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A giant leap for mankind.... It's more like a stumble in the dark.
December 12, 2013 9:21 AM   Subscribe

On September 13, 1999, nuclear waste from Earth stored on the far side of the Moon exploded in a catastrophic accident. The explosion knocked the Moon out of orbit and sent it, and the 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, hurtling uncontrollably into space. Their subsequent trials and adventures were chronicled... in Space: 1999.

Background
* Previously on MeFi: filthy light thief's wonderful post on the show. Lots and lots of info there.
* TV Tropes: "Definitive evidence that only properly trained professionals should create science fiction shows for television."
* The Catacombs. Includes Episode Guides (including transcripts), Reference Library, Series Guides and a Merchandise Guide.
* Fan Site: Space: 1999.org
* Wikipedia

Episodes
The show starred Martin Laundau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse, Catherine Schell and Nick Tate. Space: 1999 ran for 48 episodes during its original two-year broadcast (1975-1977). The show was broadcast out of order, but was intended to be a progressive serial, with multi-episode arcs. The follow list organizes the episodes in the order they were meant to be seen, not by airdate.

Year One (1975–1976)
1. Breakaway
2. Matter of Life and Death
3. Black Sun
4. Ring Around the Moon
5. Earthbound
6. Another Time, Another Place
7. Missing Link
8. Guardian of Piri
9. Force of Life
10. Alpha Child
11. The Last Sunset
12. Voyager's Return
13. Collision Course
14. Death's Other Dominion
15. The Full Circle
16. End of Eternity
17. War Games (The highest-budgeted single episode of any TV series up to that time)
18. The Last Enemy
19. The Troubled Spirit
20. Space Brain
21. The Infernal Machine
22. Mission of the Darians
23. Dragon's Domain
24. The Testament of Arkadia

Year Two (1976–1977)
1. The Metamorph
2. The Exiles
3. One Moment of Humanity
4. All That Glisters
5. Journey to Where
6. The Taybor
7. The Rules of Luton
8. The Mark of Archanon
9. Brian the Brain
10. New Adam, New Eve
11. Catacombs of the Moon
12. The AB Chrysalis
13. Seed of Destruction
14. The Beta Cloud
15. Space Warp
16. A Matter of Balance
17. The Bringers of Wonder, Part One
18. The Bringers of Wonder, Part Two
19. The Lambda Factor
20. The Seance Spectre
21. Dorzak
22. Devil's Planet
23. The Immunity Syndrome
24. The Dorcons

Compilation Films
Four films were assembled from various episodes of Space: 1999 in the 1970s and 1980s:

1978: Destination: Moonbase Alpha. The first widely available re-edit of Space: 1999, based upon the two-part Year Two episode "The Bringers of Wonder". Movie is not online but the trailer is.
1979: Alien Attack: Combines the episodes "Breakaway" and "War Games."
1982: Journey Through the Black Sun. Combines the episodes "Collision Course" and "Black Sun."
1982: Cosmic Princess. Combines the episodes "The Metamorph" and "Space Warp." Not online, but it was used in an early episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000!

Epilogue: Message from Moonbase Alpha
At the Breakaway 1999 convention, held in Los Angeles, California, a short featurette entitled Message from Moonbase Alpha was aired on September 13, 1999. Produced by fans and written by Space: 1999 script editor Johnny Byrne, the short film wraps up loose ends from the series, and shows what happened to various characters after the show went off the air.

Space:2099
A reboot of the series was announced last year: Space:2099
* 'Space: 2099' to Be Revived for Television
* Why Space: 2099 Won't Be a "Dark and Gritty" Reboot of Space: 1999

Also on MeFi
* UFO
* Fly me to the moon
* Star Maidens
* Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation shows
posted by zarq (62 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have the vinyl at home that treats Death's Other Dominion as a radio play. Its certainly not collectible quality, but I cherish as if it were. Thanks for the collection of links to watch some episodes.
posted by lownote at 9:27 AM on December 12, 2013


I did not know how much I needed the closure given by "Message from Moonbase Alpha" until I got that closure.

Godspeed, brave men and women of Moonbase Alpha. Godspeed, and good luck.
posted by hanov3r at 9:28 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The show was broadcast out of order, but was intended to be a progressive serial, with multi-episode arcs.

I never knew this. It explains a lot of my "What's going on? Did I miss something?" feelings when I first watched the show.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:29 AM on December 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Thorzdad, yep. I had the same problem.

Thankfully, wikipedia has an episode list which shows both the original airdate and in what order they were supposed to be watched. I used that page when creating this post.
posted by zarq at 9:32 AM on December 12, 2013


Every single thing about that series premise makes my head hurt.
posted by BrashTech at 9:34 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's worth noting that Hulu (free) has them too -- though in original airdate (i.e., incorrect) order.
posted by aught at 9:36 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The series had some pretty good special effects and good actors but even as a 11 year old, I had trouble getting past the (lack of) science. On the other hand, by that time I'd seen the all of the existing Star Trek episodes multiple times and it was the only space show on.
posted by octothorpe at 9:37 AM on December 12, 2013


Also, I wish I still had my plastic Eagle models. (God knows what happened to them; I'm 50, though I guess I might find pieces of them digging through boxes in my parents' attic.) That was a surprisingly cool kit for a TV show vehicle (better than the Star Trek kits, which I was usually dissatisfied with in some way).
posted by aught at 9:38 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


God, I loved that show. Now I guess I get to find out if I had reason to!
posted by rtha at 9:39 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


First the Muppet show, then Andromeda, now this? Zara, did someone knock you on the head and you woke up in a space station with two robots made out of broomsticks and tin cans and a dial up Internet connection that would only go to certain YouTube channels?
posted by Diablevert at 9:41 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Right there with you, aught. I was 8 when the show aired, and crazy for my Eagle model.

And curious to know what you think, rtha. Just watched the first 20 minutes of the second episode, and it just didn't hold up for me. Very slow moving, horrible dialog, and kinda just boring.

Oh well, I'll keep the very happy memories of zooming around the living room with my Eagle, and skip the re-watch.
posted by Frayed Knot at 9:44 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rtha, subsequent rewatchings have indicated to me that it doesn't really stand the test of time. But I do see that 9-year-old me had a latent crush on Martin Landau.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:44 AM on December 12, 2013


I was little when this came out, and literally the only thing I remember from it is the character with the weird eyebrows, which was pretty much the most disturbing thing I had ever seen on television.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:48 AM on December 12, 2013


Pre-aliens/alien worlds, Space: 1999 was terrific. It was VERY like the remake of Battlestar Galactica: the tech wasn't too far out there (even more true of the former), and the people weren't The Best of the Best in any way... They were scientists on an outpost.

If the ISS lost orbit, but was 15x bigger, and stuck to the moon, something very like Space: 1999 might have happened.

And then the aliens bullshit started, to grab eyeballs.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:49 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The explosion knocked the Moon out of orbit and sent it, and the 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, hurtling uncontrollably into space.

Even as a kid, this aspect of the show always bugged the hell out of me. "Hurtling through space? Nuclear explosion? I watch little blue creatures that live under mushrooms and I'm finding this hard to believe."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:50 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Those spaceships were pre-pubescent porn for this seventies kid.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:54 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Between this and the comet hurtling between the earth and moon in 1994 from Thundarr the Barbarian, the 90s were a lackluster time for space catastrophes.
posted by dr_dank at 9:54 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


YAY! The Fella recently bought some of the series, so we've been watching them, reminiscing over our favorite childhood sci-fi, and – in my case – eyeballing Martin Landau in that sweeeeeet jumpsuit with the one big zipper down the shoulder. Hello, Martin Landau.
posted by Elsa at 9:58 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was a ten year-old science-fiction fan in 1975 and I remember this show, and remember being annoyed by it. Watching a bit of the first episode just now, I'm surprised at the quality of the sets, although of course they look kind of silly. I feel sorry for all those middle-aged men wearing spandex that highlight their flab.

And of course it's all tight-fitting spandex-type of clothing, except at the ankles where the pants flair out into bell bottoms.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:02 AM on December 12, 2013


Diablevert: "...did someone knock you on the head and you woke up in a space station with two robots made out of broomsticks and tin cans and a dial up Internet connection that would only go to certain YouTube channels?"

YES. YES THEY DID. :D

See: fulltvshow for all the posts I've done like this one.

Although I cheated and included a couple that aren't really tv shows.
posted by zarq at 10:03 AM on December 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I loved this show, I had a model Eagle with detachable cargo module! I wanted to wear a jumpsuit and speak in a British accent!
posted by Mister_A at 10:07 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's no moon. It's a -- Ah, wait. Never mind. It's a moon.
posted by brundlefly at 10:10 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess it stopped being a moon though, no? It was the incredibly mixed-up moon that stopped mooning and became an, I don't know, itinerant planetoid?
posted by Mister_A at 10:10 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


ALSO if you have beef with this show over the science, you have no heart and I hope you get your eyes gouged out by Frances Conroy.
posted by Mister_A at 10:12 AM on December 12, 2013


It may not be a moon, but it was still the Moon.

In our hearts.
posted by brundlefly at 10:14 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Strangely enough, even though I was already a budding science fiction fan at the time, I only remember seeing a couple of episodes of Space 1999. Given that I watched things like _Quark_ and _Battlestar Galactica_ devotedly, I'm not sure why. Maybe something else my family watched was up against it? We had a second TV by the time BSG came around, but possibly not in 1975. Or maybe my parents didn't think I was quite old enough in 1975 as opposed to 1977.
posted by tavella at 10:14 AM on December 12, 2013


Between this and the comet hurtling between the earth and moon in 1994 from Thundarr the Barbarian, the 90s were a lackluster time for space catastrophes.

If I'm being completely honest, the post-apocalyptic Kirby-designed world of Thundarr is my favorite dystopian setting and it's criminal that it didn't take off as a media juggernaut with games and comics and live-action adaptations and the whole shebang. It wasn't the best cartoon, but its world is so much fun.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:19 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aha, looking at one of the articles, it looks like it was never a network broadcast in the United States, just syndicated, so I probably caught random episodes at some point when I was in the right place.
posted by tavella at 10:19 AM on December 12, 2013


O hai, Uncle P!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:26 AM on December 12, 2013


Sunday afternoons in Canada in the '70's were a painful time for a young boy trying to find something good to watch on TV. Basically you had a choice of church shows, curling or Space 1999. I guess this will destroy any nerd cred I may have had, but I always found the show to be excruciatingly boring; so many old dudes, so much serious talking! It was so disappointing, because it looked promising: sci-fi! Space! Monsters! But then it was just so boring. I was too young to get it, I guess.
Interestingly, I'd always thought the show was Canadian but I guess that's just from association, it was just ALWAYS FUCKING ON on Sundays, on CBC or CTV or whatever. But on reviewing it, the production values are way too high for a Canadian 70's show.
I love that completely unrelated and inappropriate funky closing theme, though. Pow!
posted by chococat at 10:27 AM on December 12, 2013


My childhood memory is that space 1999 was repeated regularly at sunday lunchtime quite a bit. My other recollection is it was pretty bleak. Cmdr Koenig was practically in swivel eyed loon territory and quite quick to try and shoot other ships to bits, though most of the time his weapons were too useless. Of course, he was always right to trust no one.
posted by biffa at 10:27 AM on December 12, 2013


Coincidentally, Teleport City is in the middle of a super-detailed history of the creation of the show.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:28 AM on December 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Chrysostom, Thanks for that link! :)
posted by zarq at 10:30 AM on December 12, 2013


I'm about seven minutes in on ep 1 and wow it's way worse than I thought it would be! But I can't seem to stop watching.
posted by rtha at 10:52 AM on December 12, 2013


We weren't allowed much TV at my house, but dad watched all the SF shows. He was a real rocket-scientist who is actually related to Leonard Nimoy. So I couldn't quite get into Martin Landau, being yet another Jew In Space. But Barbara Bain... there was a shiksa for you.
We did, however, calculate on our home teletype-terminal computer connection how large an explosion it would take to propel the Moon out of orbit, and how much nuclear material that would take. Can't recall the answers, though. Programming was hard at 14 years old!
posted by Dreidl at 11:00 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you don't like the Nuclear Explosion Sends Moon On Impossible Trajectory shtick, just replace it with Experimental Warp Reactor Goes Out Of Control, Sends Moon On Impossible Trajectory. And we're good.

It's what they should have done, like when they decided to replace lithium with dilithium in the Enterprise engines.
posted by Devonian at 11:04 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the ISS lost orbit, but was 15x bigger, and stuck to the moon, something very like Space: 1999 might have happened.

No, it would need a whole lot more 'ifs,' along the lines of "if the laws of physics were totally repealed, and if some mysterious agency installed a faster-than-light drive of some kind and directed the Moon to zoom off to a different star system every week." Maybe then something like Space 1999 might have happened.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:04 AM on December 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


TV Tropes:
Although it still retains a substantial and enthusiastic following, Space: 1999 is mainly noteworthy only for its high production values; its effects work was outstanding for the period and still looks quite good today. Most of the equipment and vehicle designs are realistic (no unnecessary streamlining in the vacuum of space, no silly aesthetic flourishes), and those that move had some of the more realistic physics to grace TV until Babylon 5's Starfuries (notwithstanding at least one scene that showed a stationary spacecraft rocking back and forth in space). The main problem with the series is that despite the high production values and all the acting talent (Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse, and many notable guest stars) in the show, they had nothing approaching consistently competent writing. The series premise is not just impossible by any understanding of science (the energies required to de-orbit the moon are on a par with those required to completely vaporise it), it's downright silly. And the scripts rarely rose above the level of the first episode—they could be dramatically quite good but scientifically absurd, although of course the mainstream audiences the show was aimed at have little interest in accurate science in their science fiction.
Of course, 99% of science fiction isn't remotely plausible and usually features extensive hand-waving. So it's not as if Space: 1999 is some sort of unexpected exception to the rule.
posted by zarq at 11:16 AM on December 12, 2013


Yeah but we expect writers to at least attempt a hand-wavy explanation. We don't expect much, just mention something about "Inertial dampers" and we won't get upset that everyone wasn't squashed like bugs by the acceleration to light speed.
posted by octothorpe at 11:26 AM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also the inspiration for the name of Space: 1889, steampunk from before the term was around.
posted by XMLicious at 11:46 AM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mwahahaha! What an amazing post! I now have several days of my xmas vacation planned.

Thank you for restoring my childhood. :)
posted by blurker at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah but we expect writers to at least attempt a hand-wavy explanation.

We do now, particularly in the internet era of obsessional fans comparing detailed notes and theories about everything in a show, but I'm not sure my friends and I cared as much about that back in the 70s. I feel like I/we compartmentalized sf from the science we were learning at school.

I mean, it's not like STTOS or other sci-fi TV shows were really much more believeable in this regard (I remember the sound bite at the time of Carl Sagan saying something about Spock's mixed alien and human parentage making as much sense as a human crossed with a cabbage, and thinking - even as a tween - "Um, you're not getting it, Carl Sagan - it's sci-fi.").

Hell, LOST would probably have fared much better back then. Expectations for accuracy and consistency were lower across the board, I think.

All that said, I think I better stay away from a Space:1999 rewatch marathon, no matter how much I long for my old Eagle models with their detachable cargo pods that I went to such pains to paint and decal accurately.
posted by aught at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think zarq's account recently got taken over by the Horse E-Books software, which just found www.schedulesdirect.org and fell in love.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:04 PM on December 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ha! :D
posted by zarq at 12:15 PM on December 12, 2013


Just here to drop off this Space: 1999 kid's book cover image.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:56 PM on December 12, 2013


I still have my (green) die-cast Eagle toy at home sitting on my desk.

YOU ARE SO JEALOUS.
posted by The Tensor at 1:03 PM on December 12, 2013


I owned this jigsaw.
posted by pipeski at 1:03 PM on December 12, 2013


I remember Space:1999 somewhat fondly from childhood, but I am not heartened that the guy behind the new series is the same one who brought the recent, execrable V reboot to television.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:25 PM on December 12, 2013


No, sorry. Didn't like it then, don't like it now. I will forever resent the show that seduced Gerry and Sylvia Anderson from the masterpiece that was UFO.

I also loved Fireball XL-5 and Journey To The Far Side of the Sun. Such fun miniature work.
posted by lhauser at 7:41 PM on December 12, 2013


I remember (at age 6) having the living crap scared out of me by Brian the Brain, the maniacal robot from the second season, voiced by Bernard Cribbins in full-on chirpy mode. He now seems quite harmless.
posted by scruss at 8:12 PM on December 12, 2013


I'd never heard of this show before; I was born in 1971. Thank you, it's very enjoyable! I'm now on Episode 12, "Voyager's Return", which had the crew encountering a probe named Voyager One, launched in 1985. This kept confusing my space program knowledge so I searched and discovered this episode was filmed summer of 1975, pre-dating the launches of Voyagers 1 and 2 in the summer of 1977. Originally Mariner 11 and 12 respectively, the name was changed to "Voyager" just months before launch, chosen by a competition.

I like to imagine this program influenced the winning name.
posted by _paegan_ at 6:13 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I too found the show painfully boring, but I didn't care -- I was sooooo in love with Tony that all the standing around talking never mattered. And since I suck at science, that didn't bother me either. I was just laser focused on Toooooony and also kind of Alan Carter, and I swear if my 15-year-old self had known about slash I would have been slashing them in my dreams all the time. Although I got into the romance between Tony and Maya pretty hard, if I recall.

Man, the '70s were a wasteland when it came to SF. I still remember grumping about the shit that was on TV and in theatres, and how intrigued we were about this movie coming out by the guy who'd done American Graffiti because we hoped it might be at least marginally better than Space: 1999 and Saturn 5 and Logan's Run.
posted by emcat8 at 10:33 PM on December 13, 2013


Whaaat 70's sci-fi was awesome - everyone dies and everything ends horribly and most likely ironically. I mean, I guess I wouldn't want to have lived through a decade of nothing but that bleakness for sci-fi, but I'm glad all that 70's sci-fi exists now to visit whenever.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:10 AM on December 14, 2013


In the late 70s, early 80s in Australia this was aired at weird times. Definitely daytime slots as I have a vivid memory of an episode when I was at home from school sick with a fever - which was pretty much my experience of mind altering drugs at the time.
I loved this show with every fiber of my pre-teen body, but with no vcr or other option to watch it I was always mystified by any developing plot, although I see now the show ordering issue might have contributed.
Thanks for the post - it will be another show I inflict on the bystander-young.
posted by bystander at 6:03 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Definitely daytime slots as I have a vivid memory of an episode when I was at home from school sick with a fever - which was pretty much my experience of mind altering drugs at the time.

I don't recall it being on in the 1980s at all (but the networks were less networked back then), but the experience of mind altering drugs feeling is something I got when I purchased the DVDs a few years back ($25 per season new).

It might be a fondly remembered show, but it's really not that *great*. There is greatness in there, but it's just so wacky beyond the premise. I watched it in what appears to be the correct order, and it really makes no sense, even if it is fun.

I've been afraid to tackle season two though.
posted by Mezentian at 3:45 PM on December 14, 2013


Thing I learnt from that Teleport City article: the designer of the S1 costumes invented the topless monokini (NSFW), which helped spark a fad for topless nightclubs in the US.

How curious the 1960s were.
posted by Mezentian at 4:44 PM on December 14, 2013


From the same articles:
From the start, Anderson and his writers had wanted a more cerebral show, but it was a constant battle, often lost, between them and the ITC executives in New York. The endless back and forth and delays meant that Space: 1999 was often a jumble of half-baked ideas and dime store philosophy — less 2001, more stoner watching 2001.

That seems totally accurate.
posted by Mezentian at 4:47 PM on December 14, 2013


It might be a fondly remembered show, but it's really not that *great*

I loved this show so much when I was 10 years old. I think I should probably leave that there. But I'm tempted to start watching....
posted by thelonius at 6:13 PM on December 14, 2013


Be tempted.
Just realise it is what it is, slow-drip it, and enjoy.
posted by Mezentian at 5:48 AM on December 15, 2013


When I read some folks' comments about the slow pacing, I wonder if that's just part of the general evolution of film / video pacing. Go back and look at some other popular TV shows and films from the 60s and 70s -- a mini-marathon of Columbo or MASH episodes, for example. I hear younger folks (nieces and nephews mainly) frequently complaining how slow old tv shows are, and I suspect the S:1999 pacing complaints are part of the overall trend. (Now the scientific absurdities are entirely on them of course.)
posted by aught at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2013


The slow pacing almost turned me off. However, since setting and costume design also reminded me very much of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which also is slow as snails, I was able to adapt.
posted by _paegan_ at 8:50 AM on December 17, 2013


Behold.....
A Space 1999 spoof from the producers of Honey Boo Boo wants your money.
posted by Mezentian at 4:08 PM on December 18, 2013


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