Friday, March 19, 2010

Space:1999 Y1 Ep7: Missing Link

A beautiful shot of my favorite space vessel, The Eagle. The violet planet, Zenno, set against the vast darkness of space with The Eagle in the foreground is a genuine beauty. It's one of the many things I love about Space:1999s eerie ability to create a sense of isolation.
Friends, grab your stun guns, it's FAB Friday! [and a look inside the creative minds of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson].
The bird goes down. White Eagle Down.
The latest entry is an allusion to the concept of the missing link in evolutionary theory. This refers to the missing transitional lifeforms that somehow bridge the gap between one evolution to another, like primates to humans.

The entry opens with some terrific shots of space and a wonderful miniature shot of Moonbase Alpha. For a show that is decades old, it still looks positively stunning! Paul Morrow reaches out to Eagle One. Commander John Koenig is returning to base with Alan Carter, Professor Victor Bergman and Sandra Benes. They were descending to a nearby planet's surface when suddenly without their control their speed accelerated. Koenig and company feel the g-forces pulling them toward the planet's surface. Bergman indicates all readings point to normal sustained g-forces despite the experience. Bergman indicates whatever it was "it wasn't anything we know about." Exactly, this is the world of Space:1999. Bergman can only stand puzzled like the rest of us and right alongside those perplexed on-board computers. Our heroes never know what to expect in outer space. It is simply a mystery best summed up by Bergman's often confounded remarks. Koenig indicates all power was needed to break away. Suddenly, without warning, the Eagle loses power and all control systems. You have to appreciate traditional special effects and the resourceful ingenuity of them. They are breathtaking.

Prepare yourself for the latest installment of Space:1999, Year One, Episode 7, Missing Link. Missing Link may be best remembered as the vehicle featuring special guest star Peter Cushing. Yes, THE late Peter Cushing of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Grand Moff Tarkin fame and acclaim. He makes an appearance right here in our latest entry of the oft-slighted, but wonderful Space:1999. Gerry Anderson had some considerable sway and pull to call upon a host of talents throughout his series' run.

The hydraulics, yes, another Eagle money shot.
Paul tries to contact Koenig and company. Computer, which has access to their life signs, locates them in a crater 100 miles from Moonbase Alpha. Three are alive, but Computer has lost contact with Koenig. He's flatlined on the readout. Paul has Dr. Helena Russell get a medical team over to launchpad seven. There is an extra nifty close up of one of the legs of the medical Eagle lifting off. We get a real good look at the shock absorbing hydraulics and the uniquely identified Rescue or Medical Eagle. The team also heads over in their classically designed, bright orange Moonbase gear.
Oddly, as the Eagle lifts off, we witness Commander Koenig motioning to them from the Moon's surface, yet he's unconscious on the Eagle. This show is definitely a mind trip. Back at the crash site, Carter regains consciousness. Carter reports from the downed Eagle to Moonbase that Koenig is badly injured. An ultra hot babe receives his communication [unimportant trivia I know]. Meanwhile, the roving Koenig has entered a Moonbase air lock. Paul reports to Russell that Koenig is still alive, but injured. Russell is en route to the location. The conscious Koenig, no doubt a spirit of some kind, is inside the travel tube and attempting to contact Paul and Russell, but there is no response. A ghostly humanoid image fades in and out behind Koenig as he wanders inside Moonbase Alpha.
Back inside the crashed Eagle, Carter tends to Bergman and Benes. On Moonbase, Koenig enters a vacant med lab. It's like a ghost town. He looks at the vital signs illustrated by Computer's monitors. Benes is fine, but he notices his own vitals are flatlining. Koenig is clearly undergoing a kind of out of body experience in his current comatose state.
At the crash site, the Rescue Eagle lands.

The Freighter Eagle.
Koenig meanders about portions of Alpha, but appears out of sorts. He is beginning to sense a kind of otherworldly experience, literally in this case. Koenig sees a humanoid female apparition in colorful garb fade in and out.
At the crash site, Russell is uncertain of Koenig's condition and he needs transportation back to Alpha for proper medical care. Carter requests a Cargo or Freighter Eagle. The team plans on separating the Eagle's Command Module from the Service Pod and Superstructure so the section can be detached for lifting back to Alpha.
Moonbase Alpha.
On Moonbase Alpha Koenig attempts to contact Paul, but it is an exercise in futility. He reaches Main Mission and finds, it too, is empty. All instruments are functioning. The instruments are on, but no one is home so to speak. The room begins to spin around Koenig. The technique is perfect transporting Koenig and the audience to another place. He is now in a yellow-illuminated room greeted by one Peter Cushing who wishes Koenig an enjoyable stay on the planet Zenno. He assures Koenig that he is not experiencing a dream. Zenno is in the Triton Solar System, five million light years from Earth. Yes, Moonbase Alpha and its residents are a long, long way from home. Koenig informs the humanoid being that Computer had informed him that all planets were lifeless in the region. Of course, the alien indicates those readings were by his design. These are indeed superior beings. These are Zennites. All that is needed or desired is created by their minds. Poor Computer is always at the whim of foreign forces. Zenno is their home and made of light. Koenig is shown the city of light. "Light is alive, color is alive. Magnificent." Indeed, the designs, matte work and overall look of Space:1999 never ceases to move me. Even contemporary shows could learn a thing or two from the creative team behind Gerry Anderson's projects. The alien, played by Cushing, is Raan, Koenig's host. "This must be a dream," admits Koenig. Here is a clip referencing my earlier thematic allusion as suggested by this installment's title, Missing Link.

I believe "permanent guest" might be equitable to prisoner here. Yes, Raan believes Koenig is the missing link of the Zenno people. Koenig trusts he may be slated for experimentation like nothing more than a human guinea pig. Raan's daughter, Vana, does not believe her father will do such a thing. She indicates Raan would merely read his mind. In other words, he will mentally violate Koenig for his needs. Things get pretty intense in this moment between Vana and Koenig. Koenig demonstrates he is unwilling to stay.

Meanwhile at the crash site...

The Freighter Eagle connects with the Command Module of Eagle One. Charges are accurately set to dislocate the head of Eagle One for its return to Alpha. Koenig is safely removed back to base.
Back on Zenno, Raan informs Koenig he will be returned to Alpha for part of his first experiment. A mental projection of Bergman tends to Koenig and informs Koenig he's been unconscious for two days. Bergman informs Koenig Sandra Benes has died. Bergman assures Koenig Russell tried everything to save her. Unfortunately, all is not right with this particular version of Alpha as created by Raan. To make that clear, Bergman's reaction is out of character and quite unnerving. It's a terrific moment.

The terror and rape of Koenig's mind continues...

Simple, but effectively horrifying.
The experiment is ultimately terrifying. This is not pretty stuff and Koenig is put to the test. Raan's use of violence from the ancient books fascinates. A fellow Zennite feels Koenig's mind should be neutralized. Raan believes not. He feels Koenig must have free will and free choice in responding to situations. "His reactions must be true." Raan wants to see Koenig's response to violence. Questions of free will and human decision are often posed within the frightening framework of Space:1999.
Back at Alpha, the real Alpha, Bergman and Russell monitor Koenig worried for him in his comatose condition. Bergman asks why John? Why not him or someone else? Russell answers somewhat cryptically, "it may simply be John's time to die." This is not feel good stuff. The Space:1999 universe is never sugarcoated with warm fuzzy answers or easy outs. The cold, harsh and even ghostly reality of space is constantly in play against the Alphans. Author John Kenneth Muir points to comments made by Writer Johnny Byrne about the Alphans essentially being the pilgrims of a new world in space, a new frontier of sorts. This umbrella element certainly embraces the series' sense of discovery and hardship in nearly every installment in unique and interesting ways.

Back on the new world of Zenno...

I love Space:1999 philosophy. On Zenno, Koenig is visited by Vana. Koenig explains to Vana that her father's experiments are steeped in deception. He claims scientists often claim there is no deception in their work when often the reverse is true demonstrating the commander's skepticism with science. "The end justifies the means," believes Koenig. Koenig confronts Vana about life and death, and hate and love, probing her for what she feels as a Zennite. Vana notes Koenig is refusing his meals. He is fasting in defiance of his imprisonment. Vana wishes Koenig's free will would open his heart to Zenno.
On Alpha, tensions are high as Kano reams out a fellow Alphan for spilling coffee. Paul comes to her defense. Paul is thinking he and Kano should put on space gear and take it outside.

David Kano is a bit of an ass in that scene, but he is an uptight fellow. In the Medical Unit, Russell, in what seems like an odd medical decision, applies shock treatment to the comatose Koenig. Is that really a good medical decision? She means business and thrusts her hands forward with real strength. He writhes in agony too. To make matters worse she raises the treatment three points and that could kill him she's told. She commands do it anyway. The torture ceases. She begins pounding Koenig's chest attempting to gain some response from Computer regarding his flatlined vitals. It's a fairly emotional moment for Russell who is left without results. The moment highlights the subtle fact she loves Koenig and is deeply upset about his condition. She's beginning to realize he may just die and it's tearing her apart inside. She masqued her pain earlier on, a common character trait for Russell, and now it's beginning to show.

A touching moment from actress Barbara Bain.
It made me wonder. If Koenig was to remain on Zenno, would his physical vessel back on Alpha need to remain alive for him to exist there? I believe so. Should the Alphans pull the plug, I suspect it would be over. Vana discusses Raan's work regarding his experiments on Koenig and makes an exceptional point about the variables in the study. Vana believes Raan will not truly understand the human race based upon his experimentation, because the controlled variables are in conflict. A. The images presented to Koenig are unreal. B. His reactions, "though honest," are therefore unreal too. "His blood is our blood," Vana proclaims, because, in essence, if he is the missing link, he is an ancestor to the Zennites. Vana feels because Koenig is an individual they do not have the right to exploit him. Vana has an affection for Koenig and Koenig likewise for Vana. Raan asks Vana if he should send Koenig back, but Vana is confused. Could this emotionless denizen of Zenno be experiencing something called love?

Vana reappears in Koenig's accomodations. There is distinct chemistry developing between them. Vana wants Koenig to stay. Koenig kisses the alien skinned Vana. Captain James T. Kirk would be proud, but he has a taste for green skin over gold. Heck no, who am I kidding? Kirk will try any woman with a pulse.

On Alpha, Sandra speaks with Russell about Koenig's condition. Sandra implores Russell not to allow John to die. Russell believes he is already dead in his current state. Sandra pleads with Russell to wait. I was a little surprised Russell was so ready to pull the plug on Koenig. Would you not hold out hope that he might just one day snap out of his coma? It happens. There are documented cases.

On Zenno, Koenig seems to be accepting his fate and enjoying his time with Vana. He considers the possibilities of "a world without fear." Vana wishes to be united with John as one. Nice. Raan disapproves calling the merger "impossible." Raan believes Vana is still too young. Koenig wishes to stay with Vana. Raan delivers Koenig the stern Grand Moff Tarkin treatment.

On Alpha, Paul expresses the tensions among Alphans over Koenig's status. Bergman tells Carter, "we need a leader." Bergman recognizes the uncertainty of what has happened to Koenig is affecting the residents. Carter is hot-headed in his reaction over who will lead. Carter believes as long as Koenig lives and breathes he will be the commander. It raises a great point about leadership and the need for it in society. Without it, order ceases and chaos reins.

Nice score Commander. Kirk who?
On Zenno, Koenig and Vana engage in their exploration of love. The two kiss again. Life on Zenno is good. Raan disrupts the proceedings by bringing Sandra Benes before Koenig. Koenig is happily cozying up with Raan's daughter. Suddenly Raan is not so keen on his new ancestral connection. Koenig does not believe it is truly Benes. Benes knows he wishes to stay on Zenno. Did he have a choice? Originally, he did not, but now it would seem Raan has had a change of heart and is prepared to see him go. Raan gives me the answer to my earlier question. Must Koenig's physical body survive on Alpha for him to live on Zenno? The answer is no, but his physical vessel is dying back on Alpha and Raan will not be able to sustain it much longer if he plans on returning. Benes urgently informs Koenig Russell is going to disconnect his life support system. Benes assures Koenig she will explain to Russell what she has seen on Zenno. Raan springs the bad news, Benes will not remember a thing and that Russell must make her decision uninfluenced. Koenig doesn't trust Raan. He points out Raan had brought Bergman's image before him on Zenno. Why would this representation of Sandra be any different? But Sandra is real implores Vana to Koenig. Raan inquires, "which one do you choose now?" Koenig is torn. Surprisingly, in the end, Raan allows Koenig freedom of choice. Sandra looks upon the city on Zenno and imagines it to be a dream. Koenig tells her it is not a dream.

On Alpha, Russell prepares to end John's life. On Zenno, Koenig makes the decision to return to his own people and his own time. Vana wishes to go with him, but Koenig explains Vana must stay with her people. Koenig tells her to bridge the gap, make the link with her heart and mind. Vana will try. It seems a deficiency within the Zennite people. The missing link of the installment is as much an emotional link as an evolutionary link that is missing here. "Do not forget me," Vana tells Koenig.

On Alpha, Russell has decided to end it. Carter stops the decision and engages in a brawl with security. Carter is definitely a balls to the wall Aussie fighter prepared to let the fisticuffs fly loyally protecting Koenig. If I was playing Dodgeball I would pick Carter for my team. No question about it. "You're not gonna kill him," he struggles looking back at Russell as he is subdued. It would seem Carter has given Koenig just enough time to get back to his physical body on Alpha. On Zenno, Raan indicates the experiment was a failure. He is grateful to Koenig for what he shared with his family. Koenig feels he has learned that it is still more important to feel than to think. "It is the perfect balance between the two that must be achieved." The two part with a civil goodbye. Both worlds have much to learn in striking up this balance and making the link between the heart and mind.

On Alpha, Russell turns off life support only to see Koenig return in a nick of time. It's a sweet, final melodramatic moment. Technically, Koenig never really physically cheated on Helena either if we're counting.

Missing Link delivers another thoughtful, heady episode that ranks as one of the strongest entries to date. It strikes just the right balance of physical and character drama to entertain the heart and mind.

Missing Link: B
Writer: Edward DiLorenzo
Director: Ray Austin

In Exploring Space:1999, Author John Kenneth Muir dubs Missing Link the biggest "romantic story" in Year One of Space:1999. I suspect this may be as hot as it gets between the male and female characters. So if you're looking for a plethora of Kirk-like womanizing you may need to keep an eye on Star Trek: The Original Series. You won't find that here. Muir points out the strengths of the entry are found in both the romantic and philosophical facets. This balance of character chemistry and ideas is precisely why I think the installment worked so well.
Muir points to the terrific camera work under the direction of Ray Austin. True, Austin spreads his wings a bit and serves up a much more improved visual entry over his first appearance on Ring Around The Moon. Though, Austin cannot be faulted for the aforementioned material that still remains the flattest of the series to date. There are some genuinely peculiar angles that add to the disorienting atmosphere of Koenig's journey. Interestingly, the scriptwriter behind Ring Around The Moon, Edward DiLorenzo, also salvages his reputation by returning with Austin here. DiLorenzo's Missing Link, while philosophic and pensive, is far more comprehensible than the esoteric and seemingly impenetrable story found in Ring Around The Moon.

Muir also points to Koenig's initial walk through a vacant Alpha as far too lengthy. The walk is seemingly endless and we get the point long before it has concluded. His greatest analysis of the entry is the parallel established between Zenno and Alpha. Alpha is filled with emotion and volatility in comparison to Zenno, which is essentially sterile and devoid of emotion. He makes this point and the juxtaposition throughout the entry is well established.

Special Guest: Peter Cushing [1913-1994]. British born. Cushing, for me, will forever be best known as Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars [1977]. As an actor, his career is distinguished. He also played Dr. Who in two non-cannon Doctor Who films in 1965 and 1966. He appeared with Doug McClure in Edgar Rice Burrough's At The Earth's Core [1976] directed by Kevin Connor [who would also direct two episodes of Space:1999 in Year Two]. Cushing's filmography is huge. He worked extensively for Hammer Films as Dr. Van Helsing and more. He often appeared opposite actor and friend Christopher Lee who appeared in Space:1999, Year One, Episode 5, Earthbound. And without further adieu, Peter Cushing, as he will always be best remembered, the infamous Grand Moff Tarkin and that wonderful Darth Vader choking sequence featuring actor Richard Le Parmentier as Admiral Motti.
Do you lack faith and if so, is it disturbing to you?
In the trivia department, American born British Actor Richard Le Parmentier [1946-present] will be best remembered as Admiral Motti. Le Parmentier would marry British Actress Sarah Douglas. The two appeared together in Superman II and The People That Time Forgot [1977] by Director Kevin Connor. The two were wed briefly from 1981-1984. Douglas would appear in Space:1999, Year Two, Episode 12, The AB Chrysalis. Le Parmentier would appear as a guest in Space:1999, Year Two, Episode 21, Dorzak. Fellow Star Wars castmate David Prowse would also appear as the creature in Space:1999, Year Two, Episode 14, The Beta Cloud [a personal favorite]. Prowse also appeared in The People That Time Forgot. Folks, does the web get any more tangled?

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