Monday, 27 May 2013

Space 1999: Alpha Child

Moonbase Alpha is a tragic place, isn’t it? It’s a hermetically sealed plastic hellhole with three hundred odd miserable inhabitants who have been wrenched from their homes and sent hurtling through space on a journey from which they will never return. Whatever and whoever they left behind on Earth is lost to them forever and, perhaps worse, everyone on the base is believed dead, blown to bits. Think of the sadness of all those permanently estranged lovers, partners, husbands, wives, parents and kids: no wonder no-one seems to care how many crew members get killed each week, they’re just waiting their turn, hanging out for the relief of sudden, violent death.
Still, this is ‘Space 1999’ so, despite every episode being at least ten minutes too long, we haven’t got time for all that subtext. ‘Alpha Child’ starts with a rare happy occurrence for the beleaguered crew, the birth of a child, the first ever to be born on the base. Within two minutes, however, the tiny baby has turned into a healthy but deaf-mute five year old boy and the mother has gone into catatonic shock, so we’re back to square one on the jollity stakes (it should be noted that the baby's father is dead, killed when Moonbase blew up, so it was already fairly downbeat).

The suddenly a lot bigger child seems personable enough, really, although he has a peculiar interest in how everything works. For some bizarre reason, Professor Bergman, the cleverest bloke on the ship and the most useful, does most of the babysitting, which gives the kid all sorts of opportunity to check out all the technological stuff. All in all, the crew take to him, but not Commander Koening who hates his little guts and mistrusts him. But he’s not unreasonable:  'I know you've all accepted him,  but I have some questions' he says 'You see, I don't know why he is like he is; I can't explain it, nor do I understand it, but I'm not about to shoot him'.

As it transpires, the little big baby is actually Julian Glover in disguise, an alien criminal who, along with his mates, need host bodies to transfer into. Their plan is to simply starve the Moonbase crew of oxygen, and then just walk into their still warm but empty bodies. Sadly for the silver clad shape stealer and his pals, it all goes tits up when the intergalactic police catch up with them, a deus ex machina which proves, once again, for all their bluster, Koening and his companions are virtually helpless in the face of the infinite superiority and power of almost everyone they meet en route. On the plus side, the freaky kid turned creepy man goes back to being a proper baby - and is subsequently never heard of again in the annals of Alpha as it's just too bloody complicated to have a kid running around all over.

Going back to my first point, about the terrible mental anguish and sense of loss the crew must feel, there's a telling moment just after the baby is born when, in spite of herself, Sandra Benes begins to cry. Is she thinking of the limited opportunities this child will have, or perhaps of her own thwarted desire to become a Mother? Perhaps she has even left children behind, children who she will never see again, children who believe her to be dead. Sensing her distress, Koening intervenes, but to no avail. His reaction immediately explains why there might be a morale problem. Still, at least he's not about to shoot her.



  1. It's *always* Julian Glover in disguise.

  2. Remarkable that the base doesn't turn into Jonestown (without alien input) given its precarious situation, prospects, isolation, grimness etc. Can you imagine how long any real office block or barracks would keep functioning healthily if totally cut off?