The Catacombs Space: 1999 Catacombs Essays

by Martin Willey

"Time is an illusion, Commander Koenig."

Time is a major character in Space 1999. It is being stopped, reversed or accelerated throughout the 48 episodes. Yet always it emerges unscathed, continuing inexorably forwards, changing everything within its progress.

One of its most common appearances was in the scenario of the primitive Alphans meeting much more advanced aliens. A vast gulf of evolution separates the two cultures, creating misunderstanding and conflict. Alien civilizations like those in Ring Around The Moon, War Games and The Last Sunset perceive the Earthmen as barbaric and threatening. "We have been watching the progress of your world since the beginning of time. Human nature is such that we could not afford to take the risk." says the alien voice in Last Sunset. The Zennites in Missing Link have five million years of evolution ahead of the Alphans, making Koenig "the cave man of the future." In both this and New Adam New Eve, primitive reactions undermine technological superiority.

Another common appearance were the time travellers. In Full Circle the Alphans travelled backward in time 40,000 years to become cavemen; in Journey To Where they were transported by a future Earth into medieval history. In Another Time, Another Place, they encounter what may be a future version of themselves, five years ahead. "We are trapped in different times." says Victor. The antimatter world in A Matter Of Balance has reversed time, and its denizens try to escape their backwards evolution from humanity to slime by transferring to the normal universe. Time travelling aliens were revived from suspended animation in The Exiles and Mark Of Archanon, confused by the changes. The Exiles are defeated when time catches up on them. Lee Russell moves the Alphans back in time after their destruction in Matter Of Life and Death, as do the aliens in War Games (although strictly they are using illusions). "In a moment of time we have shown you the possible consequences of a decision we hope you will not make."

The immortals stopped time, but they also stopped change, bringing a futile, dead existence. In Mission Of The Darians and The Dorcons, the aliens used transplant surgery to achieve immortality. Balor in End Of Eternity uses a biological process ("With nothing to strive for, our people became apathetic, corrupt. Our civilization decayed, lost its purpose, became negative."). The Thulians in Death's Other Dominion are trapped in an involuntary immortality ("..the price of immortal life is impotence! No growth, no future, no end!"). Brian The Brain craves immortality through energy supplies, while Gwent achieves immortality as a machine in The Infernal Machine. The Guardian Of Piri suspends time, trapping the Alphans in a passive mindless state ("We reached out and offered them happiness. And they accepted. Time is stopping for them.").

There are a great number of beginnings and endings in the series. The events in Force Of Life are "Some sort of creative evolution. A stage in its development. Perhaps the beginnings. A birth." Collision Course is also an evolution. "You and I are two vital drops in the boundless ocean of time. We met with purpose." The Testament Of Arkadia features the rebirth of a dead world ("We must bring back the seed of life to its place of origin."), as does the ending of Guardian Of Piri. "We've brought a dead planet back to life." In a different way, Alpha Child has a literal birth, accelerated growth, and the deaths of the alien fugitives. "We shall simply take over your bodies and make them our own. The moments of birth and death are ideally suited to this purpose."

Dying worlds and alien species are also familiar. There are dead planets in Earthbound, Voyagers Return, Mission Of The Darians, The Metamorph, All That Glisters, Seed Of Destruction and Devil's Planet; Psychon and Kalthon try vainly to revive. The aliens in Beta Cloud, A Matter Of Balance and Bringers Of Wonder are facing evolutionary extinction. The chrysalis life cycle in A B Chrysalis affords those aliens continual rebirth. As already mentioned, the Alphans themselves die and are reborn in Matter Of Life and Death and War Games.

The Alphans are travelling in time as much as they are travelling through space. They confront the future and the past, they are ensnared in its convolutions, they are subsumed into its radical transformations. The episodes portray time as being indomitable, confounding those who try to cheat it, resolving itself when broken.

Contents copyright Martin Willey