Definitive evidence that only properly trained professionals should create science fiction shows for television.This British TV series was created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the creators of Thunderbirds and other "Supermarionation" fare, being produced by Lew Grade's ITC (in co-production with Italy's RAI during the first season, explaining the presence of Italian guest stars). It originally aired in the UK between 1975 and 1977, although several season one episodes were premiered in the US (like "Another Time, Another Place") and Australia (like "Ring Around The Moon"). It consisted of two seasons, each with a different approach; season one was slow-paced and cerebral, whereas season two had more "monster of the week" episodes. Its premise was simple: on September 13th 1999, a ridiculously small explosion blows the moon out of its orbit and accelerates it to a velocity sufficient to send it hurtling out of the solar system and travel interstellar distances in improbably short times.Somehow, during this catastrophic event the 300 persons crewing Moonbase Alpha avoid getting smeared into jelly by the sudden acceleration; once things settle down a bit, they make the best of bad situation by surviving for at least three years with no visible means of support. They also deal with all the usual skiffy hackery — Aliens and Monsters, mysterious events, the works — without much thought to any serious science (or, often, common sense) in the resulting plots.Although it still retains a substantial and enthusiastic following, Space: 1999 is mainly noteworthy only for its high production values; its effects work was outstanding for the period and still looks quite good today. Most of the equipment and vehicle designs are realistic (no unnecessary streamlining in the vacuum of space, no silly aesthetic flourishes), and those that move had some of the more realistic physics to grace TV until Babylon 5's Starfuries (notwithstanding at least one scene that showed a stationary spacecraft rocking back and forth in space). The main problem with the series is that despite the high production values and all the acting talent (Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse, and many notable guest stars) in the show, they had nothing approaching consistently competent writing. The series premise is not just impossible by any understanding of science (the energies required to de-orbit the moon are on a par with those required to completely vaporise it), it's downright silly. And the scripts rarely rose above the level of the first episode—they could be dramatically quite good but scientifically absurd, although of course the mainstream audiences the show was aimed at have little interest in accurate science in their science fiction.The massive production cost of the show meant that a network sale in the USA was more-or-less essential. Lew Grade, the head of ITC, pulled defeat from the jaws of victory by raising the asking price at the last minute in negotiations with a previously enthusiastic NBC, who called his bluff and passed. On learning of this, CBS and ABC also declined to buy it, and Grade was forced to sell it into syndication. Regardless, the ratings were successful enough that ITC commissioned a second season, with the provisos that there should be an American producer and the budget should be cut. The second season was also popular enough that a third almost happened.A fan-produced featurette, "Message from Moonbase Alpha" (written by regular series writer Johnny Byrne, starring Zienia Merton as series regular Sandra Benes, using footage from the series and done with permission of the copyright holders, therefore almost being canonical) eventually established that the Moonbase crew found an Earth-like planet to live on.
This show provides examples of:
Absentee Actor: When producer Fred Freiberger came on board he set up a system where from time to time two episodes would be filmed simultaneously for scheduling purposes, specially scripted so that key regulars would have a minimal presence in one episode while taking centre stage in another. The most notable pairing was "Dorzak"/"Devil's Planet" - Martin Landau does not appear at all in the former, while he's the main character in the latter.
The Ace: In "Dragon's Domain", Koenig says Tony Cellini used to be this, before the Ultra Probe mission messed him up.
Tony Verdeschi comes across as this in Season Two.
A LOT of the aliens had hilariously odd names, especially for those who lived in the UK. Psychons ("The Metamorph") get a pass due to the nature of the plot; however the villain of "The Infernal Machine" being named Gwent (for those who don't know, a council in Wales), the entire episode "The Rules of Luton" (Luton is a town just outside London), and "One Moment of Humanity", which featured aliens called the Vegans are noteworthy examples.
To be fair, the last example doesn't really count. Vega is the name of a real star, and authors like James Blish had used the name to refer to aliens from Vega's solar system long before the word "vegan" came into use.
Also Balor in "End of Eternity". Not only did he start the episode he locked away for Eternity, but at the end he's blown into vacuum. Whether his Healing Factor with keep him between life and death for eternity is never addressed.
Artificial Gravity: The moonbase is equipped with "gravity shields" that provide artificial gravity, let spacecraft take off and land on planets without refueling, and allowed the moon to fly through a black hole (!). The shields stop working every time they would be detrimental to the plot.
Also used in two first season stories, "Dragon's Doman" (with Dr. Russell) and "Testament of Arcadia" (with Commander Koenig).
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Paul Morrow, David Kano, and Tanya Alexander disappeared between seasons with no on-screen explanation (though a tie-in annual feature stated that Morrow was killed in an Eagle crash). Professor Bergman also disappeared between seasons, but not without explanation; a dialogue exchange in "The Metamorph" (the opening episode of Season Two) confirms that Bergman died previously due to a spacesuit malfunction.
Exact Words: in the episode Earthbound, hibernating aliens en-route to Earth programmed their ship make a pit stop on the Moon. When the Moon was blasted into deep space, the ship duly diverted to land on the Moon anyway, even though the Moon is by this time light years from Earth, and maybe in another part of the Universe entirely!
Fix Fic: The "Message from Moonbase Alpha" featurette.
Flat Character: There's not that much to say about most of the characters beyond the ones who appear in the title sequence, although they tried harder in Season 2, although that still only extended as far as Tony, Alan, Sandra and Fraser.
Human Alien: This went to the point where "The Last Enemy" had aliens that were basically humans in biker jackets.
Infinite Supplies: Played Straight and Averted. While Alpha has its own mining and production facilities, this isn't enough to avoid the trope. However, averted in the Season One finale, "Testament of Arcadia". Commander Koenig tells the fanatics who want to settle on a dormant planet that the amount of supplies that they'd take would doom the rest of the Alphans.
Misplaced Wildlife: "The Metamorph" shows Mentor having a lion on an alien planet. Later subverted when we discover that said lion is a form assumed by Maya.
Monster of the Week: The second season became this, upping the action quota and de-emphasizing the psychodrama, to the dismay of some fans and the delight of others.
Neck Lift: Peter Bowles as Balor in "End of Eternity".
Recycled Soundtrack: And then some, with music from other Gerry Anderson shows (and assorted library pieces) being used to bolster the few episode scores Barry Gray composed for season one. (Derek Wadsworth also only did about five episodes in season two, and they were reused as well.)
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The moon was variably described as being billions of kilometers, miles, and light-years from Earth, resulting in roughly equal difficulty in returning despite the fact that the first case would put the moon closer to Earth than Saturn, while in the latter case the moon would be vastly more distant from the Milky Way galaxy than the Great Wall, currently the largest known feature of the universe. It (the moon) passed between star systems at speeds fast enough that the passengers went through a star system per week, yet remained close enough to each and slow enough to reach a planet via shuttle for days at a time.
Shiny-Looking Spaceships: Averted with the Eagle Transporters, thoroughly unglamorous work vehicles, kind of like dump trucks in space.
Space Clothes: Not as bad as some examples, but still very 70s. The second season actually managed to tone them down by adding a jacket to the basic moon base uniform.
Terra Deforming: In one episode, the Alphans make contact with Earth, where it's a couple of centuries later due to relativity or something, and the entire population lives in domed cities because the outside environment is toxic. That exact phrase "Who needs nature" has become something of a Catch Phrase, and you get the sense that nobody on Earth is too bothered about the loss of the ecosystem.
Ben Ouma, Moonbase Alpha's computer expert in "Breakaway", the first episode. Personal conflicts with the rest of the cast actor meant that actor Lon Stratton only appeared in one episode. Rather than recast the role, the character of Ouma was replaced with...
David Kano, Moonbase Alpha's computer expert in the rest of the first season. He averted this trope fairly well for a 70s series, and he certainly gets a lot more to do per episode than, say, Lt. Uhura.
Doctor Matthias, as well, had an important role in many episodes, being one of only two doctors on the base. Unlike Kano he returned for season two, although the character only appeared in two episodes of the final season.
X Days Since: Episodes in the second season usually begin with the narration "X days after leaving Earth's orbit". The totals, however, frequently don't agree with numbers used during the first season, or with each other.