benkidlington

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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: The Village of Guilt
(1964)
Episode 8, Season 1

Giant Octopus mayhem
In a secluded Norwegian fishing village, an archetypal mad scientist lets arrogance get the better of him as he takes extreme measures to prevent any possible disruption to his experiments. He's even prepared to kill in order to ensure success. His altruistic goal being to feed the world's starving millions by growing vastly over-sized marine animals for food using hormonal secretions from the pituitary gland.

To this end, he creates a giant, monstrous octopus with a penchant for devouring anything that moves. He then lets it loose in the nearby Fjord.

On hearing news reports of multiple fatalities amongst the local fishermen and descriptions of a huge sea-monster, Admiral Nelson orders the Seaview to set sail for Norway to investigate.

After being confronted firstly by a wall of silence amongst the locals and then subsequently being shot at, Nelson and Crane eventually hunt down the perpetrator, who by this time really has gone off the deep end.

The scientist deliberately sets the huge octopus onto the nearby submerged Seaview in an attempt to see how hardy the monster really is. He also seems to perhaps derive some sadistic pleasure from this showdown between the cephalopod and the nuclear sub. This is short-lived however, as in standard sci-fi tradition the creator is ultimately destroyed by his own monster.

Fortunately thanks to Admiral Nelson's quick thinking and intimate knowledge of the Seaview's design, the sub is saved and the monster destroyed for good. He'd realised that cranking the nuclear reactors up to maximum power would overload the electrical systems of the vessel, inducing an electric charge on the hull and effectively electrocuting the octopus.

The legality of US naval officers landing unannounced in Norway and pursuing their own manhunt on Norwegian soil, with the complete absence of involvement from the local authorities seems questionable. Unless we assume it was authorised as some sort of NATO operation with the agreement of the Norwegian government. Perhaps a brief line of dialogue to that effect should have been inserted somewhere in the script to clarify this.

It's also apparent in this episode that the generic "sub dive" sequence can be strung out to any length desired, presumably to pad the episode to the correct length. Here we get a very lengthy diving sequence, as not only do we see the standard stock footage of the sub diving complete with the periscope footage of a WWII-era sub; we also see Captain Crane confirming "Decks awash, bows under and stern gone". It's fun to watch, but it sticks out because diving sequences in previous episodes have been typically much shorter than this.

Overall though the episode is very exciting and enjoyable with a good supporting cast. Admiral Nelson may not be the biggest man out there, but one sure thing, he knows how to fight! Also, the "catfish" scene is hilarious.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: The Sky Is Falling
(1964)
Episode 6, Season 1

First contact situation
On watching all episodes in order, this is easily my favourite so far. A member of an advanced alien race accidentally pilots his flying saucer into Earth's atmosphere after a mishap with a meteor. After a hasty scramble across the United States the floundering UFO ditches in the ocean, which is where The Seaview comes in.

Having tracked the UFO across America, a fatalistic, trigger-happy rear-admiral is dispatched to the Seaview via helicopter with orders to destroy the submerged spacecraft at any cost.

Of course the more thoughtful, scientifically minded Admiral Nelson along with the level-headed Captain Crane would much rather tackle the problem with reason and intelligence in order to work out what is really going on.

A great example of cold-war paranoia in science fiction, the episode is captivating from start to finish as the action never lets up and it really does not disappoint.

We do get to see inside the UFO, complete with obligatory Jacob's ladder and other alien looking apparatus. We also get to see the true form of the alien visitor behind the disguise. We also learn that the nuclear-powered Seaview, apart from using rather "primitive" Uranium fissile material, does crucially also carry a few crates of Strontium-90 pellets for when they need that extra bit of 'kick'. This comes in rather handy as the alien visitor can work with this stuff, converting it to a useful fuel allowing his depleted craft to escape Earth unharmed by NATO forces. Thus averting a potential interstellar war, which certainly the human race would come out the loser.

Well, what else can I say, if you like sci-fi, aliens, nuclear power, submarines, tension, drama and the cold war, then this one has it all. I could nitpick things like the visible strings pulling the detachable transport module away from the UFO, but how can I when the model work is just so exemplary in this series. In the absence of CGI, this was just the most sensible way of filming it. The creators should be proud, they've really made some outstanding models, and the UFO is no exception. The story though is a classic. It's been done in many other variations, but not quite like this. Superb stuff.

Moonbase 3: View of a Dead Planet
(1973)
Episode 6, Season 1

A glimmer of hope!
What I like about the all-too-short Moonbase 3 series is that it certainly gets better towards the end. Alas it was cut short as it was really getting into its stride. To me this final episode is the pinnacle of the series and an absolute sci-fi classic. Being infinitely bleak until the last couple of minutes though as it appears that all life on Earth has been destroyed by a grandiose civil engineering project which went terribly wrong. The idea was to utilise an immense thermonuclear reaction to melt the polar ice caps in order to provide more useful land for Earth's population. However, the dispossessed elderly progenitor of the project arrives on Moonbase 3 and explains that in fact he had later calculated that it will result in destruction of all life on the planet Earth.

Sadly, no governments had listened to the eminent scientist or his colleagues and decided to proceed with this project regardless. When the Earth is apparently wiped out (as viewed from the Moon when it starts to take on the appearance of a giant sublimating comet and all radio contact is lost), Caulder is left with the decision of how and when to best euthanise the entire moon-base crew. Given that they will run out of oxygen and food supplies in a matter of weeks, this seems like the only option.

The result is a breakdown of order and morals, particularly amongst some of the more emotionally troubled senior members of the crew. Of course, Caulder, Tom hill, Helen and a few others manage to stay in control and professional despite the circumstances throughout.

As Tom Hill is just about to sneak off per Caulder's plan and put the entire crew permanently to sleep by means of carbon-monoxide poisoning, an inane TV broadcast of a game-show is received on the Moonbase, indicating just in the nick of time that in fact the human race was not destroyed. Instead the Earth just suffered a "lesser" catastrophe of a nuclear winter scenario, where temperatures had plummeted, but looks like things will eventually get back to normal.

From this experience, the dangers of messing around with Hydrogen bombs are certainly driven home and the scientist concludes the series by saying that although one man may make a mistake, humankind cannot afford to make a mistake. A very potent message, particularly in the cold-war era of the '70s.

So, the series is neatly wrapped up with an outstanding episode having a fitting conclusion. In particular, the scene where Caulder discreetly reminds Tom Hill to start killing everyone in twenty minutes time whilst sitting around the dinner table, laughing and joking remains very memorable. I would have loved the series to go on after this episode, but alas it was not to be. I'm just grateful that the tapes which were wiped by the BBC were later recovered.

Moonbase 3: Castor and Pollux
(1973)
Episode 5, Season 1

Tense and exciting episode
The penultimate episode of Moonbase 3 is in my opinion the best of the bunch so far.

After a computer sends an erroneous thruster command, Tom Hill becomes stranded in space. He's drifting away at high speed inside his spinning space capsule which is jammed into a satellite's docking port at a crooked angle.

Quick action is needed and fortunately the incident had just happened after cordial discussions between Europe and the Soviets on future space mission co-operation. However, the one man qualified to lead the rescue mission, a hot-shot Russian pilot and admiring follower of Tom's career is forbidden to launch by his superior commander.

That doesn't stop him though as Caulder breaks all the rules in the book (diplomatic, political, safety...) in order allow the rescue mission to proceed, despite the many obstacles which make the mission appear almost futile. The impracticality of a rescue mission is highlighted quite starkly as Tom plays with a cyanide capsule as if he is contemplating using it.

Caulder's efforts to mount the highly risky rescue mission result in temporary suspension as commander of Moonbase 3 whilst deputy Michel Lebrun steps into his shoes. On the face of it, Michel is a heartless bureaucrat who appears to place rules, regulations and logic above saving a man's life. Fortunately though, he ultimately saves the day when he gives the order allowing the rescuing cosmonaut to ram Hill's jammed capsule, freeing him and saving his life. Having put his own career at great risk and against the wishes of the superiors on all sides in order to do the right thing, Michel pretended that it was merely a logical decision. Although, really it meant that when it came to the crunch that in fact he did care about those people he works with.

The episode is very tense because Moonbase 3 until this point has conditioned the viewer into thinking that a negative outcome is more likely than a positive one. Unlike many other sci-fi shows, when a regular character is in any possible danger, they seem in all likelihood to end the episode dead.

So then it was a welcome surprise that this episode did end on a high note, with Tom's life saved and a win-win situation to all crew, administrators and politicians from all participating countries. It is good that they threw in this wild-card episode with a happy ending!

Moonbase 3: Outsiders
(1973)
Episode 4, Season 1

Conway's Game of Death!
If the last three episodes weren't sombre enough, then rest assured that this one takes the bleakness to a new level! It's a very intense episode though as yet again Moonbase 3 is in serious jeopardy, although this time it's the very real threat of closure due to impending withdrawal of government funds.

As such, the whole crew are under intense pressure to come up with results, in particular to justify the astronomical expenditure by inventing new alloys and fuels with profitable, real-world applications back on Earth. This drives the fundamentally unlikeable Dr Partness to fake his results in order to keep his research and career afloat. Meanwhile, the increasingly detached Dr Conway has a truly significant breakthrough, however finds he does not care whatsoever for modern life and ultimately decides to end it all.

The episode works well though, because the situations depicted are very believable and the we can emphasise quite strongly with the characters' flaws. It is unfortunate though that Dr Conway was killed off at this point as he was perhaps the most interesting and warmest character of all of them.

On the matters of science and engineering though, "Outsiders" gets it right again, as it's repeatedly mentioned that the lower gravity of the Moon is a significant reason for performing new materials science there, which is a valid point. Also, the CAPCOM/pilot verbal exchange on landing of the spacecraft on the moon is more or less word-for-word perfect when compared with a transcript of the actual Apollo Moon landings, so full marks yet again for accuracy. As an aside, it's also interesting to see an early electronic pocket calculator featured around 15 minutes in. :)

In summary though, "Outsiders" is one of the better episodes and keeps up the general feeling of grimness that pervades the series. However, it's is very refreshing that there's a genuine artistic license here to not have to end every story (or any story for that matter) on a high note of victory and it all makes for rather absorbing drama.

Moonbase 3: Achilles Heel
(1973)
Episode 3, Season 1

Inward looking
In this, the third episode we do have (as expected) yet another crisis at Moonbase 3. Mistakes are being made left, right and centre, resulting in the loss of vital equipment and more seriously a young scientist, Bill Knight almost fatally runs out of oxygen in his spacesuit whilst performing some routine maintenance. As a result, Director Caulder has to get to the bottom of what's going on and try to stop it as soon as possible.

The real purpose of this episode is apparently to examine human flaws of all of the Moonbase 3 characters. In it we find that the usually professional Helen Smith is susceptible to romantic interest from charmer Adam, played by the "guest star" of the episode, Edward Brayshaw. (British viewers may know him from children's TV show "Rentaghost"). Caulder's fault appears to be that he cares too much about other people. Other scientists have other very human issues, such as anxiety about becoming incompetent due to ageing, or paranoid behaviour regarding the fidelity of a spouse.

It appears throughout that Adam has been playing on these crew-members' fears and quite effectively winding everyone up one way or another. In the end, he flips out himself when rejected by Helen and as a result nearly murders her and Bill in the process. In a theme not too dissimilar to the first episode, it turns out all along that Adam was a sick, broken man as a result of being rejected from a high-profile Venus mission on medical grounds. As a result he'd resorted to sabotage in order to undermine everyone else's lives, something which he'd done quite effectively.

Overall it's a reasonably good episode, although my main criticism is that it's a little too similar in substance to the very first episode and a bit too introspective at this point. I think the series could have gone in a different direction here and perhaps may have been better with a slightly fresher idea and even maybe a bit more action. It's easy to surmise that this episode marks a turning point where ultimately the series was axed, in part due to being rather bleak. Having said that, it's still enjoyable to watch, with a satisfying denouement and the charismatic Adam plays his leading role well.

Moonbase 3: Behemoth
(1973)
Episode 2, Season 1

Ahead of its time
This intriguing second episode of Moonbase 3 successfully keeps the pace up, with another tragic crisis to be dealt with by commanding director "Welsh Wizard" David Caulder.

This one focuses on Mare Frigoris (The Sea of Cold), where a series of unexplained seismic events result in the unfortunate deaths of base personnel. After a further unexplained incident in which an eccentric scientist and his seismology lab are blown up, the remaining moon-base staff become quite frightened. Particularly that is, after one colourful character starts to distress everyone with his pet theory of a provoked, malevolent life form terrorising the base. These ideas further seem to be backed up when it transpires that the aforementioned scientist had confided in a junior colleague the possibility of signs of life on the Moon and also a strange track is found in the lunar surface stretching from from Mare Frigoris to the destroyed science lab.

In the end though, the Moonbase 3 team finally decide to scout out Mare Frigoris. It turns out that there's just a simple scientific explanation for all of the tragedies and there was no malevolent life form after all. A shifting layer of permafrost is found to be the culprit after it had amplified the sounding charges used by the scientists, unexpectedly causing Moon-quakes with tragic consequences. Furthermore, mishandling of unauthorised explosives by the over-zealous scientists had allowed a further tremor to trigger the accidental destruction of the seismology lab.

What I like about this episode though, is that all loose ends are tied up, with all prior events explained neatly at the end. Also, the fact that in real life, in the 21st century, lunar probes have indicated the presence of abundant water-ice in permanently shadowed craters near the lunar pole, makes this episode seem somewhat prophetic.

Given that I did not expect this series to be very good, based on various reviews, episodes like this show how it strives for technical and scientific correctness, which is where it compares favourably to other, more stylised shows like "Space 1999".

Moonbase 3: Departure and Arrival
(1973)
Episode 1, Season 1

Very strong introductory episode
I was pleasantly surprised by how good this first episode is. It sets the scene very well by introducing us to the harsh realities of living and working in space. Namely that one small mistake, or simply failure to deal with problems can have catastrophic consequences. The viewer is left in no doubt that the lives of all people on the moon base critically depend on unfailing diligence and a duty of care from all people in the chain of command. Fortunately, by the end of the episode we are reassured that the lead character, the director of the base is made of "the right stuff" as he stamps his authority on his team, whilst at the same time showing complete loyalty to them.

Some of the dialogue certainly comes across as dated when viewed with 21st century sensibilities, but the acting is generally good and the characters work very well together. The plot is intriguing and offers plenty of drama with an interesting twist at the end.

The episode's initial theme of Europe as an "underdog" space power, somewhat behind the US and Russia whilst facing constant financial constraints and threats of cutbacks and closure is however not dated. In fact it now seems quite prophetic, and given the current Eurozone crisis perhaps rings even more true in 2011 than it did almost 40 years ago.

As such, a gritty realism persists throughout the episode and it's refreshing to see issues such as funding pressures, human foibles and psychological burnout tackled in such believable ways.

There's also quite a bit of extra-vehicular action, with scenes both on the moon's surface and in space done quite well. There's plenty of model work used for panoramic scenes, as to be expected from a production of this era.

OK, so the Moon's surface shouldn't really bounce back after an astronaut has stepped on it, but I can't help but find the lunar scenery to be charmingly well presented, given the no doubt limited resources of the BBC props department of the time.

Overall, just an excellent episode of a classic sci-fi series, leaving the viewer wanting more.

Babylon 5: The Face of the Enemy
(1997)
Episode 17, Season 4

Welcome back, the real Garibaldi!
Seventeen episodes prior to this one (at the conclusion of the third season), Chief Security Officer Michael Garibaldi was abducted by the Shadows. Unknown to the audience at that time, he was sent off to receive some serious if subtle doctoring of his mind by the delightfully scheming Bester at a top secret Psi-corps base on Mars.

As we learn in this episode, not only was Garibaldi's mind altered to make him throw a spanner in the works of the Army of Light, but Bester also took the opportunity to add some programming of his own. This made Garibaldi susceptible to remote commands via a psychedelic pattern transmitted to a video screen.

Bester was aware all along that there was a conspiracy against the telepathic community, but did not know the exact details of it. His hidden agenda was to have Garibaldi root out the perpetrators for him.

Bester's plans worked out even better than he'd expected, being a complete success with the conspiracy foiled and the chief perpetrators killed. Bester could then effectively "switch off" Garibaldi and do with him as he pleased, since he had served his purpose. He could kill him, leave him in the altered state or restore his previous personality, leaving memories of this whole saga intact in his mind. For some reason, Bester chose favourably and decided to restore Garibaldi's previous "likeable" personality. The scary thing is, the personality of the "bad" Garibaldi was simply derived by accentuating the existing paranoia and natural distrust of the "good" Garibaldi.

So for the last seventeen episodes, Garibaldi had effectively been playing a different character, the altered personality who rejected authority, lost all of his friends and came to blows with Sheridan.

Thankfully, this uneasy-to-watch behaviour finally culminates in this episode where Garibaldi commits the ultimate betrayal by setting up Sheridan such that his enemies, the Clark regime can capture him. It is at this point that Ivanova orders a "shoot on sight" policy on him, should he ever dare show his face again. Although extreme, this seems somewhat justified seeing the damage he's done. Of course at this point, nobody from B5 knows the truth that Garibaldi has been subject to forced alterations of his mind.

So it is relief then that good old Garibaldi is apparently back with us after all this time of us watching one of our previously favourite characters becoming slowly destroyed, and this episode leaves many questions open such as, how will Garibaldi get back to where he was before in terms of his career and friendships? How will he avoid getting shot dead by his former colleagues and can he ever get back into their "good books" again?

Overall a great unmissable episode compelling the viewer to watch the next one with great anticipation. It's these very long story arcs that make Bablylon 5 great to watch.

Besides, any episode featuring Bester is usually a good one, not to mention the ongoing saga of the war against Clark's forces and further defecting Earth Alliance destroyers. There's so much shoehorned in to a single episode here - very intense!

Babylon 5: A Distant Star
(1994)
Episode 4, Season 2

Hyperspace 101
This episode gives us a good idea of what the concept of "Hyperspace" looks like in the Babylon 5 universe and it's fair to say that it's a pretty dangerous place.

We learn that ships inside hyperspace must maintain a navigational lock on a jump-gate as there are no fixed points of reference. If the lock is somehow lost due to a malfunction then a ship will naturally drift away due to a "gravitational incline" and will be lost for eternity.

It's good also to see an "Explorer" class ship, with the potential for great unknown adventures that this might bring. Although, like Captain Sheridan for a moment we also wish we are on that ship, exploring the galactic frontier (the rim) rather than stuck within the confines of B5.

There's some good character development as Captain Sheridan is forced to re-evaluate his career and think "just what am I doing here?". Just as in real life, when friends who have gone away for a better career come back and tell us what a great time they are having and we wonder if we shouldn't be doing completely different something too. I'm sure these scenes in the show would ring true for many viewers.

Captain Maynard of the explorer class ship is a very compelling character too with his cowboy boots and his seniority and friendship to Sheridan which give him the freedom to talk frankly to Sheridan about his position, in that he is effectively "tied to a desk".

We learn of great, mysterious alien forces which have been encountered on the explorers' travels and also see them causing a few problems within hyperspace too, although at this point us viewers (assuming watching the show in the correct order of episodes) have no idea what these forces actually are. Although they certainly compel us to continue watching through season two with increasing anticipation.

Sheridan's solution to rescue a lost ship from hyperspace is very bold and gripping if incredibly risky, but it really makes this a memorable episode.

Then there is also the subplot involving Doctor Franklin enforcing strict dietary habits on the B5 senior officers and this does lend itself to some lighthearted humorous moments with Garibaldi, Ivanova and Sheridan.

Overall an enjoyable, interesting episode, which serves to further build up a sense of foreboding in the future direction of the B5 story.

Lost in Space: The Great Vegetable Rebellion
(1968)
Episode 23, Season 3

Carrot and stick
An episode that has gone down in history as one of the most notorious of the entire show, it's not actually the absolute worst though. I'd say there are a number of series two episodes that are quite a bit worse than this one.

Certainly the episode is remembered most for the life-size talking carrot named Tybo, played by Stanley Adams (who also played Cyrano Jones in the Star Trek:TOS episode "The Trouble with Tribbles").

At least we have an underlying sci-fi concept here, in that the possibility of intelligent, vegetable-based life forms is examined. But of course not in any seriously scientific way - after all this is Lost in Space! Parts of the episode are quite enjoyable, although it does drag a bit in the middle.

Yet again, Dr Smith drives the action by sneaking off in the shuttle pod down to the planet of vegetation, against the wishes of the rest of the crew. Meanwhile it's party-time on the Jupiter 2 as the Robot's birthday is celebrated. Although I'm thinking since the Robinson's have been in outer-space for so long, where (not) on Earth did they get those excellent 60s paper decorations, party blowers and hats from? I quite like them! After the party's over, John Robinson again does the right (or perhaps wrong) thing by yet again going out of his way to rescue Smith from yet another scrape of his own making. Much hacking and slashing through the planetary jungle occurs, causing cries of pain from the lesser plants throughout the episode.

Smith gets turned into a stick of celery and becomes a real tree-hugger, whilst the Robinsons get trapped in a kind of pleasant greenhouse-like jail by the uncompromising Tybo, who also wishes to transform them all into lifeforms of the vegetable kingdom.

It also looks as if part of a set from "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" is re-used here, which jars quite a bit compared to the Jungle scenes.

Penny sleeps through most of the episode but at least Judy gets a few lines in this one.

There's also a completely forgettable sidekick called Willoughby and a dancing, feral plant rather reminiscent of a life form seen in the preceding episode.

Overall though, a must-watch for any real LIS fan, and rightly or wrongly an episode which defines the more outlandish aspects of the show.

Lost in Space: The Space Vikings
(1967)
Episode 20, Season 2

We come from the land of the ice and snow!
This episode is no "Outlander", but I can't resist the lure of Vikings in space.

Sheila Allen steals the show and is great as fantastically over-the-top Valkyrie Brynhilda.

The production values are pretty good too, as the Viking set wouldn't be out of place in some epic blockbuster movie of the '50s.

The story is of course fantastically ludicrous as Smith conjures up some Norse gloves from space during some innocent play-acting with Penny and Will. (How boring that these things never happen on Earth). It's a great scene as the gloves fall from the sky and land on Smith's hands. The power of Thor's hammer also becomes available to the Doctor, and of course we all know that no good will come of it. Smith then is spirited off by Brynhilda to Asgard to face a showdown with all-powerful Thor. Let's just say that Smith wisely uses psychological tactics to get out of this one, rather than physical confrontation.

I'm pretty sure the costume prop which served as the head of Gundemar (The Questing Beast) from a few episodes back shows up briefly in this episode, although it looks a different colour here.

Not the best episode of the series and simply beyond absurd, but I honestly enjoyed it, so 6 from me.

Lost in Space: The Toymaker
(1967)
Episode 18, Season 2

World of toys!
Coming straight after "The Questing Beast", this episode seems quite good by comparison.

I guess Lost in Space just had to do a "toymaker" episode, after all "Doctor Who" also had "The Celestial Toymaker", so us sci-fi fans sort of expect something like this to come along.

The intergalactic mail order machine that we saw in back in "The Android Machine" appears again, although it is in fact meant to be another machine. This one's long forgotten about and it's been left unmaintained for eons such that it's just about burnt out.

Naturally, greed-driven Dr Smith can't resist recklessly messing around with it, despite the protestations of the robot, and (this isn't really a spoiler as it happens right at the beginning) he gets zapped inside the machine, for the second time in the series that is.

This time though, we do get to see what it's actually like inside the machine (the toy department at least). The sets are quite well done, so that you do get the feeling of being in a very large place where you could get lost and there are toys just about everywhere. This is the sort of place I'd love to have explored as a child. It's a typical toymaker's stomping ground.

There's also a small glimpse of a Christmas scene back on Earth which is a nice touch, but apparently this episode originally aired on the 25th Jan 1967, so it's peculiarly exactly one month late to be a Christmas episode.

The aged toymaker character himself is quite well played, in that we do see how eccentric he's become.

Mr Zumdish returns again and despite his extremely irritating demeanour, manages to efficiently wrap up all of the loose ends at the end of the story.

All that, and I didn't even manage to mention the potential planetary catastrophe! So, if nothing else, there is quite a lot going on in this episode.

Lost in Space: The Questing Beast
(1967)
Episode 17, Season 2

Farcical
An aged, yet child-like medieval knight and his bespectacled basset hound appear on the planet, complete with jousting gear and longsword. Although, I guess the producers couldn't quite stretch to getting a horse into the studio, so this would-be champion happens to joust solely on foot.

Even more preposterous is the "Questing beast", namely pink female "dragon" Gundemar with human sensibilities and who speaks with impeccable manners. Gundemar's sole purpose is to perpetuate this ongoing quest-like game, teleporting the knight around various parts of the galaxy for over forty years in pursuit of herself. Meanwhile, the knight remains in complete technological ignorance, putting down the whole interplanetary experience to unknown magical "enchantments".

There's a serious message in here somewhere about courtship, motivation, ageing, and having a purpose in life, but the episode is just so ludicrous it's difficult to care too much about any of that.

Slapstick abounds with an overly-zany, cartoonish musical accompaniment. The 'jousting' scenes are almost surreal in their absurdity. I usually quite enjoy a good-humoured touch of silliness that Lost in Space often provides, but this is just a little too much, even for me.

There is one good scene though between Will and Smith, back on the Jupiter 2, where Smith actually shows how much he cares about what Will thinks and tries to do the right thing for him, rather then just thinking about himself for a change. There's also another memorable scene where Smith in a moment of forced honesty, outright admits to Professor Robinson that he just told a blatant lie. So, it is worth watching for those brief scenes IMHO, but overall this episode is a total dud.

Lost in Space: The Girl from the Green Dimension
(1967)
Episode 16, Season 2

Not the best of the series
Espisode played purely for laughs as that zany green alien woman we met before in "Wild Adventure" comes down to the planet to amorously pursue "brave, handsome" Dr Smith.

Athena (as the alien woman is known here) has her previous suitor in tow and he's a bit of an uncivil barbarian type who likes to growl a lot, particularly in a menacing manner at Dr Smith. In fact you might say he's green with envy at Athena's attractiveness to Smith.

Will gets in a bit of a pickle too, but generally the Robinson family are relegated to incidental scenes. Although we do see quite a good scene where Don removes a broken down "Atomic cooker" from the Jupiter 2 using a nuclear glove box. Only two problems there are firstly that the camera zooms out to expose the supposedly hermetically-sealed nuclear compartment as really just a flimsy panel, with no side on it. Second problem is that if the stove is really that radioactive, then I'm surprised the family still have any hair left after eating meals cooked in that thing! But, I actually quite enjoyed this episode, and there's a good bit where Dr Smith sees into the future and observes what he thinks is his own catastrophic demise. This device has been used in quite a bit of sci-fi since. So despite the overall silliness of this episode, parts of it could be considered influential.

Certainly not one of the best instalments from season two, but it gives us yet more amusing adventures focusing on Smith, Will and the Robot.

Lost in Space: The Dream Monster
(1966)
Episode 14, Season 2

Memorable episode, thanks to John Abbot
Guest star John Abbot as Sesmar, clearly a naturally talented actor, makes this very enjoyable to watch. Here he plays an arrogant mad-genius scientist and naturally he has to have a monster which gets out of control! Not every season two episode is a classic, but I think the season is a bit underrated. We do have some good episodes to enjoy, and this is one of them.

Emotionless Sesmar needs something the human Robinsons have, namely their emotions and Dr Smith is only too eager to oblige doing the dirty work in helping to turn the Robinsons into mindless zombies.

Here we get to see Don and Smith having to co-operate with each other in order to get out of their predicament. It's also great to see Professor Robinson and the children in a lazy frame of mind rather than being so industrious all of the time.

OK, so the resolution to the story may be a little absurd, but overall it's a lot of fun. Particularly, watching Dr Smith being shouted down by Sesmar and the bickering with Don, which is quite amusing here.

Sesmar's android Raddion is great too. You've just got to like the reel-to-reel tape drive mounted on his abdomen and Sesmar's proclamation that Raddion's lifespan is practically eternal. He's obviously never worked with computer tapes that have shed their oxide or become stretched or chewed-up then! The whole thing's just classic 60's sci-fi, highly entertaining.

Lost in Space: Wreck of the Robot
(1966)
Episode 13, Season 2

Good sci-fi plot
The opening sequence may seem like something out of Batman, but I enjoyed this one, because I like the story of the intelligent aliens intending to conquer the entire Earth. There's a lot more at stake here than just the safety of the Robinson family.

The bond between the family and the Robot is shown to be very great as they completely resist parting with him, regardless of the consequences and likewise the Robot chooses to sacrifice himself when the family are threatened. It's made pretty clear that the Robot has become as important as any of the other characters - a far cry from his simplistic interactions at the beginning of the first series.

But more than anything, this episode was way ahead of its time. The idea that technology of the human race is really a weakness as well as a strength, that this weakness could be exploited for malevolent purposes is even more relevant now than it was back in the '60s. Although, it's all done in a fun way here, as we can laugh as technology gone wrong puts various members of the Robinson family in serious peril.

The style of the aliens is also very creepy, the way they hang around in the shadows and sneak up behind people, and the way they sway sideways as they walk, it's all very atmospheric.

Without giving anything away, the ending teaches us that the robot has become more than the sum of his parts - he has developed emergent behaviour and effectively outgrown his original specification.

Perhaps the denouement is brought about a little too swiftly and cleanly though, but overall a good episode for season two.

Lost in Space: A Visit to Hades
(1966)
Episode 12, Season 2

Dr Smith takes the cake and Judy gets some scenes
This one's notable because the cliffhanger was altered from the previous week. In the original cliffhanger at the end of "West of Mars", Smith finds a harp which when played apparently transports him into a quite convincing-looking Hades with fire and brimstone whereupon he's welcomed by the personification of Satan.

We see the same scenes repeated at the beginning of this episode except the robot mentions that the harp unlocks an "alien prison" (i.e. it's not actually hell) and the Satan-like character Morbus whispers to the viewer a suggestion that this is not actually hell, only that Dr Smith wrongly believes that it is.

So, I do wonder if there were complaints or concerns about an episode apparently set in hell, after the original cliffhanger was aired?

The second unusual feature of this episode is that the notoriously underused Judy gets quite a few lines and a few scenes in which she is the focus. Although they end in pure slapstick, it's refreshing to see her actually have a reason for appearing in an episode. We also get some insight about the state of her completely forgotten about (non-)relationship with Don.

The story about the eternal imprisonment of this week's "guest alien" Morbus is really incidental to allowing some subterranean slapstick shenanigans involving various "monsters" and also gives reason to show some highly amusing Scrooge-like flashbacks into Dr Smith's school days.

Of course Dr Smith was a very naughty youngster, being the classroom snitch, stealing exam papers and then as a man, the trick he uses to steal part of a chocolate birthday cake is actually quite cunning if not quite his most heinous crime, compared to some of the stunts he pulled in previous episodes. The biggest crime shown here was probably his schooldays haircut!

The actor playing Morbus is also very good with great delivery. Overall, for me this episode is elevated above the previous few fantasy ones. It just works better due to the acting and devious sense of humour. So, it's one of the better season two episodes.

Lost in Space: West of Mars
(1966)
Episode 11, Season 2

Western-themed episode misfires
Intergalactic gunslinger named Zeno lands on the planet with space sheriff in hot pursuit.

Amazingly, Zeno is an exact doppelgänger of Dr Smith which fortuitously allows Jonathan Harris to play the guest alien visitor of the week as well as himself.

The other guest actor playing the sheriff/enforcer is pretty forgettable although there is one humorous character in it "Pleiades Pete" as a purple-shirted rival gunslinger with a mean attitude (played by Lane Bradford) who sadly doesn't get enough screen time. Although, you'll probably think Officer Bolix from the first season is one of the greatest characters the show's ever had after seeing the sub-par performances here.

There is some fun to be had though, but as this episode is well within the silliness phase of season two, coming straight after (the even worse in my opinion) "Curse of Cousin Smith", it's best not to expect too much from it.

I suppose it's easy to be amused as the space enforcer pushes his hands through the plastic drapes of his jail-cell spacecraft to take a navigational sighting, exposing himself and the "cabin" to the vacuum of space. But of course, the series at this point has become something completely different from the attempted realism of the first series which had airlocks, spacesuits, suspended animation and nuclear motors. So, really trying to think in sci-fi terms is no longer appropriate, we are indeed in the realms of pure fantasy/adventure at this point.

Although I got some enjoyment out of this episode, I don't like the way Don West bullies Smith (actually Zeno, but he doesn't know that). We know there's usually some playful animosity between the characters, but the way Don picks a fight by calling him a "Senile Delinquent" just makes his character seem nasty and utterly unlikeable, so much so that you may actually want Zeno to shoot him! Second thing is the exasperation you might feel as no-one can remotely tell the difference between Smith and Zeno. All they would have to do is ask them about any incident that happened in any previous episode. In that case, the real Smith would obviously be immediately identified. Will's confusion about this is particularly unbelievable, and after all they've been through together, quite irritating too.

Still, a must see episode for all die-hard LIS fans, just not a very good one IMHO for reasons given.

Lost in Space: The Keeper: Part 2
(1966)
Episode 17, Season 1

A classic and influential episode
The whole two-parter is really good and having sci-fi legend Michael Rennie on-board really makes it work. As an aloof, superior, malevolent alien, with no conscience or heart, he really steals the show.

This episode is no doubt influential on later sci-fi, as the idea of a traveller collecting biological specimens from other worlds has since been done in other shows and movies. For example "Flight of the Navigator" to name just one.

A recurring theme in sci-fi generally is the possibility of alien races who are so intellectually and technologically advanced that to them, we humans just seem on the same level as cattle. Leading us to question our own treatment of intelligent animals - for example chimpanzees in zoos and so on. This is done really well here.

This is apparently the only two-parter in the entire Lost in Space TV series and there is a good reason why I chose to review the second part.

The scene at the beginning of part two has to be one of the most laugh-out-loud hilarious scenes ever made in sci-fi. Literally I was in tears of laughter as the "terrifying" bat-like creature swooped down before being put away by the robot. Well, you really just have to watch it to see how funny it is, a real classic.

I just can't fault the episode at all.

Lost in Space: Forbidden World
(1966)
Episode 4, Season 2

Good entertainment
It's easy to nitpick a few plot holes here and there, but overall it's a good episode.

Again, Dr Smith drives the plot forward with his impatience and gets the story moving at a good pace. Without him, you'd wonder how long it'd take the Robinsons to get around to working out the situation. As viewers, we're extremely grateful for his rash if usually disastrous actions.

The travellers make planetfall on yet another mysterious unknown world. A resident hostile army initially seems to present a great danger, but the story contains a nice twist and all is not what it at first seems.

As expected, we get to meet some new and dangerous alien creatures, and there's a memorable scene where the Robot looks as if he's really about to get his revenge on Dr Smith.

I understand this episode (and in particular the "Bird Man" alien) isn't to everyone's taste, but I enjoyed it, so I give it 7 out of 10.

Lost in Space: Wild Adventure
(1966)
Episode 2, Season 2

Enjoyable episode with awful science
The science is so bad, it's completely off the radar. Featuring an intelligent humanoid alien being who can move freely around in space with no obvious means of propulsion or protection and who can also audibly sing in the vacuum of space. There's also complete misunderstanding of the scales of sizes of solar systems and galaxies. With lines like "We've just passed Uranus and Arcturus" and then from Earth-based Alpha Control as the spaceship overshoots the home planet - "You're exiting the Galaxy, Good Luck".

But, none of the above really matters as the show is just so enjoyable. Dr Smith really does screw up big time by firstly deviating the Jupiter 2 off-course, then jettisoning all of the fuel. If that's not enough, he then manipulates Penny in an underhand manner into again putting the craft into further peril and then later he needs an EVA rescue which again has serious consequences for the direction of the travellers and the future direction of the series.

As always though, the ever-forgiving Robinsons always do the morally correct thing and undermine their own goals in order rescue Smith even though he most certainly doesn't deserve it. But, us long-suffering viewers somehow completely understand this by now and we, like them, also want him to be rescued, although we don't quite know why!

It's such a novelty though, watching these "outer space" episodes after a whole series of the Jupiter 2 craft stranded on Preplanus. You've got to give it to the writers, they hadn't at all lost their sense of adventure, imagination or suspense at this point. Getting back into space again was somehow needed to boost the interest of the show for a while. It's also made so much more enjoyable by the use of colour, with the outrageously colourful clothing and scenery and great telescopic photos of nebulae from NASA giving a real out-of-this-world feeling to the episode.

Overall a joy to watch and quite captivating. Just let down a little by the silliness of the alien subplot and just a complete disregard for anything remotely scientifically correct. But again, it seems more fun just to ignore all that and enjoy the show for what it is with its tensions, high drama and cliffhangers, and by no means to take it too seriously.

Lost in Space: No Place to Hide
(1965)
Episode 0, Season 1

Very good start to the series
Well, this pilot may have been unaired, but there was certainly enough excitement in this action-packed episode to make four really good season 1 episodes from it. Most of the special effects sequences and stunts were later put to good use in the series proper. In fact most of the footage from this episode was eventually aired, but re-edited, spilt up and with some noticeable changes made in places.

It's interesting to note some of the differences between this pilot and the actual aired series, most famously the absence of Dr Smith and the Robot. This really just highlights how much those two characters were needed in order to get the balance just right.

Interestingly, Don West is a scientist in this one rather than a military man, again you'd have to agree that changing him into a military officer did help to get the balance right in making the dynamic between the characters more interesting.

Overall though, its a great introduction to the series and very ambitious to have interstellar flight, giants, alien creatures, high sea drama, a lost underground city and aliens, all in one episode. Of course it would become something even better even than this thanks to the changes made in time for series one which allowed for greater character development.

The Invaders
(1967)

The car's the star!
Just finished watching every episode from both of the series. It was highly enjoyable even if it started to get a tad repetitive towards the end.

I thought Kent Smith was excellent as Edgar Scoble. Sadly a somewhat overlooked actor. David Vincent of course was perfectly cast and also a great actor. Very impressive how he underplayed the role.

Many aspects of the series are really interesting and absorbing.

Throughout watching it though, I kept wondering why every episode seemed to keep focusing on people getting in and out of cars all of the time and also usually involved one or more car chases. I would have instead enjoyed it a bit more if it focused on flying saucers or other alien technology more regularly and a bit more sci-fi.

I always thought that the bits with cars could have been cut out as they were not in any way essential to the plot. I mean let's just get down to business. I just didn't need to watch a car pull up into a motel parking lot about 100 times in all, across the various episodes! In fact eventually I kept on hoping that the next episode would not have any cars in it.

And then of course after watching all episodes, I finally learnt from several independent sources that the series was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Well that explains it all, the series would probably not have even been made without their financial backing. No wonder it seemed like a car show at times. I think perhaps they did overdo the product placement just a bit though! Still, I really like the series. Shame it was axed without a satisfactory ending.

Das letzte U-Boot
(1993)

A worthwhile U-boat movie
This movie is apparently based on the true story of a U-boat mission that set off just prior to the end of WWII in Europe. It's goal being to deliver Uranium Oxide from Norway to Japan for the ultimate aim of constructing a nuclear weapon.

The movie is also known in some territories as "Das Boot 2 - La Ultima Misión". But, I should mention that if you've seen "Das Boot", then I would say that "The Last U-boat" isn't really a sequel to that movie.

The budget, production values, and acting in "The Last U-boat" can't match that film, which is unsurprising since many would say (myself included) that "Das Boot" is indisputably the greatest U-boat film ever made. However, this does not matter at all, because "The Last U-boat" stands up perfectly well on its own, and has a whole different atmosphere about it.

I really like this film, as it succeeds in making you feel for the main characters, in particular, the German commander. There's a real believability in the seemingly nonsensical orders and allegiances the characters are faced with, and the near impossibility of making rational decisions under those circumstances. It seems even the superior officers back on land have lost the ability to make decisions.

The whole movie has a sombre, resigned mood flowing throughout, and this gives it a pessimistic realism and inevitability.

The film differs from "Das Boot" however because it does not even start out optimistically. The officers on board are even more extremely "war damaged" and weary from the very beginning.

I particularly like the feel of the scenes above the surface, filmed on the U-boat and on the destroyer, with a low sun and long shadows.

Those scenes really do evoke the feeling of being out at sea on a late afternoon somewhere around the Northern stretches of the British Isles (according to the map in the movie, somewhere off Western Scotland). I think that fits the "end of the war" setting really well.

I should also mention that the Japanese characters really lend the film a great dignity.

So, I recommend for any fans of the genre to get your hands on this one. If you truly enjoy submarine movies, and don't mind a bit of historical or technical inaccuracies then you won't be disappointed.

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