The Catacombs The Merchandise Guide
Compiled by Martin Willey

Reader's Digest Science Fiction Top-Picks

editor Judith Hatch (Reader's Digest Educational Services 0-88300-328-7, 1977, 96pp).

Thanks to Phil Merkel

Reader's Digest Science Fiction Top-Picks is a school textbook, containing 11 abridged science fiction stories, illustrated with black and white drawings. After each story is a short English comprehension quiz. One of the stories is The Infernal Machine. Unlike the other stories, it is in script form, with black and white photos from the episode. Although Pocket Books are credited, this is not the John Rankine adaptation. A narrator speaks some of the stage direction.

Book cover Table of Contents

Space: 1999
The Infernal Machine

Anthony Terpiloff and Elizabeth Barrows

First page



John Koenig, commander

Victor Bergman, professor; scientist

Helena Russell, doctor

David Kano, computer technician

Alan Carter, captain

Voice of Computer

Staff Member #1

Staff Member #2

Voice of Gwent, the Infernal Machine

Companion, an ancient man


NARRATOR: The scene: Moonbase Alpha-Earth's self-sufficient and fully computerized lunar colony. Once Earth's global watchdog, it silently guarded against sneak alien attack. Then, in the year 1999, radioactive waste stored on its dark side blew up, blasting the moon out of orbit and sending the 311 people stationed on Moonbase Alpha whirling through space. Now, survival on the runaway moon is a game of chance with the life forces of the universe!

Tonight all is quiet at Main Mission of Moonbase Alpha. There is a feeling of peace.

[Koenig, Bergman, and Russell are seated at a table. Kano and the two staff members watch the main console.]

NARRATOR: Suddenly, on the Big Screen, there appears an incredible machine.

[They all stare at the screen.]

KANO: By all that's scientific, if that's a spacecraft . . .

BERGMAN: [Shaking his head in disbelief] It breaks every known law of aerospace propulsion.

NARRATOR: The huge machine tumbling toward them looks like two children's jacks held together by a center bar.

KOENIG: Get an answer from Computer!

KANO: Computer, I want detailed information on the space object.

COMPUTER: I have nothing to say on that subject.

KANO: Commander, nothing. I can't explain.

NARRATOR: The great object continues to tumble toward them. Then a voice echoes throughout Main Mission.

GWENT: [Loud, educated, very friendly.] Good day, dear friends. I wouldn't intrude, but I rather need your immediate help. Do grant permission to land on your territory, Commander.

KOENIG: For what reason?

GWENT: I need your help. Isn't that reason enough?

KOENIG: Yes. Permission to land - away from our base.

NARRATOR: The craft tumbles lightly onto the Moon's surface at quite a distance from the base. Then, without permission, it begins to tumble toward them! As it gets closer, Koenig orders an attack. The computer does not relay his order. The machine comes to rest in mid-distance.

GWENT: Your inter-communication system will function when I want it to. Now, Commander, shall we be reasonable?

KOENIG: [Tensely.] If you come in peace . . .

GWENT: I shall welcome a small, but influential delegation ... consisting of Dr. Helena Russell, Professor Victor Bergman and yourself, Commander John Koenig.

RUSSELL: [To Koenig.] Are we going?

KOENIG: Do we have any choice?


Pages 66 and 67

NARRATOR: As Koenig, Bergman and Russell enter the gigantic machine, a huge metal door slams behind them. They now stand inside the machine's globe-shaped center room. Lights flash on and off. Complex control panels-all out of reach-cover the great dome. As the three look around, a beam of light moves curiously over each of them. In one part of the room is a resting place. There, on a couch, lies an ancient man.

ANCIENT: [Rises.] I rest only when I must. How can I help you?

KOENIG: It's more a matter of what we can do for you. You summoned us.

ANCIENT: Summoned?

KOENIG: For help.

RUSSELL: I'm Dr. Helena Russell. This is Commander Koenig-and Professor Bergman.

ANCIENT: I am Companion. [Sits. The Alphans also sit] I know why you're here, Commander. [To the empty room.] You think I don't know what you're doing? Why are you silent? Are you ashamed of your actions, Gwent? [Silence.] Then I'll speak for you. [To the Alphans.] His reason for coming here is clearly two-fold. I am well aware of the first. So I shall speak of what I know. [Pauses.] From time to time, we must interrupt our endless journey to get certain items needed for our well-being.

[A clacking sound is heard. From the wall, a computer readout emerges. Bergman takes it and reads it.]

COMPANION: [Speaking to the air.] Oh, now you take an interest, eh? When you want something. [Wearily, to the Alphans.] I suppose he has given you a long list of the things we need.

BERGMAN: Well, we have most of them.

GWENT: [Booming.] I've consulted your computer. You have everything I need.

KOENIG: I'd like to hear that from Computer myself.

COMPANION: [Smiles.] You're wasting your time, you know. He controls your computer. It will say anything he wants it to say.

KOENIG: I demand to see Gwent.

COMPANION: You do. Everything is Gwent.

KOENIG: [Spinning around, looking.] Gwent? This? This machinery?

GWENT: Machine. Call me a machine!

KOENIG: If you're not a machine, show yourself.

BERGMAN: [To Companion.] But you have final control, don't you?

COMPANION: Over Gwent? No... no. .. Would that I could. [Overcome with fear and emotion, he collapses and appears to be having a stroke.] Oh... oh... oh...!

Pages 68 and 69

RUSSELL: [Rushing to him.] Don't speak. I can help you.

GWENT: [Anxious.] Companion!

RUSSELL: He's extremely sick.

COMPANION: [Trying to show strength.] I'm fit. These little attacks come and go.

GWENT: Are you certain, dear friend?

COMPANION: [Sits up.] Not to worry.. . Send for the supplies.

KOENIG: I'll issue the order the moment we get back to base. [Heading for the door.]

GWENT: No, from here!

COMPANION: [Weakly.] Please obey him. He always gets his way.

GWENT: Always.

KOENIG: Haven't you any ... influence?

COMPANION: Gwent is my master. I have always been his Companion. I've grown old in his service. Gwent goes on. Forever. Give him what he wants, then go ... while you still can.

RUSSELL: Gwent, your Companion is dying. If we can get to Alpha...

GWENT: Enough. Do what I say.


GWENT: I can blast your base from the universe.

RUSSELL: Gwent! You must let us go! Your Companion needs medical attention. He's dying! [A ray of light focuses on Companion.]

GWENT: Companion mustn't die.

COMPANION: Don't pretend you didn't know I was dying. [To Alphans.] I said there were two reasons we came here. I'm the second one.

GWENT: You're not dying. You're only pretending-admit it!

COMPANION: [Just able to speak.] I admit nothing ... old . friend. [To Koenig.] I'm sorry ... I leave behind the worst of me.

KOENIG: Gwent?

COMPANION: Yes ... Gwent is me ... but he took control ... outgrew me... I leave you to his dreadful mercy. [Slumps.]

GWENT: Companion?

RUSSELL: Is dead.

GWENT: [Raging in grief.] Blind savages! You've killed him. [The lights dance a mad jig. The room rocks.]

RUSSELL: If it's anyone's fault, it's yours! I told you he was ill.

GWENT: [Calmer.] Yes, you did, but I wouldn't accept that. You see, I believe in the power of matter over mind. In the end, Companion proved I was right. [Pauses.] Now you will prepare him for burial.

NARRATOR: A torpedo-like coffin emerges from the wall. The Alphans place the body in the coffin.

GWENT: [Overcome with grief.] Here lies Companion, my friend ... who served me without complaint or self-pity. Gone now, I cherish his memory.

NARRATOR: The coffin is fired off into space. Companion's resting place will be among the stars, forever.

GWENT: Goodbye-old friend. [Long pause.] I have no one to restrain me now. [In a normal voice.] Commander, give your men the order.

KOENIG: [Speaking into a commlock kind of video transreceiver attached to his belt] Get those supplies ready. [To Gwent] What assurance do I have, Gwent, that you will release us once the supplies are delivered?

GWENT: Assurance? Me? [One of the beams of light locks on Koenig. He falls, writhing in pain, nearly unconscious. The beam shuts off] You know, Commander, your hostility tires me. I waste energy in punishing you.

BERGMAN: Waste energy?

GWENT: No further discussion. When I return, those supplies will be on hand. If you care to distinguish between life and death. [The lights dim, and all is silence.]

[Koenig sits up. Then, with help, manages to stand.]

RUSSELL: [To Koenig, whispering.] Return? Where?

KOENIG: Somewhere, everywhere. There's no point in whispering. Gwent ... ! [Pause.] Gwent ...!

BERGMAN: He needs to save energy.

RUSSELL: Needs? He has needs?

BERGMAN: Clearly he's low on vital supplies. But, not just the supplies. Gwent has never lived alone.

KOENIG: With Companion dead, Gwent must have a replacement.


Pages 70 and 71

NARRATOR: Gwent has withdrawn. But to where? It is silent in the huge room.

[The Alphans sit quietly. Then, Bergman gets up and walks from place to place, looking at various panels in the wall. Suddenly, he grabs his chest; his mouth opens in a soundless scream. Russell and Koenig rush to him. The lights come on.]

GWENT: [Booms.] What is your emergency?

RUSSELL: [In anger.] Heart seizure. [A beam of light focuses on the three Alphans.]

KOENIG: Will you help us?

GWENT: [Pauses for a long minute.] Which of you... which of you...

RUSSELL: Are you blind?

GWENT: [Pauses again; then, quickly.] Separate. [Koenig and Russell move away as the light falls on Bergman.] He has an artificial heart. He's in a force field.

RUSSELL: The heart's drained of power!

GWENT: Stand back. [They do. A crackling beam sizzles down from the dome, focusing on Bergman's heart.]

BERGMAN: [Smiling.] Live... and well. [Sits up.] I'm obliged.

GWENT: You are! [Long pause.] My Companion ... I miss him-we understood each other.

KOENIG: [Writes a message. It reads: I THINK HE'S BLIND. Then, he turns on his commlock and contacts Main Mission. Puts his. finger on his lips for absolute quiet. He slowly writes: A-T, then pauses... ] Gwent, I've given you a lot of thought.

GWENT: So you should.

KOENIG: You are not getting those supplies. It's you or us. [He finishes writing the word A-T-T-A-C-K.]

NARRATOR: The Eagle ships from Moonbase Alpha attack Gwent.

GWENT: You think it is better to bargain from strength- puny as it is?

KOENIG: Not bargain, Gwent.

NARRATOR: Alpha's approaching ground vehicles are wiped out by a blast from Gwent. The lights in the room dim as another group of armored vehicles from Moon- base Alpha disappear in a jolt of energy.

GWENT: Are you counting the costs, Commander?

KOENIG: Yes, to both of us.

GWENT: So be it.

NARRATOR: Suddenly, a jolt of energy surrounds Moonbase Alpha. It begins to glow red hot. The Moonbase crew screams in pain. Over his commlock, Commander Koenig watches, shocked.

KOENIG: [Defeated.] Whatever you say. Whatever words appeal to you, Gwent.

GWENT: "Surrender" is sufficient.

KOENIG: [Talking into the Commlock.] Cease fire!

GWENT: I admire your spirit. These are my terms. Professor Bergman, because of your age and defective condition, you will return to your base in exchange for my supplies. Commander Koenig and Doctor Russell must stay with me-as my companions, for as long as you both shall live. In time, our relationship could be agreeable.


BERGMAN: No, Gwent. Keep me! I'm in better condition than you think. With this artificial heart I can outlive them. I'll be your companion for many years to come.

GWENT: I decide who stays and who lives or dies! The Professor goes. Get those supplies.

KOENIG: [Into commlock.] Prepare to lift off supplies.

NARRATOR: Alpha Base must give in to a force impossible to deal with.


Pages 72 and 73

NARRATOR: The supplies from Moonbase Alpha have been delivered to the huge dome room. Captain Carter and two staff members, all holding weapons, stand, ready to leave, next to the unloaded supplies. [Koenig and Russell go to Bergman as if to say good-bye.]

BERGMAN: Gwent, let Koenig and Russell go.

GWENT: No. You weary me, Professor.

CARTER: We've brought all the supplies ... sir. All is accounted for.

GWENT: I'll see for myself. [The finger of light moves over the supplies, then over Carter's body. It stops suddenly on his hand.] Ah, ah, ah! I detect a weapon?

CARTER: No, sir. That's a ... commlock! Part of our ... inter-communications system.

GWENT: Do you think me a fool? Get out of here- the three of you!

CARTER: Three! How about the Professor! You said ...

GWENT: That was before your treachery! Get out! The Professor stays with me now!

KOENIG: You're not letting him go?

GWENT: No! Tell your people to return to their craft before I do something you'll regret. You are defenseless against me. [Carter and the staff members leave.] Open those supplies. [The finger of light points at one particular carton.] That one first. [Koenig opens it. It looks something like a large black rod. Light points to a spot on the dome wall within easy reach.] Over there. Insert it!

Pages 74 and 75



GWENT: [Mightily.] Do you think that passive resistance can outwit me? [Beams of light fall on the Alphans. They drop, in pain. Then the beams slowly flicker off.]

KOENIG: [Recovering.] I think you're tiring, Gwent. You didn't hurt me so much this time.

GWENT: I have enough energy left to destroy you three and your entire base. I warn you!

RUSSELL: Keep using up your precious power. Kill us all. Then who will take care of you? You haven't the strength to go elsewhere and find other "companions." We're your last hope of survival.

GWENT: There's no truth in what you say. [His voice grows weaker.] I demand ... your... cooperation.

KOENIG: Our cooperation. We don't know who you are, where you come from, or where you are going.

GWENT: [Proud, though weak.] I am Delmer Powys Plebus Gwent of the Planet Zemo. I was a man of considerable importance on that planet-a scientific genius. I built this machine... as an extension of my personality. I programmed my entire self into it. I combined my personality with the superior ability of a computer's brain. I created an indestructible machine-powerful enough to destroy an entire planet. That is who I am! Delmer Powys Plebus Gwent!

KOENIG: [Picks up the energy rod and holds it over his head.] Well, Delmer Powys Plebus Gwent-you have lost. [He smashes the rod.]

GWENT: I misjudged you! My experience ... over these years... has left me... untrusting... suspicious. [His voice grows weaker and weaker.] You see, having built this machine to preserve my personality, too late I have discovered ... I need company. Companion's death has taught me that none of us exists except in relation to others. Alone, we cease to have personality.

BERGMAN: You were wrong from the beginning, dear Gwent. To wish to preserve one's personality is the ultimate vanity.

GWENT: Yes... yes... you're right. It was vanity. The first and last of all sins ... I welcome my release. [His voice trails off] Thank you. [The lights go out]

RUSSELL: The oxygen is going.

KOENIG: [Rushing to the tightly closed metal door.] Gwent! Open the door! Let us out! [Silence.] We've been too successful. He's killed himself ... and us with him. [He goes to the broken energy rod, picks up a small piece, and pushes it into the opening in the wall. Russell and Bergman fall unconscious. Koenig slumps down, semiconscious.]

KOENIG: [Gasping.] Gwent... Save us! [The lights flicker off and on ... off and on....] Oxygen ... oxygen. Door ... open ... door.

NARRATOR: There is a sudden hissing of oxygen. Then, with the last bit of energy in his great machine-body, Gwent manages to slide open the heavy metal door. [Koenig gasps a few times, then helps the now semi conscious Russell and Bergman through the door.]

GWENT: [Weakly.] Goodbye, dear friends.

NARRATOR: On the Big Screen back at Moonbase Alpha, all watch the last fearful moments of Gwent's life. The huge machine tumbles backward and forward. Soon it zig-zags toward the towering mountains. There is a gigantic explosion. For a moment, the picture scrambles. When it clears, there is nothing but smoke and ruins. Gwent is gone forever.

KOENIG: A lonely, blind creature, looking for his death.


Pages 76 and 77

Each passage below has a particular mood. Decide what it is.

1. Your inter-communication system will function when I want it to. Now, Commander, shall we be reasonable?

a. friendly b. sarcastic c. funny

2. No, Gwent. Keep me! I'm in better condition than you think. I'll be your companion for many years to come.

a. calm b. angry c. desperate

3. Tonight all is quiet at Main Mission of Moonbase Alpha. There is a feeling of peace.

a. calm b. joyful c. friendly

4. Keep using up your precious power. Kill us all. Then who will take care of you? ... We're your last hope of survival.

a. fearful b. light-hearted c. angry

5. Here lies Companion, my friend ... who served me without complaint... Gone now, I cherish his memory.

a. sad b. joyful c. cranky


The italicized words in each sentence below answer a question. Decide which question they answer.

1. Alpha's approaching ground vehicles are wiped out

a. What? b. When? c. Why?

2. From time to time, we must interrupt our endless journey to get certain items needed for our well being.

a. Where? b. How? c. When?

3. A torpedo-like coffin emerges from the wall.

a. Who? b. How much? c. What kind?

4. I need your help. Isn't that reason enough?

a. What kind? b. Why? c. How many?

5. Then, in the year 1999, radioactive waste stored on its dark side blew up, blasting the moon out of orbit....

a. Where? b. Why? c. When?

III. MAIN IDEA - Inference

Many of the main ideas in the play are not directly stated. Match each sentence in the first column with its meaning in the second column.

1. Yes... Gwent is me....

2. I believe in the power of matter over mind.

3. Companion's death has taught me that none of us exists except in relation to others.

4. To wish to preserve one's personality is the ultimate vanity.

5. A lonely, blind creature, looking for his death.

a. It is a sign of too much pride to try to live forever.

b. The blind machine that was Gwent was destroying himself.

c. Machines are superior to humans' brains.

d. Companion made Gwent as a copy of himself.

e. Each of us needs someone.


Using the information given in the play, decide which character below (a, b or c) is best described by each of the ten words that follow.

a. Gwent b. Companion c. Commander Koenig

1. old

2. vain

3. leader

4. machine

5. dangerous

6. brave

7. bossy

8. inventor

9. blind

10. ill

Space 1999 copyright ITV Studios Global Entertainment