Space: 1999 “Breakaway” (part 4 of 6)

We’re back from a commercial for whatever they were selling in 1975. Maybe it was this:

Caption contributed by Jordon

”The Altair 8800: You Can Use It to Rip the Fabric on Your Pool Table… And That’s About It.”

In some reused footage, the two volunteers are tooling around Area Two in their moon buggy. Meanwhile, Koenig, Bergman, and Collins watch from a little outbuilding somewhere nearby. Like every other room on this show, it has several large windows and enough floor space to hold a Bar Mitzvah.

Caption contributed by Jordon

What’s the only thing better than an oscilloscope? Two oscilloscopes!

The astronauts remove the seals from one of the radiation molehill covers. Just like in 2001, there’s no sound during the space scenes. Just like in 2001, this is scientifically accurate. And just like in 2001, it’s extremely boring. Except for two beeps, there is no sound for 31 seconds. Yes, I was so bored I timed it.

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The radiation levels are normal. But as Koenig watches the monitor, Collins starts to twitch again. They cut back and forth between the astronauts doing nothing and Collins twitching. Bergman and Koenig brood about the lack of radiation, until Collins finally blows a gasket. He freaks out and tosses Bergman across the room. Then he hits Koenig with a chair, which I’m completely in favor of.

Collins bashes a window with his helmet, and the window spiderwebs almost instantly. This supports my theory that Alpha wasn’t originally designed as a moonbase; I think they just reused the plans for a ski hotel in Whistler.

Space: 1999 "Breakaway" (part 4 of 6)

Koenig and Bergman try to restrain Collins, but he throws them off, toppling over an oscilloscope in the process. A gun falls to the floor, and Koenig picks it up and… oh, come on… stuns him. A stun setting? Really?

Caption contributed by Jordon

Why don’t they just paint Frank Gorshin and get it over with?

Everybody runs out of the room before the window breaks. Koenig has to fumble with his little remote control to close the door. “Knobs? Where we’re going, we don’t need knobs.”

The window gives way. And the director takes the time to film all of the glass being blown out onto the surface of the moon, along with some papers and various gasses. That was exciting. It would have been more exciting if Koenig had actually been in the room, but still, showing us what the void of space can do to paperwork makes for darn good television.

Sometime later, Koenig is back at Main Mission, giving orders in a slightly faster than normal voice. It’s good to see the action is finally picking up.

Koenig very nearly jogs into his office. And then he broods. He’s back to brooding. After a couple of minutes, he calls down to sickbay to get a status report. They tell him that Warren, one of the astronauts from the cold open, has died. Yes, Koenig actually had to call down and ask before they told him one of his crewmembers died. Dr. Russell apparently thought this was the kind of information she should keep to herself.

Down in sickbay, Russell asks the computer to “verify that last report”. The computer, which surprisingly is not voiced by Majel Barrett, tells her the following: “Stage 5 mutation complete. All brain activity stopped. Cell life sustained by artificial life support systems only. Conclusion: astronaut Eric Sparkman deceased.” I think Dr. Russell really needs a computer that can just tell her that a guy is dead.

Space: 1999 "Breakaway" (part 4 of 6)

Dr. Russell broods for a while, although her “brooding” is consistent with most definitions of “asleep”. She turns off the heart-lung machine, and Sparkman goes from mostly to completely dead.

Caption contributed by Jordon

I don’t know, Captain Pike looks pretty good to me.

In whatever room Carter works in, Koenig is telling him about all the dying going on. But Carter’s more concerned about the Meta probe. Martin Landau switches from brooding to forceful. “Forget the probe, Carter. Before we do anything more, I’m gonna find out why those two men died.” Ten minutes ago, he made a deal with Simmons to launch the Meta probe. So I guess that’s out the window? My only hope is that Simmons starts sending up extra nuclear waste in retaliation.

In his huge empty office, Koenig has gone back to brooding. We know he’s brooding, because not only is he sitting there motionless, but we hear voices echoing in his mind, repeating lines of dialogue from earlier in the episode. On the one hand, I understand why this is a cinematic convention. On the other hand, we’re hearing clips of people saying things that we just heard them say. Now that’s good TV.

An unspecified period of time later, Koenig is being briefed in Main Mission by Officer Token Black Guy. I’m not kidding. This character didn’t even make it from the pilot to the series. They replaced him with a different character, but that character was still played by a black guy. So this guy is like the Thurgood Marshall of the moon.

Space: 1999 "Breakaway" (part 4 of 6)

Justice Marshall shows Koenig that the flight recorder was working perfectly until they arrived at Area One. And the thing that he claims is the flight recorder? Is an oscilloscope.

Koenig immediately demands Pornstache check all of the flight recorders. So Pornstache turns around and delegates this task to someone named Sandra. And Sandra’s thing is that she’s Asian. The cast photo for this show looks like an ad for a community college. Diversity!

Caption contributed by Jordon

Earn your degree at night! Come see our black guy!

Later, Pornstache is telling Koenig stuff he really should already know, about standard moonbase operations. Somehow, Dr. Russell is suddenly behind him. She’s like a ghost… in every way.

So, not only did the nuclear waste pilots fly over Area One all the time, the Meta probe astronauts did too. Sandra interrupts to say that there’s been a steep rise in heat levels at Area One. Well, it’s about time. For a show about the moon being blown out of orbit, this episode has a tremendous lack of the moon being blown out of orbit. It’s been 27 minutes of utter tedium. I for one am ready for some moon blowing.

So the temperature at the waste dump is going up. Koenig finds a couple of seconds to brood before asking to see Area One on video. There’s a nice shot where a big, fake, color viewscreen is superimposed up above both the live action and small, black and white screens. It’s technically impressive, better than anything Star Trek ever did, and yet still really boring.

Space: 1999 "Breakaway" (part 4 of 6)

On the screen, there’s lightning crackling around Area One. Everyone in Main Mission looks on in horror. Koenig broods, “It’s incomprehensible… heat without atomic activity.” Considering that the definition of heat is atomic activity, I would say that’s an understatement. If Koenig means heat without atomic decay, though, he’s completely wrong. Earlier today, I heated my Pepperoni Pizza Lean Pocket to a temperature approaching the earth’s core without the help of any atomic decay whatsoever.

Bergman walks in unhurriedly. As he’s consulting the big, fake, color viewscreen, the cameras burn out and they lose visual contact. Koenig orders Pornstache to send an Eagle out to Area One to see what’s happening. What’s happening is that the status of the moon is about to change from “satellite” to “projectile”.

And I thought Koenig was sending someone else, but it turns out he’s piloting the Eagle himself. Everybody’s watching him in Main Mission, and Bergman finds a table to lean against.

The Eagle gets hit with lightning, and here, it seems the vacuum of space has now gained the ability to propagate sound. Koenig gets bounced around for a while before declaring an emergency. They unsuccessfully try to control the Eagle from base. Then Koenig has to switch to backup systems. Then he inflates the autopilot.

Koenig crashes on the moon! And then Area One blows the hell up! It’s great. I mean, the pyrotechnics look like they were rendered on an Altair 8800, but it’s still great. Big musical sting, downed spaceship, afterglow of a nuclear explosion in the background, commercial!

Caption contributed by Jordon

Model, sand, black sheet with pinholes in it, flashlight. Sorry to ruin it for you.

At long last, the moon has blown up and we can get this TV show start… What’s that now? What do you mean the moon didn’t blow up? I just saw it blow up. Don’t tell me it didn’t blow up. Is this one of those Lost things? Is Sawyer a cop?

Jordon Davis

B.A. Political Science, SUNY Albany - 1991
Master of Public Administration, University of Georgia - 1993
Juris Doctorate, Emory University - 1996

State of Georgia - 1996
State of New York - 1997

Fields Medal (with Laurent Lafforgue and Vladimir Voevodsky) - 1998

Follow Jordon at @LossLeader on Twitter.

Multi-Part Article: Space: 1999 "Breakaway"

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