Moon Zero Two (1969): a recap (part 7 of 10)

Moon Zero Two comes in for a landing outside Farside Five. Oh man, I’m sooooo looking forward to this. I hope Farside Five has lots of strips with dogs, those are the funniest.


Oh, apparently Farside Five is a base, and not a collection of Glen Larsen illustrations. I’m more disappointed than you can possibly imagine. And judging by that sign, frame, and… are those things in front the posts cowboys used to tie their horses to?! Jesus Christ, now the facilities look like a Wild West movie knock-off. What’s next, are they gonna have Kemp strap on a six-shooter? Is making a space station exposed to hard vacuum out of wood even a good idea? What does hard vacuum do to wood? Okay, now I want to know the answer to that. Have any astronauts taken wood to space? Have they experimented with wood in vacuum and zero G conditions? Have they tested the strength of the wood, perhaps by pounding it? Have I taken this joke too far? If I have, I’m sure somebody’ll let me know in the comments below.


Bill and Clementine talk to Farside Five’s administrator, who says he hasn’t seen Wally in four months and hasn’t heard from him, but that it’s nothing new because of how crappy radio reception is in “the mountain country”. Bill asks if the man could at least relay a message to Wally, and the administrator says it’s not possible with some guys being in Moon City and another being “in hospital”. Y’know, if these guys are so isolated, it does make me wonder if there’s a fast way to come and pick them up. Well, there is Bill’s moon ferry, the only moon ferry in existence now. Which makes me wonder why the miners aren’t putting up more of a fuss about them being so isolated. Then I see the point when Bill asks the guy why he didn’t raise more of a stink when he didn’t hear from Wally, and the guy replies in a stage whisper away from Clementine, “You know nobody dies slow on the moon.” Yeah, somebody coming to save you in three hours or three days doesn’t matter much if you’re dead in three minutes after your air bleeds out of a puncture in your space suit. Still, Bill looks a little annoyed, likely because it’s a cool line and he didn’t get to say it.


So getting a message to Wally ain’t gonna work, and dropping Moon Zero Two outside Wally’s house is out too. Bill opts for plan three, taking a “bug”. The admin says one’s out and the other needs an overhaul, and he’ll need a thousand dollar deposit before Bill can use it. Bill hardly pauses before whipping out his space credit card like a boss. The supervisor looks annoyed, but he takes the cash anyway. Bill and Clementine head over to the buggy…


…and judging by how much money must have gone into the thing, I can see why they could only afford three extras for the bar fight scene. Personally, I love it; it looks functional, and unlike the moon lander knockoff that is the titular space ship, the buggy looks like somebody let the concept artist and production staff have some fun. As Bill and Clementine get in…

Wait a minute. Bill and Clementine are strapping in… without Bill checking the Moon Buggy out? The selfsame Moon Buggy the supervisor at Farside Five said was due for an overhaul? No fifty point inspection, no exhaustive checklist like any self-respecting astronaut would perform? Hell, Bill, you didn’t even kick the tires. Everybody knows you gotta kick the tires on a used car to check to see if it’ll run. That’s a clear violation of the Man Code, Bill, but we don’t want to emasculate you in front of a girl, so we’ll let it slide.

This time.

The scene switches to outside…


I’ve seen episodes of Thunderbirds with more convincing modelwork. Kemp hits a bump and Clementine falls forward and Bill scolds her for almost hitting a switch or something that could have possibly killed them. Maybe you should have given the don’t-touch-these-switches-or-else-we’ll-die speech before heading out into the environment where no one dies slow, Bill. Or maybe you should let Clementine drive, because in space you might be a piloting rock star, but on a solid surface you suck. Clementine shows which one’s an adult and which one is a petulant man child and lets it slide. She then asks how long it stays dark, and Bill says sunup is in forty hours. He further elaborates that its two hundred degrees below zero, and when the sun hits it’ll be “above boiling point”. Above boiling point of what? Water? Mercury? Wesley Snipes?


Bill assures Clementine that they’ll be fine; the Moon Buggy’s heating and cooling systems are working (you hope, Bill. You hope) and they’ve got the moon suits in back. Are you sure the moon suits are there, Bill? Did you even check to see if the tank is full? Anyway, I wonder if all of this clunky exposition is going to be significant later…

Bill and Clementine make small talk, and it turns out brother Wally is the kind of guy who thinks there’ll be a bigger score over the next hill. It seems he and Clementine’s dad were the same, only he blew himself up five years back digging for emeralds in the Andes. Sounds like Clementine’s the boring member of the family, which is to say she’s the one not looking for an exciting way to die. She asks if he’s the Bill Kemp who was the first man on Mars and he says he is, like he’s pleasantly surprised somebody other than space pilots remember that. She goes on to talk about how she was just a school girl when she first heard about Bill’s landing, and now I gotta wonder how young Clementine is supposed to be, or how old Bill is? I don’t know if it’s bad casting, or maybe ’60s people all look the same age to me: vintage. Clementine asks Bill why he gave it up, and he explains that “the company” is the one that gave up; after landing on Mars and Jack Harvey “got on Venus”…


Wait a sec. “Got on Venus”. I had to back that up to make sure that’s what Bill said, and yeah, he said it. Venus, with an atmospheric pressure some ninety times greater than that of Earth’s, the hottest planet in the Solar System? How the hell did Jack Harvey land? Did he ever make it off Venus? Suddenly that sounds like a much more interesting story than Bill and Clementine’s. But back to Kemp and his story. He says that after his and Jack’s exploits, “the company” changed their business model and went for profits over exploration. Hey, maybe Jack Harvey crashing on hellworld and the negative publicity that caused contributed to that decision? But to Bill’s credit, he does admit that it’ll take some new inventions for people to get to Mercury or Jupiter’s moons. Clementine compares Bill’s urge to explore with Dad and Wally’s urge to see what was over the next hill, but Bill counters that in his case, there is something over that hill. A lot of the conversation recaps a lot of what we already know about Bill, with him setting aside the snark for a moment, and rather than him sounding like some bitter tool like he did in the locker room early in the movie, he comes across more like a man who desperately wanted one thing and had to settle for another. It actually explains a lot of why he’s a bit of a jerk sometimes.

They get in range of Wally’s radio but he’s not answering, and Bill suggests he’s probably got it turned off… which to me seems like it would be a huge safety infraction of some kind. Turn it down, yeah, but switch it off? That’s like guys at Antarctica switching off their radio. Maybe Wally’s on the toilet, or he’s a really, really deep sleeper, or he’s outside prospectin’. Or he’s, you know, dead. But hey, at least Bill’s being a decent guy and he hasn’t even brought that up. A couple hours later, they arrive.


“Moon Fargo”. You know, like Wells Fargo, only…

…wait for it…

…on the Moon! God, I’m shocked that I’m now looking back at the point of the film where dancing girls were wearing oversized ten gallon hats and I’m thinking that was subtle compared to this. Okay, moving on. They sweep a spotlight over Wally’s “igloo”…


…but it looks deserted. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if a big loose ball of copper wire bounced across the scene like Moon tumbleweed. Bill decides it’s time to get into the suits. Awesome! That means we’ll finally get to see Catherine Schell slip out of her dowdy duds. And then Bill crashes my hopes when I see the Moon suits go over what they’re already wearing. No, damn it, you got it all wrong; I want to see Catherine Schell wear less, not more! It’s like the director is a Presbyterian minister or something. Clementine is anxious to get out there to go knocking on Wally’s door, but Bill tells her to slow her roll and instead explains he’s gotta show her how the space suit and equipment work. Yeah, again, might have been a good idea to do all that before you drove your asses a hundred miles away from known sources of air, Bill. And besides, wouldn’t you have given Clementine this whole speech before she got on Moon Zero Two in the first place? It’s like Bill’s got this whole safety thing bass-ackwards, and I’m shocked his name hasn’t shown up on that locker room memorial wall by now. I’ll give Kaminski credit for keeping his pilot alive.

Bill continues to get dressed, and then this happens:


Face, meet palm. Palm, face. Are the writers trying to tell us six-shooters are standard equipment for Moon Buggies? Do the writers realize how bullets work, and that they need oxygen for the gun powder to ignite? I guess I wouldn’t mind the scene so much if we found out this was Harry’s gun and Bill never gave it back, but Harry gave his gun to Hubbard, not Bill. (Sigh.) Okay, moving on. Bill finishes up giving Clementine the belated safety speech, the pair are suited up, and they head out to learn Wally’s fate.


Tune in next time, when we see what Bill and Clementine find. Hint: it’s a good thing that, like sound, scent doesn’t travel through space, either.

Multi-Part Article: Moon Zero Two: a recap

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