Friday, March 12, 2010

Space:1999 Y1 Ep6: Another Time, Another Place

Judy Geeson, as Regina Kesslann, is a lovely highlight. She's officially the first babe alert of Space:1999.
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It's FAB FRIDAY! [and all things of yummy goodness in the world of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson.]
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A thought occurred to me. It happens from time to time. It would seem The Sci-Fi Fanatic is a bit of a faceless entity out there in cyberspace, but the truth is alot of me appears packed into these thoughtful entries, or at least, I hope they come across thoughtful. The fact is, I make efforts to capture the moments in science fiction, the scenes in the classics that mean something to me or touch me in some way. These moments reflect either a feeling from my past or something that rings true in my present. It's a reflection of who I am and what I feel I suppose. Truth be told, I'm a rather regular fellow. This is a time to escape and be free inside the fantastic. The clips and images captured are those that have moved me and shaped who I am and how I respond. So, I may not be the most prolific of writers, but I try to bring you quality. And in these entries are always a little something about me. As always, thank you for reading.
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Here we are with the latest installment of the forever classic, always underappreciated, unfairly maligned Space:1999. Things have been a little slow to lift off. We're looking for that special entry to turn up the nuclear propulsion system and get things moving for this Eagle. Thunder... Eagles are go!
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The Moonbase Alphans begin to hear something. Everyone inside the station is tossed to and fro. Strange gravitational forces are at work. Electrical malfunctions begin kicking up across computer consoles. Strange lights inhabit Moonbase Alpha. Once again, all is right with the world of Space:1999. It wouldn't be Space:1999 if mystery didn't pervade its cold lunar landscape positioning our dear Alphan hearts and minds with questions and instability.
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It's worth noting that the visual look, camera effects, angles, slow mo and lighting techniques are uniquely derived from the mind of Director David Tomblin. They are notable here to be sure in achieving his desired affect on the station of our moon residents. These unique and special, and I do mean special, [camera] effects would prove more prominent and even more successful fused into Space:1999, Year One, Episode 9, Force Of Life. A beautiful blond Alphan runs desperately about in panicked confusion, but is grabbed by a concerned Dr. Helena Russell. Duplicate images of the moon and of the characters begin to appear with one exception, our sweet, young, blond Regina Kesslann played by the gorgeous Judy Geeson.

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An image from the creative mind of late Director David Tomblin.
Welcome to the always intriguing, sometimes nightmarish, dark isolation of Moonbase Alpha. This is the seemingly haunted world of science fiction that is Space:1999, Year One, Episode 6, Another Time, Another Place.
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Another Time, Another Place would be the first of three strong collaborations between Writer Johnny Byrne and Director David Tomblin, both of whom have since passed away. In fact, Byrne and Writer Christopher Penfold are largely and arguably responsible for a good portion of Space:1999 Year One's strengths. The Alphans begin to regain consciousness. Commander John Koenig asks what happened of Professor Victor Bergman. Bergman's answer, as only Bergman can deliver, "I have no idea." Star Trek always had answers, but here we are often in the dark, in the darkness of our inability to understand while in the darkness of space. Bergman does indicate their position in space has changed. Regina Kesslann remains under medical care. Koenig is informed by Russell that everyone is recovering except Regina. Oddly, her situation is deteriorating. "What's happening to us out there in space is beyond explanation," expresses Koenig concerned. This single thematic line emphasizes the driving force at the heart of the series' science fiction. The mystery and inexplicable wonder of space are the forces at work and in play against our dear susceptible Alphans. Geeson is an authentic beauty.

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The Alphans believe they have travelled to another galaxy or should I call it, another time, another place? Kesslann awakens in the Care Unit and clearly appears tormented indicating everyone is "dead," but then relents and agrees with the calming Russell that they are not dead. Was it a dream she wonders? Her skin, too, has also been affected by the event indicating a physical affect as much as a mental one. Dr. Russell notes the affected skin areas are actually sunburn. Russell tells Koenig and Bergman she is living a "fantasy existence" as if life on Alpha no longer exists. She is living a life as if exposed to open air. Russell reports she also believes Koenig and Alan Carter are both dead. Kesslann is in mourning. Bergman hypothesizes the event may have affected time due to travelling faster than the speed of light. Could she be internalizing a past or future life now? Bergman wonders.

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In Alpha Main Mission, Koenig has David Kano run diagnostics on some of the nearby planets via Computer. The third planet is Earth. To say the expressions on the Alphans' faces were looks of joy and relief would be an understatement. They are indeed given new hope. Paul Morrow begins radioing Earth. Moonbase Alpha is just 45 hours out. Carter is anxious to Eagle off to Earth, but Paul is adamant something is wrong. Earth is not responding to their communications. Meanwhile, Koenig says, "We've guessed at all kinds of disasters." Bergman replies, "And we're still guessing." Bergman admits they have no idea what has happened to Earth since the Moon went out of orbit. Koenig admits, "a space phenomenon we don't understand shifts us billions of light years across space. As incredible as that is, I accept it." I like that line, because it speaks to the premise of the show and how things transpired to establish the Space:1999 mythology in Breakaway. Many critics ridiculed the logic in it, but fans of the show, like myself, echoed Byrne's sentiments as spoken by Koenig and simply accepted the premise as the vehicle to discovery. Why not? What was all that believable about Transporters? A Klingon race? Tribbles? A fleet of Federation starships? This particular entry has a great deal to offer regarding the guiding philosophy of the series as constructed by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. The Alphans simply have no clue about the things in play and simply must go along for the ride. Star Trek simply gave us technical mumbo-jumbo and wah-lah, all better by episode's end. This is discussed in greater detail in John Kenneth Muir's book, Exploring Space:1999. Koenig is simply astounded at the odds of being replaced into Earth's orbit and believes it must be by more than chance. "There's a logic to it somewhere John," comforts Bergman. This is the sad, grim, dark reality of the series. There are quite simply no easy answers. Here is the scene between the two principals.

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I really like Bergman's final line there. Despite all of our advances and our genius as a race, ultimately we are Earthbound, no matter how hard we try to be somewhere we're not meant to be. We may be explorers, but I believe Bergman's pragmatism may be correct. It's like a fish wanting to fly. It just can't. It goes against what is intrinsic to a fish. So why should a human know anything in this vast pod of space never having swim there?
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Dr. Russell tends to Regina in the Medical Unit. Kesslann works herself up and pleads to see Carter who arrives. In her mind, Alan is her husband. This is a great moment between Carter and Koenig displaying Koenig's skepticism over the reliability of their dear Computer. Alpha's lack of faith or confidence in technical solution plays a part. Why shouldn't it? Computer hasn't exactly had a great track record thus far.

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What a terrific wide open shot of the Main Mission set in that clip. Carter visits Kesslann. She is ecstatic to see him. She begins losing her emotional head. She's a bit of a nutter now. Russell subdues her with the classic Space:1999 state-of-the-art insta-shot. No needles. Russell informs Carter, Regina believes he is her husband. In Main Mission Bergman informs Koenig there have been major geographical changes to the Earth. They are radio mapping its surface. Koenig reports to the lunar residents of Alpha over the intercom that the Moon is slowing around the Earth's orbit and they may soon begin Operation Exodus. A reconnaissance probe will be dispatched.
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Nice shoes.
In the Medical Section, Kesslann wakes to an eerie cloaked image of herself, hands extended. She witnesses the image alter between herself and that of a skeleton. She is seriously disturbed by this omen of things to come. She swings a piece of equipment in her fear and suddenly knocks out a tending nurse. She is on the run and she is wild. An Alphan approaches her and he is knocked unconscious too. The bad news: Kesslann now has his weapon. She is a woman on the verge.
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In Alpha Main Mission, Earth orbit is confirmed and everyone rejoices. Joy turns to serious concern as Regina Kesslann enters the room with a stun gun. She sees duplicates of everyone. She screams in agony and drops the weapon running into the arms of Carter. Her unconmtrollable pain makes her entirely sympathetic. She is letting go. She tells Carter "I knew you didn't die." Though it's not entirely clear, Regina Kesslann dies and is taken away by Carter and Russell. Later, Bergman reports to Koenig that the Earth's access has moved five degrees. As a result, Bergman points out Europe is now in a state of ice age. Desert climates rule North America. There appears to be a small parcel of land capable of sustaining life in North Western Mexico.

The always classic thermographic medical scan. 'The Woman With Two Brains'
Russell reports to Koenig and Bergman, a thermographic scan indicates Regina is suffering from as much a physical abnormality as a mental one. She has "two brains." What!? It's actually a bit funny to hear Bergman say it, well, because it's bloody ludicrous. It gives new meaning to two heads are better than one. The writers really should have come up with a better idea here. There's no way it's physically possible to exist and function, let alone have a brain physically grow in a matter of days. Thus the writer just can't suspend this viewer's belief and pull it off. Paul indicates there is another Moon on the other side of the Earth. Moonbase Alpha is also picking up a signal from, wait for it, another Moonbase Alpha. Bergman indicates they may have caught up with themselves.

Another beautiful modelling shot of a crashed Eagle.
Koenig has Carter lift off in an Eagle to investigate this alternate incoming Moon. He lands the Eagle and Koenig and Carter find a base that is essentially abandoned and desolate. It appears Operation Exodus may well have already transpired here. Koenig suspects personnel may have exited to Earth. Looking outside one of the base windows, a crashed down Eagle is spotted. Koenig and Carter venture to the crash site and find two dead men in the cockpit. The deceased men are Koenig and Carter, but they are not decomposed. The two dead versions of Koenig and Carter are brought aboard their own Moonbase Alpha. Koenig asks Russell how their other selves died. She indicates the Eagle crashed roughly five years ago, but their bodies were preserved in a space vacuum. Russell believes the rest of the Alphans may still be alive in Santa Maria on Earth. Russell cautions Koenig to investigate Earth before initiating Operation Exodus. They have legitimate concerns that what happened to Regina may happen to them. Still, it had to be slightly eerie for Helena to cover a dead John Koenig with the sheet.
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Bergman works with Kano and Computer indicating the Moons are on a collision course with one another. Given that information Koenig demands that Phase 1 of Operation Exodus begin immediately. Russell urges that Koenig and Carter be the only ones to investigate Earth first. Russell must go to provide atmospheric testing. Bergman suggests his colleagues are heading back into "future time." I couldn't help but notice the sweeping score arrangements from Barry Gray in this entry. He really infuses the show with an epic, cinematic scope.
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The Eagle has landed. Koenig, Russell and Carter head out onto the planet's surface. This is a terrific exterior shot of our team exiting against some splendid matte work of the Eagle. Still, it looks so real giving the appearance that someone might have actually built a genuine lifesize scale Eagle.

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Note the dark foreboding score that really sets the tone and runs throughout the series. The Alpha team arrives upon a site that looks uncannily like the painting created by the late Regina Kesslann. A man exits the hovel-like building in what looks like a druid's uniform or cloak. The man is Bergman. He looks to the Earth skies and sees two moons. Bergman shakes his head, "it's happened." How does he know what he knows? Koenig stands up from the bushes. Bergman says, "you've come back." Around the side of the home, Carter does a bit of Peeping Alan. He spots a domesticated Benes by a stove and fire. Russell approaches to peer in the window. She, too, sees her other self preparing dinner. The alternate Russell turns and the two Russells make eye contact. Benes screams. The alternate versions of Paul Morrow, David Kano and others run to their aid. Alternate Paul is stunned to find Koenig with alternate Bergman still alive. Later, alternate Bergman explains that the Earth is empty, perhaps yet to be born, but it is not the place they once knew. Alternate Bergman explains to Koenig that all of the Alphans have dispersed throughout the valley for economic reasons. Two children run from the forest to an elated Commander Koenig. The children are the offspring of alternate Sandra and alternate Paul. Way to go Paul. Sandra is a little hottie! Of course, for the females, if you are partial to mustached men, Paul is your man. Koenig tells alternate Bergman, "that's a tremendous challenge, to bring back life to a dead world." The alternate Alphans have sacrificed much to survive. This is a sweet bit of acting between Barry Morse and Martin Landau.

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Carter visits the grave site of Regina Carter. Alternate Paul tells Carter about the event. Six days later alternate Regina died. Carter indicates their Regina died as well. Carter believes it to be quite a coincidence. Alternate Paul indicates to Carter it is "hardly a coincidence" and walks away. Carter is a great representative for me, because I'd be as befuddled about the whole thing as him.

A fine performance by Barbara Bain and Barbara Bain.
Later, it's Bain versus Bain. Russell visits alternate Russell. Russell tells herself they were somehow the same person once. Alternate Russell tells Russell she married alternate Koenig. Of course, he died. Alternate Russell knows this Koenig is with Russell and reveals to the real Russell that her own time is nearly over. Russell implores that she not die. Alternate Russell sees herself as "returning" back to Russell somehow. Alternate Russell says goodbye. She sees John. She walks out and kisses him before collapsing as Kesslann did before her. Russell is a little shaken. Of course, it's a little odd to see yourself die in front of yourself. The alternate selves insist that if Koenig brings his people down they will all die. Koenig implores that he must or his people will perish on the Moon. Now this is quite the conundrum. Who should live and who should die? Tensions rise. Alternate Bergman intervenes thanks to the unusual good grace of Barry Morse as Bergman.

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That's a terrific, thoughtful piece that brings full circle one of the best Space:1999 stories of the season thus far. The actors really deliver the drama and aside from a few minor quibbles is certainly a solid piece of science fiction writing by Johnny Byrne.
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In space, the Moons are nearly upon one another. The Alphans await their fate wondering apprehensively if a correction will occur. The events that unfolded in the opening happen once again. As the Alphans emerge all appears to be right again. Their separate beings have been reunited. They are one again. They are whole. Carter wonders if the others survived. Koenig reinforces what I believe, "Did they ever really exist?" The final image is of Bergman holding some orange flowers suggesting they just might have indeed. You'll recall alternate Bergman pruning them on the Earth below.
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Space:1999 does have its share of strong, thoughtful endings.
It's ironic. There's almost a sense of relief for the Alphans who return to Moonbase Alpha. Despite having Earth in their grasp they are relieved to be back on Moonbase Alpha, their new home away from home. This is where they belong. All is right with the universe in this case. There's a real philosophical debate going on underneath it all. This whole idea of belonging and where we belong is in play. It's all what we make of a situation. This episode delivers a solid script and a solid overall outing for Space:1999. This is one of the best to date.

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Another Time, Another Place: B
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Writer: Johnny Byrne
Director: David Tomblin
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The Philosophy Of Space:1999: "What's happening to us out there in space is beyond explanation." "A space phenomenon we don't understand shifts us billions of light years across space. As incredible as that is, I accept it."
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Turning the pages of John Kenneth Muir's Exploring Space:1999, the author calls Another Time, Another Place a "splendid example" of the "alternate universe sub-genre." It is an original take on the concept. Science fiction loves to delve into the alternate universe arena, sometimes too much. It can be a real bore. Some are more successful than others. Space:1999's attempt is entirely unique and original to me as far as "alternate universe" tales go.

Muir mentions earlier in his book that Barbara Bain had been maligned somewhat as an actress for her role in the series in some circles. He accurately points to her "subtle" turn in this particular story that aids in delivering it on an emotional level. She plays herself in two different timelines and her alternate self is ever so slightly different from the real Helena Russell. "The real reason for the story's success is Barbara Bain's performance in her scene as both Dr Russell and her older, sadder counterpart. ...Thought provoking, emotionally involving and very mysterious." She does do a marvelous job with those subtle character points. She also struck a better balance here than she managed in Matter Of Life And Death after learning her husband was still alive. She was almost in a state of shock then. Matter Of Life And Death would have been more successful if it was more emotionally involving. At that time, it's possible, the cast was just getting warmed up.

Muir discusses with command the connection of this episode with the final episode of Year One, The Testament Of Arkadia, which I cannot comment on at this time. We will make a point to return to this thought at that time. One of the overarching themes throughout the series Muir points to, is that cosmic forces are at work driving Moonbase Alpha to some kind of destinty outside of human control. There is, without a doubt, evidence in a number of episodes that point to this hypothesis. Black Sun is a terrific example of this which he discusses to an extent within that entry.

Finally, Muir points to the positively ridiculous concept of "two brains," which I pointed out earlier as well. He calls it the "only significant scientific flaw." He's right and he offers a better solution to this sequence. Byrne really should have come up with a more plausible concept or idea. It doesn't work. It's as goofy as it is inexplicable.

Special Guest Star: Judy Geeson [1948-present]. English born. Geeson's career has been varied despite never achieving the acclaim she probably deserved. On film, she appeared in To Sir, With Love [1967] opposite Sidney Poitier. She would reprise her role in To Sir, With Love II [19996]. Not unlike Clifton Jones who provided a voice in Richard Adams' Watership Down [1978], Geeson provided voicework for Richard Adams' The Plague Dogs [1982]. Both animated films were directed by Martin Rosen. She has appeared in film and television most notably Murder, She Wrote, The A-Team, Hotel, MacGyver, Star Trek: Voyager [Twisted & The Cloud], News Radio and a recurring role on Mad About You [1992-1999].
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Director Footnote: David Tomblin [1930-2005]. English born. Like Charles Crichton, Tomblin was an accomplished director who really placed his stamp on his work for Space:1999. He originally directed entries for The Prisoner [1966], U.F.O. [1970] and The Protectors [1972-1974] before joining the two year run of Space:1999. Tomblin handled direction chores on four episodes in Space: 1999 Year One and none in Year Two. He later went on to assist Director Richard Marquand for Return Of The Jedi [1983]. He also worked on The Omen [1976], Superman [1978], The Empire Strikes Back [1980], the first three Indiana Jones films, Out Of Africa [1984] and Bravehart [1995].
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Writer Footnote: Johnny Byrne [1935-2008]. Irish born. Byrne was a writer, poet and script editor. He began writing for Science Fantasy Magazine in the 1960s. He was a writer and story consultant on All Creatures Great And Small. Apart from his uncredited input rewriting for Space:1999, Byrne's thoughtful work can be seen in Matter Of Life And Death [co-written], Another Time Another Place, Force Of Life, Voyager's Return, End Of Eternity, The Troubled Spirit, Mission Of The Darians and The Testament Of Arkadia from Year One. He also penned The Metamorph, The Immunity Syndrome and The Dorcons in Year Two. He scripted eight stories for Space:1999 Year One and three stories for Year Two including the season opener and the final two that would close out the series' run. He wrote for Doctor Who including the penultimate Tom Baker story The Keeper Of Traken [1981] as well as two Peter Davison stories, Arc Of Infinity [1983] and Warriors Of The Deep [1984]. Johnny Byrne was an inspiration to writers the world over like Author John Kenneth Muir who often pays tribute to him on his own blog John Kenneth Muir's Reflections On TV/Film and in his book Exploring Space:1999.
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Fellow Author/ Writer/ Space:1999 Script Consultant and partner-in-arms behind the formulation of Space:1999's mythology, Christopher Penfold, had some kind words about his old friend Johnny Byrne in FAB #33. "When I was looking for new writers for Space:1999, I approached Johnny Byrne because I knew he was a sci-fi writer... I knew that he was also a writer who would fit my first requirement, which was that the writers should be good dramatists with a real interest in exploring human emotions. And so Johnny came to work as a writer and eventually became absolutely a right-hand person for me and we had a very successful kind of relationship. Johnny brought a terrific sci-fi enthusiasm to the series. He brought a very vivid imagination and the authority of somebody who was already well-versed in sci-fi, which I wasn't, and his contribution was extremely valuable."

4 comments:

John Kenneth Muir said...

Sci-Fi Fanatic:

Great review! I loved this piece. What a great tribute to a wonderful episode!

And I just want to add one little notation, for Johnny Byrne. He informed me during one of our conversations that it was actually Gerry Anderson who demanded the insertion of the "Two Brains" dialogue in "Another Time, Another Place." Johnny cringed every time he saw that scene, or heard that description! Just like we do! :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Wow. That is really terrific insight and brings that odd, little segment into focus.

It really did seem out of place to the rest of Byrne's script here. But, right or wrong, such is the luxury of a decision by the likes of producer/ creator Gerry Anderson. I suppose, despite his genius, he couldn't always get it right. :)

Still, your input is helpful and makes a bit of sense. Anderson always demonstrates a flare for the fantastic and maybe, at times, the unbelievable, and this "two brains" bit definitely fits within his MO [modus operandi]. Byrne was more science fiction and mystery, but even that seemed to stretch his willingness to part with logic. Byrne clearly works outside of formula, but this was pushing it. :)

Thank you for the kind words too.

chrispy said...

I LOVE reading your posts. You are a good writer. Keep it up.

christopher

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Wow. Thank you. What a pleasure to wake up and find some words of encouragement. Inspired. I really appreciate it.