Monday, November 30, 2015

Ask JKM a Question: Space:1999 vs. ST: TNG

A regular reader, SGB, writes:

'"Question: Since 1997, I have owned multiple copies of your brilliant Exploring Space:1999.

Did you notice that the common element of Space:1999 "Space Warp" and "Immunity Syndrome" episodes was replicated in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) "Booby Trap" , i.e., the scenes involving finding a long dead alien with a video panel with discs that you drop in to watch what happened to the alien and learn how to resolve the current  trap?

Space:1999 "Space Warp" :

Space:1999 "Immunity Syndrome": 

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) "Booby Trap" :

SGB, first of all, I want to thank you for writing such nice things about my book, Exploring Space:1999, and supporting it in print (and e-book).  I am gratified that the book has never been out of print in nearly 20 years, and I only wish I had the chance to update it for the 21st century.

Secondly -- and you probably know my opinion on this -- Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 - 1994) assimilated a lot of good ideas from Space:1999 (1975 - 1977).

As I wrote in my book, the whole central character structure of TNG, which I term "Bob, Ted, Carol and Alice in Space," owes something to the character structure of the second season of Space:1999...which is widely disparaged. 

Think about it: in Space:1999 a commanding officer (John Koenig) is in love with the chief medical officer (Helena Russell). Meanwhile, the younger first officer (Tony Verdeschi) is in love with a sensitive alien female member of the crew (Maya).

This exact structure appears in TNG, with Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher, and Commander Riker and Counselor Troi. Troi replaces Maya as the alien; Riker replaces Tony as the hot-blooded younger officer.  And Picard and Crusher, of course, replace Koenig and Russell.

That's a global influence, to be certain, but there are also specific elements of episodes that recur from Space: 1999 to Star Trek: The Next Generation, especially during the latter show's early seasons.

For instance, remember the second year episode "Journey to Where" in Space:1999. This episode finds Helena Russell and Commander Koenig trapped in a prison cell that is, essentially, a cave (on Earth, in Scotland, in the distant past). Helena is sick and getting sicker. But she demonstrates her knowledge and skill as a doctor by having Koenig pick fungus from the cave walls, and mix together a cure. It heals her.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the first season episode "Arsenal of Freedom," Picard and Crusher are trapped in a cave. Crusher is injured, bloody and scraped. She has Picard use the roots in the cave to mix together a clotting/healing medicine, and is healed.

In both cases, the commander and doctor -- clearly attracted to one another -- are trapped together in an earthen location, and they switch roles, in a sense. The doctor leads, demonstrating knowledge and know-how, while the commander takes orders, and must assemble the ingredients of a medicine, and then administer that medicine, by the doctor's instructions.

Ideas recur.

Sometimes the same idea appears with independent authors who have no knowledge of one another.
So I'm not saying these are examples of outright theft.

I'm merely suggesting, I suppose that Space:1999 may be more influential and important a series in cult-TV history than it has been given proper credit for, especially in some (but not all...) Trek fan circles.

The example you name, is another worth thinking about, for certain. In both "Space Warp" and "The Immunity Syndrome" an alien version of the captain's log provides the clues to resolving a mystery. And indeed, this also occurs in "Booby Trap."  And "Booby Trap" even gives us the alien captain skeleton, like the one in "Immunity Syndrome" (both pictured at the head of this post.)

1 comment:

  1. John,

    Thank you for answering this question and , as discussed in your book, it is obvious that SPACE:1999 has had an influence on other science-fiction. You nicely clarified that here too. I have often suggested to Star Trek fans to explore Space:1999 episodes with your book as their guide. That is why I have always keep multiple copies, if I discuss Space:1999 with what I call "not yet fan" or Star Trek fan. If they ask, I will lend them a copy out as a catalyst to get them to purchase a copy from Amazon thus adding it to their personal library. It has worked. John you champion Space:1999 in your book and on your blog because it is an important part of science-fiction television just like Star Trek. You are so correct, Next Generation definitely, intentionally or unintentionally, used Space:1999 as a guide.

    All the best,