Space: 1999 “Breakaway” (part 6 of 6)
Other stuntmen throw themselves around the set, pull stuff on top of themselves, and generally have a good time for a few more seconds. To my great satisfaction, a console explodes in Dr. Russell’s face. This doesn’t kill her, of course, because she’s undead.
Everyone is pinned to the floor. Bergman surmises that the moon is moving. A space station above the moon flings off two Eagle shuttles, and then explodes for reasons completely unrelated to science.
Carter, in his shuttle, is trying to hail Alpha. He says that the explosion is pushing the moon out of orbit. So I would guess this is the reason why he was sent up there in the first place.
Also, Carter’s shuttle is somehow keeping pace with the moon. Is that even possible? I don’t know. You couldn’t move the moon this fast without breaking it apart, so it’s really an unanswerable question. Actually, I’m a little surprised you even brought it up.
Carter is still bothering everybody on the radio. People can kind of lift their heads now, so Koenig is able to pull himself up far enough to hit a button and tell Carter to shut up. And then the explosion burns itself out and they stop accelerating. Koenig calls this “decelerating”, because not only does he not know how his own base works, he also does not know how physics works.
And that’s it. The moon just got blown out of orbit. Everybody stands up, says “that was weird,” and goes for a soda.
For the sake of completeness, Koenig has Pornstache check on everybody on the base. They’re all banged up, but more or less okay. Sickbay reports that they’re sufficiently operational to accept casualties. That’s good, I guess. I mean, you don’t want them sending their casualties down to engineering.
Everyone in Main Mission is looking at satellite pictures of the moon speeding away from the earth. Is this a good time to mention that if there actually were an explosion on the far side of the moon, the moon would be driven into the earth, not away from it? I kind of feel bad pointing that out, but it’s not my fault the central concept of this show is nonsense.
Everyone wants to know if they can use the shuttles to evacuate to earth. So Koenig asks the computer. The computer doesn’t think much of the plan, reciting a list of undefined factors that include “moon on unknown trajectory”. I don’t know, calculating a trajectory seems like something a computer would be really good at. This one, however, appears to have been entirely programmed in Basic as follows:
20 PRINT “You’re Boned.”
30 GOTO 10
The computer gives up and says, “Human decision required.”
The decision is Koenig’s. And that causes him to brood. If you thought Martin Landau brooded before, you don’t know Martin Landau. He digs down, accesses his sense memory, deploys the Stanislavski Maneuver, and broods for the Oscar.
One full minute later, he addresses the entire crew. It’s a very long speech that basically makes the point that they’re safe and alive on the base, but they would die if they try to get back to earth. So he says, “we do not try.” Great commanding, Koenig. I hope the hydroponics bay grows… everything.
They fade out for the last commercial break. Maybe it was for a Dunkin’ Donuts ad starring loveable seven-year-old Mason Reese.
“And by 1999, munchkins will come in four flavors!”
Back from enjoying this breakthrough in donut technology, the cast watches a newscast from earth. It’s just a white guy sitting in front of a bland background with no graphics, still shot, video, or anything else. Which is not quite what news looked like back in 1999. What’s the best way to fail to predict the future? Don’t even try.
For reasons that can only be attributed to dumb luck, the newscaster correctly states that the loss of the moon has caused earthquakes around the world. He doesn’t have any pictures of this, of course, but I’m sure they’d look cool. And have John Cusack in them.
But in reality, the earthquakes would be nirvana compared to what would happen once the earth’s axis began to wobble, and the planet fell over on its side, baking one hemisphere in endless sunlight and freezing the other in eternal night. Also, The Office wouldn’t start for another five and a half years.
This is something I’ve always wondered about this show. Why were the Alphans always so desperate to get back to earth? They were scientists. They must have known that earth wouldn’t have been a great place to go back to. Like Chernobyl. Or Dresden. Or high school.
The transmission starts to break up as the newscaster reports that a rescue mission to the moon would likely fail, and (I’m paraphrasing here) “everybody up there’s probably dead, anyway.”
They lose the TV signal. Considering that the transmission is going the speed of light, I’m not sure the moon could really outrun it. To their credit, in the second season they mention that the moon fell through a wormhole and is now lost in some distant part of the universe. On a ship, a living ship… I. Miss. Farscape.
Searching for the signal, the crew finds a set of wavy lines produced by an oscilloscope. It’s a transmission from the planet Meta. Koenig is filled with something akin to hope.
“Maybe that’s where our future lies,” he says, in a line that should have come twenty minutes into the episode, “Maybe there.” Everyone exchanges meaningful glances, with the exception of Barbara Bain, whose glances are incapable of carrying meaning.
There’s a nice shot of Alpha as Koenig records his log in voiceover. Hey, did another sci-fi show do that? “September 13, 1999. Meta signals increasing. Yes, maybe there.” And… credits.
So that was the pilot. Nothing happened for fifty minutes, the moon got thrown out of orbit, and Martin Landau then got philosophical about it.
This is pretty much how the series unfolded. Every week, they’d encounter some kind of alien or planet or alternate universe or something, lose a couple of Eagles, and get philosophical about it. Responding to pressure to liven things up in the second season, they would later get rid of Bergman and a couple other guys, bring in a hot alien chick, and try to cram in a lot more action.
But no matter what threats the universe threw at them, Martin Landau and company would find a way to dig down deep and get philosophical about it.
Many people say they have fond memories of this show. I just don’t see it. I wish there were somebody I could turn to—an award-winning science fiction writer, maybe—who could tell me once and for all whether this show makes any sense. But that’s impossible. This was a two-season syndicated European import. It’s not like someone like Isaac Asimov could have anything to say about it, because he’s been dead for eighteen years.
Ladies and gentlemen, Isaac Asimov:
Asimov has a point. Somewhere along the way, someone should have told the writers that you can’t steer the moon.
Still, it made its mark. Because it was in syndication, nobody knows how many people ever watched Space: 1999, but the entire show could have been broadcast to one guy and been just as important. Because that one guy saw the show and realized that the effects he wanted for his next film really were possible. Two years later, the world had Star Wars and science fiction was cool again.