Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bringers of Wonder (Space 1999)

I first happened upon Space 1999 as a grade-schooler in the late 70s, when it appeared in syndicated reruns Saturday afternoons. This high-concept science fiction series, equal parts space adventure and interpersonal drama, followed the exploits of Commander John Koenig (Martin Landau), Dr. Helena Russell (Barbara Bain) and crew, trapped on a space station based on a Moon forever wandering the galaxy after being knocked out of orbit.

Despite its frequently cerebral tone and serious themes, Space 1999 wasn't immune to Monster-of-the-Weekism, presenting some truly frightening extraterrestrial terrors, most notably the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea meets Alien abomination from a Season 1 episode called Dragon's Domain.

This man-eating tentacled terror even appeared on the Space 1999 lunchbox.

But for me, the real scares came in a two-part Season 2 episode titled Bringers of Wonder. Space 1999 never had a Halloween episode, but if it did, this would be it. The show is crawling with monsters, including a ship full of alien visitors who show up at their front door in costume (as normal human beings) and are using a trick in order to get "treats" (nuclear energy to revive their degenerating bodies.)

The unexpected visitors arrive on a faster-than-lightspeed craft staffed with friends and relatives of the Moonbase Alpha crew, and announce their intention to bring them all home at a festive reception party.

Only Commander Koenig (Landau), immune to the alien psychic powers that have clouded the perception of the rest of the crew, sees the visitors for what they really are...

Disgusting monsters! Yes, these alleged humans actually look more like Sigmund & the Sea-Monsters might look after climbing out of an eyeball and slime casserole.

They glow and undulate. Green globs literally drip down their bodies, and we get plenty of too-close views of their veiny eyeballs.

What really got to me throughout this episode is the fact that nobody else can see them for what they really are, standing among them completely unaware.

We later see a group of these inter-dimensional monsters stationed on the Moon's surface, waiting for orders to seize nuclear material from a remote waste site.

But the monster party doesn't stop there. Maya, a regular character added for the show's second season, is an alien "metamorph", and has the ability to transform temporarily into almost anything.

She uses that power to change into no less than five different monstrous creatures, including this fish-eyed alien...

...an amphibious man resembling the Creature From the Black Lagoon...

...a one-eyed, two-horned Moon Ape that wouldn't look too out of place on Jason of Star Command...

...and even a large cockroach that had me scratching uncomfortably at still fresh psychological scars from my viewing of Bug!

The fifth monster is one of our gooey, one-eyed haystack friends, a disguise Maya uses to try to infiltrate their ranks.

The Bringers of Wonder episodes can be found on DVD in Space 1999: Set 7.
Toss a copy of Jason of Star Command or Sigmund and the Sea Monsters in your cart while you're at it.

3 comments:

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dashanna said...

Yes!
A truly monstrous episode.

But for spooooky, "The Troubled Spirit" can't be beat.... seances, ghostly wind through the Moonbase, and a brilliant otherworldly electric sitar and echo recital:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7rPx33j8uA

Brother Bill said...

Ooh--that sounds good. Haven't seen that episode yet but I've been working my way through Season 1 on Blu-Ray so I'll check it out.