Are you ready to blast off into space with the premiere science-fiction television adventure of the mid 1970s? An adventure with terrific special effects, an A-list cast, and thoughtful, thought-provoking stories that moved past the "monster of the week" cliche of SF TV? Well, too bad. Instead you might want to watch SPACE: 1999, the show I would have watched as a kid, except that the first time I watched it, a giant monster scared the livin' hell out of me, and I noped right out of that one.
As befits those concepts welling forth from the brain of Gerry Anderson, there was a metric space-ton of licensing for SPACE: 1999, including toys, comics, toys, magazines, and more toys. Excavation of 1970s era sandboxes will reveal, for instance, a surprising number of abandoned plastic and Dinkytoy Eagles. One licensor was the fine comic book publishing house Charlton, which released not only a SPACE: 1999 comic book but a SPACE: 1999 magazine featuring longer, less colorful SPACE: 1999 stories that do their best to imitate the well-crafted yet inherently stupid atmosphere of SPACE: 1999.
Now when I say "inherently stupid" what I mean is that the premise of SPACE: 1999 is that a nuclear explosion on the Moon blasts the entire Moon out of orbit and into deep space at such an incredible velocity that the Moon itself is able to travel to other star systems and galaxies in a matter of weeks. Even as a kid I knew there was something wrong with this setup, a little thing called "the speed of light". Not just a good idea, it's the law. Regardless, the gist of the story is that every week the entire Moon gets close enough to an alien planet to allow three of the woodenest actors to climb aboard one of those great looking Eagle spaceships and visit the new alien planet, interact with Christopher Lee or a sexy bird lady or, I dunno, Valentine Dyall or Brian Blessed or, hell, you pick the British actor, he'll be in the show. Then after their adventure, in which nameless crew members die horribly while our heroes survive, they blast back to Moonbase Alpha before the Moon goes away again. So we're clear? Now let's begin our exciting SPACE: 1999 story before I have to type SPACE: 1999 again.
The Moon is... hey, it's not orbiting anything any more, why are we still calling it "The Moon"? Anyway, they're closing in on another planet and already alien UFOs are attacking! It's up to Commander Straker to... sorry, wrong Gerry Anderson show.
What kind of bloodthirsty aliens attack without warning? I mean, humans do it all the time, but aliens? Why, they're giant bees. I DON'T believe it, THEY'RE giant bees, she said, emphasizing the wrong words. KILLER bees to be precise, says the doctor, who can tell exactly what kind of giant space bees are attacking after seeing them on a TV screen for five seconds. Killer space bees that will exterminate every living thing in their path, just like the killer bees we have on Earth that kill everything!
Luckily, Moonbase Alpha has a fleet of missile-firing spaceships that you can purchase at any fine toy store that carries Dinkytoys, and strangely enough, rocket propelled explosives seem to be perfectly able to deal with insects. In fact when this comic book was published I believe I was also battling insects this way, shooting bottle rockets at yellowjacket nests. With a similar degree of success.
The entire staff of Moonbase Alpha erupts in joy as their spaceships squash bugs. Well, gotta take those victories where you find 'em, I guess.
Doctor Victor here is one of those great TV doctors who not only treats people, but also dissects gigantic alien bugs with confidence. Here he tells us he's discovered how they fly through space. He won't actually EXPLAIN how they fly through space, but trust me, he knows. He also knows how they got so big, it's because they have lungs. Hey, WE have lungs, why aren't WE giants? Why can't WE fly thru space with our amazing lungs?
Immediately it's decided that they'll investigate the alien planet, leaving Moustache Guy behind to not get killed. Seriously dude, the three stars of the show are blasting off to the killer bee planet, and you know THEY aren't gonna get killed, what do you think's gonna happen to YOU down there? Sit back, have some Moonbase Alpha coffee, comb your moustache, count your blessings.
By the way there were no delays and lift-off went according to schedule so here's a panel of the Eagle blasting off. We spent a lot of money on these model kits, we hired Derek Meddings at great expense to shoot all this great special effects footage, so we're going to show it as much as possible.
Once down on the alien killer-bee planet, Commander Stupid here immediately opens the hatch without bothering to look through the little peephole. Dude, you wouldn't do that at home, why are you doing it on the killer bee planet? Do you WANT Barbara Bain to get chomped in half by a giant locust?
Swiftly death claimed its gigantic prize. Yes it's dead, you silly woman, now come on and let's move away from here so that we can put you in some more danger!
From the looks of these ruins, it seems the artist just grabbed some travel magazines and started tracing photos! Now let's search the city from top to bottom for hours in a thorough but fruitless search that we could have performed in seconds using any one of fifty or seventy-five high tech gadgets we wear on our belts. SCIENCE FICTION ladies and gentlemen, the fantastic literature of the future starring exact reproductions of Earth buildings and people wandering around for hours aimlessly. AMAZING!
"What could possibly happen to me, the only woman on this science-fiction TV show, as I wander alone into this dark tunnel?" Why possibly she could plummet through the ominous, eerie, scary shadows, which also could be dreadful, horrid, or ghastly, depending on which edition of Roget's Thesaurus they have lying around Charlton's offices.
And of course on the planet of giant insects there must be giant spiders, because spiders are... not insects. But try telling that to people who think bees can fly in space because of lungs.
Commander Martin Landau uses all of his scientific knowledge and high-tech future wisdom to defeat the giant spider by poking it with a stick. Don't miss with that javelin, Commander, or you'll have to find a new co-star!
After escaping the giant bees, the giant locust, and the giant spider, our heroes now must face the amazing challenge of... let's see, just letting my eyes wander here, looking out the window, on the windowsill, ants. Giant ants!
Amazingly and unbelievably, with a side order of astonishing topped with inconcievable, the ant ISN'T trying to kill him.
It's NOT crushing him, it's GENTLY carrying him past that photo reference. Heaven only knows WHERE they're going, but be glad they're STILL alive. Emphasize the WRONG words in a SENTENCE to make dialogue very DIFFICULT to READ.
Let's see, who gets brain-tapped by the aliens to allow them to reveal their awesome secrets? Will it be the Commander? The Doctor? Oh come on, this is a science fiction story, why else do you think they brought Barbara Bain along?
So it turns out that this is a planet were ants rule over men, or would, if there were any men! You maniacs, you blew it up! Damn you all to ant hell!
"Thanks for the kind offer to stick around on the Planet Of The Ants while the lingering radioactivity kills us slowly and the giant locusts rip us in half, but I think we'll be moseying right along. If that's OK with you."
The most frightening aspect of this entire expedition is that what happened here could happen on Earth, mansplains the guy who WASN'T almost ripped in half by a giant locust or almost sucked dry by a giant spider. Why not let somebody who was actually in danger rank the fright here, Doctor?
And so our scary giant bug story ends, with a panel clearly showing that the scary giant bug planet was actually Earth all along, thanks to what I can only guess were some really confusing notes given to the artist. What alien worlds or space beings or regressed cavemen or disembodied brains or intelligent robots or horrifying tentacle monsters that grab victims, devour them alive, and then spit out their hideous remains await the intrepid voyagers of Moonbase Alpha? I for one will never know. One session with the horrifying tentacle monster that grabs victims, devours them alive, and spits out their hideous remains was enough for me.
(the episode is called "Dragon's Domain")
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