Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Space: 1999 - "Space Brain"

Spoiler Level: High (but come on now, it aired in 1976. We're 11 years past the future the story was even set in.  I think the statute of limitations has run out on this one.)

Every now and then, when I'm washing dishes in the sink, I look at the soap suds and in my head I hear Victor Bergman say "This 'foam,' as you call it... can crush anything."

Some things just leave life-long impressions.

So one day while I was washing the dishes I put this episode in my Netflix DVD queue, for old times' sake.  Since there were no new episodes of any of my shows this week due to Thanksgiving I had time to watch it.  And man, what an awesome nostalgia ride.  Okay, the foam and the zero-g effects may not have been very good, but the model work is still fantastic to watch.  Gerry Anderson was always great at making good SF eye candy.  This episode used three different Eagles, each one with its own unique details.  Not to mention the foam as its over-running the surface of the moon and covering Moonbase Alpha.  I know CGI is realistic, but man, models just have something special to them.

The science is, of course, shaky at best.  (1) The foam is antibodies from a Space Brain that Moonbase Alpha is on a collision with.  No problems there. (2)  This Space Brain is at the center of the galaxy and all the planets depend on it.  Okay, now we're getting really iffy. Are we trying to say that the Moon has traveled all the way from an outer spiral arm to the center of a galaxy in less than a year? (3)  The Space Brain is "not a sun, a star, or a planet."  Well, that's typical Space: 1999 science for you, not knowing that there's no difference between a sun and a star.  (4) The Space Brain is a million times bigger than the Moon, so the anti-bodies will crush the entire Moon, but if we increase the pressure inside Moonbase Alpha to counter the pressure of the antibodies, we should be able to ride it through.  Okay, at that point you just throw any attempt to take the science seriously out the window, eat your popcorn and enjoy the ride.

And there's the obvious drama points; you just know something's got to go wrong with Plan A to up the drama, and you see the obvious set up with what's going to go wrong with Plan B, etc. etc.

But there's also some very interesting, very human moments.  When they first encounter the Space Brain and they don't know what it is yet, its antibodies crush an Eagle and send it crashing back on Alpha.  Commander Koenig decides the next logical step is to nuke it, in the hopes that it'll weaken it enough for the Moon to pass through it unharmed.  This struck me as a bit extreme, but I rather liked the exchange between Koenig and Eagle chief Carter as they sent the nukes off.  Koenig expresses regret at taking a first strike against an enemy he doesn't understand, and Carter counters they killed the crew of Eagle 1.

Once they realize what the Space Brain is, they also realize it's trying to help them avoid it as well.  My first assumption was that, being intelligent, it valued life and didn't want to take it needlessly.  But then all attempts to steer Moonbase Alpha away from the Space Brain fail, and in the end Koenig and Bergman muse that the Moon shot through the Space Brain like a bullet, killing it and all the planets that depended on it.  The Space Brain was trying to help them out of self-preservation.  It's a sad note, but it's treated as little more than an afterthought.

I absolutely LOVED the music, especially what was playing during the main foam attack.  The music felt totally familiar, and I have no idea if it's because I actually remember it from being a child, if it was a theme that was simply reused in the series a lot, or if it's a piece of Library Music that I actually have but can't place-- according to wikipedia, it could be any of the three, or even reused music from a different Gerry Anderson series.  [UPDATE: It was "Mars, the Bringer of War," from Holst's "The Planets." So technically it was none of those! Special thanks to fanderson.org for solving that mystery for me.]

So this was a great trip down memory lane.  I think I'm inspired enough to even watch the other two episodes on the disc before I send it back!

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