"Hello, Earth. Hello, Earth. This is Commissioner Simmonds returning home after 75 years."
Representatives from a dying planet land on the moon. Their spacecraft has been programmed to take them to Earth. Is this an opportunity for key Moonbase personnel to return to Earth? Commander Koenig is faced with unexpected drama.
After sitting in on a command conference, Commissioner Simmonds berates Koenig for not focusing on trying to locate Earth, and attempting a return home. Koenig responds that it would be a waste of their time to attempt something scientifically impossible. Simmonds replies that the impossible takes a little longer. Their discussion is interrupted when Sandra notifies Koenig of an alien craft approaching Alpha. They adjourn to Main Mission. Computer confirms that the vessel is manned, and predicts that it will go into orbit around the Moon. Unable to contact the vessel, Koenig has two Eagles lift off to greet it.
The ship's flight becomes erratic, and it crash lands on the lunar surface. Koenig orders a crash unit to standby at launch pad three, and recalls Alan Carter to pilot. He has Victor and Helena join him, as he leads the team. They fly out to the downed ship, and dock with it.
Alan disengages the pod, and returns to Alpha. Within the docking tube, they scan the alien vessel and detect no signs of life, atmosphere, or artificial gravity. They depressurize, and board. They see six translucent chambers with bodies in them. Helena suggests they may be in suspended animation.
Koenig sends for Helena's equipment, and has Paul extend atmosphere and artificial gravity, from their passenger module, to the ship. From as much information as she can gather through the chambers, Helena can detect no signs of life. She suspects the crash may have killed the ship's passengers, but Koenig that she cannot learn more without breaking the seal on one of the chambers. Having exhausted every other option, he gives her the go ahead. As soon as her drill breaks the seal, there is a flash of red light, and the body within is reduced to ashes. Suddenly the ship's systems activate, and the rest of the crew awaken. They silently rise and discover the remains of their shipmate, then turn to face the intruders who caused her demise.
The Alphans explain that all of their instruments indicated no life signs, and only then did they break the seal. Without a word, the apparent leader gestures for the crew to gather around their shipmate's remains, then gestures for the Alphans to join them in a silent commemoration of the loss of their comrade. Back in Main Mission, Simmonds is anxiously wondering what is going on inside the alien ship. Finally, Koenig reports that the aliens will be flying it on partial power to the base for repairs.
As Koenig leads their new guests onto the base, Simmonds rushes over, and insists on being introduced. He tells Captain Zantor that those responsible for the death of his crewman will be brought to account. Zantor, aware that the mistake was one of ignorance, not malice, assures him that no retribution is necessary. As Helena shows them to their quarters, to freshen up before discussing their situation, Simmonds warns Koenig that they may not be as friendly as they seem. When they meet again in Koenig's office, the Kaldorians present the Alphans with eggs of the Libra bird (a symbol of peace and freedom on their world) filled with gold as a gesture of good will.
Zantor explains that the Libra birds, along with everything else on their planet was becoming sterile. His people sent out ships to every world they thought could sustain their form of life. He tells them that his ship was programmed to orbit the Moon, re-animate the crew, and proceed to Earth, but random variations in the Moon's trajectory caused it's computer to err, and caused them to crash. They wished to settle on Earth if they were welcome. When asked if they were not welcomed, he tells them they would submit themselves to "voluntary reduction" (take their own lives).
Helena offers to determine the compatibility of Kaldorians with humans, and Victor offers to help assess the damage to their ship. When they leave, Simmonds tells Koenig that a return to Earth is possible if they commandeer the ship, as it is programmed to find and reach Earth. While Helena examines Zantor, he explains the concept of their stasis chambers. When Helena's results show that humans and Kaldorians are compatible, Zantor suggests that the spare stasis chamber on his ship may be adapted for human use, making the seventy-five year voyage pass like a dream.
Koenig has Helena investigate the process to make sure it's safe. When Simmonds' plan to seize the Kaldorian ship is dismissed by Koenig, Simmonds says that he should be the one to go back to Earth. Koenig tells him that Computer will select who goes, and he will have the same chance as everyone else. Koenig is called to the Kaldorian ship, and learns that they are having difficulties reviving Helena from stasis. Zantor tells Koenig that Alpha's computer did not understand the human spirit, and because of that, Helena was placed in too deep a sleep.
Zantor can attempt to revive her, but their is a risk of brain damage. John is dubious, but at Victor's urging, allows Zantor to try. Helena is finally revived with no ill effect. With repairs almost complete on the Kaldorian ship, and the launch window closing, Koenig receives a list of three names from Computer. Koenig tells Kano to go back and have Computer select one name. Alone in Koenig's office, Simmonds reiterates that he should be the one to go, but Koenig stands firm that Computer should make an unbiased choice, giving everyone an equal chance. Simmonds replies that he doesn't believe in chance, and as Helena, Victor and Zantor enter the office, he takes Koenig's commlock from his desk, and replaces it with his own.
Zantor tells Koenig that with repairs to his ship finished, there is only the matter of who is to join them to be decided. John asks if they are sure the process is safe. Zantor explains that it will be so long as his computer makes a matrix of the person to be put in stasis. Simmonds makes his way to the Nuclear Power Station, and stuns the guards when he gets there. Koenig discovers that his commlock has been taken, has Kano track it, then deactivate it. They locate Simmonds in the Power Station, where he has one of the technicians at gun point. Koenig contacts Simmonds and tells him he is trapped.
Simmonds forces the technician to remove the core that regulates life support for the base, and tells Koenig that it is his hostage. Either he goes back to Earth, or the base freezes over. With only twenty-eight minutes till liftoff, and a half hour of life support, Simmonds gives Koenig fifteen minutes to decide. Zantor is called to Main Mission. Koenig explains the situation to him, and Zantor agrees that Simmonds must be allowed to go. Simmonds is told that he will be allowed to go, but asks for a guarantee. Zantor offers to be his hostage.
Zantor goes to the Power Station, were the converter is replaced, then lead at gun point to the ship. He thanks Koenig, Helena and Victor for their help, and expresses his regret that Simmonds should succeed through the use of force. They board, and the ship is raised on the launch pad. Zantor asks Simmonds to enter his stasis chamber, but is directed at gunpoint to enter his first. Only when all the Kaldorians are in their stasis chambers, does Simmonds put down his stun gun and climb into his. The ship takes off, and heads for Earth. The Alphans watch in silence as the chance for one of them to return home fades in the distance.
Simmonds wakes in his stasis chamber pleased to find there have been no harmful side effects from his hibernation. While the Kaldorians are still sleeping, he uses his commlock to contact Earth, and let them know of his arrival. His signal is picked up on Alpha. They realize that Simmonds didn't go into suspended animation, and is not yet aware of that fact. As his hails go unanswered, he checks the time on his commlock, and realizes the truth of his situation. He pleads for Alpha to help him, but there is nothing they can do. He struggles to break free of his chamber, or wake the Kaldorians, but is unable to. Helpless and broken, Simmonds collapses exhausted from his efforts. Back on Alpha, after a stunned silence when his transmission fades, Helena asks John who the computer finally chose. He tells her it was Simmonds, and tears up the computer print out.
Script undated. Filmed 15th March to 1st April 1974
Keith Wilson: "I had a little problem with Christopher Lee on Earthbound. In the first series, l had more of a total control over the make-up, the hair, the costume, particularly with our aliens. I would always design the alien, in whatever form, even if it was Christopher Lee. I designed his out of it, and of course, when creating an alien like this, you're designing the makeup as well, so I would work with the make-up and hair departments. We built his nose up, I wanted it absolutely straight, but he didn't want this, he was not happy about having this on his face. And after the first day's shooting, they removed the make-up, and it took the skin off his nose!"
When Zantor stands up in the Kaldorian ship, he stands on an apple box so he towers over Koenig and the other Alphans. (Christopher Lee is 6 foot 4 inches tall; all the Kaldorians were supposed to be over 6 foot 6 inches tall).
- Int. Main Mission
- Int. Command Office
- Int. Nuclear Power Station (revamp Command Office)
- Int. Medical
- Int. Alpha Corridor
- Int. Travel Tube
- Int. Eagle Pilot Section
- Int. Eagle Passenger Section & Vacuum Chamber
- Int. Kaldorian ship
Main Mission is in the new layout with no steps to the viewports and more widely spaced desks (the early layout is in Breakaway to Ring Around The Moon). Kano's desk will not appear until Missing Link.
The Main Power Unit set (a revamp of the Command Office) also appeared in Black Sun.
The Kaldorian ship was built by Space Models in two sizes. It is a relatively basic model, with a simple shape unlike the intricate and well-worn Martin Bower designs seen later. The SFX crew called it the "humming top". The landing reveals how difficult it was to film. The design is similar to the spaceship in the 1982 Spielberg film "E.T." In September 2009, the large model sold on an ebay auction for £2052.
A number of publicity shots showing the ship in the Eagle hangar were taken; the high angle usually shows the distant Eagles are cardboard cut-outs. In the episode the views are from a low angle and look more convincing.
Perhaps because it was the first alien spaceship of the series it was made into a tiny die-cast toy by LJN Road Stars.
Alpha has sensors that detect life signs. How?
"Activate gravity control and atmosphere." Obviously the Eagle pod can extend an artificial gravity field. If the interior of the Kaldorian ship is at ambient gravity, why doesn't Simmonds float when he is encased at the end of the episode?
Chronology: This episode is definitely pre-Another Time, Another Place as it is stated "We're not even sure the Earth still exists." But did the Kaldorian ship follow the Moon through the Black Sun? If 2074 is 75 years in the future, it is still 1999.
Alpha Personnel: 1 left Alpha: Simmonds (presumably deceased). There is a guard called Tony - but he is played by Tony Allyn, not Tony Anholt (he appears in most Year 1 episodes, but this is the only time he is named).
Alpha Technology: Victor uses a hairdryer-like instrument to scan the Kaldorian ship hull. Presumably it is supplying data to Kano's Spectro X analysis.
Simmonds uses a stun gun with a piece of black tape over the middle. Possibly this is to disguise a damaged prop in close ups.
This is the first episode to lose the steps up the viewports in Main Mission.
The nuclear power station is the same set as the Main Power Unit in Black Sun- actually a revamp of Koenig's office.
We briefly see a gravity tower.
Eagles: Eagle 1 (Alan, Rescue); 2 (Rescue). The first appearance of the red striped pods. There is a rare view of the docking tube, which uniquely has a corrugated seal. A winch pod is seen in the Eagle hangar.
Planets: None. We learn about the dying planet Kaldor.
Props: In the Eagle vacuum chamber, Koenig is holding the geiger counter seen in Breakaway (now with leads attached).
Footage: This is the first episode to feature a shot of Barry Morse in the titles.
- As Zantor lies down in the casket at the end of the episode, his wig falls off revealing dark hair beneath.
- When Simmonds is battering his casket, at the end of the shot we briefly see beyond two aliens- one turns his head round, the other sits up. The director had probably called "cut" but the editor decided to use slightly more of the shot.
- Douglas Nicol on Sunday, October 03, 1999 - 2:39 pm:So what is Simmonds position in the chain of command? In Breakaway it is hinted that he has a superior or at the very least equal rank on Alpha to Koenig. BarbF on Monday, October 04, 1999 - 6:57 am: I think basically he's a nobody since the Moon broke out of orbit. While they were in orbit, he was Koenig's superior, but as he says in the episode now he "has no place on Alpha, no function." Obviously that lack of authority is a bug in his butt, since he takes every opportunity to annoy Koenig. I like the way Koenig puts him in his place in this episode. Douglas Nicol on Saturday, November 13, 1999 - 11:32 am: So you mean its basically the same as some part of the government ordering the armed forces. He has no 'rank' as such, but has the authority, but when the moon was blown out of orbit, the body to which Simmonds was answerable to had no means of cimmunication, so therefore he had no real authority.
The first "big name" star, Christopher Lee. Also a change in story direction, from science fiction mysteries to relatively straightforward storytelling with a twist at the end.
The Kaldorians in their multi-coloured kaftans and pacificist philosophy seem to be intended to be space hippies- perhaps wisely the episode shows them aloof and dignified, although a little cold (Zantor's attraction to Helena is suggested in the vaguest possible terms.)
A reprise role for Simmonds, last seen in Breakaway.
How did Simmonds get his stun gun? One explanation (from Chris Moore) is that Koenig's commlock gives access to areas where guns are stored, such as an Eagle or armoury.
In February 1993 to promote the UK video release of this episode, Christopher Lee appeared on The Little Picture Show and was interviewed by Mariella Frostrup about the episode.
During filming of this episode, a special "fake" scene was shot in Main Mission, with Sandra, Paul and Simmonds. The scene was a set-up to surprise Roy Dotrice, the subject of an episode of This Is Your Life (20 March, 1974).
The white wig worn here by Christopher Lee was later passed on to be worn by Peter Cushing (in Missing Link), Margaret Leighton (in Collision Course), Leo McKern (in The Infernal Machine) and Joan Collins (in Mission of the Darians). The wig actually starts to fall off as Zantor lays down in his casket towards the end of the episode, revealing Lee's dark hair underneath.
During the chilling final scene when Simmonds awakes to find himself trapped in the casket, one of the Kaldorians in the background appears to react to Simmonds' screams and sits up!
Earthbound has the distinction of being the only Year One episode not to be novelised by Futura Books, although certain elements of the story were incorporated into "The Space Guardians" by Brian Ball. However, the complete episode has now been novelised by E.C. Tubb (October 2001) and was published by Fanderson's Century 21 Books imprint in 2003 as part of a new Space:1999 novel.
Christopher Lee celebrated his fiftieth year as a screen actor in 1997 and has the distinction of having made more film appearances (over 165) than any other living British actor. Highlights of his career include The Curse Of Frankenstein (1956), Dracula (1958), A Tale Of Two Cities (1958), The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959), The Mummy (1959), Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1965), Rasputin - The Mad Monk (1965), She (1965), The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965), The Devil Rides Out (1968), The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (1970), The Wicker Man (1973), The Three Musketeers (1974), The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), To The Devil A Daughter, Airport 77 (1977), Return From Witch Mountain (1978), Arabian Adventure (1979), 1941 (1979) and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990). His television career has been less prolific although he has been seen in Ivanhoe, The Avengers (twice), One Step Beyond, Charlie's Angels, How The West Was Won, The Far Pavilions, Faerie Tale Theatre, The Tomorrow People and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. More recently, he starred as Lucard de Beaumanoir in the BBC's Ivanhoe series, appeared in a recurring role as Olwyn in The New Adventures Of Robin Hood and as Sir Richard Turkel in Russell Mulcahy's Talos The Mummy (1998). He recently appeared as Flay in the BBC adaptation of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast and as Saruman in The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001). He was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for 2001.
Emily Bolton makes the first of five appearances in the series as Main Mission Operative June. Known professionally at the time as June Bolton, she guested in Return Of The Saint and The Enigma Files and appeared as Manuela in the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker before starring as Christine Campbell in the popular BBC series Tenko.
Rhonda Parker is best-known for her non-speaking role as Mother's assistant Rhonda in the last season of The Avengers.
|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.|