"Something happened out there beyond Ultra - something neither you nor I can understand."
A macabre monster in outer space...an eerie graveyard of lost spaceships. Real or imagination? Years of mental torment reach a terrifying climax.
While Tony Cellini is sleeping, swirling lights appear in his room which disturb his sleep. He wakes up in an extremely agitated state and and tries to attack the lights with a tomahawk. After a few attempts, he embeds the tomahawk into the commpost and the lights vanish.
An alarm is sounded in Medical Centre due to his elevated pulse and metabolic rate. Helena contacts him to see if he is alright. He tells her it was just a bad dream, and that he is fine. He leaves his quarters for the launch pad embarkation area. Main Mission in alerted to his presence in a restricted area while off duty. Unable to contact him, Koenig restricts his commlock's access to that launch pad until he can find out what is going on. Tony realizes this, knocks Alan out, takes his commlock, and boards an Eagle.
Koenig Finds Alan, aborts the launch and is forced to stun Tony at point blank range. Cellini is taken to Medical Centre to recover. Helena thinks that Tony has been unstable since the the disaster aboard the Ultra Probe killing three of his crewmates, which he blamed on a monster that was undetectable to their life scans. The Ultra Probe was launched June 6, 1996 from the Interplanetary Space Station to investigate the newest planet discovered in Earth's solar system.
When they reached Ultra, eight months later, sensors picked up a group of spaceships just after passing behind the planet, and out of communications range. They detected no signs of life on any of the alien craft, and couldn't figure out why. They guessed it might be some kind of "car park" for an intergalacic conference. After finding a ship with a suitable atmosphere they docked with it. When everything appeared safe, Tony opened the hatch from the command module. A wind blew through the open hatch, and strange lights and sounds came from within. Darwin King told Tony to close the hatch.
Tony did, but too late. A horrific creature materialized aboard the Ultra Probe. By the time he fixed the doors (which had shorted out) from the Command Module, it had consumed Darwin King and Juliet Mackie, and expelled their smoldering corpses. He tried to save Dr. Monique Fauchere, but the creature had it's tentacles around her throat, and his laser had no effect. Ultimately she, too, was consumed. Tony tried to kill the monster. He failed, and barely escaped with his life. He separated the Command Module from the probe ship and used a low orbit around Ultra to slingshot his craft back towards Earth. His module was found over six months later, with Tony on the brink of death. He recovered, but his story was met with incredulity.
Comissioner Dixon believed that he bungled the docking procedure, killing his crew, and made up the story to cover for his mistake. Dr. Russell was on the medical team assigned to evaluate Cellini. He begged her to believe his story, but ultimately, her report supported the case against him, and he was grounded for more psychiatric treatment.
John brings Helena flowers to apologise for snapping at her earlier. Koenig is contacted by Main Mission to let him know that sensors picked up new contacts. When he arrives at Main Mission he has Kano check the computer to match the new contacts against the ones detected by the Ultra Probe, but Sandra locates the Ultra Probe amongst the alien ships before Kano has a chance. Koenig decides to investigate the derelict ships, and asks Tony to come along. They board the Eagle and Tony says he wants to apologise to Alan in the cockpit. He knocks Alan out again, drags his body into the passenger module, separates the Eagle's superstructure from the pod, and leaves the others on the launch pad.
Koenig has another Eagle pick them up and follows Cellini to the Ultra Probe. When Tony gets there, he separates the Command Module from the Eagle and docks with the Ultra Probe. When Koenig's Eagle arrives, they dock with the probe ship and enter in time to see Tony fighting a losing battle with the Dragon. He is consumed by the creature, to the Alphans horror.
Koenig and two Security personnel try their lasers on the creature to no effect. Koenig grabs a hatchet and faces off against the Dragon. In a move of either pure luck or divine inspiration, he strikes the creature in the eye with the hatchet, killing it.
The Alphans return to Alpha before it moves out of range of their Eagle, leaving behind the many unanswered questions about the aliens who piloted those ships. The only thing they do know, is their fates, the fate of Tony Cellini. When they get back to the base, Helena suggests that if they do find a new home, they will need a whole new mythology. Koenig asks if she means "Tony Cellini and the Monster". He tells her that it is not mythology, but part of their history now. But he does think that Tony would have been happy to have put new life into an old myth.
Nick Tate states the original idea was for him to be featured as the pilot of the Ultra Probe. "I know it was originally written for me because Christopher Penfold invited me to his house and showed me the first draft of the script. The original story was very much like Alien - this creature kills everybody aboard a space station and Alan Carter is sent there to discover what happened." (1995 interview). Obviously Carter would survive the episode.
Original story treatment titled Web by Christopher Penfold featured pilot Jimmy Calder, and, after Garko was cast, Tony Cellini.
After Penfold left, it was revised. Johnny Byrne does not remember working on it, so rewrites are likely to be by Charles Crichton, Gerry Anderson and Martin Landau.
Shooting script dated 21st January 1975. Pink page amendments 24th January 1974. Blue page amendments (2pp) 29th January 1975. Yellow page amendments (12pp) 30th January 1975,
Filmed 24th January - 10th February 1975
- Int. Main Mission
- Int. Helena's quarters
- Int. Cellini's Quarters
- Int. Victor's Quarters (flashback)
- Int. Medical
- Int. Technical (1996)
- Int. Alpha Corridor
- Int. Embarkation Point
- Int. Travel Tube
- Int. Eagle Pilot Section
- Int. Eagle Passenger Section
- Int. Ultra Probe Pilot Section/Main Module
- Int. Earth hospital corridor
- Int. Earth hospital room
- Int. Dixon's Office
Set decoration in Cellini's room: axes, tomahawks, spears, muskets, boomerang, poster prints of David Scott leaving the Apollo 9 command module for EVA, and David Shepherd's elephant paintings including the popular Wise Old Elephant, painted in 1962. Despite the publishers' initial reluctance to publish prints of the work, "Wise Old Elephant" was one of the ten top selling prints for three years running, on two occasions proving more popular than Constable's "Hay Wain" or Canaletti's pictures of Venice.
Dixon's office is a redress of M's office from the James Bond films. Thanks to Dana Lubich.
The Ultra Probe was in two sizes (6' and 3') plus a 20" lifeboat. The nosecone of the large Ultra Probe (to scale with the 44" Eagle) was used in Eagle hangar scenes of The Metamorph although it is not seen on screen.
The design of the command module clamps to the main body was inspired by the 1973 film Silent Running. The original concept was to eject glittering dust just like the dome ejection scenes in that film.
The Dragon ship was 102cm long (5 1/2 feet) and to scale with the smaller Ultra Probe. It reappeared in the graveyard in The Metamorph.
Two other new ships were built; both were about 2-3 foot long and sparsely detailed. One reappeared in the graveyard in The Metamorph.
Ships from other episodes were reused. These are:
- Shuttle from Collision Course (seen from underside)
- Sidon ship from Voyager's Return (seen from underside)
- Bomber from Alpha Child and War Games
- Front end of Deltan ship from The Last Enemy
In addition, the SFX crew filmed shots with the Tardis from Dr Who and Enterprise from Star Trek. Although they were barely visible, it was decided to remove these shots from the completed episode.
The skulls of the corpses were made from Revell kits
The dragon arms was rubber tubing covered in polystyrene, with open ends so air blown down them caused them to flick. After filming, the prop was discarded in the back lot, where Johnny Byrne used to walk his lurcher hounds. The male hound regularly sprayed the monster to mark its territory.
Library track: "Adagio for strings and organ in G Minor" composed by Tommaso Albinoni, arranged by Alain Lombard (published by Delyse [Envoy] Recording Co.) This track is widely used in film, including Rollerball in 1975 and Gallipoli in 1981. Gerry Anderson had wanted to use it in his 1968 film Doppelganger (aka Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun), but Barry Gray had composed a track for the sequence (when the astronauts sleep on their way to the other planet).
Bergman discovers Ultra, a 10th planet in the solar system in 1996. In 2006 a new classification was agreed, in which the solar system has just 8 planets, excluding Pluto (now classified as a dwarf planet like Charon, Ceres, and Eris).
Chronology: 877th day after leaving orbit (Wednesday, 6th February 2002). It is five years since 1997. [N 1]
Alpha Personnel: 1 fatality (Tony Cellini)
Koenig's appointment in Breakaway presumably follows his "grounding" in 1997 after the Ultra Probe failure. Victor's grounding seems to have been brief ("Still here?"). Although he was friendly with Mathias in 1996 (calling him "Bob"), in Breakaway they are on formal, last name terms. It is possible that Koenig believes Mathias was partly responsible for Cellini's grounding.
Kano also plays chess in Black Sun, but the chess set has flat pieces, not proper chess pieces. The same set is seen on Earth in Another Time, Another Place.
Alpha Technology: The Space Dock appears. It also appears in Breakaway
We learn Medical Computer monitors everyone's pulse and metabolic rate continuously.
Helena uses a electric typewriter (a Triumph-Adler Gabriele 2000). By Year 2 she will be dictating into her Alpha Log Recorder, although the typewriter is seen again in Koenig's quarters in The Exiles.
Cellini comments "There are ships here that could make the dream of interstellar travel a reality. We could be liberated from our solar system". However, according to Brian the Brain, a 1996 mission with a mothership and Swifts was launched beyond the solar system. Note while the Ultra Probe was a high profile public mission, no-one can even remember the Swift mission in Brian The Brain. Also note the Swift uniforms are different to the standard moonbase uniforms worn by the Ultra Probe crew. Perhaps it was a different (more secretive) space organisation.
Eagles: Eagle 1 (Cellini, left with Ultra probe); 2 (pick up); 3 and 4 (escort)
Aliens: Dragon. Ships of other alien races are seen.
Props: The orange jackets worn by Koenig and Cellini reappear on the guards in Testament Of Arkadia, Picard in The Metamorph and Maya in One Moment of Humanity. Victor's blue jacket is worn by Alan is early Year 2 episodes. 1996 Alpha had ID badges, like in Year 2.
Footage: The footage of Victor doing calculations on a glass panel in his room (LQ12) is recycled from Black Sun
The shape seen before the dragon appears is the space brain.
News broadcast date is Sept 3rd 1996 (written in the script as "9/3/96" which the actor and director assumed to be American format - month, day, year, instead of English format - day, month, year[N 2]). The Ultra Probe launch date is 6th June 1996
As Ultra Probe approaches the graveyard, the point-of-view shot of the alien ships shows the Ultra Probe already docked to the dragon ship
Cellini mentions "Tentacles, blood suckers, fiery breath". On screen the monster only had the former (the reason for the error is in the script it had those features).
Christopher Penfold: At the time I had a house on the Welsh borders near Ludlow, which because of the pressure of work on Space I couldn't get to all that often. Whenever I did get there, the spiders' webs over the kitchen windows would be full of moths and flies that had had the life blood sucked out of them.
Perhaps the most overtly mythological episode of Space: 1999. Although it credits St George and the Dragon, the ending also strongly echoes the final confrontation of Beowulf with the dragon. The dragon's skin cannot be penetrated by swords (as the space dragon is unaffected by lasers), and Beowulf is mortally wounded. His thane Wiglaf delivers the death blow to the dragon.
The use of flashback and narration is also seen in The Testament of Arkadia and the unfilmed Face Of Eden.
Footage of the Ultra Probe has been used on several UK shows including comedy sketch programme Three Of A Kind (1983, a sketch based on Alien), and children's magazine Saturday Starship (1984).
The video and DVD releases of this episode have been flawed. The original UK video release by ITC had to be recalled after a sound defect. The UK Carlton DVD release has a colour defect after 4 minutes 48 seconds, turning abruptly pinker (during the chess game). The US A&E release has this colour defect throughout; the bonus disc corrects the colour, but the film shows more scratches. The Network release in 2005 is the first unflawed release.
|Breakaway I Earthbound I Black Sun I Missing Link I Voyager's Return I Matter of Life and Death I Ring Around the Moon I The Last Sunset I Alpha Child I Death's Other Dominion I Force of Life I Guardian of Piri I The Troubled Spirit I The Last Enemy I Collision Course I Dragon's Domain I The Full Circle I Mission of the Darians I End of Eternity I War Games I The Infernal Machine I Another Time, Another Place I Space Brain I The Testament of Arkadia|
|Episodes are listed in the order suggested by Andrew Kearley.|