Dr. Russell's presumed-dead husband mysteriously reappears on a reconnaissance mission to a nearby planet.
As a reconnaissance Eagle is returning from a nearby planet, Main Computer names the planet Terra Nova, and declares that it is suitable for human habitation, with natural resources to sustain them indefinitely. The pilots report in, describing it as "just like Earth" and having no inhabitants. Their transmission is cut off as a strange electrical discharge erupts in the cockpit. Despite the inability to regain communications, the Eagle's automatic systems keep it on course for Moonbase Alpha.
An emergency team, lead by Koenig and Russell, prepares to meet it at the launch pad. The Eagle lands safely, and when boarded, it's two man crew is found unconscious but alive. Victor calls out when a third person is found in the passenger module. John and Helena come to investigate. Helena checks on the unconscious man, and is stunned to find that it is her husband Lee.
He and the pilots are brought to Medical Center for observation. Koenig questions the fact that it could be Helena's dead husband. She clarifies that he was presumed dead, and stating that she knows her own husband, asserts that it really is him. They continue the discussion in Helena's quarters, where John recounts the details of the ill fated Astro 7 mission as he recalls them, with Lee Russell's ship locked in the orbit of Jupiter, and burning up in the atmosphere. Helena only remembers that they lost contact with it over Jupiter.
Dr. Mathias calls Helena back to Medical Center because the monitors are unable to record her husband's vital signs. Because of this and the mystery of what happened to the two pilots, Koenig has put Operation Exodus on hold until they can find some answers. Koenig asks Helena to wake Lee with Metrazine so they might find answers to some of their questions. She reluctantly agrees because of the limited time they have to institute Operation Exodus.
Lee Russell is relatively unaffected by the drug, and provides no answers to how he came to be on Terra Nova, how he got on the Eagle, or what happened to the pilots. But when Koenig and Victor leave, he seems to become more alert. He asks Helena where he is, and she tells him about the accident that blast the Moon out of Earth orbit. He asks her what they want, and she says they think they found what they want on Terra Nova, a new home. He reaches for her, and she is struck by an electrical charge which throws her across the room.
Koenig is notified that she was found unconscious and brought to her quarters. He visits her there. She tells him she must have passed out while she was talking to Lee. He asks if Lee talked about the planet. Although she doesn't remember clearly, she is certain he didn't mention the planet. After making sure Helena was feeling alright, John visits Victor who shows him several thermographic scans taken of Lee Russell. Two showing him as a living being, and one (taken in Helena's absence) devoid of any body heat.
They conclude that Lee is somehow being sustained by Helena. Koenig decides that it's time to get some answers from Lee Russell. He orders Helena to stay away from him, and has him brought to his office for questioning. Lee tries to warn Koenig not to go down to the planet. But unable to provide explanations, or give clear answers to Koenig's questions, Lee realizes that his warnings will go unheeded. He sits down, and after mournfully uttering Helena's name, he passes away.
Despite Victor's pleas to hold off on the survey of the planet until Lee's autopsy can be done, Koenig begins preparations, and checks in on Helena to see how she's holding up. She says she feels she never really had him back at all, and that she's alright. Back in Main Mission, Koenig moves forward with Operation Exodus. Victor and Helena come to him with news about Lee Russell. His skin tests, show a change in polarity; the first stage in the theoretical change to antimatter. Victor asks John to reconsider going down to the planet, but John's mind is made up. During the launch countdown, Victor contacts Koenig's Eagle to tell him that Lee Russell's body has disappeared, and, again, asks him not to go. Unconvinced, Koenig continues with the launch and heads to Terra Nova.
They land and find a beautiful planet with flowers, fruit trees, and fresh water. Analysis of the data collected seems to indicate that the planet is ideal for them to colonize. The mood is light, and their prospects seem promising, until Victor contacts John to tell him that the atmosphere seals on Alpha and the survey Eagle are degrading. Koenig recalls the survey team, and has them head back to the Eagle.
En route, Alan contacts Koenig saying there's smoke coming from the Eagle's instrument panels, and he is unable to get out. As they race back to the Eagle to help, Paul's laser explodes, killing him, and blinding Sandra. Before Koenig can reach the Eagle it explodes. He contacts Alpha, and Victor's transmission breaks up as he tells John that Alpha's condition is deteriorating rapidly. Helena calls John's attention to the Moon in the sky, as it begins to glow, then explodes in the Terra Novan sky above them.
The shockwave rocks the planet, causing tremors and a terrific wind storm. Buffeted by wind and debris, John and Helena lose Sandra in the tempest. Aftershocks, cause a landslide, which takes Koenig's life while he is getting Helena to safety. Alone and distraught, Helena wanders through the wreckage until she collapses in tears. Lee appears to her. She asks how it is possible, and he explains how he his ship burned up over Jupiter, and some strange form of radiation altered it's crew and scattered them in deep space.
He tells her she must leave Terra Nova, that she can no more live in his world of antimatter, then he can live in hers. Not understanding how she can leave, she asks him. He tells her to see what she wants to see. She imagines Terra Nova as it was before everything went wrong, and it returns to how it was. The Moon is back in the sky, and Koenig appears completely unharmed. They stroll hand in hand back to the pond, where Helena tells John that they cannot stay on Terra Nova. He contacts Alan, who tells him that Paul and Sandra are waiting aboard the Eagle as ordered. He contacts Alpha and tells Victor to cancel Operation Exodus.
Back on Alpha, the mood is solemn. Kano approaches Koenig, telling him that he checked the feasibility studies the computer was running, and the Moon should pass nearly 10,000,000 planets of which, statistically, 3,600 should be Earth-like. Victor asks how old he will be when they reach the first one. More importantly, Koenig asks Kano how old he will be by the time they reach the last of them. Kano tells him he will be exactly 2,543 years old. Koenig smiles and looks out into Main Mission. He sees Helena on the balcony looking out the windows, and goes to her as she silently watches Terra Nova recede into the distance.
Original Title Siren Planet
Original script "Siren Planet" by Art Wallace involved the return of Helena's husband, Telford. But this was an illusion created by the inhabitants of the planet.
The Wallace script was based on an earlier format of the series, so Johnny Byrne wrote a new script, using the concept of the return of Helena's husband.
Shooting script dated 8th January 1974. Filmed from 14th January- 30th January 1974.
During the filming of one Terra Nova scene, everybody stopped when they heard Charles Crichton call "Cut!". But it wasn't Crichton- it was one of the parrots.
This episode was the first to be completed; the original print had different titles and credits but is otherwise identical. This print was released to US stations as a preview copy in 1974 and still resurfaces occasionally.
|France/Canada||Question de vie ou de mort (Matter Of Life Or Death)|
|Germany||Rückkehr der Totenm (Return Of The Dead)|
|Italy||Questione di vita o di morte (Matter Of Life Or Death)|
|Japan||Living dead in Space|
|Poland||Sprawa zycia i smierci (Matter of life and death)|
|Portugal||Questão de Vida ou Morte (Question Of Life Or Death)|
|Spain||Cuestión de vida o muerte (Question of life and death)|
|South Africa||'n Kwissie Van Lewe Of Dood (A Matter of Life and Death)|
- Int. Main Mission
- Int. Command Office
- Int. Care Unit
- Int. Autopsy Room
- Int. Helena's Quarters
- Int. Victor's Quarters
- Int. Alpha Corridor
- Int. Travel Tube
- Int. Eagle Pilot Section
- Int. Eagle Passenger Section
- Ext. Planet Surface
Main Mission is in the early layout with steps to the viewports (there is a slight change in Ring Around The Moon; the new layout is in Earthbound).
The Care Unit reappears in Ring Around the Moon
Helena's quarters are seen again (in a different form) in Dragon's Domain
The first alien planet landscape is a good match to the studio set.
Several shots of the planet alongside the Moon use astronomical photos of the real Moon.
Original score by Barry Gray, recorded at Wembley on Thursday 14th March 1974. This was actually the first episode scored (Breakaway was recorded the following day).
One track (the guitar solo as the guards rush to the Care Unit to restrain Russell) was written and performed by Vic Elms.
Antimatter is also used as a plot device in A Matter of Balance. Antimatter is composed of subatomic particles (protons, electrons) with an opposite electric charge ("reversed polarity" is an accurate technical description). When normal matter and antimatter particles collide they are destroyed, releasing large amounts of energy.
Koenig's line "It takes billions of years for a human being to adapt that radically" is an exaggeration: the timescale is more likely millions of years.
Chronology: They have visited other planets before Terra Nova; "I think we made it this time." "Many things have happened since we broke away from the solar system."
Alpha Personnel: 0 fatalities. Kano is introduced. His lines were assigned to Ouma in the script. Kano calculates that 3600 divided by the number of Alphans is 10.
Alpha Technology: The Care Unit set is also seen in Ring Around the Moon (most Year One medical sets were only seen once).
Commlock locator beams are also used in Death's Other Dominion.
The SAT badge on Lee Russell's jacket is seen again in Year 2.
This is the first use of RED ALERT status, and the only use of YELLOW ALERT.
The water analyser is only used in this episode, but is glimpsed again in the Life Support Center in The Exiles.
The stimulant drug Metrazine is similar in name and function to Mezadrine used in The Troubled Spirit
Eagles: Eagle 1 (Parks); 2 (landing party)
Planets: Terra Nova
Aliens: When asked if Terra Nova is inhabited, Lee Russell answers "No. Yes. Not in the way you think." Which may mean the planet is inhabited, but the life forms are not recognisable.
Kano appears, replacing Ouma.
During the in-show credits we see the medical crew in the travel unit moving to the launch pad. The gurney has no mattress (the director shoots the scene through the frame).
When Koenig and Victor are inspecting the thermographic scans you can see the top two are very close together on the viewer. In a later shot towards the end of the scene the first thermographic scan is missing.
After the landslide, the wind blows across the scene, moving a few "rocks" (by Koenig's head).
Matter Of Life and Death strongly echos Stanislaw Lem's 1961 book Solaris (English translation 1970, filmed by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972; the 1997 film Event Horizon also borrows elements). Terra Nova is like Solaris, a remote planet able to recreate spirits from the past. In both, a facsimile of the main character's dead spouse is created (in the filmed episode he is the real husband of Helena, but in the Siren Planet script, like Solaris, he is merely an image). Like the Siren Planet script, the book's end includes a reunion with an estranged father (here Koenig's father). The themes are similar; the difficulty of communication with a truly alien form, the limits of human comprehension. "We're a long way from home. And we're going to have to start thinking differently if we're to come to terms with space."
While the book and film delve into memory and ideas of self, the Space 1999 treatment is much less subtle. Siren Planet plays as an adventure, with the aliens tricking the Alphans from the planet, while Byrne's script is a science fiction mystery as the physical form of Lee is too weak and inarticulate to explain their situation.
Structurally the episode is flawed, with much disorienting and incoherent movement between rooms to establish minor plot points. Furthermore it is overly vague; why doesn't Lee just say "The planet is antimatter"? Why are Helena or the autopsy doctors electrocuted? Act 4 improves immensely, establishing idyllic pastoral scenes and then a rapid disintegration into chaos. The resolution, winding back time to before the chaos, is unsatisfying (War Games has a similar "it was all a dream" ending, but is better done).
Koenig's concern and caution is well played (overt jealousy would have been a mistake). Helena admits she is just "numb"- although there are some hints of confusion and distraction, her blankness is uninvolving and uninteresting, wasting the emotional opportunity of the plot.
Direction and cinematography especially noteworthy; unusual camera angles and wide, expansive panoramas are characteristic of Charles Crichton.
On some prints (such as that used on the US laserdiscs), the typography for Rudi Gernreich's credit is in the Braggadocio font. In other prints (such as the DVDs), it is in Futura book, consistent with the other credits. Braggadocio is similar but not identical to Futura Black, used for the This Episode caption.
Clips of the planet surface from this episode can be seen in Dr Who episode Nightmare of Eden (1979) and the Kansas music video Dust In The Wind (1977).
The parrots are a Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) and two Blue and Yellow Macaws (Ara ararauna), from tropical South America. Scarlet Macaws are red with blue and yellow wings. Blue and Yellow Macaws are one of the largest parrots in the world, with blue wings and tail, yellow breast and a green cap on the head. A different species of parrot, Green-Wing Macaws, appear in One Moment of Humanity.
|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.|