Space: 1999: Ring Around the Moon   Rewatch 
September 20, 2016 3:29 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

A mysterious sphere of energy appears near the Moon, taking over an Alpha technician and using him as a conduit to access the Main Computer. The strain kills him - but the alien force has another Alphan lined up to take his place - Dr Helena Russell.

Four episodes in, and our third successive transhuman alien intelligence, after the Terra Novans in 'Matter of Life and Death' who manifested as Lee Russell and the strange cosmic intelligence encountered by Koenig and Bergman in 'Black Sun'. In comparison to either of those episodes the plot of 'Ring Around the Moon' feels rather thin, although the conceit of an alien probe that has spent so long gathering knowledge to protect its homeworld that it has missed its homeworld's destruction is an interesting one.

Stylistically this episode is very distinctive, with an quasi-prog-rock soundtrack quite unlike that for other episodes and some unusual camera work. In one scene, the camera pulls back from Koenig and Bergman during their discussion until they are small, distant figures on the far side of a large room; a metaphor for the Alphans' isolation and insignificance in the face of the universe? In another, out-of-focus light-flashing hardware obscures our view of the characters. I'm not sure how well all of this works, but it certainly emphasises the 2001-like atmosphere the producers were seemingly trying to recreate.

Koenig's mission to the Tritonian sphere (which is evidently nothing to do with our Triton) features a gaggle of redshirts - or, this being Space: 1999, purplesleeves. Surprisingly, all make it back. Mind you, security were notable by their absence during the possessed technician's rampage at the start of the episode, even after the call is put out for them. Perhaps Koenig is bringing them with him for some on-the-job retraining.

By my count Moonbase Alpha is now down three personnel and two Eagles since the events of 'Breakaway'. Those numbers will continue to grow. Speaking of Eagles, the scene of the one landing on the Tritonian sphere in near-darkness, illuminated only by its cockpit and landing lights, not only looks good but stands up very well.

Overall, to an even greater extent than 'Black Sun', I thought this episode aimed to be high-concept sf but fell rather short. But if the plot lacks, the direction is unusual enough to be of note.

Episode Guide:


The Catacombs
posted by Major Clanger (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"Perhaps knowledge isn't the answer after all"
"Then what is?"

A solid episode. It provided a little more character development for the cast with Kano and Dr. Mathias getting a little more screentime and some of the other main characters getting some decent low key moments to broaden their personalities a touch. Still far more pared down than most other shows I can think of, no real backstories of significance or much in the way of personal touches, but the emotional range of the characters was extended a bit. I'm content with that since at this point I'd prefer they keep their focus on the present rather than try and expand by looking back. It gives the show a interesting distinction and keeps the dilemmas more immediate and able to hold a metaphysical charge since they take place against a relatively empty background.

The story of the Triton sphere was odd enough to keep my interest in where it would lead up to the point they figure out Triton had been destroyed at in the last quarter of the show, and then seeing how it would play out was more than enough to keep my attention. The direction and special effects certainly helped in this too. The main effect of the sphere-eye was nifty as was the light force field thingy, and there were some really nice low budget camera, light, and sound effects as well. (I'd like to get an ambient record of the background sounds from the show as white noise.) The stunt work continues to amuse as there is no jolt that doesn't send the person back less than ten yards it seems and I get a kick out of watching them faux moon walk. (I also got a kick out of seeing those door opener/communicator devices have their pictures on them in case they lose it I guess.)

The episode structure they tend to follow also pleases, setting things in motion pre-credits, and then their little codas right before the episode ends are enjoyable touches.

This episode continues the idea that there is some sort of special part man will or might play in the cosmic mystery by the Tritons having singled out mankind for viewing centuries ago. Koenig seems to have picked up on this too as in the previous episode he sends out an Eagle with 3 men and 3 women as a kind of population building force, which both seems weird and makes some sense given the circumstance they find themselves in. I'm looking forward to seeing if they're going to suggest any greater meta-narrative or philosophical outlook as the show progresses, or if the episodes are more one off tone pieces.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:44 AM on September 21, 2016

Oops. what I meant to say was I like how they use the show structure regarding the intro and coda since they seem to use it to keep the narrative flow more open rather than closing it off which is the more typical use. The quote I placed at the top of my response, for example, ends this episode, which keeps their journey rooted in the present they are trying to understand rather than gesturing towards the episode more simply representing a momentary problem being solved.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:13 AM on September 21, 2016

That prog-rock sequence with the rescue squad scrambling in slo-mo towards the downed Eagle reminded me of Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in a big way.
posted by valkane at 6:12 PM on September 21, 2016

Hey, those Gravity Shield buttons on the Eagle were the Laser Triggers in the last episode!
posted by valkane at 6:22 PM on September 21, 2016

Yes, given the number of other unlabelled or oddly-labelled buttons in the Eagle cockpit I can only assume that those buttons should actually be labelled as PLOT DEVICE OF THE WEEK.

In Eurostile Bold Extended, of course.
posted by Major Clanger at 5:36 AM on September 22, 2016

This is not the correct order as per the wikipedia page, which list them as airing in the same order as the Youtube Playlist which was linked in the first thread. So I watched the first couple on the Youtube playlist, and man it was hard going.

Good things: cool (and now cheesy) sets, orange space suits, it looks a bit like a cross between 2001 and Silent Running. Sandra's bizarre accent. Landau as Koenig is pretty cool, tbh. The Eagle transporters. Use of Science (no matter how daft or made up.) Flares. Some cool dialogue.

On the other hand it moves so slowly and when it isn't cool the dialogue is awful and the whole thing has the Blakes 7 "Toffs in Space" problem, which makes it sound dry and boring.
posted by marienbad at 5:31 PM on September 22, 2016

Yeah, it's not air date order, but production order. The belief is the shows were aired more or less randomly and some hard core fans of the show have felt this order makes more sense. So far, I'd say they are correct in comparison to the air dates, though maybe off a touch from the best possible choice for order in my opinion.

I'm bummed out every episode that doesn't have a lot of Sandra dialogue, that weird accent is captivating.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2016

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