Friday, April 6, 2012

Space:1999 S1 Ep9: Force Of Life [Repaint]

"I think Force Of Life embodied that notion that here were people in an environment that could be invariably hostile, encountering things about which they had not the faintest idea. It was taken from an emblem of the life they had left behind - that caterpillars turn into chrysalides and chrysalides turn into butterflies. These are natural rhythms of our lives. Well it seemed to me perfectly reasonable to suppose that this process was universal throughout all life, and that it would happen in the most extraordinary and interesting and completely mind boggling way without understanding what made it work." - Scriptwriter Johnny Byrne of Space:1999, Year One, Episode 9, Force Of Life [FAB #60, p.16]-

It's FAB FRIDAY April flowers! Welcome to the wonderfully wicked world of all things Gerry And Sylvia Anderson.

When I think back to all of the writers and critics who lambasted Space:1999 in the early going as nothing more than a space series attempting to be a pale imitation or knockoff of Star Trek: The Original Series I really can't get over how just wrong they got it. Space:1999 and Star Trek are apples and oranges. They couldn't be more different.

I have been wanting to get back to my look at Space:1999 and revisit of the classic series, but that analysis has been much delayed. I'm not exactly sure why. I place Space:1999 on a pretty high pedestal in the pantheon of science fiction series. As such, I want to give it the proper, thorough treatment. A certain amount of time is required for it and I suppose I felt I simply would be applying myself properly to the material.

Well, Space:1999 Year One arrived on Blu-Ray in December of 2010. It was instantly purchased and remained one of those packages I had been dying to open until now. So, the time has come.

I had originally wanted to kick off the Blu-Ray set by beginning my coverage on Space:1999, Year One, Episode 9, Force Of Life. Of course, I had already covered the episode extensively along with Alpha Child and left off the series there. Well, if you know anything about assembling one of these blog entries complete with images and video, it can become something of an organizing nightmare. Things just don't always respond as you would expect. The climb in creating one of these can be something of a challenge to get things just right. I thought better of going back and essentially monkeying with those entries, despite my affection for them both. Some things are better left undone.

Instead, I thought I would revisit Force Of Life as a separate entry, hence Force Of Life [Repaint]. Who better to reflect upon the script than the man who wrote it himself, Johnny Byrne? I had uncovered some additional material in FAB magazine that I found insightful regarding the making of the episode by writer Johnny Byrne. Force Of Life remains one of my favorite stories from Space:1999 Year One and perhaps one of my all-time favorite science fiction stories ever to grace television.

My desire for revisiting the episode, first covered here, was to note the technical differences between the original DVD release and the Blu-Ray mostly. The images from the story, thanks to director David Tomblin, are striking and I remember them vividly. Without even looking at my previous coverage I snapped away to bring you a visual look back via the new Blu-Ray edition. I wanted to draw from Force Of Life for the exercise because, again, director David Tomblin's work on the installment is so striking it left such a profound impression on me from the first time I saw it at a very young age.

Getting back to my original point, viewing Force Of Life again I was struck by how haunted, eerie and truly frightening that episode still remains. Actor Ian McShane turns in a brilliant performance as Anton Zoref, a man transformed by an alien presence, whereby his thirst for warmth and heat leads him on an internal struggle to retain his humanity while creating a path of devastation that would lead to several deaths on Moonbase Alpha. His journey, although affected by an alien presence, splendid captures the darkness at the heart of man.

I certainly don't ever remember Star Trek leaving me so truly disturbed and moved by such a tale in this particular way. The minimal, spare use of music accentuates the strange, life-altering world of Zoref [an anagram for frozen] as he moves about Moonbase. There was something truly claustrophobic and imprisoning about that Moonbase as epic in scale as it was. There was no place to run. You could not hide. If death was coming, you could not escape it. Moonbase was both a home and a prison. Its denizens reflect that dichotomy notably in Year One, Episode 11, The Last Sunset [the episode for which our coverage will commence with soon].

The story certainly doesn't end well either for Anton. It ends horribly and as a child my heart broke for this man and his wife devastated the inexplicable pain of their forced separation. The force of life is indeed powerful, but it would be precisely that essence that sustains us which would be ripped from the existence of one Anton Zoref by the sheer mystery of space.

Force Of Life is a beautiful, but frightening and tragic tale and works on so many different levels of science ficiton and horror. I was never as unnerved by the certainly equally memorable Star Trek in quite this way. Space:1999 absolutely gripped me with fear. We never knew exactly what alien forces lurked around the corners of those absolutely marvelous aesthetics of Keith Wilson's set production on Moonbase. Yes, Space:1999 had its fair share of alien encounters, but they were incredibly varied and sometimes, in the case of Force Of Life, we wondered if the enemy wasn't always lurking within us.

For more on the outstanding series Space:1999, be sure to look for author John Kenneth Muir's book Exploring Space:1999, check out his insightful coverage and exclusive interviews over at John Kenneth Muir's Reflections On Film/TV or stick around for The Sci-Fi Fanatic's own coverage of this classic series right here. Going forward we'll be mixing up coverage on Thunderbirds, UFO and Space:1999. F-A-B!

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