In “Collision Course” the laws of Physics as we understand them are held in abeyance so that a dramatic (though magical...) reckoning, apotheosis, or sense of transcendence can be depicted.
From that vantage point, at the rim of the radiation cloud, Koenig detects a new danger. A planet thirteen times the size of Alpha is now on a collision course with the wandering moon. Only hours remain before total annihilation.
Koenig takes Arra at her word, but how can he convince his top staff -- rational and logical scientists all -- that they should do nothing in the face of imminent disaster?
"Collision Course" thus concerns a human value: trust. It’s the battle between human and machine values perhaps, and one that explicitly fits in with what Science Digest tagged as the series’ central thesis: the downfall of 20th century, technological man.
The idea underlying this concept is that we don’t know everything ,and when we forsake human values for a reliance on technology, the outcomes may not be the ones we desire. This idea is encoded in the opening episode, “Breakaway,” which features a nuclear accident, and sends the moon (and Alpha) careening into space.
If you understand that someone knows more about a situation than you do, and you indeed trust them, then the question becomes: is that enough to outweigh the available facts?
The harsh lesson for Commander Koenig is that his people are limited in some sense, by the (technological) world view which shaped them, and that even the quality of loyalty (to him) is not enough to make them forsake science, rationality, and logic in the face of fear and apocalypse.
Again, I don’t interpret this episode as being a blanket approval of blind faith, but rather the importance of “seeing” faith, let's call it. Koenig comes to trust Arra after their meeting, and places his faith in her after assessing her, person-to-person..
His people on Alpha -- though they know him better than he knows Arra -- are not able to place this kind of faith in him. Koenig understands the situation well and harbors no anger, as the coda suggests. Were the situations reversed, he asserts, he would likely not be able to do “nothing” in the face of certain disaster, either.
Accordingly, the story becomes a comment on the qualities we see in all human-kind, not just Koenig or the Alphans.
I like the fact that the Alphans are allowed to be wrong in this case, and yet that they are learning as opposed to lecturing or teaching others about their values. Johnny Byrne, Space: 1999's story editor, once told me that great drama emerges not from an exploration of characters who already have all they need, but from an exploration of those who don't. Here, the Alphans lack knowledge about deep space, and so are afraid and act fearfully.
First, Moonbase Alpha is blanketed in an impenetrable haze, unable to see or understand anything happening around it.
Later, Koenig pierces that haze and find signs only of death and doom. Arra’s ship devours his Eagle in a sense (the fore opens like a shark’s jaws…) and Koenig finds her ship to be something like a tomb, replete with cob-webs and an ancient figure garbed in a funeral cloak or shroud.
Whether this is Arra’s real form, or Koenig’s perception of her form -- based on his own fear of impending doom -- is questionable.
There’s no existing scientific theory, principle or axiom, to my knowledge, that could explain why these two space bodies touch instead of collide.
But the episode surprises with its fanciful, even chimeric sense of wonder or vision. There are some things man does not yet understand, the episode expresses, and sometimes it’s necessary not to rage against the fantastic or otherworldly, but to put faith in a friend. Arra speaks of history, foreknowledge, and sacred purpose of mankind, and her vision proves correct, even if "fear" precedes apotheosis.
|Moonbase Alpha in a haze of darkness and confusion.|
|Devoured by fear...|
|A figure of death, in a funeral shroud.|
|Out of darkness and fear into light. Two worlds don't collide. They "touch."|
But in the case of “Collision Course” I’d submit the episode works as a one-off, re-asserting in dynamic visual and narrative fashion the idea that mankind is sometimes the victim of a sort of a tunnel vision, seeing only part of the picture and ignoring the rest. There are more wonders in Heaven and Earth, “Collision Course” suggests, than is dreamed of in our philosophy (or by our technology).
And this principle is a key element of Space: 1999’s creative vision.