Collision Course (Space: 1999)


Collision Course (Space: 1999)
"Collision Course"
Space: 1999 episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 13
Directed by Ray Austin
Written by Anthony Terpiloff
Original air date 18 September 1975[1]
Episode chronology
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"Voyager's Return"
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"Death's Other Dominion"
List of Space: 1999 episodes

"Collision Course" is the thirteenth episode of the first series of Space: 1999. The screenplay was written by Anthony Terpiloff; the director was Ray Austin. The final shooting script is dated 13 August 1974. Live-action filming took place Tuesday, 27 August 1974 through Tuesday, 10 September 1974.[2]

Contents

Story

A large asteroid hurtles through space on a collision course with the Moon. With the point of impact in close proximity to Moonbase Alpha, the staff must formulate a plan to avert disaster. Twelve nuclear charges planted at strategic locations will guarantee the asteroid's destruction. The Eagle task force delivers eleven of the charges as planned. At minus two minutes to detonation, the twelfth, carried by Alan Carter's Eagle One, has yet to be deployed. The ship has developed a malfunction in its main booster and is incapable of achieving full thrust. To give Carter time to complete his mission, John Koenig orders the blast delayed. Victor Bergman protests; the timeline must be preserved in order to avoid being caught in radiation and debris from the explosion.

Carter finally arrives at his designated site. When lowering the charge, he finds the release mechanism for the cargo grip jammed. Agonising over this latest setback, Koenig informs the astronaut that the charge must remain on site...at any cost. Desperate, Carter shorts the grip mechanism, then violently manoeuvres the Eagle up and down until the charge is dislodged. As Carter departs, Koenig delays the blast another ten seconds to give the astronaut a fighting chance. The staff readies Alpha for the effects of the blast wave.

The charges are activated; first Carter's Eagle, then the Moon, are engulfed in a mammoth debris cloud billowing outwards from the now-volatised asteroid. Radiation blots out communications and scanners. The staff compiles damage reports and monitors the functioning of the protective radiation screens. Koenig repeatedly tries to contact Eagle One, irrationally refusing to believe Carter is most likely dead. When discovering that signals transmitted on the interstellar frequency are able penetrate the radiation field, he reckons that three-way contact could be established between Moonbase, a rescue Eagle equipped with a more powerful transmitter, and Carter.

Paul Morrow voices the danger of the pilots' potential exposure to radiation. Koenig disagrees, feeling the Eagles' radiation screens are sufficient. Bergman stresses there is an unknown class of radiation present in the cloud against which they may have no defence. The Commander disregards his advice and lifts-off in Rescue Eagle Four, with Morrow volunteering to serve as co-pilot. They are literally flying blind through the plasma cloud, sending out hails and receiving no answer.

Carter is alive. Though unconscious and unable to hear Morrow's signal, he stirs at the whisper of a woman's voice. She instructs him to answer his friend, which he does—while still unconscious. Koenig and Morrow are elated by the response and try to determine Carter's position. The same disembodied voice whispers coordinates in Koenig's ear and, to Morrow's surprise, the Commander programmes a course without computer assistance. They soon find Eagle One, scorched but intact, drifting beyond the boundary of the cloud.

They move in and dock, Carter's mysterious benefactor urging him to perform all necessary actions on his end. She takes her leave, assuring him she is a friend. When Koenig boards the ship, he finds Carter insensate. He assumes the effort of the docking must have been too much for the astronaut—then is stunned by what he sees through the forward ports. Morrow joins him as the two men gape at the huge planet that has appeared out of nowhere...and is bearing down on the Moon.

Facing another collision, they make their way back to Alpha with Carter and his ship. To Helena Russell's chagrin, Koenig opts to skip decontamination procedures. The doctor is concerned and a little suspicious of his attitude, but he is found to be clear of radiation. As Carter is conveyed to Medical, Koenig rushes to Main Mission with the data from his on-board computer. After a quick analysis, David Kano reports the planet measures thirty-four times their size and will impact with the Moon in 105 hours.

Bergman proposes exploding a series of nuclear charges in space between the Moon and the planet to create a shock wave powerful enough to force the two bodies apart. With no other options, Koenig orders him to start planning the operation. An in-depth analysis of the planetary data reveals it is marginally habitable and could be supporting life. Should Bergman's 'Operation Shockwave' fail, the Alphans could evacuate to relative safety on the far side of the planet—if it proves able to withstand the collision. As sensors are still scrambled by the radioactive cloud, Koenig opts for a reconnaissance flight.

In the Medical Centre, Carter awakens to see a mysterious figure—veiled, gloved, and cloaked in black—standing at the foot of his bed. Speaking with the same voice he heard earlier, the woman assures him he is safe and well. Wanting to see her face, he goes to lift the veil...only to find his hands raising Helena's hair. Koenig enters the care unit as Carter desperately searches for the elusive apparation. After struggling with the nurses, he is sedated and returned to bed.

Helena is certain the hallucinations and disorientation are symptomatic of radiation sickness. After three hours drifting through the radiation cloud, it would be surprising if he was not affected. Koenig feels she is overreacting to what could have been a nightmare. They argue over her assumption that if the instruments were wrong about Carter showing no sign of radiation exposure, they must also be wrong about Koenig.

With no time to spare, Koenig dismisses her concerns and lifts-off in the reconnaissance Eagle. Not willing to risk another life in the radiation cloud (should Helena be right), he goes alone. The question of whether or not the planet supports life is answered by the appearance of a giant spaceship rising to intercept him. Evasive manouevres prove useless as Eagle Four is dragged toward it by some unseen force. The alien's bow then opens like a python's mouth to swallow the helpless Eagle. As the Main Mission staff watches, communications and flight telemetry abruptly cease.

Though all Eagle systems are dead, Koenig tries to contact Alpha. He tenses when the ship's hatches spontaneously open. Stun-gun drawn, he moves through the dark ship and out into the alien craft. The Eagle hatch closes behind him, and he enters a vast, abstract chamber draped with dusty cobwebs. As he arrives at a dais, the veiled mystery being is illuminated, seated on a throne. The veil is raised to reveal the wizened yet still beautiful face of an ancient woman. Her voice strong and regal, she addresses Koenig by name and introduces herself as Arra, Queen of Atheria—the planet whose course has terrified the Alphans.

She announces she has been anticipating this encounter for many millions of years. The pragmatic Koenig is confounded when informed the Moon being blasted out of orbit was no random accident. Their two worlds are destined to meet in the body of time for the purpose of mutation. The collision will act as a catalyst, and her people will evolve into a noncorporeal form of existence. To achieve this, she asks the Alphans do...nothing. Despite himself, Koenig believes her, asking what will become of his people. The Moon will continue on, its odyssey knowing no end, to spread humanity to the deepest reaches of space.

Arra pauses, sensing the thoughts of Bergman and company as they finalise the plans for Operation Shockwave. Three cargo Eagles are dispatched with nuclear charges, which must be deployed in space at the exact position now occupied by the Atherian vessel. She tells Koenig this activity must cease immediately—nothing must be done to interfere with this sacred event. Though he has complete faith in the aged monarch, he knows it will take more than eloquence to convince his colleagues; Helena already believes he is suffering from radiation exposure. Arra must return with him.

She refuses. While his role is to do nothing, she has much to do to prepare for the coming transmutation. Koenig must rise to the challenge, as destined since the beginning of time. As she fades away, her last words reverberate: ‘I go to shape the future of eternity. And I need your help.’

Eagle Four is released from the alien ship. As it departs, Koenig contacts Alpha, dumbfounding the staff by ordering Operation Shockwave suspended. At a command conference, the Commander relates his encounter with Arra. As the Moon has emerged from the plasma cloud, readings confirm the collision with Atheria in seven hours′ time. As rational scientists, the senior executives are flabbergasted by his intention to do nothing. However, Helena and Bergman support Koenig, citing his case is not based on logic, but on faith. If Arra has convinced Koenig, they should place their faith in him. Koenig confirms Shockwave is cancelled.

However, after the meeting has adjourned, it is revealed that Helena and Bergman were merely humouring their Commander. His unwavering faith in this Arra 'fantasy' proves to them he is delusional. The doctor quietly confines Koenig to his quarters under sedation. Morrow is directed to assume command and proceed with Shockwave. Sensing their treachery, Arra reaches out to Koenig. Once roused from a drugged sleep, he overwhelms the sentries stationed outside his quarters and escapes. After arming himself, he meets up with Carter, also called into action by Arra.

Still in pyjamas, they make their way to Main Mission where, at minus three minutes to detonation, Morrow is arming the atomic triggers of the spaceborne nuclear charges. After storming the room, Koenig orders Computer to seal all entrances. The two men then herd everyone away from the detonation switch. Koenig tries to convince the hostages that the collision will not result in destruction, but in the evolution of the Atherians to a higher form of life. His desperation only reinforces everyone's belief he is mad. At the risk of being shot, Morrow makes a dash for the switch.

A brawl erupts as the two worlds rush toward each other, ending with the two 'madmen' being restrained. While Koenig begs her to trust him, Helena moves to detonate the charges. Realising the countdown expired during the fight, Bergman stops her—the collision is now inevitable. The Alphans instinctively back away from the visual of Atheria's approaching surface on the big screen. Koenig waits for Arra...who does not appear. Clinging to his faltering faith, he calls out for her as the floor begins heaving beneath his feet.

At the moment of contact, Atheria vanishes from existence...the Moon ploughing through the space it once occupied. Later, Koenig broods as he stares out a window into the empty space sky. He is joined by Helena, who begins apologising for her actions. He interrupts, insisting she did nothing wrong. His story was mad. How could anyone possibly know that two planets on a collision course would not collide, but merely touch...?

Cast

Starring

Also Starring

Special Guest Star

Featuring

Uncredited Artists

Music

In addition to the regular Barry Gray score (drawn primarily from 'Breakaway' and 'Another Time, Another Place'), music tracks composed by Gray for the previous Anderson productions Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90 and the film Thunderbird 6 were also utilised.[3]

Production Notes

  • Along with 'Black Sun' and 'War Games', 'Collision Course' is considered to be one of the programme's most successful installments by actors, crew and fans alike, exemplifying its metaphysical approach to science fiction. Penned by American-born British television writer Anthony Terpiloff, this story would showcase the author's pet theme of the perserverance of faith and trust over logic and reason.[2] This approach would be seen in his subsequent contributions to the series ('Death's Other Dominion' and 'Catacombs of the Moon').
  • The casting of the regal Margaret Leighton as Arra was a coup for the series. The accomplished and prolific British actress had appeared in stage, film and television productions on both sides of the Atlantic, winning numerous awards.[4] Suffering from multiple sclerosis, the role of Arra was her penultimate performance (she died 13 January 1976 at the age of 53, four months after the episode was broadcast by ATV). Production designer Keith Wilson recalls while she had no difficulty with her craft, she required direction from Ray Austin to understand her abstract and complicated dialogue.[5] Austin recalls her being transported to and from the set via wheelchair. She would tell him ‘You'd better get this shot, because I'm not going to last long,’ and they ploughed through her fifteen pages of work in an unprecedented two days.[6]
  • The final shooting script contains unaired dialogue between Arra and Koenig. Cut for time, it had Arra explaining to the Alphan that if he were to consider the Universe as a microscopic cell, his galaxy could be thought of as a single chromosome, the solar system as one gene and himself as a miniscule fragment of that gene. This missing sequence made sense of Arra's later line that the gene of which she and her people were part of would mutate. Also lost was the end of the epilogue, where Koenig would leave Helena alone at the window. Gazing out into space, she was to suddenly assume an enraptured expression and utter ‘Arra...’[7]
  • Martin Bower would construct the Atherian spaceship and nuclear charge miniatures. Both would reappear in later spaceship graveyard sequences in 'Dragon's Domain' and 'The Metamorph'.

Novelisation

The episode was adapted in the fourth Year One Space: 1999 novel Collision Course by E.C. Tubb, published in 1975. While being true to the script, Tubb would attempt to address the scientific criticism that shock waves cannot propagate through the vacuum of space. Bergman would theorise that the atomic blast would divert the Moon and Atheria by the creation of a 'sub-etheric' shock wave; the creation of a 'sub-atomic vortex' would act on not actual particles of matter, but on the 'sub-spatial matrix' confining them. It would be like moving bricks by moving the mortar binding them.[8]

References

  1. ^ Fanderson - The Original Gerry Anderson Website. Original ATV Midlands broadcast date
  2. ^ a b Destination: Moonbase Alpha, Telos Publications, 2010
  3. ^ 'Collision Course' episode guide; Fanderson - The Official Gerry Anderson Website
  4. ^ Margaret Leighton Wikipedia Article
  5. ^ The Complete Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Episode Guide, Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2005
  6. ^ 'Collision Course' episode guide; Space: 1999 website 'The Catacombs', Martin Willey
  7. ^ 'Collision Course' final shooting script, dated 13 August 1974
  8. ^ Space: 1999 - Collision Course, Futura Publications, 1975

External links

Last produced:
"Voyager's Return"
List of Space: 1999 episodes Next produced:
"Death's Other Dominion"
Last transmitted:
"Force of Life"
Next transmitted:
"War Games"

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