Space: 1999 Vol. 01 by Andrew Smith, Anthony Terpiloff and Elizabeth Barrows (audio review).

‘Space: 1999’ was the show that made it ok to like Science Fiction on TV in the United Kingdom. It was the second live action show, after ‘UFO’, by Gerry Anderson (known for ‘Thunderbirds’ and ‘Captain Scarlet’) and, no, we didn’t look for the strings. Aired in 1975, it takes some of its inspiration from ‘Star Trek’. There is an ethnically mixed crew and they come in peace but carry guns. Like the original ‘Star Trek’, it was also short-lived, ending after two series. There are three episodes, the middle one is a revisited episode adapted for audio. All three are set during the first television series.

The Siren Call by Andrew Smith 

This episode might be considered a bridging episode from season 1 episode 1, ‘Breakaway’, which ended when the nuclear waste explodes, sending the Moon catapulting out of Earth’s orbit into the unknown. It attempts to explain the original ‘Breakaway’ episode and the Meta Signal. In ‘Breakaway’, they were intending to send a manned probe to the vicinity of the planet they call Meta to see if the signal meant intelligent life was there. Just a non-spoiler here, this has no relation to anything the founder of Facebook might have got up to much later.

It was bound to start with a dispute over authority. Space Commissioner Simmons (Timothy Bentinck) thinks it’s his bailiwick, so it’s his job to be in charge, thank you very much. He’s probably a little resentful that he’s only stuck on the Moon thanks to the accident, having arrived shortly before the explosion and he’s missing his desk job. Commander John Koenig (Mark Bonar) and Doctor Helena Russell (Maria Teresa Creasey) have no idea what a bailiwick is and their sniggering provide some light relief. Simmons is in denial about the fact they’re five light years from Earth and no hope of return. He’s a man who used to have authority and rather crassly tries to take charge of a situation he has no experience of. Meanwhile, John Koenig is worried by the naivety and gung ho nature of Simmons.

The Alphans are contacted by the inhabitants of Meta, the very aliens that sent out the signal that had such a devastating effect on the Moon. Cesar (Terry Molloy) arrives as their representative and they are very apologetic about the unintended accident. But all is not as it seems and an act of heroism leads to Simmons placing his trust in the aliens who have an agenda he cannot even begin to guess at.

This episode has plenty of drama and opens the series with intent. Along with a strong story, we are given light sketches of the main characters so we can fix them in our minds as we proceed into the rest of the series.

Death’s Other Dominium adapted by Roland Moore (based on the original teleplay by Anthony Terpilof and Elizabeth Barrows)

The Alphans hear a signal from a planet that indicates it is from explorers who left many years before. They also receive a coded warning but have no idea who sent that and what their agenda might be. They go to meet them and land on a hostile frozen land. The settlers have an interesting story to tell but there are many secrets, too. This is an excellent story with layers comprised of the Alphans different experiences when they land on the planet. As they are separated from each other, there is an opportunity to develop the story more fully than the original teleplay. The character of Jack (Nicholas Asbury), who seeks to tell the Alphans the truth is cleverly done with the full secrets of the planet and its settlers spooled out carefully for maximum impact.

Goldilocks by Andrew Smith 

The Alphans are still moving further away from Earth and the scanners find another potential planet to settle on. It could be a perfect place to live for the displaced Alphans. They have a limited time to find out if they can settle as the Moon carries on its trajectory. The landing party meet up with the locals who share a gift of mind-linking which allows them to quickly learn English. Such instant contact and potential rapport means the Alphans are optimistic that this really is a Goldilocks world. What could possibly go wrong?

Revisiting ‘Space: 1999’ and realising that it’s nearly fifty years old is rather sobering. The series is available on ITVX in the UK, free to view and I watched a little taster to see how different the audio was. I’m pleased to say that the special effects are just as good if not better in the new version. The original ‘Death’s Other Dominium’ is still enjoyable but is limited by its set. It’s also dominated by John Shrapnel’s performance as Jack who has lost his mind due to the experiments and seems often to be auditioning for the part of King Lear which although a beautiful performance rather takes over. Even Brian Blessed is quiet in this, perhaps he thought there wasn’t room on the stage for two.

The science is hokey but the plots are fun, even though they do depend on the Moon sailing past planets every so often. The audio is very well presented and there is a sense of immediacy when the drama takes a dangerous turn. The music and sound effects are spot on and it’s a great addition to the library of Big Finish.

Sue Davies

July 2023

(pub: Big Finish, 2023. 3 CDs 234 minutes. Price: £19.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-83868-286-6. Digital: ISBN: 978-1-83868-287-3)

cast: Mark Bonnar, Maria Teresa Creasey, Clive Hayward, Nicholas Asbury, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Timothy Bentinck, Beth Chalmers, Susan Hingley, Anthony Howell, Chris Jarman, Glen McCready, Terry Molloy, Amaka Okafor and Tracy Wiles

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