Synopsis by Bruce Eder
Space: 1999 was one of the more visible sci-fi disasters of early-'70s television, although it started out with some promising credentials. It was produced by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson, who had been responsible for several fondly remembered series such as Supercar, Fireball XL-5, Stingray, Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons, and Thunderbirds, all built around marionettes and utilizing superb special effects and model work. The Andersons had also produced one intermittently engaging live-action series, UFO, and a fine feature film, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun. The series starred Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, who were the closest thing to a power-couple among television actors in those days (from their work together on Mission: Impossible) and Barry Morse, an excellent Canadian actor. Moreover, the producers started with what, in those days, was an admirable and challenging goal -- to create a television series that tried to follow in the footsteps of 2001: A Space Odyssey (then less than a decade old), mixing lunar settings, interstellar adventure, and a profound sense of cosmic wonder. The story of Moonbase Alpha and its crew, blasted into deep space when the nuclear waste deposited on the moon propelled the satellite out of orbit, was a silly, but intriguing, one once the audience got past the notion of the moon moving fast enough to reach interstellar space. The series never found a balance between its cosmic consciousness and the need for a steady dose of action each week, and once it underwent a major retooling of its cast for the second season, the smell of broadcast death hung over Space: 1999 for the remainder of its run. The presence of the first episode, alas, shows the shortcomings of even the superior first season that followed: After a good thriller plot for the opener, comprised of straightforward action and presenting well-delineated characters, the show came to rely heavily on plots involving lots of pseudo-science, symbolic illusions, and alien machinations, and never properly interwove its action with its philosophical ponderings.