Friday, June 4, 2010

Space:1999 Y1 Ep10: Alpha Child

The creepy Omen-like Alpha Child. Space:1999 meets The Omen. Yes, child-caring duties for this little guy required.

It's FAB FRIDAY! Yes, it's time for one of the highlights of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's endless CV in Space:1999.

Red Rum, Red Rum.
The deeper I delve into the science fiction world of Space:1999 the more I realize how entirely unique this series is. It is incomparable. I'm stating the obvious to longtime fans, but for those on the fence a look at this wonderful series is in order. Of any series, Star Trek certainly achieved all of the acclaim, glory and stardom it deserved, but let's face it, the world just isn't big enough for two great science fiction franchises according to some writers. That's certainly how it feels sometimes even today. The media, critical forces, writers and fans drive these things. Star Trek has cornered the market with its various incarnations for decades and the likes of Babylon 5, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica and others have had their work cut out for them. When Space:1999 as the first legitimate serial contender to tackle the mind numbing effects on the masses of the Star Trek legacy, it too was facing the wind. It arrived and being a wholly different, original work was quickly derided in certain quarters. Another science fiction series, but it's not like Star Trek, well we can't have that now can we? The influence of poison pens certainly impacted perceptions. Fortunately younger generations like myself were simply too busy reaping the benefits and rewards of the visual medium to take time out to read what people were actually saying. It would be these young masses that would one day be the voice of the creators behind the series and unapologetically act as proponent and final arbiter of setting the record straight. That the critics essentially buried the show almost out of the gate affecting the mindset for the masses is certainly telling of the even more potent influence of media bias on politics and culture today. Apart from the detractors, there were writers who understood Space:1999's uniquely dark vision of space and the problems that would confound the Alphans in the great unknown. Unfortunately they were in the minority. I remain unabashedly a Space:1999 proponent and I'm here to tell you, seeing it again, it is one of the most underrated space tales available to you to this day. Step into the vastness of space and plumb the depths of your mind with Space:1999.

Ah, the adorable little demon seed.
Things are certainly starting to click especially after the fantastic Force Of Life. The first notable sign of set enhancement comes by way of the lighting. There is green lit paneling inside Main Mission that looks refreshingly different. A nervous Alphan crew stares quietly at the Main Mission view screen. Commander John Koenig paces. Dr. Helena Russell appears before them on the monitor. She is covered in clear cellophane wrap. She presents Moonbase Alpha with its first birth on the Moon - a 7 pound, 11 ounce baby boy, if only. It's a moment of genuine celebration. Sandra Benes turns from her elated colleagues and friends overcome with emotion to find a quiet moment. Koenig places his hands on her arms concerned. She walks away responding "I'm happy." Koenig throws his hands into the air, like most men, puzzled by her reaction as if to suggest he'll never fully comprehend the other sex. Was it just an overwhelming moment of joy for Benes? Was she considering her own biological clock? Was she worried over the prospect of never having her own children in space, while imprisoned on Moonbase Alpha? These are certainly emotions in play.

That's not Clark Kent and he didn't crawl out of a crater, but he's got problems.
Russell is a like a giddy, little girl. There's a joyful spring to her step over the birth of the young Alphan. I'm not sure I've seen Russell in a happier moment in the series. Her moments of joy were essentially synthetic in Episode 8, Guardian Of Piri. The child's mother, Sue Crawford, rests comfortably in the Medical Section. Russell senses something amiss from the medical scanners. Sue screams a bloodcurdling scream. Russell jumps from her chair positively beaming with bust. Looking across the room to the baby both she spots a young child roughly five years old. The baby has grown at a mysteriously alarming rate. Welcome to the inexplicable realities of Space:1999, Year One, Episode 10, Alpha Child.

Russell has sedated the child's mother. Koenig visits the young boy. Russell is troubled by these inexplicable developments. Other questions are raised outside of the unexplained. What kind of life would a child have on Alpha? What kind of quality of life would be sustained in an artificial environment? This could be a first. Russell points out the boy has no father. His father, Jack Crawford, died seven months earlier. Koenig visits the workplace of the boy's late father. Koenig speaks with a beautiful, rusty haired Alphan hottie who indicates the work area was fully reviewed upon his death. There was no radiation leakage. Issues surrounding the nuclear and radiological are an ever present danger and potential problem for everyday life on Alpha. It certainly speaks to the concerns of this newly emerging technology's affect on our lives.

Russell reports to Koenig all tests confirm the boy has aged to that of a five year old child. Alan Carter and the Alphans in Main Mission are alarmed and deeply troubled by the event and begin harping on their very existence as less than optimistic. Paul Morrow chimes in with some positivity undaunted by the challenges on Alpha. I love Paul. "Come on, life here's not that abnormal. We eat, sleep, drink, even breathe air of a kind. Now possibly there's something specific about this particular case." Paul is ever the decent man of sense as Victor Bergman once spoke of him to Koenig in Year One, Episode 3, Black Sun. Paul is indeed "a good man." Benes, Carter and Tanya Alexander take some mutual solace in one another given their circumstances. You can't blame them. Paul's reaction is quite courageous really. Benes suspects the boy's growth spurt has some connection to Jack Crawford's death. David Kano chirps in that data is being collected on the Generating Area over Jack's death. Computer is on the job, but don't hold your breath. This is one of those simple, human moments enjoyed on Space:1999.

Speaking of Computer and Kano, as the two are forever linked in the series, Computer has taken many hits to date from the Commander and others over a lack of confidence in its ability. I, too, have been amused at Koenig and company's lack of trust in their data comrade. Yet, Kano is forever loyal in his steadfast belief in Computer. There is an almost symbiotic relationship between the two. Kano is quite loyal to his synthetic friend often taking fellow Alphans to task when Computer is questioned and quickly jumping to its defense.

So joy has quickly turned into another sobering dose of space reality with the latest mystery on Moonbase Alpha. Once again, the men and women of Alpha are faced with defining the indefinable, swirling forces at work around them in deep space. Dr. Bob Mathias and Russell complete audio and reflex testing only to determine the child may be a deaf mute. Koenig and Russell remain puzzled over the growth spurt. Russell turns to Koenig to reassure the boy is a "lovely child." This gives Koenig pause and he smiles. Perhaps it is out of adoration for Russell's innate maternal instinct. It's indeed a reminder they are all human with human feelings, feelings that have all too often been placed on hold by the circumstances of their unexpected departure from Earth.

In Main Mission, Benes asks Kano what Computer has learned of Jack's death. "No new facts, no new answers." Shocker! Kano seems none too concerned by Computer's data or lack thereof. The Computer will never shake Kano's steadfast faith. Quietly, in walks Russell with the young Alpha child complete with his own cute, little Rudi Gernreich Alphan uniform. He gets the exclusive Command charcoal. Sweet! That's not bad for a guy straight out of the womb in just days. He's clearly on the promotional fast track. From womb to Command uniform black, this little guy is going places an we've yet to catch his name. That's about to change. Russell informs Carter they have named him Jackie. Carter attempts communication with the boy until Russell informs him the boy is deaf. Undeterred in spirit, as if willing hope inside of Moonbase Alpha, Carter springs into action, visualizing and animating the experience of flying for the boy. He whisks him around Main Mission twirling him about to and fro. For a moment, there is hope and smiles abound as the boy is treated like a son, truly Alpha's favorite son. Paul even responds favorably calling the boy "Commander." He notes the boy's uniform color too. Paul gives the boy a full tutorial on the CommLock fun. The Alphans embrace him as one of their own.

It's a button orgy!
Koenig and Russell take Jackie to the Command room. Here he learns to push buttons. You cannot live on Moonbase Alpha until you become a great button-pusher. Something tells me he'll be one of Space:1999's greatest button-pushers and maybe already pushing them. Let's face it, Alpha has a lot of cool buttons that are fun to push.

Professor Victor Bergman spends some time teaching the Alpha child. As Bergman teaches him about flowers, the boy looks about the room. There's something damn Omen-like about that kid. Wayne Brooks was well cast for the role of the boy. He doesn't need to say anything. He just needs to look like an eerie little Moon child and he does that well with his eyes and blank expression. All of the Alphans think he's a genuine little cutie pie, but there's a hint of the devil in the boy. The old travel tube isn't going to the top if you know what I mean. He visits the Nuclear Generating Area. His father worked there. One of the areas, Nuclear Generating Area 3 went critical in Force of Life taking the life of one unfortunate man in Anton Zoref. Carter spends a bit of time with the boy in one of the Eagles. The boy's eyes scan the many buttons and lights. He is fascinated by them as he absorbs all of this new information into the moving gears of his mind.

In the Medical Section we learn Sue Crawford is still comatose following her shocking revelation and the rejection of Jackie. Koenig is sympathetic to her reaction, which is contrary to the accepting reaction by the rest of Alpha. Koenig's own genuine reaction to the child is negative. His accelerated growth is such an abnormality, and with all Koenig has encountered thus far, he is not connecting to him or willing to embrace the child. "I must admit, I can't accept him either."

The boy spends more time with Bergman where he draws pictures. He calls the boy's work "extraordinary." The boy smiles at him. Koenig arrives. Bergman suspects the boy's charms have won many hearts on Alpha. Koenig is far too savvy to comply. Koenig is always the man of cautious reason as the necessarily skeptical leader of Moonbase. Just take his reaction in Year One, Episode 8, Guardian Of Piri. He remained steadfast in his conviction something was wrong on Piri even as every Alphan fell prey and the odds were stacked against him. He held strong while imprisoned in Year One, Episode 7, Missing Link. He is equally unconvinced things are AOK in Alpha Child. Koenig motions to see the boy's drawing and the boy covers it with his hands. Bergman explains away the natural reaction of the boy not to trust Koenig. The boy senses Koenig is unwilling to baby him. At his growth rate, Koenig may be onto something. Koenig is summoned to Main Mission and in the last moment we see the boy has been drawing a spaceship.

How is this for a spaceship design? This is simply extraordinary work.
In Main Mission, Koenig orders red alert. A spacecraft is heading toward "North quadrant." Prepare to be wowed by some tremendous modelling work. The images and designs are stunning for a series from 1975. The Alphans look to the sky from Main Mission. A ship hovers over Moonbase Alpha. I'm not sure Alpha would need any greater evidence than this to persuade taking Main Mission underground for Year Two. This is an imposing vessel and a few precision bombs, or not even, would take out Alpha in a heartbeat. Any chance for survival would be wiped out in seconds. The Alpha child looks on as the Alphans view in wonderment.

Carter exits Main Mission for one of the Eagles. Carter bumps into Jackie and assures him he will return soon worried the boy may fear for his departure. Carter takes the Eagle in close to the alien vessel. Computer generates significant data on the vessel. It's the most information I can recall Computer gathering in some time. Nicely done Computer. Kano indicates Computer identifies life aboard the vessel [doesn't take a genius to come up with that one], but what kind is unknown further illustrating and highlighting the Alphan and Computer challenge. This is a battle for knowledge and the Alphans are often using their wits and common sense to discover new information without the aid of computers. Carter and Morrow suggest firing first upon the vessel. The boy enters the room and Koenig pauses. He orders Carter to return to base. You can't help but wonder if Koenig wasn't thinking about ethical or moral dilemmas with a child on base. Would initiating violence solve their problem? Is physical force or violence their answer?

Carter returns and wonders "why?" Personally, it seemed like the right call by Koenig. The sheer mass of the ship overhead along with what little data offered by Computer gave Koenig little recourse. The lack of information seemed to yield caution. Moonbase Alpha could quickly become Moonhole Alpha with little effort. This is the most potent dramatic moment of the entry.

It's truly stunning modelling work and still looks amazing.
With Sue Crawford's passing, Koenig is hip to Jackie's intelligence, but unclear on his connection to the visiting spaceship. There is indeed a connection and three more ships have arrived. 3 + 1 = 4 space vessels. I'm quick with the math. Koenig orders Carter to intercept the vessels with three Eagles. The cameras go out. As Carter makes his way to the Eagles he suddenly freezes. Jackie is in the room and Jackie has some special mental powers. Koenig knows something isn't right. He approaches Jackie and Jackie backs away from him. Jackie knows Koenig isn't as easily played. The boy places his hands over his eyes and shrinks away into the corner's shadows. There's something terrific in this moment captured by Director Ray Austin really emphasizing the alien nature of our friend Jackie as the camera captures the expression of Commander Koenig peering in at something entirely alien to his understanding. Jackie knows Koenig sees something in him and he covers his eyes and looks away as if to hide the truth. Koenig isn't looking lovingly at a child, but rather repulsed by sthe deception of something creepily inexplicable. It's sound work by Austin.

Moments later, Jackie is on a gurney taken from Main Mission. The Eagles approach the mystery ships. Koenig orders Carter to "fire at will." Minor point here, why on Moon would you think this plan of attack or this stratagem to be wise? Let's look at the evidence. Alpha has not necessarily fared well against the mystery of space and its many potent forces to date. Given the immense size of these ships would one not deduce these are in all probability technological marvels potentially equipped with weaponry, especially given what Koenig suspects about Jackie's own powers. This is a bit of a roll of the dice I should think. I'm not sure I would have made such a command decision. It seems like a big risk.

Did I mention the stunning modelling work? Wow.
The Eagles advance, but their lasers have no affect as they deflect off some kind of shield. Koenig orders them to circle around the rear. Without warning all three Eagles are hit by a kind of electro-magnetic beam and fall back down to the Moon's surface. All of the pilots, including Carter, are knocked unconscious. The shot of the Eagle hitting the surface is pretty unique in that we get a fairly good shot of the landing gear hydraulics absorbing some of the impact. The decision to fire upon these visitors seems ill-advised, but Koenig isn't advised and he has his reasons.

Four spacecraft have now encircled Moonbase Alpha. The model effects are breathtaking. Bain indicates Jackie's cell growth is increasing. Landau would prefer not to recognize the child as Jackie. "Stop calling that- Jackie!" That's right, that thing in there isn't a real child.

There's one thing that is certain, Moonbase Alpha is a sitting duck. There's certainly not much of an offense to work with here. Carter knows the Eagles are no match for this surrounding force. Koenig insists Carter was useless on his mission, because Jackie Crawford influenced Carter's abilities as a pilot on the mission. Koenig suggests what he calls a "primitive" offensive strategy. He plans on sending four men on foot in a coordinated attack effort to penetrate the underbellies of the spaceships with armor-piercing lasers. It certainly sounds impressive. It was an idea floated in UFO, Episode 3, Flight Path. The men chosen for the mission include Koenig, Carter, Morrow and Kano. Now, given all that has transpired, one can only assume this race of beings has a fairly substantial arsenal of armaments and defensive hardware at its disposal. Why one would think the underbelly would be vulnerable is a bit of a longshot. Then again, it does offer one more chance against a clearly menacing enemy. It offers hope of survival in the face of limited information.

At the thirty minute mark, Alpha Child switches it up in style and character. In the Medical Section, Russell and Mathias check on Jackie's well-being. His growth has accelerated his physical stature to that of a fully grown adult. Jackie Crawford is now a man. He's an Alpha child no more. Jackie comes complete with hairy chest and funky, disco, chic-styled clothing. He rises from his position of rest and announces slowly, learning to speak, "My name is Jarak." Jarak requests to know what has transpired on Alpha during his period of growth. He inquires as to whether his spaceships have been attacked. Russell is clearly shaken by this deformity of growth, a true aberration. She informs Jarak that no action has been taken against his vessels. She is clearly fearful of this being and she should be. Jarak turns to her and forces the truth from her by making Russell physically choke Mathias. She tells Jarak of the men on the Moon's surface positioned to strike and faints.

This image is strikingly similar to those captured previously for Gerry Anderson's UFO episode Flight Path.
On the Moon's surface the Alphan men are in position. Mathias wakes Russell. Jarak informs her, "and now you will stop them." Russell insists she can't do it. Jarak insists she will do it. He is quite powerful much like a Superman. He forces her hand to take her CommLock. Mathias begins to choke. The four Alphans have weapons in position. Russell contacts Koenig imploring him not to fire and that he was right about Jackie. Koenig stops the offensive maneuver and orders everyone back to base. We never did get to see those armor-piercing lasers. Oh well. They might not have been all that impressive anyway. If the lasers did work, would the ships not just explode on top of Moonbase Alpha? I'm clearly troubled by this move.

In the Medical Section, Jarak makes contact with Sue Crawford. Using his psi-powers he begins having a physical impact on her. It would appear he has killed her according to Russell. Only, I thought she was already deceased. This was a touch confusing here. Jarak transforms his former mother into Rena. She too is now a beautiful, alien woman garbed in disco sheik. Both Jarak and Rena kiss. This is an incestuous love affair of extraterrestrial proportions. Now that's a twist.

The men of Alpha head to Medical and find Russell holding a stun gun on her fellow Alphans. She is clearly under psi-control. She fires her weapon in a show of force. Instead of the usual yellow laser, we get a blue laser. I believe it is the first display of blue energy discharge from the weapon indicating lethal force. She warns them Carter will die if they don't put down their weapons. Everyone is slightly stunned, but Koenig knows Jarak, the man formerly known as Jackie, is the variable at work here.

Rena and Jarak commandeer Moonbase Alpha and take the Alphans weapons away. Actor Julian Glover is very convincing as Jarak. There's a very Rutger Hauer quality to his work. Glover's delivery reminds me of General Zod from Superman II too. Gerry Anderson and Space:1999 attracted an impressive array of stars. I'm truly impressed at the talent Anderson was able to draw for his series. It's just one more reason I simply remain dumbfounded why this series never achieved a greater respect. This is an impressive sequence based on the exchange and performance of its principals. It also sheds light on Jarak. There is much in play about survival in this sequence. There is also an allusion to the extermination of a people as Jarak references his own homeworld. I'm reminded of the novel Survival by Brian Ball, which reminds me of elements here, while the book is far more detailed and expansive in its concepts, I wonder if Alpha Child wasn't a source of some inspiration for that book. This scene could easily be a mirror into our own global holocausts. It reflects our differences as a human strength, but also one of our most horrifying weaknesses as a people.

Julian Glover is exceptional as Jarak.
This is an intriguing science fiction concept lending a new twist to the concept of body-snatching as it were. It also points to the fact Jarak was not making out with his mother. The aliens promise to make Moonbase Alpha their new home and in doing so will not overburden the precarious existence of Alpha, but simply destroy the soul of each Alphan supplanting them with Jarak's race of lifeforms. Essentially, the Alphans will become hosts to these alien invaders. They will incubate within and the Alphans will inevitably die. It's a gruesome thought. It is once again another twist on body horror of the supernatural kind, not unlike the fate of Anton Zoref in Episode 9, Force Of Life. The forces at work in space are vast and frightening to be sure. Alpha Child is another unsettling, frightening excursion into alien possession.

Jarak informs Koenig his race is ready to utilize Alphans as incubators. Koenig is given the stun gun, no longer on stun, and Jarak forces him to raise it to his own head. A fellow Alphan intervenes and Koenig's stun gun fires and kills the proverbial Alphan 'red shirt'. Jarak gives all Alphans an ultimatum. Join Rena and Jarak or have "no future at all."

The horror continues as Jarak notifies all Alphans that his people will begin physical transferral into the Alphan bodies from the hovering motherships above Moonbase Alpha. There is something so desperate in play and so truly hopeless as the noose tightens. Alphans clasp their necks as Jarak chokes the Alphans into submission. The transfer must take place at the moment of life or death. Many Alphans are about to meet their maker. Jarak plans to detonate any physical trace of their ships. Their physical former existences will auto-destruct at a safe distance from Alpha. Jarak repeats, "the designated will die, the designated will die." Jarak's motives suggest his people are on the run and they will disappear from the radar of their pursuers. In the end, "We shall no longer exist."
I love marker scribbles.
Good news for the Alphans. The intergalactic calvary arrives to take out Jarak and his fugitive space buddies. One can only assume Jarak and company were the worst of their kind, a prison population of sorts on the lam, in much the same way as General Zod, Ursa and Non escaped in Superman II. Jarak and Rena are on the run zapping anyone and everyone in sight to make their escape. On the run, they don't look nearly as powerful or intimidating. Jarak and Nena arrive in the Medical Section and Jarak mimics Koenig's voice to ensure the medical doors remain closed. Koenig arrives there and Kano informs him via monitor that Computer has received a voice-activated order from Koenig believed to be inside the Medical Section.

Jarak admits to Koenig he is no longer in a position to make demands, but is looking for acceptance. He insists the Alphan bodies combined with their minds would have been "splendid." We don't ever learn who these people are? Does it matter? Jarak requests to become part of Alpha. In the end, Jarak turns the tables using a human characteristic of 'mercy.' The scene does offer a comparison between this alien race and the human race. The empathetic Koenig actually looks to actually consider Jarak's request. for a moment The human race once again demonstrates its heart in the face of an enemy that promised nothing but death and devastation to the Alphan population.

Above Moonbase Alpha Jarak's pursuers have arrived. Koenig won't need to make that decision after all. Jarak and Nena are killed and the pursuers exit as quickly as they arrived. In the end, Jarak and Nena are gone. Koenig and the others blast open the door to find Sue and Jackie Crawford are alive and well. No longer alien lovers reborn, but two Alphans restored to their original bodies. That final revelation seems to defy the laws of physics as other points in this entry do. It's also wildly optimistic and perhaps a touch too happy to be believed.

Where do we begin? This is an ambitious, brilliant little television story using science fiction as its delivery mechanism. There's an almost divine otherworldly intervention in play based upon the mother and unearthly child thread. Most importantly, it is another story of Alphan survival. Not unlike the Alphans, Jarak's people seek a new home mirrored against the Alphans own efforts to survive. It is a powerful example of Darwinian science. Two completely alien species engaged and at war for their very survival, but only as Space:1999 could deliver it. Christopher Penfold's script, despite a few flaws, is exceptional. This is the first story for which he receives sole credit. The story had its origins penned by Edward di Lorenzo who then handed it over to Penfold who reworked it into the final product.

Alpha Child isn't perfect, but it's more intriguing and entertaining than many of the entries in the Space:1999 saga to date as it begins to hit its stride. Writers Christopher Penfold and Johnny Byrne have much to do with the stability of Year One at this point. The boy's growth process was fairly inconsistent as far as time goes and does present the entry with some logic problems. The physics of physical change and transferrence, presented additional trouble, but I guess physics don't necessarily apply in deep space, especially in the world of Space:1999 where logic is clearly not the rule of the day. These questions did not hamper the enjoyment of Alpha Child. The science fiction possibilities and questions that arose from the story for me were more pensive and entertaining. I enjoyed the concept of an alien force of unknown origin impacting a female on Alpha. It was eerie to witness an alien itnervention as commandeering the reproductive system of a woman to create a being of essentially pre-ordained or pre-destined creation, before the true reveal. There was something almost Christ-like about the theme, like the Lord delivering Jesus unto Mary in Christian doctrine. This is just one manifestation of the story in play, but certainly one possible translation initially. I can't fully discount UFO at this point, but based on the evidence thus far, I do believe Space:1999, despite an unfair reputation, is in retrospect not only the finest production of Gerry Anderson's career, but the most cerebrally challenging. Yes, it was big, with big sets, expansive worlds and big stars. It was also cinematic in execution, but it was equally epic in idea thanks to a culmination of variables not least of which were well-penned, challenging, big, bold stories.

Alpha Child: B+
Writer: Christopher Penfold
Director: Ray Austin

I must apologize for the lengthy delay in getting to the next Space:1999 entry. Honestly, it was the result of sheer exhaustion from my effort on Year One, Episode 9, Force Of Life. I simply wasn't prepared to take on the next entry until now. It's really that simple, but it's good to be back to it.

I was anxious to read Author John Kenneth Muir's thoughts after writing about this particular entry as a counterpoint to my own observations. There were many things in play for this installment and I felt they were mostly successful. I was eager to see how Muir would view things through his typically focused lens in his book Exploring Space:1999.

It's never a good sign to hear Muir start his sentence with "Though." Muir makes it very clear in the beginning of his book, and again here in his commentary, exactly which episodes qualify as "excellent." Breakaway was one such entry and while that pilot was a good opening and table-setter for the series it never reached that plateau for me. Another Time, Another Place is another such entry that I felt never quite reached the pinnacle of excellence, despite the welcomed entry of Johnny Byrne to course correct the series thematically with his scriptwriting presence. It was indeed solid, like Alpha Child. Alpha Child is classified as "interesting" and "unusual." I couldn't agree more, only I seemed to have enjoyed the installment more than Muir.

It was clear from the outset the film would utilize the classic powerful image of a silent child as powerful paranormal entity wreaking havoc on Moonbase Alpha. I love the concept applied in this way within the Space:1999 environment. This is certainly a device in film that made me instantly recall the character Damien of The Omen. Muir, too, points to this film as well as Village Of The Damned [1960] to illustrate the point. Again, the iconic image of Damien in The Omen [1976] is often referenced when it comes to concepts like the one employed in Alpha Child. Does Alpha Child not predate The Omen? Nevertheless, it is not a new idea, but Christopher Penfold delivers. Space:1999 offers a well-executed science fiction spin that I found enthralling.

Muir points to the fortunate casting of the child, played by Wayne Brooks, as the reason for the entry's success. His performance is "a truly gifted one." It's true. Brooks delivers unease with his every screen appearance delivering just the right tone. This could easily have been a disaster with the wrong child actor. There were moments I half expected him to speak, perhaps wanting him to say something and wake me from my own personal discomfort, but Brooks never flinches. He remains in the moment and delivers all the drama through subtle,cool facial expressions and pure presence. It really is outstanding. Could there be better? Maybe, but there's a chance the performance could have been overstated too. Muir points to much of the power of the installment being captured through the use of Brooks' eyes.

Muir does point to the exceptional direction by Director Ray Austin and it is definitely an entry more up his alley. Ring Around The Moon, also directed by Austin, was a waste of his talent for capturing physical action.

In the final act, Muir gets it just right. Muir found the final portion more of a distraction from the initial concept/ formula of the demon seed freely moving about Moonbase Alpha unomolested. Muir's reasons are, as usual, sound. Given Muir's strong grasp of both horror and science fiction, he's certainly a credible witness to the elements in play. Far be it from me to argue with the man, but I'll try. Though Muir certainly has a firm command of the genre and knows the elements that work well in this kind of structure, I still found the somewhat jolting move to the Jarak portion of the entry "interesting" and "unusual." Of Course, Muir is the same man who penned Wes Craven: The Art Of Horror [2004], Horror Films Of The 1970s [2007] and Horror Films Of The 1980s [2007], not to mention The Films Of John Carpenter [2005] just to name a few. How does he do it? My stomach has grown weak for the genre thanks to old age. I'd hate to see his stomach-lining. It's safe to say his grasp on what works in horror cinema is well-established. His point about where Space:1999 goes wrong is logical. As a layman, Alpha Child is a clever mix of science fiction and horror that worked well.

There is undeniably a huge jolt and dramatic disconnect when the child becomes a man. The entire vibe of the piece changes in effect. Muir clearly articulates the point by which Alpha Child goes off the rails. It was a notable change even for this fanatic. Still, I embraced the change and found it riveting and more unnerving than Muir did. In his opinion, Alpha Child does not achieve the sheer focus of the story's original thread int he final analysis. The terror is jettisoned out of the proverbial airlock. Force Of Life is a classic Space:1999 entry that remains an intensely focused piece from start to finish. Muir is not wrong pointing to the dramatic change of direction in a story like Alpha Child. You will either accept or reject on some level the resulting flow. I would have enjoyed the picture Muir indicates could have been.

Again, I welcomed the change and accepted the premise. In a way, the story ultimately did not take the direction I expected, and in this, despite the plot holes, I immersed myself in the science fiction tale. Julian Glover owned the role of a mature Jackie Crawford. Like Brooks, the performances continued to carry the episode for me. Glover absorbed my attention and my imagination. I found the science fiction aspects captivating, somewhat inexplicable, but certainly moving. This is Space:1999 after all. The emotional impact remained for me.

As I mentioned, Alpha Child isn't perfect, but I give it high marks for its science fiction twist on a classic horror concept. It all comes racing to a head and despite the "flaws in logic or execution" Alpha Child still succeeds. It certainly lacks the conviction of a story that steams along like Force Of Life by Johnny Byrne, but is very recommended. This is a great summation of Muir's feeling on the entry. "Unfortunately, the horror in Alpha Child is mitigated somewhat in the final act by a story development out of left field. If the end of the story had concerned this fearsome child and his strange powers, the episode might have been more compelling, more of a single piece." The story does break into two "disparate" ideas, but I was still engaged and curious throughout the story. Granted, I'm not sure if Alpha Child required a title change as a result of its schizophrenia. He adds, "The alien ships, the distraction of the space battles and the unnecessary metamorphosis of Jackie into a grown man all diminish the claustrophobic atmosphere of the story. Maintaining a horror atmosphere is never easy, and throwing in so many disparate elements just doesn't help." I can definitely envision the Alpha Child of which Muir speaks, but like Episode 3, Black Sun and its accompanying flaws, I was more than willing to forgive. This was certainly no Ring Around The Moon, which we can all agree may be the worst of the series and Muir has Alpha Child positioned just a mere notch higher.

Muir always offers additional points of interest given his vast breadth of science fiction knowledge. Space:1999 was often riffed by other science fiction outlets. In the case of Alpha Child, Star Trek: The Next Generation produced an episode called The Child. Many of the same ideas are found in the Star Trek story. Not surprisingly the script for it dates back to 1976-1977. Scipt ideas often make the rounds when conceived, which is why we often see two or three films arrive in theatres within the same year that are often close in concept like Leviathan [1989], The Abyss [1989] and Deep Star Six [1989] as an example. Muir points out The Child was written as part of the planned Star Trek relaunch called Star Trek: Phase II that ultimately died and culminated in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. So why is Space:1999 so disrespected? It was the only game in town when it arrived. Space:1999 remains fertile ground for today's great science fiction, some of which has landed inside the Star Trek franchise thanks to great writer like Christopher Penfold and Johnny Byrne.

Writer Footnote: Christopher Penfold. [?-present]. English born. Penfold would pen a total of 9 episodes for Space:1999. His story contributions include Breakaway [uncredited], Black Sun [uncredited], Guardian Of Piri [uncredited], Alpha Child, The Last Sunset, War Games, Space Brain, Dragon's Domain from Year One and Dorzak from Year Two. His work is some of the best from Space:1999. In Fanderson magazine FAB 33, Penfold offered a sincere, simple statement of fact that has been lost on science fiction critics for decades. "I was certainly interested in the idea of making popular the kind of science fiction which dealt unashamedly with metaphysical ideas. And in the first series of Space:1999 a lot of episodes, not all of them, but a lot of them, confronted some of those issues head on. I think they made very good programmes." In hindsight, Christopher Penfold was one of a handful of important players to shape the world of Space:1999 combined with writer Johnny Byrne. Next to Gerry Anderson's creative vision, these two men were arguably responsible for the resulting vision of Space:1999.

Special Guest: Julian Glover. [1935-present]. English born. Jarak. Actor Julian Glover yields an astounding resume over a varied career. Like many of the stars that graced Space:1999 it's easy to overlook their appearances. Their talents are large and legitimate and we are often drawn into their specific characters without recalling what work by the given actor came before or after. Glover's input includes: Quartermass And The Pit [1967], two episodes of Doctor Who including Tom Baker's City Of Death [1979] [considered one of the top ten Doctor Who episodes of all-time according to Doctor Who Magazine: The Mighty 200!] along with Space:1999's Catherine Schell, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back [1980], For Your Eyes Only [1981], The Fourth Protocol [1987] [with Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan], Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade [1989] and much more.

You know I love to put certain actors in context. This minor role is easily overlooked in the big spectrum of things, but how impressive is this part? Seriously? His role as General Maximilian Veers is truly unforgettable and from arguably the best Star Wars film, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. It's brief, but he pilots an AT-AT Walker. Nuff said!

Interestingly, Muir indicates Glover's character in Alpha Child, Jarak, had many of the same Sith powers as Lord Darth Vader also found in the above clip. He could choke anyone with but a mere thought. You have to love the six degrees of separation found in science fiction. It's scary.

Once again, I point to the incredible connections between all things Gerry Anderson and the world of Ian Fleming's James Bond 007. Julian Glover landed the always plum role of a James Bond villain for the solid, Roger Moore-fueled For Your Eyes Only as Aris Kristatos.


Robert Wood said...

Fascinating review of "Alpha Child" - the next time I watch it I will consider some of your points. You see the second half of the episode more favorably than I do.

I'm sure you would enjoy reading my new book about Space: 1999, "Destination: Moonbase Alpha". You can learn all about it on my website at - I'm honoured that it is receiving a lot of praise from fans as well as those involved in the creation of the series.

SFF said...

Hello Robert. Best of luck with your new book. I did purchase a copy and look forward to taking a look at it.

I do recall your opinion of Alpha Child essentially concluding that you were happy it "ends." Sorry to see you discount some of the wonderful elements of that episode even in the second portion. I've seen much worse.

All the best.

John Kenneth Muir said...

Sci Fi Fanatic:

I'm just getting caught up here, but you wrote a great review of "Alpha Child."

I wish, in retrospect, that I had praised the episode more than I did. It's an episode I've gone back to and come to appreciate much more than I did back in 1994 when I wrote my book (when I was 25...).

The photographs you displayed here get at some of the beauty of the episode vis a vis the visuals, and certainly "Alpha Child" features some fantastic horror moments.

I should have been more positive about this one.

Everyone makes mistakes...and I sure made one here (and with "The Troubled Spirit," which I've also come to appreciate more fully since I wrote Exploring Space:1999).

Live and learn, I suppose, but it's nice to see you giving the episode it's due. Nicely done.


SFF said...


I always love your counters to my counter. : )

Seriously, I know you've been slightly busy of late and knew you'd catch up when you had time.

I don't think your assessment was wrong and you certainly delivered a valid analysis. I suspect you've had a slight change of heart on it.

Still, 25, boy you were young. It's amazing you wrote as well as you did at 25. Tip of the cap to that.

By the way, Space:1999 has it all over SGU. ;)

All in all, I'm glad we both see the episode as more of a success today.

John Kenneth Muir said...

Sci-Fi Fanatic.

Thank you for the kind words about my writing! Right back at ya!

And I do have to say -- Space:1999 is my enduring and continuing "love." Nothing will change that. :)

But, I'm really, really enjoying SGU right now...

All my best,

SFF said...

Your genuine affection for SGU is really pushing the envelope for me. I may need to re-evaluate thanks to you.

Okay, no matter how much you like it---- Space:1999 --- there is no substitute. : )