Koenig grabs his briefcase, and… stands there. He just stands there motionless for five full seconds. It may be that he’s supposed to be contemplating the enormity of his mission, but I think he’s having an absence seizure. A stagehand pokes him and he finally leaves.
Bergman meets up with Koenig to tell him that things are far more serious than he knows. “People are dying up here, John.” This leads to the greatest conversation in the history of television.
Bergman: The virus infection.
Now imagine those two lines taking eleven seconds.
Something beeps, and a door opens onto the Bridge, or Command Operations, or whatever it’s called on this show. What? It’s called Main Mission? Well, that’s just stupid.
Koenig wastes no time relieving the current base commander, a guy named Gorsky. That was harsh. But to his credit, Gorsky takes it well. Even though this means they now have an unemployed guy just hanging out on the moon. In any case, good luck, Mr. Gorsky!
Koenig and Bergman have a conversation about… Holy crap, their uniforms are tight. They are so tight. You can see Martin Landau’s breasts here. I’m not kidding. Barry Morse is at least a B cup.
Everybody greets Commander Koenig, as we get our first look at Main Mission. And it is huge. It’s not crowded, mind you. There are maybe nine people working at a big square desk. This leaves, literally, acres of unused floor space. Not only that, Main Mission has both a sunken living room and a balcony. Because it’s just that easy to build stuff on the moon. That’s why Apollo 15 had twenty foot ceilings.
Also, I know plastic was a pretty futuristic material back in the 1970s, but these people are basically sitting in lawn chairs. There’s no way around it. These are the kind of chairs that sell for $17.50 apiece down at Target.
Koenig and Bergman hop up a couple steps into Keonig’s office, which is cavernous and white. It looks like the old guy’s bedroom at the end of, oh, say, 2001. And now I think they really could have saved themselves a lot of time and effort if they’d just bought the rights to the movie and hired the cast of Mission: Impossible to introduce it.
Bergman breaks the news that he thinks the Meta probe astronaut virus infection is neither viral nor an infection. Discuss. He says it resembles radiation poisoning, except there’s been no sign of a radiation leak. They then proceed to have another conversation about the importance of launching the probe to Meta. Koenig says, “It’s as though this is a TV show and that planet is the thing driving the action!” Bergman responds, “That is so Meta.”
Koenig then goes off to find Dr. Russell. Seeing as how he’s been discussing a medical issue with an astrophysicist for several minutes, that’s probably a good idea.
In her office, Dr. Russell’s body is in the last stages of rigor mortis. A remote control on her desk beeps, and her zombie corpse picks it up. The remote has a little one-inch TV screen embedded in the end of it, where Commander Koenig, in black and white, asks to come in. She points the remote at the door, which then opens onto the first meeting between Commander and Doctor. And they have… no chemistry whatsoever.
You know how people debate whether Pacino and De Niro were ever really in the same scene together in that movie? This is just like that, except it’s quite clear that Barbara Bain’s character is just a mannequin in the wide shots. And the medium shots. And the close-ups. No wonder these two got divorced. After 36 years of marriage and two children, Martin Laundau realized he and Barbara Bain had never met.
Incidentally, Landau divorced Bain in 1993, and won an Oscar the following year. Bitch was holding him back.