Friday, 7 October 2011

Episodes to Savour - Space 1999 - The Infernal Machine

In 1999, the moon is rocked by a series of explosions, is hurled out of orbit and goes through a 'black sun' to emerge in a distant part of the universe. The staff of Moonbase Alpha encounter many strange things as their wandering moon passes by new planets tha might provide them with a home.

SPACE:1999 is not a great show. The scientific illiteracy of the whole thing (it takes a week to fly past a planet and yet they'll find anohter one nearby soon, what speed are they travelling at?) makes much of it laughable and the introduction of some terrible monster suits in the second series really don't help.

First series episode The Infernal Machine, however, transcends all of that with a simple tale of two travellers who arrive on the moon. One is an old man who is dying. The other is the seemingly all-powerful sentient spaceship that he is companion to. The ship wants a bit of nuclear fuel and a new companion.

Now all-powerful beings with the emotions of children are ten-a-penny in TV science fiction, but this is lifted by a superb central performance from the redoubtable Leo McKern. As the dying companion he is full of weary humanity and as the giant machine he is al arrogance and, eventually, grief and loss. Barry Morse's character Victor is also given a rare chance to really shine.

All of the other good things about the show (costuming, set design, special effects, Eagle spaceships etc) are well up to snuff, but this is an episode about characters, about the need for companionship and about grief and loss.

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