Episode Reviews (1)
- SORT BY:
I understand from various reading that the fourth season kinda sorta descended into a silly mishmash of "monsters of the week". This one isn't all that bad, but it ain't all that good, either.
It starts out with the caption: 1981. I've mentioned previously my dislike of locking an episode to a specific date. We see the Seaview (natch), but then it becomes confusing--obviously a major launch is being prepared, and then we find that Chip Morton, as well as another man, Major Robert Wilson, are aboard. Huh? Whoever would believe that they could launch a vessel into space, with its incredible burst of energy, from inside an inclosed, INHABITED vessel? Not to mention the absurdity having a naval officer, whom we've never seen or heard of having any astronaut training, being on board? Why not two professional astronauts? Another problem is that both the launch area (manned by Sharkey and crew) and the flight control room (Nelson, Crane, and Co.) look far too expansive to be in the rigid confines of a submarine, even if it is the Seaview.
Oh, well. The flight control room looks pretty much like any other such room I've seen on television and in movies. Nelson consults with the Space Exploration Agency (and notice what its letters spell out? Very suitable). This is an experimental underwater launch (O.K, so they want to see how that works, but for Heaven's sake, do it from a drone vessel by remote control!) They'll give the boys a quick, three-time spin around the Earth, and bring them home again. We get a quick shot of the S.E.A's grounds and equipment, then back to Seaview for the launch. How remarkable. That capsule looks just like a Polaris missile. Also remarkable, the force of the launch only results in a minimal lurch, easily stabilized. Maybe there is something to launching underwater. The capsule breaks away from the initial thrusting unit, and safely makes orbit. Chip and Wilson unstrap themselves, but before they can really start checking on things, a strange crackling and beeping is heard; it has a clear pattern to it. It's also heard down below, and a voice calls urgently to check for problems. Crane attempts to call the capsule, to no avail. Chip tries the same thing from upstairs. Wilson states that he cannot stop "it"--presumably the noise. There's a sudden flashing of light and loud noise, and the capsule lurches. An alien form appears behind them, aims a little device at them from a chain around it's neck (it looks like one of those stubby kalidoscope toys) and knocks them out. Well, now we know where this episode is going.
Back from the credits, Seaview is still parked underwater by a rock outcropping, and it occurs to me that this is not really a good place to be for a launch. They should have banged into that rock with the launch lurch. (Try saying that five times fast.) Nelson finds that the signal has gone, yet there is no indication of any explosion--there was only a thin beam of light. They add reserve power to the scanner, and then power from the reactors, to no avail. S.E.A. calls to report that they have also lost contact. Nelson plans to immediately send up the reserve capsule, in hopes of meeting up with the first one. S.E.A. squelches this; they must first await clearance from Washington. An exasperated Nelson is certain that such clearance will come, and orders the second capsule prepped. (The idea of having two huge manned capsules, with accompanying thruster units, on board the Seaview boggles the mind. Just one was pushing it.) Meanwhile, on some other planet, Chip and Wilson wake up. Their outside monitor is already turned on, and they gape at an obviously alien landscape. (Colorful, but alien.) Wilson reports the gravity is point 4 8. I'm not sure what Earth's gravity is, but the information seemed significant to them. Without checking on any further mundane little details, such as a breathable atmosphere, temperature, stuff like that there, Chip casually ventures outside. Lucky for them, it's quite comfy out there. Lots of odd rock formations. The ground trembles; this seems to be an earthquake area. (Or a venusquake area, if you prefer.) Wilson spots the alien, a few feet away. It's quite a nifty-looking alien, sort of amphibious-looking (so many are) with the usual bulging eyes, but it's arms have interesting cape-like flaps (maybe to assist swimming?) Chip Morton, who has faced any number of bizarre things back home on the Seaview, calmly tells Wilson not to panic, but Wilson promptly pulls his gun (O.K, this was supposed to be a quick trip 'round the Earth and back, for what possible reason could they need guns?) and opens fire. As usual, bullets don't seem to do much, and the alien retaliates with it's little gadget. Wilson vanishes in a burst of smoke. Chip naturally, if not sensibly, grabs for his own gun. This time, the gadget blinds him (leaving you wondering why it didn't do something similar to Wilson) and the alien speaks (in proper English, of course) telling Chip to disarm. Chip is focused on his loss of sight (on an alien planet, with a killer alien next to him, this concern is entirely reasonable) but he does drop the gun. The alien marches him off.
Back on Seaview, Kowalski, Nelson, and another crewman are (we will find momentarily) installing a booster to their scanners. Nelson calls up S.E.A, who are dithering on sending their reserve astronaut until they get the proper clearance. (There's no mention of just how far out Seaview is, or how long it will take the reserve man to be sent out.) Crane, who is slated to be the second man in the capsule (and has he had any astronaut training, either?) is inside, testing various components. The same light and noise start up again, only this time it immediately knocks Crane unconcious. The same light is seen out in the launch area, and with an explosive burst, the entire capsule vanishes. The rest of Seaview has reacted to the odd occurance, and Nelson quickly calls for an explanation. Sharkey obviously does not want to report, but he does his duty. Up in Flight Control, Kowalski notes that the scanner is tracking Crane's capsule in flight. S.E.A. calls to confirm this, and of course wants to know if Seaview got the proper clearance (they're probably miffed that they didn't get it first). Nelson has no time (or inclination) to try to explain his missing capsule. Kowalski reports that the capsule is moving at the speed of light--and headed towards Venus.
Up on Venus (now that we know for sure that's where we're at), the capsule has landed amongst the strange landscape. For no reason that I can discern, the second capsule does not remotely resemble the first one. The first capsule looked like what we would expect a capsule to look like, but the second one looks like a flat, orange slab--not exactly aerodynamic. While Chip and Wilson awoke naturally, Crane seems to be awakened by another burst of light. He eyes the alien landscape, attempts to make a call, arms himself (again, the guns!) and goes outside. (And he didn't make any checks whatsoever on whether it was safe to do so. He's not even wearing any protective gear.) For some unknown reason, rather than simply watching Crane move out, we see him doing so from the monitor inside the capsule. Crane also experiences tremors. He finds a pack left by one of the other men (looking like an ultra-mod shoulder bag; very chic!) but tosses it aside. While not concerned about things like oxygen and temperature, he does move cautiously. He passes through a clearing and into a rocky tunnel. This leads to a cave, outfitted with various alien-looking machinery. Chip is seated on what looks like a high-tech throne, wearing a silver skullcap. The alien is puttering around the machinery. As Crane carefully approaches, the alien questions Chip--again--about Earth's plans to invade the planet Centaur. (At this point, the audience is probably more confused than Chip and Crane--isn't this Venus, then?) Chip sounds like he's a little out of it, but he answers very clearly. The alien states that they are on Venus (so what's with this Centaur?) Chip sounds mildly surprised that they're on Venus. Crane calls to Chip, and opens fire. The alien aims his gadget, and Crane staggers into the arms of another alien.
Crane recovers almost instantly (that's quite an adaptable gadget). Chip is marched off. The first alien announces that they are from the double planet Centaur (from far, far away), and Venus is their scouting outpost. They want to know about Earth's invasion plans. Crane protests that they've never even heard of Centaur. The alien doesn't believe him. They put Crane on the high-tech throne and start to put a skullcap on him, but Crane offers to give them what they want freely. He starts off with a comparison of their technologies, glibly spouting a bunch of technobabble (and how does he know so much about THEIR stuff?) He suddenly yanks on a wire, sending up a bunch of sparks, hits the aliens, and runs. The aliens start in pursuit, and one of them raises his gadget, apparently to kill Crane, but the other says that they need him. Crane is out of sight before the alien can readjust his gadget to knock-out mode. Still more tremors abound, slowing down Crane and, presumably the aliens. (I could call them Centaurs, but that doesn't mesh with my mental image of what a centaur looks like.) Down on the Seaview (that sounds like the start of a song: "Down on the Seaview, early in the morning..." Sorry, I digress.) Nelson is asking about launching a rescue mission to Venus. Just like that! It's not exactly like hopping into a Search and Rescue helicopter and zipping off, is it? They've apparently managed to tap into Crane's television monitor, and see the same alien landscape. Kowalski tries calling the capsule. I'm not into physics, but is interplanetary radio communication as easy as all that? Sharkey shifts camera angles, and they suddenly see Crane racing along (must be reasonably close to the capsule) with aliens in pursuit, and calling for him to surrender. Resistance is futile. (That's not what they say, but the principle is the same.) Way, far away on Earth, Sharkey demands that they do something to help the Captain, and there is actually something they can do--Nelson has the remote control switched over to manual, so that Crane can initiate things. Having failed to get in touch previously, Nelson tries again, and this time they see Crane react to the voice. He manages to inform Crane that the capsules controls are now on manual, before there is another tremor and they lose contact. The alien tells Crane that this side of Venus is affected strongly by the Sun's gravity once a month, and the whole area goes into convulsions. (You gotta wonder, was this pure coincidence, or someone's sly joke? Venus has always been considered the "woman's" planet, as Mars is the men's; and it has monthly problems? Planet PMS?) One also wonders, if it only affects one side of the planet, why they didn't make their camp on the other side. They want to take Crane (and Chip, hopefully) to Centaur. So why don't they just aim their little gadgets and go? Crane makes it to the capsule, looks around, and activates the port thrusters, sending out long spurts of flame and keeping the aliens at bay. One of them heads back to question Chip about the thrusters. Nelson calls the capsule. Crane reports that Wilson is dead, although, for him, this in an unwarranted assumption--Wilson could have been a prisoner further back in the cave. Crane plans to rescue Chip, but he doesn't know what to do from there. Crane is aware (as Nelson is not, seemingly) that a rescue mission would take months to reach Venus, and he's facing this gravity convulsion in about six hours. All Nelson can suggest is that they try riding it out in the capsule. It hasn't yet occurred to the alien outside that he could just transport himself into the capsule. Crane activates the thrusters again, and either leaves it on a timer or allows it to run out of fuel, while he slips out of the capsule, grabbing another silver shoulder bag as he does so. The moment the flames cease, the alien is after Crane again. Crane shoots, and we see the alien respond a little to the bullets, but keeps on coming. During another tremor, Crane loses the bag, and doesn't bother trying to retrieve it. In the cave, the first alien has Chip on the throne again, asking him about the thrusters, but also asking about the voice named "Nelson". Chip's answers kind of imply that Nelson is the head honcho of everything, possibly the whole Earth--and also knows everything. The alien uses the gadget to call his companion--addressing him as "Centaur". (Couldn't they have given him a name or a number or something? This is rather like Nelson getting Crane on the radio and calling, "Human? Human?") He tells his companion that he is heading for Earth to collect Nelson. He then marches Chip off to another part of the cave, holding him still behind a machine that emits an invisible, but very hot beam. With a large, formal gesture with his gadget, the alien vanishes.
Nelson checks some data, then informs S.E.A. that he has pinpointed Crane's location. S.E.A. reports back that a rescue mission has been approved. (That took a heck of a lot less time than approving the second launch, a much simpler mission, not to mention much less expensive.) They will countdown in 72 hours, and Nelson will accompany the mission. (Nelson, of course, has astronaut training--Nelson knows everything!) Kowalski, on his scanner, spots the beam of light again, this time aiming right at Seaview. Nelson instantly sounds General Quarters. A heavy lurching commences, and a voice addresses Nelson. Seaview has now been isolated from the rest of the world. Nelson orders a crash dive. They promptly hit a rock formation (not the same one they've used dozens of times before; I guess they wanted a fresh one for the new season) and nosedives into the sand. (Again, this looks like a different nosedive.) The alien appears in the nose (his gadget knows how to make a dramatic entrance) and Kowalski is the first to spot him.
Seaview looks like it's buried in the sand, like various bottom fish will do. Inside, Kowalski starts to jump the alien, but is held back by Nelson. Nelson, as usual, keeps calm, wanting to know the alien's purpose. The purpose is Nelson, and his knowledge. (Sound familiar?) The aliens are certain that the current test launches are merely a preparation for future invasions. Nelson protests this, but of course is not believed. (These aliens sure are paranoid, considering their incredibly advanced technology, which makes ours pathetic in comparison.) Nelson orders an attack, which of course is repulsed, although no one is killed, blinded, or even knocked out. The alien wants a guided tour of the Seaview (Nelson delegates this thankless task to Kowalski) prior to transporting the whole submarine up to Venus. They have the ability to transform any mass to light energy and transport it. (This not only makes their fear of us ridiculous, it leaves me wondering how Seaview could have possibly tracked Crane's capsule if it had been transformed to light energy.) After the alien and Kowalski leave, Nelson quickly orders battle alert--but they must pass the word either man to man, or through hand communicators--no intercom.
Back on Venus, Crane finds his way back to the cave and finds Chip. Despite Chip's description of the beam as a "red-hot iron" Crane immediately sticks his hand into it, and gets knocked backwards. It doesn't occur to him to have Chip duck down beneath the beam; instead, he shoots at one side, which seems incredibly dangerous, not to mention alerting the second alien. Chip is in despair over the whole business; he knows a rescue mission would take at least three months, but Crane counsels survival. There are rations in the capsule (three months worth? Oh, come on!) First, though, they'll see what they can learn from the alien machinery.
In the Missile Room, Sharkey and his men await the alien. After he comes in, Sharkey notifies Nelson, who sets off some alarm, and they all open fire. The alien merely aims his gadget, and all the guns vanish in a burst of smoke. The alien must be feeling pretty mellow, considering what he could have done. He calmly heads for the Reactor Room. Perhaps his communicator vanished also, because Sharkey heads for the Control Room instead of just calling the agitated Nelson. Sharkey is now also in despair over winning this situation, but Nelson's not beaten yet. He's convinced that the alien's little gadget must be powered by an outside source--the light beam, perhaps. He orders the Flying Sub prepped so that he can go out and shoot the beam. Up in the Venusian cave, Crane is messing around with equipment he can't possibly understand, when the second alien confronts them. Another tremor knocks them all off balance, and Crane grabs his gun and shoots. After being shot repeatedly throughout this episode with virtually no effect, the alien suddenly topples with one shot. Crane snatches up the gadget and starts playing with it, without the faintest notion of what he's doing. There's a burst of light and noise, and Chip can suddenly see again. Despite the outside effects, he seems to think that his blindness just wore off. The alien gets up, and Crane resumes messing around.
The Flying Sub breaks the surface and heads for the light beam. Nelson fires the laser, and there is another burst of light and noise, but this apparently just hails the appearance of the alien in FS1. Nelson's crew have been immobilized; now it's time to return to Venus. Nelson gets frozen before he can do anything. Although Seaview glows, nothing happens further. More power is needed, so maybe the laser did do some damage. Back in the cave, the second alien just stands quietly while Crane and Chip dither around. He says that Crane has somehow set the gadget to take them back to Earth--but only Centaurs can do it. Crane demands that he do so. Considering that those bullets only seem to be able to knock them down, Crane hasn't much to intimidate with, but the alien seems cowed, nonetheless. Just as the alien is instructing him, the first one calls for maximum power. Fearing that activating the gadget will do just that, Crane elects to retreat to the capsule to try and wait out the gravity storm. With no power forthcoming, the first alien elects to skip the Seaview and jump back to Venus with Nelson. The light beam retracts upwards.
Seaview's crew doesn't seem aware that they had been imobilized. They're just standing idle around the Flight Control Room, looking bored. With the beam gone, they assume that Nelson is gone, too. (And what happened to FS1? Did it just drop back into the ocean?) Sharkey makes the decision to make no further attempts to do anything. He seems heartily confident that Nelson, Crane, and Chip combined will be able to settle the problem and get themselves home. At least while he's facing the crew; when he turns aside, all his doubts show. The tremors knock down Chip, Crane and the alien as they head for the capsule. Crane drops the gadget, and the alien reaches for it. Chip drops him again with one shot, although he gets up yet again as soon as Crane retrieves the gadget. They get to the capsule around the same time the first alien and Nelson appear in the cave. The first alien isn't concerned at the disappearance of the others, he's preparing to transport immediately to Centaur. Nelson attacks, but is pushed off, and the alien prepares to blind him. In the capsule, Crane wants the alien to transport them to Earth--without endangering the Seaview. The alien states, (truthfully?) that this can be arranged back at the cave. With everyone's mutual distrust, it takes a little while before the alien finally instructs Crane how to reset the gadget for the jump to the cave. Finding Nelson and the other alien, there is a quick free-for-all, but the first alien manages to pull a connection out of one of the machines. Crane manages to reset the gadget for an Earth jump, but it's not working. A major tremor knocks everyone down in a hail of rocks, and Nelson spots the connecting whatchamacallit in the alien's hand. Instantly divining where it needs to go, he grabs it and jams it back in. In spite of there being five beings present in the cave, the gadget only takes the three humans away. Maybe the others will get back to Centaur. Maybe not.
They burst (literally) back onto the Seaview. Sharkey is so delighted, he makes a most improper suggestion and is swiftly quelled by one look from his admiral. The ending in nonsensical, with a messsage inviting Crane (not Nelson, and not Chip) to come and give a lecture on the possibilities of future interplanetary travel. Why did they figure that they needed farcical humor to end the show? Sharkey's comment would have sufficed, and was far more realistic.
I miss the alien from the first season, who, while quick tempered and prepared to destroy the whole planet, was also prepared to listen to alternatives. This blind paranoia from a technically superior race was tiresome. It was fun enough to watch, but I would have preferred some thoughtful discussion. Obviously someone had decided to go for straight action and violence. *Sigh*moreless