VIDEO: Space: 1999 “Earthbound”

Tom recaps another first season episode of Space: 1999, the British sci-fi show where the moon gets knocked out of orbit and somehow becomes capable of interstellar travel! In this episode, special guest star Christopher Lee is an alien who brings the Winger hair and a possible way home for the crew of Moonbase Alpha.

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TV Show: Space: 1999

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  • Muthsarah

    I feel like you’re cutting the clips so short that we, the viewers, can’t quite grasp just how bad the episode is*. Sure, it seems like mostly pointless talkfullness, but for those of use who have suffered through TNG Season 1 (and even defended it…in our more desperate moments), it would take some powerful combination of preachiness and clunkiness to blip on our radar. You could totally review “The Last Outpost” in ten-second intervals and prolly make it seem watchable; it’s having to sit through 40 minutes that make it so painful. I’ve gathered, from my own diligent research, that the 1970s weren’t exactly the apex of the sci-fi genre, so I don’t doubt that this show (which I hadn’t heard of prior to this review) is prolly pretty bad. But….I dunno if this was your intent, I suppose, odds are, it was quite the opposite…this review makes me want to seek out this show and see what it’s like. Since I never heard of it an’ all. I know you said it’s a bearable (or watchable, or otherwise non-seppukuable) episode, but it seemed you were rendering a general verdict on the show as being crap. But the production values seem decent, almost up there with ST:TMP. And anything talky and boring is automatically intellectual, right? Doesn’t seem like such a sin.

    Then again, anything that can include Christopher Lee and waste him, absofrigginlutely deseves scorn.

    Anyway, I still wanna see some of this show. Maybe that wasn’t what you were going for, but, negative review considering, you still raised my interest. An “intellectual” sci-fi show is at least worth a look, given the dedicated brainlessness to which we’ve become accustomed.

    * – Of course, the more painful the moments you include, the more painful the review itself risks becoming. This is understood.

    • danbreunig

      That’s kind of odd how you may have missed hearing about this one, since this is one of the biggest classic (at least cult classic) sci-fi shows out there.

      I would recommend watching a few more episodes to get a better feel, since very few eps by themselves can give the whole experience justice. I will warn you that this is a very dated show–it’s made in the mid 70s and it really shows in production and effects (no problem for me though, since I actually love dated entertainment in nearly all forms). And it’s definitely a sign of the times, which is that very questionable point in pop culture history when sci-fis were all over the place in tone. This was the time between two extremes: the end of the biggest sci-fi TV property Star Trek, and before anything involving the name Star Wars. In the middle you get things like Dark Star, Zardoz, Damnation Alley, Logan’s Run, etc.

      This is also the biggest show by Gerry Anderson, who’s more famous for kids’ action/adventure/sci-fi shows involving puppets and models, the most famous of those being Thunderbirds (these shows were very obviously spoofed in Team America).

      As for the show itself, season one was more about drama while season two was more about action, and between seasons one major character dies off while another major character is introduced. There will be occasional campiness and regular sci-fi tropes, such as how any and all alien species immediately know English and some eps involve warring peoples or a whole planet as one race/government/religion–but this show isn’t generic or pointless. The whole premise is a community/city on the Moon which perpetually drifts through space, and the cast has to deal with the above tropes as well as looking for potential new Earths to settle on and gathering what resources they can along the way–that itself makes it a non-Star Trek.

      Also what makes this a true 70s sci-fi is that the emphasis is less about effects (standard for their time) and more about characters and plot. Yes, there may be 90+% talking and no action, but the little bit of effects and action when they kick in really balance that out. And if there are moments when it seems to drag, just remember that the original series Star Trek often had the same feel–that’s how sci-fis were then.

      So yeah, I recommend watching at least a few more in order to get a better grasp on the show altogether. Who knows, you may enjoy and prefer the change of pace from a vintage sci-fi show to the run of the mill sci-fis out now. Hope that all helps. Space 1999!

      • Muthsarah

        “That’s kind of odd how you may have missed hearing about this one, since
        this is one of the biggest classic (at least cult classic) sci-fi shows
        out there.”

        Again, I ain’t never heard of this show before. I’ve never been in the geekstream, FWIW.

        “I would recommend watching a few more episodes to get a better feel,
        since very few eps by themselves can give the whole experience justice.
        I will warn you that this is a very dated show–it’s made in the mid
        70s and it really shows in production and effects”

        I’ve seen Logan’s Run. I’m OK with datedness, as long as it’s still entertaining. I’ve seen Thunderbirds as well, though I was convalescent at the time, so I didn’t have a lot of options (bedridden in Glouchestershire an’ all). I laughed…whether at it or with it, I still laughed. I was born in the mid-80s, so I understand how datedness works (I’ve even seen things I’ve grown up with reduced to datedness before my eyes and before younger generations, so I can appreciate where the older generation is coming from).

        I’m not a TOS apologist. A show needn’t measure up to its example (mostly because I never felt TOS was anything special) in order to be good. Yeah, I am now quite curious to check out this show, Season 1 TNG comparisons notwithstanding. I do understand and appreciate what the state of sci-fi was in between 2001’s technical brilliance and Star Wars’ overall wonderfulness. It was an odd era; you felt you needed to have a certain level of effects to impress, but all the effects you could manage were still crap, so you still needed to lead with the script itself. It’s a campy time. Yeah, I’ve already made a note on my handy rent-a pad-o-paper to check the series out, if my local video store (and I have an awesome video store) has it in stock.

      • Thomas Stockel

        When I was putting this recap together I was going to go into the history of the Andersons and their past productions (I planned on showing clips of Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds, as well as the Team America theme song: America, fuck yeah!), but I was going to go over my self-mandated fifteen minute limit (this recap was three seconds over. It…irks me.), so what I am considering doing before I recap a second season episode is to discuss what led up to the creation of the show, the problems with season one and what was changed to get a second season.

        • danbreunig

          That would be a worthwhile approach. Space 1999 could get more explanation and background from the history of the man (or man and then-wife duo) behind it. He’s had some knack for models, in the live action shows as well the puppet-based series. Since I consider this the artistic and commercial peak of his career, I’m sure there’s a lot in the background to cover. And the truth is I’m not such a big G. Anderson fan–well, I am but for specifically just two shows: hands-down Space 1999 (really one of my favorite TV sci-fis ever), and his biggest puppet show of the 80s Terrahawks. I tried watching some Thunderbirds and they just didn’t incline me to want to watch more like those two did.

          And I may as well say it: I’m glad someone got Space 1999 video-reviewed on the Booth (for better or worse). It can get rather cumbersome when we collectively talk about science fiction and it’s nearly all about Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and anything after the year 2000. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all those–it’s just that there’s much more out there, with `99 as one such example.

    • Thomas Stockel

      In terms of how good or bad Earthbound is, it is actually one of the better Space: 1999 episodes. The problem with the three intervening episodes between this one and the pilot, Breakaway, were they were either mind-numbingly dull or nigh-incomprehensible. I suppose I could have tried sitting through one of them but I guess I was being selfish and instead wanted to do an ep. I actually liked.

      In Black Sun Earth’s Moon is about to be sucked into a singularity and sooooo much of it is people talking. There is no B plot and that was one of the show’s weaknesses in that there is Koenig, Russell and Bergman. There is no effort to give Alan, Mathais, Kono, Zienia, or Paul any real character development and that hurt the show.

      Matter of Life and Death has Russell’s dead husband come back from the dead and Barbara Bain sleep walks through the episode. And then people die and she wishes them back to life. Because.

      And Ring Around The Moon has John Koenig pulling a Kirk and talking a computer to death. But it takes forever to get to that point.

      Season one has a lot of problems like that; boring and/or incomprehensible episodes. And some were even laughingly bad, like The Full Circle where Alphans become cave men. For good or at least watchable episodes there is Death’s Other Dominion with Brian Blessed (although I kept asking myself why the Alphans have cold weather gear. Seriously, they’re wearing skiing outfits!), End of Eternity, The Last Enemy, The Infernal Machine, Mission of The Darians and Dragon’s Domain. So, seven episodes out of twenty four. Okay, I’ll throw in Alpha Child to make it a third, although I kept asking myself where the five year old got his clothes.

      I don’t have a problem with a show being intellectual; The Motion Picture is my second favorite Star Trek movie, after all. I just think that the writers would deliver these episodes that just throw science out the window and don’t even try and explain things sometimes. And that simply isn’t good science fiction. Don’t ask how the guy is being haunted by his future self, or how the woman can have two brains in her head, just go with it.

      I highly recommend you read Jordon Davis’ recap of the pilot, Breakaway. I loved how he described the series as a whole:

      “As Star Trek grew in syndicated success and 2001 grew in critical acclaim, it was only a matter of time before somebody asked the fateful question, “How can this crap be combined?” Was it possible to blend the cokehead scientific insanity of one with the pothead philosophical insanity of the other?

      Oh, yes. It was. Space: 1999 proved it.”

    • Renville

      Muthsarah, you should be made aware that SPACE:1999 regularly shows up on “Worst Sci-Fi” lists, and has been considered bad from the day it premiered. Now, I like sci-fi TV from every decade and many countries, from “Star Trek” and “Tales from Tomorrow” to “Blakes 7” and “Ultraman,” but 1999 is impossible to like.

      Much has been made of the scientific inaccuracies in the series, and defenders of 1999 are quick to point the finger at other shows, but no show has been as wildly and egregiously off the mark as 1999. If you allow every show using artificial gravity, faster-than-light travel, sound in space and a few others, the errors in 1999 are uniquely ridiculous. These will sound like nitpicks, but here’s some examples:

      An explosion on the moon’s “Dark Side” hurls it away from Earth and through the galaxy… somehow slowing near planets, but going from system to system easily. Moonbase Alpha, a space research facility, is somehow supplied with instruments, vehicles and equipment for planetary exploration, with no shortage of resources. The 211 inhabitants remain a constant despite people being killed off every single episode. Almost every alien race wants to destroy them, and not a single alien is surprised that a moon is sailing like a cannonball through space. Imagine if you were on an interstellar craft, and suddenly a moon came speeding your way – your reaction would be “The hell…?” Instead, every single character has to ignore the very nature of the premise of the series.

      There’s some talk through the first season that a Mysterious Cosmic Force is behind all the shenanigans – but this MCF basically caused every tragic event to happen. Too may episodes have John Koenig irrelevant to the story – a crewmember or alien has the upper hand, and then somehow does himself in (Look at this “Earthbound” – Koenig could be unconscious at the end).

      Anyway, there is a devout and loyal fan base, but nothing really unified (some call the show intentionally bad, while others start spewing vitriol at the drop of a hat). I think most episodes are easy to find online, so have a look for yourself.

  • The_Stig

    Watch what you say about Christopher Lee. He shed the blood of 4000 Saxon men, and his spies are everywhere.