Sci-Fi TV Episode Reviews: Space: 1999, episode 1, ‘Breakaway’ (1975)

Everyone!  I’ve decided to start a new series of posts!  An episode by episode log of my reactions (including, but not limited to rants, ravings, tangential ruminations, mutterings, and indecipherable utterances) to Space: 1999 (1975-1977).  I’ve never seen the show before and don’t have very high expectations.  But with 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired visuals and some 70s flare (see the hilarious costumes of the cast image below), how bad can it be? (haha).  A general naïveté (on my part) permeates the air — in all-likelihood soon to be dashed (in spectacular fashion) on the rocks!

And so we begin….

Space 1999: Episode No. 1, ‘Breakaway’ (1975)

8/10 (Very Good)

First impressions of the first episode

1. A multi-racial cast — alas, the ones who have substantial lines are all white.

2. One must have a Russian for charm — à la Chekov in Star Trek: TOS.

3. There appear to be functional spaceships (Eagles) for the Moonbase!

Plot Summary (spoilers!)

Sometime in the near future (well, 1999) our hero, John Robert Koenig (Martin Landau!) is assigned to Moonbase Alpha (in a large crater on the Moon).  He’s been ordered at all cost to make sure that the Meta Probe (which will send a crew to the planet Meta) is launched.  However, there’s what appears to be a virus — which has killed and continues to kill people — on the base which Chief Medical Officer Dr. Helena Russell (an icy Barbara Bain) is unable to figure out.

The Moon has been used by Earth governments as a nuclear waste dumping ground.  Dr. Helena Russell believes that the illness resembles radiation sickness.  So, Commander Koenig has the shipments of waste stopped.  Soon a nuclear waste site burns out in a magnetic fire-storm!!!

The crews try to avoid the impending disaster of the remaining nuclear sites exploding.  A race against time!  DISASTER!  The Moon moves!  Away from the Earth!  Yikes!  Into space it goes — a moon spaceship! And, mysterious electromagnetic noise signals appear on the screen!

Final Thoughts

I don’t really care that the science is impossible.  Yes, I know, the Moon can’t be jogged that easily out of its orbit into space.  Science aside, I found this to be a promising debut episode.

The characters certainly haven’t been developed (if they ever will be).  Dr. Helena Russell is icy and rather banal.  I don’t really have an opinion yet about Commander Koenig or any of the secondary characters who flit in and out of the scenes not doing much.

The sets are great!  Besides the absence of actual equipment — the medical lap is practically empty and most of the scientists in the control room stand around looking intently at one or two knobs on a large table marking things with a pencil — the rooms, spaceships, space docks etc are well done and the aesthetic is appealing (for example, the commander’s office has a wall which opens to the main control area).  One doesn’t get a sense of Moonbase Alpha as a whole — yet.  There are tons of people supposedly on the base but we don’t see anyone besides the immediate crew.

The cinematography, influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey is quite good for a television show — we’ll see if it maintains its flare or if it’s only a symptom of the need to make an eye-catching first episode.

A top-notch pilot!  However, I doubt it will maintain its momentum.

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11 thoughts on “Sci-Fi TV Episode Reviews: Space: 1999, episode 1, ‘Breakaway’ (1975)”

  1. Excellent! I have been wanting to watch this series for ages, so I’m glad I’ll be able to get an episode-by-episode breakdown from you on them. so far it sounds like it could be an entertaining run. I wish you luck on this latest endeavor and will be watching from the sidelines.

  2. I watched and enjoyed this show regularly when it first ran and during re-runs through the 1980s. I recall it to be a pretty slow moving series, but that probably had something to do with the act that I was a teenager at the time. I look forward to reading your reviews!

  3. The Andersons’ first live-action show was “UFO,” a favorite of mine. I actually liked the 1999 uniforms (given that hip 1980s era, they looked pretty good then), with one exception: The high-heeled boots everyone was wearing (including the men).

    And yes, the set design was gorgeous throughout… even if you couldn’t get into a story, you could just geek out on the base, the communicators, the transportation tubes, the Eagles and the unique firearms. Great style; a shame the substance never quite caught up.

    1. UFO is on my list of to see sci-fi TV shows — sadly, it’s not available on netflix — yet…

      I had the nagging suspicion that the “substance [would] never quite [catch] up” with the visuals… hehe

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I love this show, despite the many disappointing episode endings (which I see you’ve already reached some of). When I was a kid it just seemed so realistic.

    Now less so I admit.

    The second season isn’t nearly as good. It has the odd good episode, but the tone is somehow pulpier and less grim most of the time. It’s more Star Trek-y, and despite my love of TOS (which I only watched in full within the past couple of years) Space 1999 was its own thing and wasn’t improved by getting Trekkier.

    Have fun!

    1. Max: I’ve heard rumours about the poor quality of the “re-imagined” second season. I hope I have the fortitude to get that far.

      But yes, 2/3rds of each episode is great and then the horrible ends come into play — lazy screenwriting/imagination in my opinion.

      I love the feel of realism — and then a Cosmic Intelligence intervenes ruining everything.

      I love TOS! Although, I grew up on TNG (I prefer DS9 above all of them though).

      But yes, so far Space 1999 does feel like it was treading new(ish) ground with a smattering of A Space Odyssey inspired visuals etc.

  5. I still have fond memories of the Space 1999 series. I admit I was starving for anything remotely Science Fiction oriented at the time and Star Trek was the only other offering. The tone was just so different from “cowboy” approach of Star Trek, something I really appreciated. It has a more “intellectual” style, a bit stilted but as a teen I was much more forgiving. Of course, I should also admit I loved the Time Tunnel and Lost In Space when I was even younger, the later Star Trek and Space: 1999 are a step up from these two.

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