Monday, Dec. 13, 2010

Space: 1999

A Television Odyssey

By David Luhrssen
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2001: A Space Odyssey and "Space: 1999" were close in fictional as well as actual chronology. The ‘70s show, set on a lunar colony suffering from a mysterious malady, opens with scenes visually inspired by Kubrick’s film.

Season one of “Space: 1999,” out now on Blu-ray, is remarkable for showing the technological direction the minds of 1975 imagined for the near future. The moon base has a voice-activated mainframe computer and tiny, hand-held phones with screens, but the world of PCs, apps and the Internet was inconceivable. Instead, “Space: 1999” boasts elaborate lunar installations with giant wheeling space stations and regular interplanetary shuttles.

The series' foundational idea is interesting and not entirely farfetched: the moon as a dumping ground for the Earth’s nuclear waste. It’s probably on Haliburton’s drawing boards and if it ever becomes feasible, who knows if there might be unanticipated consequences—just like in “Space: 1999." 

The show benefited from the presence of a great character actor in the morose Martin Landau. Playing opposite his wife, Barbara Bain, Landau starred as the commander on the moon, which is blown out of orbit by a chain reaction caused by careless disposal of dangerous materials and sent like an unwitting starship on a voyage to new worlds.

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