RETROSPECULATIVE TV: Space:1999 : "Earthbound" (Season 1, Episode 5)

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Ah! The return of Commisioner Simmons. Simmons is complaining that they are doing nothing to return to Earth. Well, he's right. They are more concerned with surviving right now, but thanks for asking, Mister Simmons.

A powered, manned object comes into range just as they are letting out their weekly board meeting. It hard-lands on the moon, so they head out to rescue who or what lies within the spacecraft. In a nifty bit of tech, the Eagle leaves the center module behind while it returns to Alpha. The Alphans do some good due diligence before they attempt to enter the craft. On entry, they find aliens that look like the glam rock equivalents of Spinal Tap in plastic cases. They're in suspended animation. So, naturally, they pump the ship full of air ,turn on the gravity generators and start drilling holes in the cases. Suddenly, there's activity in the case that Dr. Russell is using the power drill on… there's explosions in the case, smoke and charred alien. This wakes the others up, one of whom is played by Christopher Lee, looking like Saruman in face paint. He doesn't look happy about the charcoal briquets now in the place of one of his fellow travellers.

The Aliens fly their ship to a launch pad. As they disembark, they meet Commisionioner Simmons, who is a colossal jerk. Captain (Saruman) Zantar is gracious, as he realizes that the death was caused by ignorance, not malice. They were headed to Earth, but their computer was supposed to enter a lunar orbit before landing on Earth. The computer didn't figure on the Moon being out of orbit.

Commissioner Simmons desperately wants to kill the aliens and seize their ship. Koenig thinks that Simmons is a jerk. The aliens are willing to take one Alphan back to Earth, and naturally Simmons wants to be that one… although he'd rather (still) just take the alien's ship. Koenig is going to have the computer pick out the best person for the job. Simmons insists that he would be best, because he's a pain in the butt piece of supercargo. Koenig agrees (loudly), but says that he'll take his chances like the rest of the Alphans.

Meanwhile, in the tradition of Science Fiction from the dawn of time, Helena has decided to test the aliens stasis process on herself. Captain Zantar explained that freezing just doesn't work well for suspended animation (in a burst of actual sound reasoning that amazed me), they use a time/stasis process to suspend life. Naturally, it doesn't quite work as well on humans as it does on the aliens, and she gets 'stuck'. Apparently Alpha's computer does not understand the human spirit, whereas Zantar's does… and this has bearing on the process. They accidently put her in a deeper sleep than anticipated. They are able to bring her out of it, though.

Simmons gives John his one last pitch at going home. During this exchange, Simmons swaps Koenig's comlock for his own. While the others are distracted, he grabs a stun gun and makes a dash for the Alpha Power station, unnoticed.

Koenig has Kano kick the passenger's name out of the computer… but exactly at that time, Simmons holds Alpha hostage to get that passenger slot.

After discussion, Simmons is allowed to go. He is taken to the ship, where he lies down in the stasis pod. The ship takes off, heading for Earth. While in space, Simmons wakes up, as the process was not calibrated for him. He's now condemned to death in a little plastic box. The irony is that the computer chose Simmons….

Observations;

Okay, that was much better than 'Ring Around the Moon'. The acting, directing and the story was much better. Although a bit predictable, this episode had some genuine, bona fide scientific reasoning in it… and the aliens were well thought through. I'll let the whole "Our computers can measure the human spirit" thing slide… he may have been limited by the British language as to what that actually was supposed to mean….

Christopher Lee got to don the Saruman wig a few decades early here. His portrayal of Captan Zantar was refreshing. Scenery was not chewed, but the character showed quiet strength, wisdom and morality.

Some things that I'm beginning to notice about Space:1999 in general. Their security force (although actually sort of present in this episode) is useless. They need a refresher course in tactics, immediately. I also note with amusement that they almost NEVER cite units for their sensor measurements. At one point in this episode, Sandra says that the alien ship's speed is "3.2". Three-point-two whats?

Meters per second? Miles per hour? Furlongs per fortnight? Seriously, if there's a measurement of any kind on this show, odds are it's going to be in the Nonunit system.

Overall, though… this was a pretty cool episode, and it got rid of dangling plot thread Simmons.

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