Saturday, September 16, 2023

Space: 1999 Days ― Simmonds Is Earthbound

"Earthbound" is one of Space: 1999's finest hours.

When Space premiered back in September of 1975, I was there in front of the colour tube to welcome another starfield patch... even if stars were a bit on the scarce side in this colourful import from the UK. Since I know the old SF television series very well, due to my then space cadet rating, I can pick and choose what I want to watch. And I choose this episode.

Despite the chintzy-looking alien 'sleeper ship' set and its even chintzier inhabitants, the Kaldorians, the episode works because of an engaging story and a great character: Commissioner Simmonds, played to perfection by Roy Dotrice, was sorely needed as a continuing foil for the bland Moonbase Alpha regulars ― not in an annoying Doctor Zachary Smith (of Lost in Space) way, but as Simmonds the full-blooded reactive and contrarian human being. It was not to be, however.

Simmonds is the floating variable in "Earthbound". Visiting alien leader Zantor, portrayed most effectively by some dude named Christopher Lee, is an unknown quantity in a friend-or-foe sense; but having the boisterous bureaucrat producing his own sneaky threat made for interpersonal drama that was all too rare on Space: 1999. (Year One, that is; Year Two was a huge improvement in that regard.) This dynamic sets up and plays out the themes of "nobility" and "trust".

The episode's middle section, involving a threatened Helena Russell, suffers a little from a false false alarm ― obviously the sequence was inserted to fill out the script's page count ― but the more driven element of the narrative picks up when the good Commissioner does what he feels is right; for him. The ending is potent, and one for the memories bank ― and worthy of EC Comics. Space: 1999, Year One, is considered by many of its fans to be more horror than science fiction.

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