Saturday, September 16, 2023

Space: 1999 Days ― Ring Around the Bathtub

I copped "Ring Around the Bathtub" from a friend of mine. That mocking title about sums up Space: 1999's most rotten Year One episode: "Ring Around the Moon"

For as much as I like to point out its badness, I find myself being strangely drawn toward "Ring". There is something I cannot explain about its appeal. Maybe lines like "This is Triton's universe..." keep drawing me back, time and again, with Plan 9 pleasures. By the way, the proper line should be: "This is Triton's galaxy."

(This kind of ineptness, unfortunately, happened far too often on Space: 1999 ― science fiction produced by people who didn't understand science fiction, which might explain why the show's first season worked best as "horror". The second, and final, season was less horrific.)

The film editing in "Ring" is rough, giving the viewer the impression that there were problems in editorial. The inter-cutting between scenes is often awkward and disjointed; as though a scene or two is missing here and there.

The script is also "off". The episode's opening contains one of those crewmembers-going-berserk moments. Fine. But this serious matter goes on for two minutes before Dr. Helena Russell yells to Sandra Benes, "Sandra, call security!" No! What took you so long? Anyone?

Perhaps the biggest problem with the episode is the awful acting, especially by Martin Landau; even the usually above-the-fray Barry Morse suffers from unconvincing deliveries. (In all fairness, Morse thought he was working in a nuthouse with this program. Morse left 1999 at the end of the first season, telling the producers something like "I'm going off to play with the grownups now".) The one person who shines here is Barbara Bain as Dr. Russell. Her performance is restrained, and applicably subtle. The good news is that Bain had a chance to show her stuff in Space: 1999's slightly improved second season.

One element in "Ring Around the Moon" is outstanding: The music; not composed by Barry Gray in this case, but by Vic Elms and Alan Willis. Its sparseness and rawness adds to the out-of-whack nature of the episode's storyline. As a matter of fact, the score's "beat" would foreshadow Derek Wadsworth's vibrant and fitting Year Two music.

(For me, Barry Gray, as much as I love his work on previous Gerry & Sylvia Anderson programs, was clearly not into this series ― one indicator of this was the composer's reuse of themes he had originally written for the 1969 Anderson feature film Doppelganger [Journey to the Far Side of the Sun]. One can also hear a major smack of his opening theme tune for the 1968 film Thunderbird 6 in the 1999 title music. Composer Gray produced some fine cues for Space: 1999's first season, but most were seemingly telexed in.)

Like a few episodes of this series, "Ring Around the Moon" is best viewed at 2 o'clock in the morning, I think. Which will be the time of the day when I'll watch this one again....

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