|The Last Sunset|
|Screenplay by||Christopher Penfold|
|Airdate||(IMDB) March 5 1976. (SFX)Thursday, January 1st, 1976 (ATV Midlands)|
"If this is the end of one life, we have to start to build a new one - to live like human beings again."
The Moon is approaching a system with a sun like Earth's, orbited by the planet Ariel, which computer predicts could support human life. Uncertain if the Moon will go into orbit, two reconnaissance Eagles are sent to investigate the planet. As the Eagles approach Ariel's atmosphere, their scanners detect an alien object on an intercept course. It begins to close on their positions. The Eagle's take evasive action, but are unable to shake the alien object. Now certain that it is some type of missile, Alan prepares for the worst as it zeroes in on his ship. It closes the gap, and surprisingly does not detonate, but attaches itself to the hull of the Eagle's cockpit section. Koenig orders Eagles 2 and 7 back to the base, and evacuates the personnel of launch pad 1.
Paul lands Eagle 2 remotely, and Koenig orders the pilots to get clear as soon as they touch down. Unable to gather any information about the object by remote scans, Koenig orders it brought into the base for analysis. While Victor attempts to learn more about the object, Koenig speculates that the people of Ariel sent it as a diversion to keep the Alphans from landing on their planet. Victor is still unable to provide much information about the object after his scans, but as he declares that it is totally inert, the object raises its antennae, and begins emitting gas.
Koenig has the Technical Section evacuated, sealed off, and its airlocks opened to the surface. The volume of gas being released by an object that small, is beyond their comprehension. Tanya alerts Koenig to the "invasion" of countless probes landing on the surface. Before he can even react, Victor contacts Main Mission with his analysis of the gases emitted by the alien object. He tells Koenig that it is air. As Koenig digests this information, a red glow appears in the windows of Main Mission. Everyone runs to look out, and is amazed to see a red sunrise appearing on their horizon. Koenig is the first to verbalize the realization that the people of Ariel have given them an atmosphere.
As the sun rises, and the sky turns blue, the probes lift off after starting the process that will increase the Moon's gravity to that of Earth. After doing her analysis of the atmosphere, Helena tells John that as far as she can tell, it's safe. The only thing left is to test it. Koenig announces her findings, and asks for two volunteers to go outside and make sure. Everyone clamors to be selected, but Paul and Sandra are chosen. They go out onto the surface in space suits, while their vital signs are constantly monitored in Main Mission. Paul is the first to remove a glove, then open the visor on his helmet. After a breathe of fresh air, he and Sandra hug, and attempt a kiss, which is thwarted by their helmets.
Soon, there are many Alphans on the surface enjoying the sun and fresh air, while John, Helena, and Victor look on from an open window. Paul and Sandra go for a walk, and find themselves discussing the possibilities of a new life outside of the confines of Alpha. This leads to another, more successful, kiss. In Main Mission, John and Victor are also discussing the possibilities of life outside of Alpha. John tells Victor that they need rain and time to make the Moon livable, thus they should focus on seeing if Ariel will support them. At that moment, the alien object begins the cycle of rain in the lunar sky. The Main Mission staff run outside to play in the rain, while Victor and John watch from a window.
Victor is caught up in the excitement, telling John that the Sea of Tranquility will become a real sea, and the Moon will be covered with circular lakes. But an unpleasant realization hits John. Alpha is built at the bottom of a crater, and will be sitting at the bottom of one of those lakes. This prompts an expedition to search the surface for a viable location to set up a new community, should this come to pass. Dr. Russell leads the team, consisting of Alan, Paul and Sandra, to this end. They lift off for their mission carrying the hopes, and future, of Alpha with them. They quickly learn that an atmosphere is both a blessing and a curse. Their communication is riddled with static, and data from their onboard computer can no longer be read by Alpha's main computer, as they head into an electrical storm. The storm worsens, and all contact is lost with Alpha. The Eagle is hit by lightning, causing total systems failure. Unable to restore power, the Eagle crashes on the lunar surface, and is quickly being covered with lunar dust.
In Main Mission, Koenig orders the remaining Eagles to begin a search of a 500 mile radius of Eagle 28's last recorded position. He and Dr. Mathias will join the search in Eagle 1, loaded with medical supplies. Helena takes care of Sandra, who has received a concussion during the crash. With all the Eagle's systems blown, they realize that all they can do is wait to be found. While the other Eagles are searching for their location, Paul and Alan try to open the Eagle's door to let some air in. When they do, dust pours into the cabin. They manage to climb outside, and see that their ship is partially buried, making it more difficult to spot from the air. Just then another Eagle passes over head. They try to flag it down, but are not seen.
As night falls over Alpha, the Eagles return to base to refuel and begin their search again at daybreak. Victor and John discuss the chances of the Moon settling into an orbit around Ariel's sun. John realizes that if this doesn't happen, then conditions on the lunar surface will deteriorate quickly. Helena discovers that acid, thrown into the cargo section during the crash, has contaminated the bulk of their supplies. They only have a few jugs of water, and survival rations left. Alan and Paul bring cargo containers outside to create a marker to aid in their rescue. Kano informs Koenig that Eagle 15 is grounded due to a fault in its lateral stabilizers, and that five other Eagles have reported similar problems. Koenig orders him to get the Technical Section working on this, and tells him that no Eagle is grounded until he says so.
In Eagle 28, they are quickly running out of water and worried for Sandra's survival, while their marker is slowly being covered by dust. Koenig and Mathias lift off to continue their search, when Victor bursts into Main Mission telling Kano to recall them. Victor's warning came too late, as at that moment, their systems seize up, causing the Eagle to crash. When Koenig is back on Alpha, Victor explains that an unknown element in the air, combined with constant flying through fine particles of Moon dust, is causing rapid corrosion to anything not covered with a graphite compound. Koenig orders an Eagle stripped, and all its parts coated in graphite. Seeing the alien object still in the Technical Section, he tells Victor to get it out of Alpha. Paul is giving Sandra water, and is painfully aware that it's almost gone. He tells her that it has rained, and is going to get some more. He sneaks out of the Eagle. Helena wakes as dust blows in. Sandra tells her that Paul went to fetch water. Helena is confused, as she knows it hasn't rained. She opens the door, and calls to Paul, but he can't hear her over the dust storm. He collapses a short distance away, but finds something growing among the rocks, and eats it.
The following morning, he carries Sandra up to a shelter he built during the night. He tells her that it is their new garden of Eden. Alan and Helena arrive, and ask where he got the steam to be up all night. Paul shows them the "manna from heaven" he gathered. Helena says they need to run some tests. Paul tells her he already "tested" it. She suggests they stick to the survival rations for breakfast, says she'll run what tests she can, and if it seems safe, they can have it for lunch. Alan decides to go "mushroom hunting" just in case it is safe.
Back on Alpha, Victor tells Koenig that the Moon won't be going into orbit around Ariel's sun. To which, Koenig replies that when the Moon passes beyond the warmth of the sun, its atmosphere will turn to ice and crush Alpha. But on a positive note, Victor also informs John that the graphite covered Eagle is ready. Koenig and Mathias lift off again in search of the downed Eagle. When Helena has finished running her tests on the "manna", she tells Paul that she thinks it's safe, but they can run more tests when they get back to Alpha. Paul tells her that they are not going back to Alpha; that there was a purpose in everything that happened to them. He insists that they are destined to spread humanity throughout the stars.
Alan returns and sees that Paul has Helena and Sandra cornered. Helena gives him a look to let him know that there is something wrong. Paul follows her gaze to see Alan throw the "manna" away. Paul punches Alan, and Helena grabs a sedative out of a medical kit. Paul forces it out of her hand, and begins to choke her. Paul hears the probes from Ariel descending to the surface and let's Helena go. He tells her that the "people" of Ariel have returned, and begins to walk among them.
Helena sees an Eagle approaching in the distance and takes advantage of the distraction. She runs to their Eagle, lines up several oxygen tanks, and opens them up. She grabs a laser rifle from the rack and runs outside. In the Eagle, Dr. Mathis warns Koenig that the atmospheric pressure on the surface is dropping fast. Helena takes position, aims at the open door of the Eagle, and fires. The Eagle explodes in a massive fireball. Mathias spots the the explosion, and Koenig alters course. They land and find Alan and Helena. Alan tells Koenig where Sandra is, and says that she needs help. Koenig sends the others back to the ship, and goes after Sandra. He tries to help her up, but Paul attacks him. They fight, but eventually Koenig gets the upper hand, and knocks Paul out.
Once they are back in Main Mission, Victor explains that the "Manna" is rich in second class proteins, and has many essential vitamins, along with some hallucinogenic properties. Paul muses that it wasn't a bad trip until the end. Tanya Alerts Koenig that the alien object is moving again. It lifts off, and moves into a position over Main Mission. It begins transmitting a message, declaring that the people of Ariel were neither benevolent or malevolent in their actions. But it was their absolute need to prevent the humans from entering the atmosphere of their planet. Koenig asks if they can hear him. They tell him yes, and they can also read his thoughts. Koenig replies that they must know that the Alphans came in peace. They respond saying that they have watched Earth since the beginning of time, and because of human nature, could not take the risk. With this, the probe departs, as the last of the atmosphere is removed by the alien probes. The Alphans move to the windows of Main Mission to watch in silence as the sunset fades on the horizon, taking along with it their dreams for a new life on the terra-formed Moon. 
Tuesday, July 23rd - Tuesday, August 6th, 1974 plus Wednesday, August 21st, 1974
Prentis Hancock cites this as his favourite episode of the series, as he was given considerably more to do than usual. The actors relished the opportunity to get outside the confines of the Pinewood Studios soundstages and into the open air, even if it was only into the backlot where the scenes of the Alphans greeting the Moon's first rainfall were filmed. This sequence was shot two weeks after principal photography on the episode had been completed, during filming of Voyager's Return.
Alpha appears to have an extremely unusual design feature for a base sited in the airless vacuum of the lunar surface when Koenig is seen opening one of the windows in technical section. However, in a short sequence cut from the original script, technicians were to be seen specially fitting this new opening window in technical section, as the Alphans fully expected the Moon's new atmosphere to be permanent. Later, when it becomes apparent that this is not so, another omitted sequence had Koenig ordering the new windows to be replaced immediately.
Much of the incidental music in this episode was originally composed and recorded by Barry Gray for earlier Gerry Anderson productions: the Stingray episode Raptures Of The Deep, the Thunderbird 6 feature film, the Joe 90 episode King For A Day and The Secret Service's A Case For The Bishop. One piece was originally recorded as a library track for Supercar in October 1960, fourteen years earlier!
- John Koenig
- Helena Russell
- Victor Bergman
- Paul Morrow
- Alan Carter
- Sandra Banes
- David Kano
- Bob Mathias
- Ken Johnson - James Fagan
- Main Mission Operatives - Loftus Burton, Sarah Bullen, Andrew Dempsey, Robert Philips, Michael Stevens, Maureen Tan, Lynda Westover
- Security Guard - Quentin Pierre
- Alphans - Richard Adams, Janet Allen, Guy Francis Groen, Jack McKenzie, Linzy Scott, Anita West