Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Eagle

The engineers behind the design of the iconic Eagle from Space:1999 built the ship comparing it to which living thing?

A. Gecko.
B. Bombardier Beetle.
C. Grasshopper.
D. Salamander.

I know Space:1999 fans have to be out there. Okay, this wasn't an easy one. I went with a question not so easily found on the internet. Heck, I didn't know the answer.

I happened upon this bit of trivia while reading Brian Ball's Survival [2005]. It's actually a strong little science fiction yarn centered around Professor Victor Bergman, played by the late Barry Morse [who provides the Foreword here], Commander John Koenig, Helena Russell, Alan Carter, Tony Verdeschi. Sandra Benes and David Kano appear along with his soul mate Computer too. The timeline appears to be somewhere between Year One and Year Two during the character changes. Paul Morrow is notably gone. So, it would appear to take place between Year One and Year Two. Anyway, it's making for a solid science fiction story with the added bonus of being populated by our favorite characters from the Space:1999 series. Ball even makes references from events within the series like Force Of Life and Ring Around The Moon giving the true fan of the series a bit of added fun.
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Without further adieu, the answer to the above question is referenced on Page 11 in Survival. ""The builder of the Eagle spacecraft once famously compared his unique design to a grasshopper," Victor reminded John." I was uncertain if that was old information about the Eagle or if Brian Ball was adding to the mythology. Don't you just love science fiction?
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I have a new found love for my green backyard friends and I liked them just fine before reading that line. Still, with that cool Eagle landing gear, the gecko might be a better option with those equally cool feet.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Space:1999 Y1 Ep5: Earthbound

Moments earlier, a 5 foot 10 inch tall man/ modeller placed these two tiny miniatures on the Moonbase Alpha set and quickly left the Moon leaving our imagination to create the fantastic.

It's FAB FRIDAY! [and all things Gerry & Sylvia Anderson]
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I have this ship. I will share it with you, but you cannot have it. I love her!
The Alpha command staff concludes a meeting with Commissioner Gerald Simmonds in attendance and suddenly back in the fold. He has been conspicuously absent since Space:1999, Year One, Episode 1, Breakaway. Where has this fellow disappeared to for the last three episodes? The Solarium? Simmonds is less than pleased with the Alphans' lack of response in finding Earth. Commander John Koenig calls it scientifically impossible. The Moonbase Alpha team is coming to terms with life on the Moon. They will not float false hopes to the remaining survivors on Alpha. Their objective is to find a suitable place to live outside of Earth perhaps one day evacuating Alpha. A spacecraft approaches. Koenig wants Eagle One and Eagle Two in the air immediately. Koenig hopes it's a warm welcoming. Captain Alan Carter worries about the possibility of incoming visitors as potentially hostile. I'm still scratching my head over Simmonds noticeable absence. This moment speaks volumes to the character of Simmonds.

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The beauty of these shots simply cannot be measured. It's my favorite ship ever designed. Visual Effects master Brian Johnson designed the craft.
For whatever reason, putting this one together was a trial. It didn't come easily. It was one of those weeks. So begins Space:1999, Season One, Episode 5, Earthbound. You have to hand it to the editors behind Space:1999. They came up with most rousing, enticing, tantalizing opening sequences in science fiction even when the episodes themselves may have been on the flat side.

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The dynamic duo.
The latest entry guests none other than one Cristopher Lee [see below for guest details]. Yes, the Christopher Lee of Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones [2002], The Lord Of The Rings [1971] and The Man With The Golden Gun [1974]. A prestigious veteran actor like Lee always keeps your attention when they are part of the mix. Although, I must admit, I've never been a huge fan. He's certainly not a favorite of mine, but his work is always intriguing nevertheless. I am looking forward immensely to an upcoming Space:1999 installment dubbed Force Of Life guest starring Ian McShane. As I've mentioned here before, I'm a huge McShane fan and look forward to seeing one of his earliest works in television.
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This may be one of the dodgiest landings for a spaceship in science fiction history. It kind of twirls about haphazardly floating down like a balloon.
The alien vessel lands. I must admit, for a show with such high production values [and they are generally terrific], the landing of the craft is notably weak and near comical complete with string. It doesn't land with any of the grace of the Eagles. The Eagle launches to the site of the orb-like object's position. Now here is the part that amused me. The Eagle lands next to the orb and attaches its umbilical cord to the ship. How would an Eagle be able to connect with an alien spacecraft without any prior knowledge of its design? Is there a set of intergalactic structural designs floating around out there that requires all ships, of any shape, size or design, to be able to connect? Not likely. That was a pretty notable absence in logic. It's just a bit of amusement. I don't actually care that much about it. The umbilical vacuum chamber is ready for entry by the Alphans.
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The world of wonderful model designers. There's something very male/female here.
Professor Victor Bergman utilizes a plastic toy device to take readings and scan for life. There's an interesting touch on the camera work by Director Charles Crichton [A Fish Called Wanda], with his second directorial appearance behind Episode 2, Matter Of Life And Death, as Koenig and the others enter the extraterrestrial vessel. The images are blurry, but it creates the idea and visual that the Alphans are not only in a foreign place, but instead they are the aliens entering a craft that is clearly not of their design or making. The Alphans are the invaders. Inside, beings are horizontally at rest inside glass-like cases. They are in suspended animation. If there is one thing about Space:1999's science fiction, it is often deliberate. It can be slow to move as a result, but I appreciate how it quietly unfolds its themes. There is always an air of weird and wonderful to the adventures of those on Moonbase Alpha. The series makes all attempts to be thoughtful, deliberate and studied sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The slow pacing is sometimes to the detriment of Space:1999. The series has indirectly garnered unfair criticism regarding its science fiction content, concepts or ideas as a result.

The first detachment of the Service Pod.
Koenig orders Paul Morrow to activate gravity and atmosphere. There's a terrific shot of the orb with the pod of the Eagle connected to it. The Eagle heads back for more supplies and I believe it's the first shot in the series to date detailing the Eagle's separation from the Service Pod [see below for details on the Eagle]. Koenig and Dr. Helena Russell take readings on the alien lifeforms, but get no life signs. Russell and company decide to break the seal of a glass chamber housing one of the aliens with a drill. Boy, that's a bit of a risk. As it turns out, it was a BIG risk as exposure kills one of the lifeforms turning it into a layer of carbon ash.
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Moments later, the aliens awaken. The man who would be Scaramanga, Count Dooku and Saruman is among them. Christopher Lee's character, Captain Zantor, is none too pleased to find his brother dead. Koenig and Russell appear apologetic. Zantor takes Russell's hand. The aliens gather in an almost ritualistic posture around their deceased brother. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the orb lifts off and lands upon Moonbase Alpha. It must have been moments like this that had Koenig and company consider a move below ground on Moonbase Alpha for Year Two. Zantor is introduced to Simmonds. Simmonds' final line might as well be referring to himself. He's a vile thing.

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Lee as he appeared during roughly the same timeframe as his role in The Man With The Golden Gun [1974]. Those white wigs can throw you. Zantor looks like a young Saruman.
Zantor presents a token of peace in the form of alien space balls [libra eggs from the libra bird] to Koenig. The bulbs represent a symbol of peace and feedom to Zantor's people and are presented to the Alphans. Based on Zantor's words, their race is a fading culture. Sterility issues on their planet have resulted in catastrophe. Koenig inquires how long his people have been travelling. Zantor informs them it has been three and a half Earth centuries. With their people dying, ships scattered across the galaxy in search of a viable, life-sustaining planet. Zantor's group of space hippies were headed to Earth before erring in its trajectory, which landed them on the Moon and ultimately Moonbase Alpha. As it turns out Simmonds is impressed with Zantor's ability to locate Earth's coordinates contrasted by his joust with Koenig and Koenig's lack of "will" and inability to find Earth himself. Zantor hopes to be welcomed on Earth. If not, "voluntary reduction" or suicide shall be applied by the Kaldorians. This is an intelligent, but seemingly meek race.

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Russell offers to assess a medical comparison between the Alphans and Zantor's people to determine medical compatibility. Bergman will assist in repair of Zantor's spacecraft. That offer should result in a fairly sizable undertaking when their technology is clearly foreign to the Bergman. Simmonds is suspicious of their intentions. This is certainly udnerstandable and caution should be in play, but not conspiracy. Simmonds tells Koenig the Alphans need to seize the alien ship to return home. The Kaldorians, as they are called, are simply "expendable." The Commissioner is a shady fellow and why should we be surprised by his essential plan to implement coup d’état on the Alphan guests. "The courage, the vision and the leadership." These are but mere words to this near Machiavellian politician.

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Zantor discusses the Kaldorian suspended animation process with Russell. Unlike the freezing process on Earth, the Kaldorian processes suspend cell degeneration. Russell determines the Kaldorians are compatible to humans. Zantor's computers have calculated the trip to Earth will take seventy-five years. Is that all? Moonbase Alpha is a long way from home. Zantor implies that Russell could suspend her beauty by joining them for a wee brief beauty rest. With the loss of one of the Kaldorians there will be a vacant space aboard their ship. It's too bad the Alphans didn't inadvertently crack a few more encasings given Zantor's understanding. Still, Zantor did sense the genuine contrition of the Alphans and no ill intention as evidenced in the clip. Zantor offers to bring one human home given their similarities, physical and otherwise, are greater than their differences.
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Roy Dotrice as the conniving Commissioner Simmonds.
Simmonds is making every effort to sabotage the Kaldorian plan to depart Alpha not to mention the essentially successful diplomatic connection made by the Alphans thus far by tempting Koenig to seize Zantor's vessel. Koenig is not impressed. Simmonds indicates the Kaldorian lifeboat will not arrive on Earth until 2074. This is Space:1999. 2074-75= 1999. My math is limited, but science fiction proficient. The Commissioner clearly not winning his argument of persuasion suggests he should be the human representative to go to Earth with the Kaldorians. Koenig indicates the Computer shall select based upon a lottery of who is best suitable. Nevertheless, Koenig would love to send Simmonds packing. He orders Kano to program Computer confidentially utilizing code.

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This is my least favorite science fiction design. It's so goofy. Those crazy Kaldorian engineers. I do love the shot against the Eagles.
In the hangar decks below Moonbase Alpha, Bergman summons Koenig to the alien craft for an emergency. During testing Russell submitted to suspended animation. She is alive, but locked into a Kaldorian state of suspended animation. Whatever you do, don't drill into her glass case. Koenig is a little hot around the collar to say the least. Funny, he wasn't quite as concerned with the Kaldorians now was he? Granted, all life signs appeared to be absent at that time. He had to make a command decision. This event certainly plays into the devilish whispers fed by Simmonds on some level.
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Later, while in Main Mission Koenig asks Benes what is going on inside the alien craft. She brings up visual on the view screen. The answer: nothing. Nothing is happening. Unfortunately, that is how it feels watching Space:1999 at times in these first few entries of the series. It fails to capitalize on conflict and build suspense to drive the story forward with any kind of momentum. Yet, the cast and the characters they play are so expertly captured and so fun to watch, it compensates on that level and you stay with it. The visual effects, set designs and details are also a science fiction picnic. Dr. Mathias recalls Koenig to Zantor's ship.
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Ring Around The Russell.
On the alien blue, bubble ship, Zantor informs Koenig Russell is in a deeper sleep than expected. It would seem Computer underanalyzed the potential harm to human lifeforms on their Kaldorian ship. Zantor essentially takes a shot at the Alphan Computer's shortcomings compared to the Kaldorian system. Are we keeping a running chart on the Alphan Computer's fallibility? Koenig inquires whether or not the Kaldorian computer can return her to health. Yes, but reanimating Russell from such a deep sleep could result in potential harm. Cell damage may cause brain damage. No, that's not good. The possibility of death looms. Koenig is not pleased once again. He hasn't been happy of late. Vacation doesn't look likely for anyone on Alpha. Bergman conveys to Koenig that Zantor must be trusted. A halo ring appears around Russell as efforts are made to revive her. Upon waking Russell stares with eyes wide open. She appears to be fine, but she may not be. With not a whole lot happening so far in Earthbound, one hopes something will be wrong with Russell. In the end, she's just fine and I'm glad, but how about a little more conflict.
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I like the white chairs in Main Mission. They look kind of modern, but I swear they look an awful lot like those on my back patio in the summer. Koenig announces Computer has selected three names. It couldn't even select a single name as directed. Koenig calls it "a classic case of Computer buck-passing." Koenig refuses to decode the names until he knows how safe the Kaldorian suspension process is based upon Russell's return to form. Carter indicates he's willing to risk it. Koenig suggests the grim possibility that Earth may not even be there at the end of the journey. This possibility exists. A round trip ticket back to Moonbase Alpha is unlikely.

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In Koenig's office, Simmonds is unhappy with the commander's choice to leave the decision-making process to a computer. This is no ordinary computer. This IS Computer. Koenig feels it was the only fair and objective way to go. If Simmonds is selected he will bid him well. If not he will wave goodbye along with the other Alphans. Koenig is disgusted with the man.

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Koenig greets the now returned Zantor and Russell. Simmonds switches out CommLock devices undetected. He has swapped his for Koenig's device. Russell informs Koenig the Kaldorian computer matrix collects data on a per subject basis. A new subject, outside of Russell, will be a new variable and thus the process of suspended animation could have an entirely different impact on that subject.
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Simmonds is on the run and making his way to the alien ship. Meanwhile, Koenig asks Computer to make the final choice. Simmonds has used a laser weapon in a secure area disabling two guards. He is making his way to a Nuclear Generating Area. In one of the more touching moments, the trio that is the core of the show, Landau, Bain and Morse, share a moment regarding what their decision might be, to stay or go, if selected. Koenig asks Bergman if he would go if selected. He is uncertain. He asks Russell. She would consider it. "It is a nice idea." I'm sure part of the scientific appetite in Bergman and Russell would certainly tempt them to go.

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Koenig looks down at his CommLock and discovers he has the device belonging to Simmonds. Simmonds commandeers a security point. Stun Guns undeniably rock! Koenig contacts Simmonds at the nuclear facility and tells him to hand himself over. Simmonds forces a guard to open a DANGER area.
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Koenig orders the power area sealed off. Koenig has Benes bring Simmonds up on visual. Simmonds has removed a power converter rod that will result in death by freezing unless he is allowed to leave with the Kaldorians. "I got to be Commisioner by doing what was necessary, not what was right." Roy Dotrice as Simmonds could give Dr. Smith of Lost In Space a run for his money. Paul makes a rather astute point. "If there's one man Alpha could do without, it's Simmonds. I say let him go." Too right!
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Koenig informs Zantor of the situation. All agree to let Simmonds go on his terms. Simmonds wonders what kind of guarantee is in place. Koenig says "my word." And Koenig is indeed an honorable man of his word. "Not enough" informs the slimy Simmonds. Zantor offers to be his hostage. He is held at gunpoint. Zantor offers his farewell. By the way, I think Zantor had a thing for Russell too. Russell was certainly intrigued as well. Zantor definitely wanted to bring her along with him and offer her a little Kaldorian attention.

The Kaldorian spaceship preps for take off. The slippery Simmonds wants everyone in suspended animation first. He will go last. Simmonds assumes the position and the ship launches.
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"In space no one can hear you scream..." except your fellow Alphans via CommLock.
Koenig smiles at Russell pleased she is still by his side. A short while later, in space, Simmonds wakes prematurely. Simmonds pulls out his CommLock in the hopes of contacting Earth. Justice is about to be served. Could the Kaldorian computer matrix have been programmed to terminate his life? Simmonds, locked inside his case, pleads for help from Koenig. Simmonds writhes like a desperate, frightened animal. Koenig is in no position to aid him. He is trapped, with no way out, no sustenance, alone in space and it will be a horrible end indeed for the despicable human being that is Simmonds. It's a sobering, unsettling moment on Moonbase Alpha, even disappointing, despite the bad blood between them, to hear Simmonds' cries for help. The Alphans are human and they do not take solace in Simmonds' end regardless of how deserving it might be. As it turns out, it could have all been different too. Russell asks Koenig who Computer chose. "Simmonds." Now there's a horrible way to go. I can't help but imagine Simmonds might have been a worthy advesary to the Alphans had he survived beyond this episode. His presence would have reminded us of the fight from within on Alpha along the way. Perhaps it would have been to pronounced, but the possibility, as exhibited in Earthbound, did have potential. Note the Kaldorians move in the background.

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This was a solid ending to a sometimes slow moving affair. Admittedly though, I did appreciate it more upon a second viewing. Earthbound offers a classic resolution to the story's overarching theme of human behavior with some well executed [pardon the pun] final moments. The episode really probes the recesses of the mind and plumbs the idea that we are faced with choices and those choices determine who we are and are fates. The mood, the atmosphere, the cast, costume, make-up and set design are all top shelf here. With a strong ending and all Earthbound has going for it, this is an often quiet, warm, sincere piece of science fiction. The performances are exceptional by Roy Dotrice, Christopher Lee and the regular cast.
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Earthbound: B-
Writer: Anthony Terpiloff
Director: Charles Crichton
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The Philosophy of Space:1999: Koenig: "Our priorities are survival and the search for an alternative place to live."

One of my babies.
Author John Kenneth Muir definitely rates Earthbound with higher marks in Exploring Space:1999. His reasons are certainly sound. As he points out, the story, performances and conclusion are logical and executed beautifully by Director Charles Crichton and Writer Anthony Terpiloff. One thing I did like about the story that I failed to mention was how it took convention and turned it upside down. The aliens, headed by the "imposing" Christopher Lee are actually not the typical enemy we are often led to fear. They are a gracious, cerebral, patient, kind lot that keeps us off balance throughout the story thanks to the mood and dark atmosphere associated with Space:1999. The Kaldorians never become what we fear. As Muir indicates it is Simmonds, a human, who is the truly evil cog in the wheel. His distrust and scheming are the real evil here. It is from within the Alphans must worry. I had mentioned in an earlier entry, as others have mentioned before me, and as the DVD Box Set indicates with the quote from Dorzak ["It is the struggle for survival that makes monsters of us all"], that it is often ourselves that pose the greatest threat on Space:1999. Earthbound is a splendid case in point.
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Muir points to the professional performances delivered by both Christopher Lee as well as Roy Dotrice as the wicked Simmonds [Picket Fences, Beauty And The Beast]. Dotrice's performance is particularly juicy. Muir calls it one of the "best of the Twilight Zone twists." The ending is certainly a highlight. The pacing is fairly good, but could have been better in my book. Muir calls it a terrific tale of "human ambition and greed." It is a "cautionary tale" manifesting "mankind's darkest qualities." These are certainly convincing points. Viewing segments a second time makes me a believer too. The ingredients are there and it is a solid Space:1999 entry.
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Saruman [The Lord Of The Rings].
Special Guest: Christopher Lee [1922-present]. English born. Captain Zantor. His vast resume includes: James Bond's The Man With The Golden Gun [1974], The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring [2001], Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones [2002], The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers [2002], The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King [2003], Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith [2005]. He played Saruman in The Lord Of The Rings triology. He played Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels. Other films include: The Curse Of Frankenstein [1956], Dracula [1958], A Tale Of Two Cities [1958], The Hound Of The Baskervilles [1959], The Mummy [1959], Dracula: Prince Of Darkness [1965], Rasputin: The Mad Monk [1965], She [1965], The Face Of Fu Manchu [1965], The Devil Rides Out [1968], The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes [1970], I, Monster [1971], The Creeping Flesh [1972], The Wicker Man [1973], The Three Musketeers [1974], To The Devil A Daughter [1976], Airport 77 [1977], Return From Witch Mountain [1978], Arabian Adventure [1979], 1941 [1979] and Gremlins 2: The New Batch [1990]. His appearances in television include: Ivanhoe, The Avengers, One Step Beyond, Charlie's Angels, How The West Was Won, The Far Pavilions, Faerie Tale Theatre, The Tomorrow People and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. One of my favorite roles was seeing Lee play Francisco Scaramanga [the triple-nippled villain in the 007 film, The Man With The Golden Gun opposite Nick Nack played by Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize [Fantasy Island: "boss, the plane, the plane"].

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It is curious how often the world of James Bond 007 collides with the world of Gerry Anderson.

Loving one of my girls. The detail by Aoshima/ Product Enterprise Limited is phenomenal. This is actually the V.I.P.. I have the one from this episode too.
The CommLock: This is a portable communication and locking device. It's an all in one secuirty key, audio/visual communicator, transponder and computer.

The Eagle: The legendary spaceship of Space:1999. It is my favorite spaceship ever committed to film to this day. I have amassed a small fleet in my basement. The ship was designed by visual effects artist Brian Johnson. The space vessel is utilized for a number of missions not least of which is defending Moonbase Alpha. It primarily serves as a transport, reconnaissance and exploratory craft. The sheer volume of Eagles maintained below the base is something of a mystery. The ship is modular in three components: Command Module, Service Pod and Superstructure. The Superstructure is comprised of the Main Propulsion System [nuclear fusion rockets; speed 15% speed of light], Access Corridor, Aft Compartment and Landing Gear. There are several types of Eagle models. The models include: Passenger, Recon, V.I.P. [see Breakaway only], Rescue, Transport/ Supply, Docking [see Collision Course], Freighter, Laboratory [see The Metamorph], Winch [see Missing Link] and Fighter. Additional points of interest on the Eagle include: Winches, Docking Tube, Top and Side Boosters, Vertical and Horizontal Grabs, Harness, Re-Entry Glider, Refuelling Boom, Top Mounted Retractable Laser Cannon and Moon Buggy. The Eagle design was inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey and later influenced the designs found in Star Wars. It did so because the Eagle simply rocks! My cousins and I used to pretend we were escaping in an Eagle when we played in the backyard. Makeshift forts acted as our Eagle.
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The lonely little Service Pod on a vast woodscape. Don't worry friend. I will be back for you.
Visual Effects Specialist: Brian Johnson. English born. Johnson designed the world famous Eagle. He is also renowned for his visual effects work on Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds, as well as Space:1999, 2001: A Space Odyssey [2001], Alien [1979], Moon Zero Two [1979] [with Catherine Schell], Aliens [1986] and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back [1980]. He would receive an Academy Award for Visual Effects for Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back [1980], arguably the best of all six Star Wars installments. George Lucas contacted Johnson while he was working on Space:1999. Johnson's committment to Space:1999 kept him from working on Star Wars [1977]. Some might argue the decision was a mistake. As a loyal fan and believer of all things Space:1999 Johnson made the right decision and the wonderful years he spent on Space:1999's visual effects for two classic seasons of science fiction prove that out. Sadly, in an insightful and extensive interview found at Original Prop.com, Brian Johnson barely mentions his time on Space:1999, but he did confirm the aforementioned scenario. "I was working on Space:1999. And two blokes came to the studio.... We were just coming to the end of the first season, .... And then they went away and one of them came back and said we’d like you to do this picture called Star Wars. I said I can’t, I’ve just signed literally yesterday with Gerry Anderson to do a second series of Space:1999." No matter, thank you Mr. Johnson for working on Space:1999.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fun With Peas

The Girl Wonder has a way of getting by in life. She was responsible for this clever little move. Click here. Chocolate cake was not in her future the other night when we indicated 'peas must be eaten.' She came up with this little piece of self-entertainment and I had to snap it. She quietly went about her business coming up with this gem. The plate highlights Shrimp Scampi minus the shrimp and the remains of a bread stick. Yum.

I'm not sure I ever had that much fun with peas.

On a side note, my father, one of the most normal fellows, was an odd sort in this way. He actually loved vegetables. When he was young he would lodge complaints with his eldest brother at the dinner table that his brother had more peas than he had. My father was incensed he didn't have as many peas. His brother was a large man. You really didn't want to mess with him. My father was unafraid despite his lack of height. My father's brother would reach over to his plate, take his plate and scrape all of my father's peas onto his plate. My father looked on stunned while his grandmother and other brother sat silent. His oldest brother would look dead straight at him. "Looks like you've got no peas now." Clearly, no fun with peas for my dad. The moral of the story: You really shouldn't complain and be thankful for the peas you have. Most children would have enjoyed sitting at the dinner table with my father's brother.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lost In Space S1 Ep2: The Derelict

My love for the traditional flying space saucer was satiated each week with the appearance of the Jupiter II. The Jupiter II and The Chariot combined for some of my favorite sci-fi miniatures and full-on models ever created.

The beautiful black and white cinematography and film stock is a genuine highlight in this almost frontier-styled series. There is also something simple and pure about watching a show like Lost In Space all over again. It takes you back to simpler times. The world made sense. Everything seemed black and white. Right and wrong seemed a whole lot easier and more people than not seemed to come to the same conclusions regarding the definitions. There's a great effort today to blur the lines, make things grey, make excuses the facts are much clearer. We can excuse anything today. Well, right and wrong and black and white haven't changed. We have. I'm not saying there aren't exceptions. There are those, but people have clearly convinced and talked themselves right out of standards. Yes, there was a time when these things seemed more concrete. The more I learn the less I understand today.

The The's Matt Johnson once wrote in Slow Emotion Replay, "The more I see, the less I know about all the things I thought were wrong or right and carved in stone." That lyric always resonated with me. It's quite succinct really. Certainly today's programming is far more challenging and rewarding than these classics from the yesteryears. Still, I do love them. I enjoy looking back on the simple tales of Lost In Space. The crisp, black and white world is one such reason I enjoy it again and again. It not only works wonders for this show and gives it a kind of weight and gravity that it probably lost when it switched to color, but it works for me on a personal level. It takes me back to stable, simpler days [and I'm clearly in need of stable]. It's an escape from today's complex, sometimes amoral society. Truth is, even when Lost In Space was in color it was still black and white for me.
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Here we are with the next exciting installment of Lost In Space with Season One, Episode 2, The Derelict. The episode recaps the events of the series debut and makes every effort to ramp up the excitement with a replay of last episode's cliffhanger, but by today's standards it passes as fairly laughable. What do you expect from your 1960s science fiction? This is one of the trade offs of simpler times, but it does have its charms. Call it a precursor to serialized entertainment a la Lost without all of the confusion. The family-based science fiction adventure is still a treasure for the culmination of its character moments.
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Do I need to tell you that Maureen Robinson will save her husband with the rocket gun? I bet you figured out that might happen. I suppose that rocket gun trick works every time. What a snazzy little weapon to have around. Can you imagine? You're 11 years old and your buddy is walking down to the lake with you and he's like, "what's that!?" And you're all like, "That's my ass-kicking rocket gun!" You're the envy of the gang.
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'Hey, is that Dad dangling on puppet strings?'
John Robinson continues to make repairs to the scanner outside the Jupiter II on the ship's hull, while a comet closes in on their coordinates. Unlike today's tightly scripted science fiction, Lost In Space, perhaps logically, does have a tendency to meander and that's fine by me. I like the lived-in, day to day, family minutia of Lost In Space. It's part of the fun. John is outside the ship monkeying about with eerie space music backing his every move. Judy, Penny and Will look on intently through a Jupiter II window. Judy is such a significant Norwegian babe that I recall as a child wanting more Judy than the creators were giving me. They were constantly limiting my Judy input. They were limiting my pretty Penny input for that matter as well. I cursed the show for that. Boy, did I ever love Penny and Judy? The show's cast is simply flawless: Will, Robot, Don, John, Dr. Smith and Maureen. There wasn't a weak character in the bunch. Still, as a youngster, I did yearn to see the female contingent of Judy and Penny stripped out of their foil spacesuits. I was young and my black and white mind and hormones were raging.
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The heat of the comet is having an impact on our hero, John Robinson, and now he is unable to get back inside the Jupiter II with the metal of the hatch expanding. The tension builds. Major Don West heads into the airlock to help, but to no avail. John tells them to fire up the rockets and get out of the comet's trajectory. Will, the wizard kid, comes up with a plan using the cooling agent of the fire extinguishers to save his father. Maureen and John grow faint and begin slipping out of consciousness.
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The video quality may be a little rough around the edges but what do you expect? Besides, the picture quality is part of its allure and charm if you ask me. Still, for a series created in 1965 it's sharp enough to enjoy just fine. And know I don't need a Blu-Ray of it. I'd have to be smoking something to request such a format.
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Back on Earth, Alpha Control believes the on board environmental Robot may have activated prematurely and that foreign sabotage may have played a factor. I don't believe it's long before the series stops cutting to scenes of Earth's Alpha Control.
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On the Jupiter II, Don applies the extinguishing coolant and frees the hatch allowing him to pull John and Maureen back inside the ship. Oh, Lost In Space is wholly predictable by the way. You won't find many surprises when it comes to the outcomes. Despite its predictability we enjoy the journey. We enjoy the characters. We enjoy the new discoveries and the varied guests. We fully enjoy space family Robinson and their trials and tribulations.
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Will looks positively ferocious. You've got to love the casting of Bill Mumy as Will Robinson. It wouldn't have been the same without him. You could say that about each cast member.
Dr. Smith gets negative and Will lashes out at him, "do you always have to say things like that!" I mean Will gets royally pissed with him and so begins their sparring relationship that's part and parcel of the Lost In Space fun. Smith serves orders to Robot, which essentially jump starts the ongoing unhealthy relationship between the two. John Robinson refers to Smith as "our increasingly annoying extra passenger." It doesn't take long for anyone in the family to understand Smith's modus operandi.
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'You know I want you, but there are children watching.'
John records via a journal the status of their aborted mission following hyperdrive. Where they are is anyone's guess. Don and Judy flirt a touch. Sadly, because it was a family show, we never got to see any of the sexual tension develop between the two beautiful actors over the course of the three years. Even as kids we wanted to see more action between these two in the worst way. We knew it was there. We were kids, but we weren't completely clueless. I couldn't tell the difference between true terror and a man in a rubber monster suit, but I knew hot lovin'.
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This little exchange sets the tone for Smith and John Robinson's often combative and distrustful relationship. Like I said, John has his number.

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The face of fear? Never.
The funny thing is Smith is so sleazy in his attempts to 'suck up' whenever it suits his needs his disloyalty is so clearly obvious to the adult family members. Why he bothers is anyone's guess since it is clearly evident to everyone involved with the exception of the typically innocent, Will and Penny, that he is no freakin' good. He definitely burns his bridges of trust very quickly in the series. In more contemporary dramas his snake-in-the-grass personality would have been buried much deeper and revealed more gradually over the course of a series. Lost In Space lets it all hang out. The ulterior motives of Smith are often made clear especially going forward. So if Smith's motives are so clear to John why would anyone give this guy a gun? It stands to reason some level of trust in Smith is required given the family's circumstances. The Robinson family doesn't have a lot of options or able-bodied men for that matter whilst alone in deep space.
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Space family Robinson picks up a spacecraft through the windshields of the Jupiter II bridge. The family spots the Derelict. There are no view screens or electronic visual screens here as found on Space:1999 or Star Trek. Our heroes have an open view of space via ultra-thick, glass shields. The Jupiter II has a distinct look. For a simple, little, saucer design complete with its low-positioned spinning lights it is one cool, two-decker vessel. The Jupiter II is pulled inside the Derelict via tractor beam.
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With the atmosphere inside the Derelict dubbed sustainable, Don and John are heading out to investigate and Smith will join them. The sly, smug Smith suspects the craft to be that of an Earth vessel controlled by that of his seditious foreign employer. The Russians? Why the heck would he possibly think the craft an Earth vessel? It is a stretch. Webbing and decorative set materials smack of crystallized seaweed and covers the inside of the vessel. Smith is far too confident, and not as smart as one might expect, when all the signs point to the fact there is something entirely alien about their surroundings. Smith head's off to locate someone tied to his foreign agents. Yes, because an Earth craft would look like this on the inside. Don tells Smith insincerely not to get lost [aren't we already lost in space?] and Smith replies, "never fear." We almost get the trademark, iconic call signature of "never fear, Smith is here," but not completely, not quite yet. Smith is a conniving, slimy, disloyal weasel of a guest.
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"It does not compute." Actually, this scene doesn't compute. It's cute, but why would the artificial intelligence of Robot mistake Will's clearly horrid impersonation of Smith as Smith's actual voice? Come on really? Will is clearly learning the art of manipulation here, but I expect Robot to be a touch smarter. Still, I love it. It's hysterical.

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Set design: Pillows and strings and papier-mache, oh my.
Will heads off to find Dad. I can see where this show might have creeped and spooked kids sitting around the tube back in the day. It does have an atmosphere to it that no amount of special effects good, bad or otherwise would heighten. Kids relating to Will would definitely be worried about him. The nice thing is Will was always far smarter than Smith, more resourceful and downright charmed with good luck most of the time. He came out of tough scrapes often shiny as an aluminum foil spacesuit. Still, most of the episode we get shots of Will wandering around one sector of the Derelict and Smith in another with not much happening, but the accompaniment of weird sound effects. It's a bit of a snooze in portions.
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Finally, at the 39 minute point we get our first monster-of-the-week and Will attempts communication with it. The creature is certainly not designed to have the same allure as the colorful creatures found in Lost In Space Season Two and Three. It is by design this entry takes a harder approach to science fiction. The alien responds with arcing electrical currents and zapping charges. It's a fairly frightening concept really. Smith happens upon Will speaking with the creature and is horrified to find he is conversing with the beast. That's right Dr. Smith there are no Earth humans here you fool. Fear is here. What were you thinking? This is clearly an alien craft not some Russian Earth vessel. I merely theorize the former Soviet Union as a possible contractor based on the long sustained Cold War [1945-1990] between the Soviets and the United States. Anyway, Smith is surprised by his findings. Good Lord, it's a good thing John Robinson is in charge. Will figures maybe it can help them.
Maureen and Penny discover Will is gone.
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Will would like help in finding Alpha Centauri, while Smith wants help in returning to Earth. This is quite amusing by both principals. You have to love the Smith remarks like "passenger list."

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A graceful landing for the Jupiter II with legs extended. It's a rare and nifty shot. So how do they get all that equipment in there including The Chariot? Seriously?
The Robinson family stowaway, Smith, pulls one of his typically stupid moves and fires a laser at the creature merely angering it. John and Don hear Will's cry for help and proceed to run to his aid jumping over lumpy, spongy pillows. Honestly, we have pillows for our alien space set! The creature is electrified and very pissed off for what essentially amounts to a gigantic lump of papier-mache. John orders everyone back to the ship. He plans on blasting their way out of the Derelict. That monster is really quite unimpressive, despite the practicality of its design. It is only the second episode. The electrical papier-mache beast halts its aggression toward the Robinsons as John boards the Jupiter II shouting lift off!

The beast is an intriguing design if a bit odd. There is something uniquely alien about it. The first official Lost In Space monster.
It's a narrow escape as other papier-mache creatures roll by the pillows on the set and through the decorative webbing. It looks like the Robinsons will live to see another day as the craft opens its mouth allowing them to depart safely as if purging the Robinsons from its system. That's mighty nice of them. Huh? What the hell just happened? There is much mystery retained concerning our alien abductors. Much is left to our imaginations. I mean if derelict is defined as "abandoned" or "deserted" what were those heaps of paper and glue coming after them with the weird sound effects? We don't learn alot about these creatures, but we are alive. Much like Space:1999, this particular entry of Lost In Space captures the mystery of space surrounding our dear family. Adventures take a less serious, less mysterious bent going forward. We do know one thing. There are many perils and unknowns out there awaiting our dear space family.
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The Derelict is a great science fiction title. It says something about Season One's original plan too. This was a series and concept representative of its day. This was to be the pioneering space adventures of Space Family Robinson. The promise and hope of space wonder finally entered living rooms in a bold new way. Plans, while off course for the family, would remain on course for the series and its creators. Things generally don't devolve into space camp Robinson until much later. As for The Derelict, I can't help but imagine, in some cases, Lost In Space might have fared better with tighter editing. All in all, I wouldn't want to change a thing about the shiny black and white gem of Lost In Space, but I could see an entry like this one benefitting from a tighter structure and timeframe. Nevertheless, I love my 50 minute Lost In Space installments and I wouldn't change a thing. But why did those electric beasts let them off the hook so easily?
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TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK! SAME TIME SAME CHANNEL. SAME BLOG!
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The Derelict: C+
Writer: Peter Packer/ Shimon Wincelberg
Director: Alex Singer

Lost In Space: The Ultimate Unauthorized Trivia Challenge Interesting Fact: The paper mache alien bubble creatures are chasing Dr. Smith and Will and you can spot one of the stage hands in sneakers and jeans literally pushing the second alien from behind. An important point of fact, Dr. Smith had given orders to Robot to heed his commands exclusively, but we never see those orders rescinded in the series. A terrific observation and one that was gnawing at me until I read this entry.
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The Cast: Here are highlights of the impressive Lost In Space cast.
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Guy Williams [1924-1989]. American born. Professor John Robinson. The hunky Model turned Actor Williams is best known for his role on Lost In Space as well as the role of Zorro [1957-1959]. He enjoyed a brief stint on Bonanza in 1964. Surprisingly, Williams retired to Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1973 until his untimely death. Williams passed away from a brain aneurysm in his relocated home of Argentina.
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June Lockhart [1925-presernt]. American born. Dr. Maureen Robinson. She was the recipient of a Tony Award [1948] on Broadway. Lockhart's telvision history is vast and impressive. Highlights include: Lassie [1958-1964] and Petticoat Junction [1968-1970]. Some pop culture appearances include: Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea [1964], Bewitched [1964], Adam-12 [1974], Happy Days [1976], Hardy Boys/ Nancy Drew Mysteries [1978], Magnum P.I. [1981], The Greatest American Hero [1981], Amazing Stories [1986], Babylon 5 [1994] and much more. Her daughter Anne Lockhart was a regular on the original Battlestar Galactica [1978-1979].
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Mark Goddard [1936-present]. American born. Major Don West. TV appearances include: The Fugitive [1963-1967] [starring Space:1999's Barry Morse], The Mod Squad [1968-1973], Adam-12 [1970] and The Fall Guy [1981-1986]. Goddard penned a memoir titled To Space And Back: A Memoir [2008]. He lives and teaches special education in Lowell, MA.
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Marta Kristen [1945-present]. Norwegian born. Judy Robinson. She appeared in Beach Blanket Bingo [1965]. She plays a mermaid. I can see why. TV appearances include My Three Sons [1960-1964], Leave It To Beaver [1961], Remington Steele [1982], Trapper John M.D. [1985] and Scarecrow And Mrs. King [1987]. She also appeared in Roger Corman's cult classic Battle Beyond The Stars [1980].
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Angela Cartwright [1952-present]. England born. Penny Robinson. Highlights include her role on Make Room For Daddy [1957-1964] and The Sound Of Music [1964]. TV appearances include: My Three Sons [1965-1969], Adam-12, Logan's Run [1977] and The Love Boat [1982].
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Bill Mumy [1954-present]. American born. Will Robinson. His career in TV has been vast and notable. Highlights include the long-running Babylon 5 [1993-1998] as Lennier, Twilight Zone [1959-1964] and an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine [The Seige Of AR-558]. Mumy has been an active narrator in television for A&E. He's also performs with his own band.
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Jonathan Harris [1914-2002]. American born. The nefarious, often comical, Dr. Zachary Smith. He appeared on The Twilight Zone [1959-1964], Land Of The Giants [1968-1970], Get Smart [1965-1970] and Fantasy Island [1977-1984]. He was typecast as a result of his iconic Dr. Smoth role. He had a successful voiceover career including Battlestar Galactica [1978-1979] as Lucifer and A Bug's Life [1998] to name a couple.
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Bob May [1939-2009]. American born. Acted inside the suit of environmental Robot B-9.
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Dick Tufeld [1926-present]. American born. The voice of Robot & Lost In Space narrator. The voice actor has worked for Irwin Allen and others. The cast appeared in the Lost In Space [1998] film relaunch except Bill Mumy, Jonathan Harris, Bob May and Guy Williams.