Wednesday, September 21, 2022

70 Years Ago: The Adventures of Superman: "Superman on Earth"



“Come now on a far journey…a journey that takes us millions of miles from Earth…”

-          - Adventures of Superman: “Superman on Earth”


The 1950's incarnation of the Superman legend -- turning 70 years old this week -- commences in “Superman on Earth,” the inaugural installment of Adventures of Superman (1952 – 1957).  

Long-time fans of the franchise in comic-book and movie form will recognize the beats of this origin story, but the tale nonetheless remains timely and exciting more-than-sixty years later, in part due to the nature of the crisis which paralyzes Krypton, and the government council’s ineffective response to it.

In “Superman on Earth,” the wise scientist Jor-El (Robert Rockwell) speaks before the assembled Governing Council of Krypton on “urgent business.” The planet has been suffering climatic change such as tidal waves, and also quakes and volcanic eruptions.  Jor-El’s “solar calculations” suggest that within a month the “gravitational pull of the sun will be so strong” that Krypton will be ripped apart.  Instead of planning for the crisis, the Council men laugh at this theory, calling it an “insult” to the intelligence. Out-of-hand, they dismiss Jor-El’s plan to colonize another world, planet Earth.


But very soon, disaster looms, and Jor-El and Lara must send their only son, infant Kal-El to Earth, where his rocket is discovered by corn-fed Kansas farmers Eben and Sarah Kent (rather than the more familiar sounding Jonathan and Martha Kent of later iterations).  

Kal-El grows up and feels like an outsider. He asks his mother: “Why am I different from all the other boys?  Why can I do thing that no one else can do?” These very questions later form the gestalt of Smallville’s (2001 – 2011) interpretation of the legend.

After his father’s passing, Clark (George Reeves) says goodbye to his Mom at the bus depot, and heads to Metropolis. Sarah tells him “You’ve got a great responsibility to the world,” and Clark seeks a job at the Daily Planet because, by working as a journalist, he can be aware quickly -- before anyone else -- of local and international emergencies.



To get the job of reporter from cranky editor Perry White (John Hamilton), however, Clark must prove himself as a journalist.  He soon gets an exclusive from a mechanic who fell from a blimp in flight…and was rescued by Superman!

I was struck, watching “Superman on Earth,” how closely the later interpretations of Superman, including the Richard Donner film of 1978, follow the details presented here, though with superior production values. 

On that front, it’s clear that The Adventures of Superman is a low-budget show. Jor-El wears an outfit left-over from the Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s, and the dome of Krypton’s governing council is actually Griffith Observatory.

Visuals aside, virtually very “core” aspect of the Superman, Shuster/Seigel mythos is here, from the opening act on doomed, arrogant Krypton, to the humble fields of Smallville, to the urbane spires of Metropolis. The only primary incident that this TV adaptation fails to include is the creation of the Fortress of Solitude.


Today, the scenes at the government council of Krypton hold a special relevance as Jor-El’s science is mocked and dismissed by men who should know better. Indeed, one loud-mouthed, insulting man on the panel could well be James Inhofe, the U.S. Senate’s climate change denier-in-chief. Jor-El argues his points with reason and fact, but is faced with people of such small minds and limited imagination that there’s nothing he can do to prevent catastrophe  The result of such thick-headed ignorance: everyone on Krypton (save one child…) dies. A civilization is destroyed.  

The reason that climate change may be thought of when watching “Superman on Earth” today isn’t just the ignorant nature of the governing body, but the very nature of the threat. There is talk of a recent tidal wave, for instance, which definitely evokes fears of global warming.

Only 26 minutes in duration, “Superman on Earth” doesn’t have the time to linger on the details of Superman’s journey, but rather hit the high points of his tale, such as his origin on Krypton, his feelings of isolation in Smallville, and his eventual maturity and acceptance of responsibility in Metropolis. George Reeves only appears in the last few minutes of the show, but makes a strong impression both as the young Clark Kent mourning his father’s death, and as the determined, would-be reporter, attempting to impress his boss and land an assignment.  



As writer David Smith described the Reeves’ mystique (in Starlog #9, October 1977, page 54): “Reeves gave the TV character the same kind of visual appeal that Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster had achieved with their original comic strip superhero. Handsome, humble and intelligent, the actor almost magically transformed into Superman.”

“Superman on Earth” also establishes Clark’s X-Ray vision and the fact that his costume is just as invicible as he is.  Sarah Kent reports that she made the Superman costume from the indestructible blanket she found Clark wrapped in when he crashed in his rocket. Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993 – 1996) offered a variation of this idea, with Martha Kent noting that the “S” emblem on Clark’s costume came from the materials she found the boy wrapped in.

Fast-paced and fun, “Superman on Earth” is a great start to a classic series, even though series regulars such as John Hamilton, Phyllis Coates, and Jack Larson are not yet in the spotlight.  I fondly remember watching this series as a kid, in the 1970's, on WPIX in NY, and always hoping the station would rerun this "origin story."

Monday, September 19, 2022

35 Years Ago: Hellraiser (1987)



At the risk of embarrassing some readers, I will nonetheless write the following statement regarding Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987), which premiered 35 years ago.

It’s all about sex.

If that description is too debauching, just consider for a moment how much of our great literature actually concerns sex. 

What started the Trojan War, and led to the events of Homer’s Iliad?

Sexual desire (for Helen). 

Or consider, Lysistrata

Or Othello.

At the center of all those tales is the human sex drive, or perhaps put more aptly, the mysteries of the human sex drive.  How it can be manipulated.  How it can be used.  How it can be sated.


An extremely gory horror film from 1987, Hellraiser is very much in the same camp as the aforementioned works of literature. The film involves, specifically, one “uptight and frigid” woman’s desire to experience, again, the best sex of her life.  

That sex (with Frank Cotton) is so amazing that Julia (Clare Higgins) -- as we see in the film -- would do literally anything to experience it again, even commit murder…repeatedly. Family ties fall by the wayside as Julia single-mindedly pursues a resurrection of not only her lover, but her slumbering passion.

The later Hellraiser films -- as horror sequels often do -- adopt a much more literal, straightforward stance.  Those films are about, simply, people opening the gates to Hell and their adventures with Cenobites such as Pinhead (Doug Bradley). 

But Barker’s inaugural film is about sexual frustration in Julia, and sexual awakening, after a fashion, in Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence).

Barker explores these notions about human sexuality -- about the flesh -- through repeated instances of remarkable (and either sensual or horrific) visual symbolism.

I have read, over the decades, negative reviews of Hellraiser that don’t understand why people like so much a movie concerning an “evil box.”

In some cases, those critics have failed to understand the central idea that built the franchise; the idea that Hellraiser isn’t about opening an evil box, but rather  mastering and unlocking the puzzle-box of human sexuality.

The Hellraiser movies go from brilliant to terrible in short order, and I’ll review at least the first four in the next few weeks here on the blog, but the first film remains a masterpiece of the macabre primarily for its deep exploration into these ideas about sex and desire.


“Some things have to be endured, and that’s what makes the pleasures so sweet.”

Julia (Clare Higgins) and Larry Cotton (Andrew Robinson) move into the family house formerly occupied by Larry’s loner brother Frank (Sean Chapman). Julia and Frank once had an affair, and she covets the memory of it.

But now, bizarrely, a chance arises for Julia to have a second chance with Frank. He died in the house at the hands of demonic beings called Cenobites. In particular, he opened a puzzle -- the Lament Configuration -- that opened a door between Earth and Hell.

Somehow, Frank escaped the tortures of the Cenobites, and was left for dead.  His consciousness and bones still survive, but for him to be whole once more, he must have Julia bring him the blood of the living to devour.

She does so, bringing back strange men to the house with a promise of sex, and then bludgeoning them to death with a hammer.

Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), Larry's daughter, grows increasingly concerned for her father, and is troubled by bad dreams. One day, she goes to the house and learns what Frank and Julia are up to.  She also gets her hands on the Lament Configuration Puzzle, summoning the Cenobites as Frank once did.

Now Kirsty must make a deal with Pinhead (Doug Bradley), the leader of the Cenobites, to turn over Frank, lest they tear her soul apart. instead...



“Like love…only real.”

I first saw Hellraiser (1987) in movie theaters in 1987. I was seventeen, and had never seen such a bloody film.  And yet, I could detect on repeat viewings (especially after I was in my twenties), how all the blood and violence in the film served a dramatic purpose. The cold, empty Julia would do anything to feel her blood pumping again, to feel the heights of passion, even it meant spilling the blood of someone else, someone she didn't care about.

Julia’s passion for Frank and blood-letting are first connected by Barker in a remarkable (and remarkably disgusting...) bit of cross-cutting early on. 

Julia is in the attic, remembering the first time Frank made love to her (over her wedding gown, actually…). 

Meanwhile, downstairs, Larry is attempting, with several movers, to get a mattress up a narrow staircase. The mattress becomes stuck, and Larry must pull at it. He tugs at it repeatedly, even as we see Frank thrusting atop Julia. 




Unfortunately for Larry, he drags his hand across a rusty nail. Blood fountains from his hand.

The symbolism is unmistakable. As Julia has intercourse with Frank and achieves orgasm (in her flashback), that fevered motion is mirrored by Larry’s hand, dragging the mattress. Both moments end with, presumably, the release of fluids.  

But in this case, Julia’s driving memory of sex with Frank is linked to explicitly to injury, to blood and death. 

Indeed, that’s what her passion will ultimately bring to Larry, his family, and anyone else that gets into her orbit. Her love for Frank is a death sentence to everyone else.


That’s not the only time that visual symbolism comes into play. 

Consider specifically how the puzzle box, the Lament Configuration, is opened. The demons are released after the user runs a finger across a small circle of gold filigree.  


This small circle (by a roaming finger...) across a surface is mirrored by Julia and Frank’s sign of affection for one another. Several times in the film, they run their fingers across each other’s lips in a circle…even when fingers and lips are drenched in spilled blood.  




The little circle that opens the box -- and this sensuous touch of the soft lips -- is also, apparently, a metaphor or stand-in for clitoral stimulation. That stimulation suggests another kind of gateway, one to passion and sexual satisfaction.  Frank is a kind of hyper-sexualized figure, an explorer in the realms of pleasure and pain, and he is adept, apparently, at opening the puzzle -- or unlocking a woman’s desire. Julia is ultimately undone by Frank (at least in this movie), because he uses these skills to get his life back, but doesn’t truly love her. He betrays her, instead.

I have always considered Julia's journey to be the emotional and thematic core of Hellraiser. The family house where virtually all the action occurs even seems to be a metaphor for the character of Julia. It is an empty place that, nonetheless, houses inside a monstrous or terrible desire.  

The house hides Frank, a dormant figure waiting to be re-activated. And Julia holds him inside her sealed-off heart, wishing him back.


Consider, in comparison, Kirsty’s journey. 

A young woman, she is permanently infantilized as "Daddy’s little girl." Kirsty is solicitous of her dad’s attention, and constantly worrying/tending to him. She runs to him whenever she has a problem.


Kirsty is also beautiful, and “ripe” as Frank describes her. She is totally unaware of her own (dawning) sexual power.  Kirsty's beauty arouses the movers in the house, and then Kirsty goes to a kitchen sink, which explodes with water, unexpectedly, in her face.  


Kirsty is surprised by this explosion, because she is unaware of the power she wields.  

To put it another way, Kirsty has not realized the power to unlock the puzzle box of her sexual power. But where Julia’s passion was associated explicitly with spilled blood, Kirsty’s is not. 

Instead, her desire is pure, and visualized by the water. Life hasn't twisted Kirsty yet, hasn't transformed her into something sick and co-dependent.

Later, Kirsty has sex with her boyfriend, Steve, and in general seems to have a much healthier attitude about passion than do either Frank or Julia. 

So when she gets her hands on the Lament Configuration what does Kirsty do? 

First, she teases Frank with the promise of controlling it. She does this not as a flirt, not out of desire, but so as to save her own life. 

Kirsty has realized, suddenly, that she possesses something he very much wants. She can bargain with it, and hold him at bay. Kirsty now has an awareness of the power she yields, and again, that's a metaphor for sexual awakening.



Then, Kirsty uses the box for another purpose.  She sends back the demons; destroying the sickness that Frank and Julia created. She wields the box for an end that saves her life, and saves others.  

Kirsty escapes the out-sized pull her father has on her life (exemplified by Frank’s gross come-on line, “Come to Daddy,”) and demonstrates responsible control over the Lament Configuration. She can use the box to destroy her demons, not summon them, not wallow in them. She governs her passions. She doesn't let them govern her, the way that Julia does.

This fact seems plain in the imagery that connects the two women. For a moment, each woman has a hand on the box. But Julia has destroyed herself playing with it. Kirsty takes it for purposes of escape.


What is presented in Hellraiser then, uniquely, is a story of two very different women. One lives in the memory of the past, and covets a sick relationship that gave her pleasure. The other woman is able to grow up, move beyond her family unit, and demonstrate an ability to conquer the threats that she encounters.


I admire Hellraiser so much not for the goopy special effects, the downright bloody horror, or even the spectacular and immortal Cenobite designs, but because the film focuses so clearly on Julia and Kirsty, and their encounters interacting with the “puzzle” of flesh, skin, and desire. 

The imagery -- whether revealed in cross-cutting, or related to the mastery of the Lament Configuration, enhance the film’s themes beautifully.

For me, no other Hellraiser film so perfectly captures the drive and illogic of human behavior. The sequels move into the realm of mythology.  I like Hellbound very much, but it’s such a different animal. 

In short, Hellraiser is all a about a woman bringing unsuspecting men back to a filthy room and beating them to death with claw hammers…so she can have the best sex of her life again. These particular scenes -- three of them -- are played to perfection by Higgins. Julia is both anxious and excited as she lures her would-be lovers to their doom. On that first encounter, she’s thinking about committing murder. Her mark is thinking about having sex. The line “there’s a first time for everything,” captures the moment perfectly. It is true of both murder and sex.

Once the Hellraiser movies beyond both Julia and Kirsty, they seem a whole lot less intriguing.


Hellraiser also concerns tactile pleasures in a way that explores the Zeitgeist of its time. We experience the world through our flesh, through our skin. We want to do -- at least sometimes -- what feels good, not what it is actually right.  

That equation seems like a perfect metaphor for the excess of the 1980s, and so Hellraiser speaks to its time in a remarkably powerful way.

In a decade of “greed is good,” how far do you take greed?  In this case, greed transmits, pretty much, as sexual avarice. A merchant asks -- in the film’s book-end questions: “what’s your pleasure?” 

That’s the question, isn’t it? How far would somebody go to feel good? As far as Julia goes? Or Frank?

Today we remember Hellraiser as our introduction to Pinhead, Chatterer, Butterball, and the Female. But these Cenobites -- if I recall correctly from Paul Kane’s brilliant book about the series, The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy -- only appear on screen for seven minutes.  These “explorers in the further realm of experience” carry such incredible impact, even today, because they are well-performed, and carefully-designed. But also because we don't see them too often, or get to know them too well.

Pinhead radiates a kind of noble or regal brand of evil. He’s a monster, and yet, in some way, he can be approached with reason and logic. At least if you have something to bargain with.  

The others are frightfully monstrous, and they make you wonder how they can be seen as “angels to some” instead of as “demons.”

This first Hellraiser film also features some blind alleys that were never adequately explored in the sequels. After this film, for instance, we never again saw The Engineer, or the bone demon that takes the box from the fire during the denouement. Those seem fascinating elements of the mythology that ought to be developed at some point.


But more troubling, I feel, is the fact that post-Hellbound films don’t’ really deal convincingly or well with human foibles.  

Pinhead and his buddies should function as ruthless exploiters of human vice, and each film in the franchise, conceivably, could concern the downward spiral of someone like Frank, or Julia. And in Hellbound, Pinhead notes that “hands don’t” summon him, only “desire” does. That edict is dropped like a hot potato by the third film, and Pinhead, Angelique and other Cenobites torture anyone who haphazardly opens the box and toys with it. 

That paradigm takes away much of the power of the franchise and robs Hellraiser of its galvanizing factor; the opening up of the complex puzzle of human desire.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Breakaway Week: Visualizing Space:1999


"Space: 1999" had a style, a feel, a look of its own." - Martin Landau (Lee Goldberg. Starlog: "Martin Landau Space-Age Hero." July 1986, page 45).

"...Space:1999 is like Star Trek shot full of methedrine.  It is the most flashy, gorgeous sci-fi trip ever to appear on TV.  Watching it each week is very close to being under the influence of a consciousness altering drug. - Benjamin Stein. The Wall Street Journal: "Sailing Along on a Moon-Base Way." 



Though TV reviewers were often quick to criticize the storylines on Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's Space: 1999, most nonetheless agreed that the visualizations of this classic series were unimpeachable.  

For example, TV/Radio columnist Charlie Hanna termed the sci-fi program a "visual feast," and The New York Times critic John J. O'Connor noted that the "visual lavishness is apparent from the dazzling array of electronic gadgets and hardware to the "moon city" costumes designed by Rudi Gerneich."

I can add my own testimony to this effusive praise. When I initially watched Space:1999 back in 1975, I was certain that this was indeed what the future would look like. It just seemed right and appropriate that by the year 1999 we'd all be able to communicate across mini-tv screens thanks to devices such as the useful commlock. And, of course, furniture and interior decoration would be immaculate, minimalist, and stream-lined by the eve of the 21st century, right?

Okay. It didn't quite turn out that way, but you can't convince me that it shouldn't have turned out that way. The sets for Space: 1999 were created by production designer Keith Wilson, and the exterior miniatures by special effects director Brian Johnson. In both cases, these gentlemen did extraordinary work. In short, they accomplished three critical things:



First, they created believable technology with one foot in the future and one in the present. 

In Space:1999, for instance, you'll see control rooms, nuclear generating plants, and high-tech medical units, but at the same time, you can note characters reading books, adjusting thermostats in their crew quarters, and even tanning themselves in a solarium ("Force of Life.")  

In practice, this is quite an extraordinary combination. Despite the clean, minimal lines of Moonbase Alpha construction, crew quarters boast a sense of individuality and recognizable humanity ("Matter of Life and Death.") Areas of heavy use such as laboratories, as seen in "Breakaway" and "Voyager's Return," are cluttered and over-crowded. 

In other words -- despite the immaculate white conception of Moonbase Alpha -- man will be man, even in the future. He will use the "space" on the Moon in just the way he does here on Earth; and that way isn't always clean and austere...or even neat.Victor Bergman's laboratory is another example of this design approach.




Secondly, the designers of Space:1999 didn't skimp on a sense of scope.

This means that the vistas and views of Moonbase Alpha appeared more legitimately cinematic and impressive than virtually any other sci-fi series sets in history up to 1978 including Star Trek, wherein the Enterprise bridge famously did not include a ceiling.   

The control center of Moonbase Alpha, Main Mission, is a perfect example of this aesthetic.  It is a vast, two-story affair replete with a ledge and observation area, as well as a kind of mission control pit where analysts toil on a regular basis. Attached to Main Mission -- with a wall as a huge sliding door -- is the Commander's office. For privacy, Commander Koenig can shut the door to Main Mission. In cases of emergency, he can open the door, and his desk overlooks the Big Screen and his workers.   

What must be noted about this is that both Main Mission and the Commander's office are vast. The two (joined) sets present the appearance of a real life, sprawling complex.

Scope is sometimes achieved other ways on the series as well. Miniatures do the trick to convey passage on the useful Travel Tube, and in rare instances, Space:1999 joins live-action footage with rear-projection footage of Eagles and their hangar bay. Again, there's a powerful aura of a fully-operational Moonbase here.



Third, and equally important, the amazing technology and design of Alpha and the Eagles were merely the starting point of this adventure.

Week after week, our impressive views of Earth's high-tech turn-of-the-century moonbase were one-upped, essentially, by mind-blowing alien landscapes and worlds, as featured in episodes such as "Guardian of Piri," "Missing Link," "War Games," "The Last Enemy" and so on.  

After many of those trippy adventures, the high-tech environs of Moonbase Alpha felt not like a dazzling vision of a future age, but rather like "home," even fostering a sense of security. By creating alien worlds of such blazing distinction and originality, the makers of Space:1999 actually made their "future" Earth technology seem all the more believable (and desirable).

It would be impossible to write this post without commenting just a little on the Eagle, one of the most beloved spaceship designs of cult-televisions. These craft are perfectly in keeping with Moonbase Alpha: as remarkable embodiment of "near future" technology. No flying saucers or stream-lined nacelles in this world.  Rather, the utilitarian Eagles consist of interconnected modules, retro-rockets, landing pads and nose-cones.  All these facets are recognizable as dramatic extrapolations from the then-current Apollo program.  Again, Space:1999 had one foot in the future, and one in the present.

This is how Brian Johnson described the creation of the Eagles, in an interview with me over a decade ago (on the advent of Space:1999's release on DVD):

"I was in my "modular" design mode in those days. I reasoned that it made sense to make Pods that were interchangeable. The command pod could serve as a lifeboat, Eagles could be "chained" together, etc...My basic ideas came from looking at dragonflies and insects of all sorts. I copied nature to some degree - I think it made the Eagle believable."

Believability, scope, and then imagination.These are the sturdy foundations of Space:1999's set and model designs.  Below is a brief gallery showcasing Moonbase Alpha as it appeared in Year One.  Finally, I should add that these sets, models and designs look even more remarkable on Blu Ray.

Looking up to the Commander's office.


 

Minimalism meets clutter: a fully functioning machine laboratory.


A Room with a view.  Note the globe of Earth cast in gray and black to match the rest of the set.


 

Clock, communicator and more: The comm-post.


 

Against a backdrop of stars: a repair-man with a tool kit.


Remote control flying an Eagle.


The well-lit travel tube interior track.


The Solarium


Behind our heroes, a hanger bay filled with Eagles.


An Eagle spacecraft, with special module (from "Breakaway.")


Moonbase Alpha

Breakaway Week: "The Immunity Syndrome"


2310 Days after Leaving Earth Orbit

Moonbase Alpha explores a planet in its “West Quadrant.” The world appears habitable, but Commander Koenig (Martin Landau) places a strict quarantine on the food, water, and minerals found there while Alphans learn more.  The planet also contains at least one mystery: a mysterious structure buried beneath a layer of rock.

While exploring the planet, Security Chief Tony Verdeschi (Tony Anholt) gets in a scuffle with another Alphan, after that Alphan stares a strange, glowing light.  Tony spots the same light, and goes mad as well. He becomes violent and paranoid.

Soon after this, the very planet itself seems to transform, becoming increasingly inhospitable to the Alphans. The metals on the Eagle start to corrode too, making an escape from the planet impossible. 

Tony, meanwhile, is dying from “brain cell expansion” because of the alien light he witnessed.

As the planet transforms into an “ecological disaster,” Helena Russell (Barbara Bain) and Maya (Catherine Schell) mount a daring rescue mission to the surface in a re-entry glider, a vessel with no metal parts to corrode.

When the Alphans are able to activate the solar cells on the mysterious structure, they enter it to find the log recordings of a dead alien race.  

This world was once considered for alien colonization plans, but its nature began to grow altered, killing them as it has now started killing the Alphans.  

The dead aliens warn from their logs that there is “only one way out of this pitiless world….death.”

Koenig, however, finds another way. 

He learns that a strange alien being composed of light is responsible both for Tony’s insanity, and the reshaping of the planet’s biosphere.  He hatches a plan to communicate, but it will be dangerous...



“The Immunity Syndrome?” 

Where have I heard that title before?

Seriously, this is a strong and engaging episode of Space: 1999’s Year Two, but it would have met with better success, perhaps, under its original (Johnny Byrne) title: “The Face of Eden.” The episode should never have been named after a Star Trek episode, especially as the (fascinating) story has at least one element already in common with Star Trek: an alien being composed of light who, inadvertently, causes insanity when humanoids gaze upon it (“Is There in Truth No Beauty?”) And Freiberger was involved in both episodes.

That commonality aside, this is a fascinating episode of the series. Although "The Immunity Syndrome" repeats a narrative plot point from “Space Warp” (aliens who leave behind logs of their destruction, giving the Alphans the clues they need not to make the same mistakes), the episode is intriguing, and well-produced.  

Once more, the special effects are astonishing for their era. In this case, we see the crash-landing not only of an Eagle, but of the new miniature for the show, the re-entry glider.



Although one might again ask questions about execution here -- particularly regarding Koenig’s silly-looking protective suit in the last act, or the voice acting of the inadvertently destructive alien -- overall the episode plays as effective. The stakes are high, and the conflict arises not from malicious intent, or evil aliens, but from misunderstanding, paranoia, and a difference in alien nature. The alien does not know that its appearance is fatal to the humans, and feels guilt when it learns that this is the case.


The episode also succeeds on a character-basis. Helena and Maya transmit particularly well in this segment, risking their lives to get to the planet and save John and Tony. They don’t waver or hesitate, they act…even though great danger is involved. 

And I love the scene in which Bill Fraser (John Hug) risks his life piloting an eagle to get them closer to the best re-entry position. The feeling, as is the case in the best Space:1999 episodes, is of a community working together, loyally, taking risks for one another.


The episode also provides some interesting background information on Tony Verdeschi, a character who was perhaps never developed as fully as fans might have liked. 

We see a data screen or two on Helena’s medical computer in “The Immunity Syndrome” and it reveals that Tony earned a PhD at Cambridge, in 1993, after attending the University of Rome in 1990. We also learn that he was born in Florence, and that his full-name is Anthony Dean Verdeschi.

In addition to this character information, “The Immunity Syndrome” also finds time to give Alan Carter interesting work to do, including excavating and operating the solar panels of the alien structure. He also has a great moment of danger, when an Eagle control corrodes and snaps off in his hand...while he is in flight.

From exploding commlocks, to eagle crashes, “The Immunity Syndrome” exemplifies the best potential of Space: 1999 Year Two: It features good character interaction, a solid science fiction story, and a ton of well-choreographed action.

70 Years Ago: The Adventures of Superman: "Superman on Earth"

“Come now on a far journey…a journey that takes us millions of miles from Earth…” -           -  Adventures of Superman:  “Superman on Earth...