Space: 1999 1.5 – Death’s Other Dominion

So Space: 1999 has joined our son’s other little rotation of shows that we occasionally watch together in the afternoons, which reminds me of just how incredibly spoiled for choice the kids of today are. Remember all those afternoons in the late seventies when you felt like putting down the toys and books or coming in from outside playing for some TV time, and you just had to cross your fingers there was something better than F Troop on? Children today will never know our ennui.

Anyway, I decided against writing about the other shows we occasionally look at together, in part because who needs the extra work, and in part because Space: 1999 is usually so uninspiringly stupid. Not even a groovy guest star might have tempted me. He and I could watch BRIAN BLESSED in anything and I don’t have to write about it. I could even pass on the opportunity to make a joke about the possibility of spending eight hundred-plus years in the company of Valerie Leon, eternally thirty years young. Or a joke about one actor’s obvious hairpiece, or another about carved from ice on a distant planet or not, these dudes have the most 1970s pad I’ve ever seen.

No, I mention “Death’s Other Dominion” today for another reason. In this story, the Alphans deal with a time warp or something not really explained and meet the members of a lost expedition from Earth. From the Alphans perspective, all contact was lost just fifteen years previously, but for the people of Ultima Thule, it’s been about 880 years and they have not aged a day. Experiments to understand their immortality have left some of their number slowly vegetating in a distant cave as “the revered ones,” their minds completely gone as they twitch silently or rock side to side. And this really got under the kid’s skin in an unexpected and devilish way. Just before Tubi took an ad break, our son got up and went to the other sofa, eyes wide, as he said “This has really, really creeped me out.”

He was still so bothered by the implications and the visuals that when the episode comes to its thunderously memorable and incredibly grisly climax, he was less bothered by that freaky moment than the shuffling, mindless men and women walking back and forth in an ice cave, forever. I remembered the ending from when I first saw this one as a teenager – it foreshadows the finale of Raiders of the Lost Ark in a chilling way – but had completely forgotten the cave of the revered ones. Funny what sticks with you. This might stick with him for quite some time.

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.11 – That’s How Murder Snowballs

“That’s How Murder Snowballs” has an absolutely wonderful opening sequence. The story is set around the Palace Theatre, and begins with the death of one of the acts, live on stage. A mind-reading trick goes wrong, and the supposed clairvoyant is killed when his assistant, played by David Jason in a very small role, shoots him dead from the seventh row of a packed house. Somebody switched the blank cartridge for a live bullet.

There is an element of the episode which has dated rather badly, and is so incredibly obvious that I believe most grownup viewers today will be able to pick out the killer almost immediately. Our kid didn’t have a clue, of course, but he loved the runaround and the hijinks. The episode is a bottle show, set almost entirely in the same theater over a couple of days, as Jeff joins the company as a new mind-reading act, whose “trick” everybody is trying to deduce. Valerie Leon has a part as one of the dancers, and if the story suffers a little from a lack of logic as the killer strikes again and again when there really is no reason at all to, that’s okay. Some killers aren’t logical, and some of them act like they’e got fifty minutes of television to fill. I certainly enjoyed this story, and it was very nice to see a police inspector who’s on Jeff’s side for once, but it does wear its “only on TV” badge with pride.