Sunday, November 23, 2014

Destination Moonbase-Alpha

The two-part SPACE: 1999 episode “The Bringers of Wonder” was re-edited into DESTINATION MOONBASE-ALPHA, a “movie” that was sold into TV syndication after the series had been cancelled. One of five SPACE: 1999 compilation movies, this one also was released by CBS/Fox on videocassette in 1985. For some reason, ITC changed the show’s setting to 2100 and used footage from the pilot to cobble together a clumsy prologue that explains the premise and main characters. It also dumped Barry Gray’s funky theme in favor of generic action music composed by Manfred Mann’s Mike Vickers.

The 311 men and women who operate and live on Moonbase Alpha have been literally lost in space ever since a surface explosion blasted the Moon out of Earth’s orbit and sent it drifting into uncharted space. After several years of no contact with Earth, the crew is stunned when a spaceship carrying many of their loved ones inexplicably appears. Everyone is so thrilled to see their siblings and fiancés that the question of how they could have appeared, particularly on a ship traveling faster than the speed of light—a physical impossibility—is glossed over.

Of course, the visitors aren’t human at all, but actually space monsters that resemble the Green Slime that have arrived to blow up the Moon’s nuclear waste dumps and kill the humans. Only the base commander, John Koenig (Martin Landau), can see the aliens’ true appearance, but because of a recent head injury he suffered, nobody believes him, and chief medical officer Helena Russell (Barbara Bain) places him in restrains.

Terence Feely’s purpose in writing the teleplay was likely to open up the lives of SPACE: 1999’s supporting cast and give the actors more to do by filling in their past lives. In this regard, it works, but there isn’t enough strong material to stretch to a two-parter (or a feature). Landau’s work is admirable, not only early on when Koenig flips out and acts crazy, but also in scenes opposite the monsters, where he has to make the audience believe they aren’t ridiculous. Producer Fred Freiberger appears to have had extra money to spend on the two-parter, but it must not have extended to the creature costumes, which look like slimy tents with one eye. They can glow like a firely though, which is fairly impressive and imaginative.

The climax, which takes place on the Moon’s surface and involves slow-motion fights and wirework, is directed very well by Tom Clegg (SWEENEY 2). ITC “produced” three more SPACE: 1999 movies for syndication and videotape (one was turned into an episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000). Another was made exclusively for Italy. SPACE: 1999 was cancelled in 1977 after two seasons.

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