The Troubled Spirit

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"The Troubled Spirit"
Space: 1999 episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 19
Directed by Ray Austin
Written by Johnny Byrne
Original air date 5 February 1976[1]
Episode chronology
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"The Last Enemy"
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"Space Brain"
List of Space: 1999 episodes

"The Troubled Spirit" is the nineteenth episode of the first series of Space: 1999. The screenplay was written by Johnny Byrne; the director was Ray Austin. The final shooting script is dated 11 November 1974. Live-action filming took place Wednesday 20 November 1974 through Wednesday 4 December 1974.[2]

Story[edit]

As the Moon drifts through empty space, the off-duty personnel of Moonbase Alpha gather in the Recreation Section for an evening of music. Playing to a full house, the solo artist performs a haunting piece on a sitar. The concert is simulcast throughout the base, the eerie melody providing the appropriate atmosphere to an unusual gathering in Hydroponic Unit Two. There, Doctor Dan Mateo and three colleagues are in the midst of an unorthodox experiment. Linked to a transmitting apparatus by electrodes, the four botanists sit holding hands around a table...giving the proceedings the appearance of a scientific séance.

Working from the premise that humans have an innate affinity with plants, Mateo has discovered that botanical life emits electrical waves analogous to those produced by the human brain. In tonight's experiment, the Italian botanist hopes to isolate these brain-wave patterns in his own mind, amplify them using the combined mental powers of the group, transmit them at plants sitting on the table and measure the response. The ultimate goal is to establish communication between humans and plants.

As the group concentrates, Mateo slips into a trance-state. He is soon moaning and writhing like a trapped animal. While the others trade anxious glances, Doctor James Warren, head of Hydroponics, enters the unit and witnesses their activity. Incensed, the elderly scientist begins tearing the electrodes from their wrists. When the circle is broken, Mateo spasms in agony and crumples to the floor. Suddenly, the lights dim and a freezing wind blows across the workroom, through the beds of cultivated plants and out the hatch...continuing until it has penetrated every section of Alpha.

John Koenig arrives at Hydroponics with a medical team. Mateo, still unconscious and in shock, is conveyed to Medical straight away. While the Commander questions the other participants, an argument breaks out between Warren and Laura Adams, Mateo's girlfriend and willing accomplice. Having advised Mateo to abandon this dangerous avenue of research, the priggish old man is indignant at having caught him proceeding without authorisation. The girl is furious that Warren's interference could have cost Mateo his life.

Their dispute is interrupted by a report that all Alpha sections experienced a momentary drop in temperature—emanating outward from Hydroponics. Koenig presses Victor Bergman for an explanation, but the professor is stumped. Mateo's work is based on sound scientific principles; nothing about the experiment could have caused this disturbance. In the Medical Centre, Mateo regains consciousness. After describing his experience to Helena Russell, she advises caution as he seems extremely sensitive to psychic phenomena. When Laura comes to check on him, the couple ends up quarrelling when she expresses her concerns over the danger.

Helena ends the spat by administering a sedative to help the now-angry Mateo sleep. As he drifts off, he spies a shadowy form lurking in a dark corner. Seeing Laura out, Helena settles down to some paperwork. The doctor looks up when a chilling breeze wafts over her. She is filled with dread when she, too, sees the figure of a man standing in the shadows. It steps into the light, revealing one side of its face to be scarred and mutilated. Helena recoils in horror.

Minutes later, Koenig arrives with a Security team. A thorough search uncovers no sign of Helena's horrific intruder. Mateo, resting in a drugged sleep, is the only other person present. When she relates the details of her bizarre encounter, Koenig is hard-pressed to accept the conclusion that this was some sort of psychic experience. However, the recorded temperature drop in this compartment convinces him it is somehow connected to Mateo's work. He calls Hydroponics to declare the project officially terminated. Delighted with Koenig's decision, Warren immediately begins disassembling Mateo's equipment.

The following morning, Helena discharges Mateo, who is seething over the order to end his research. Upon leaving the care unit, the botanist is party to a series of eerie occurrences: hatches opening before he can use his commlock...the distinct feeling of being followed...the sound of footsteps behind him in empty corridors. After he boards a travel tube, the hatch briefly pauses while closing—as if held open by an invisible person wishing to gain access. During the ride, Mateo watches a sourceless shadow roam the capsule interior; when it falls over him, he breaks into a cold sweat. Terrified, he bolts from the capsule when it reaches his destination.

Arriving at Hydroponics, the incident is forgotten when Mateo sees his transmitter dismantled and tossed in a bin. With murderous rage, he charges over to confront the culprit: Warren. While threatening the older man's life, Mateo is horrified to see that the hand with which he is gripping the lapels of Warren's lab coat has transformed into a scarred and withered claw. Panicked, Mateo releases the cowering Warren and runs from the unit, concealing his shrivelled hand in his armpit. When alone, he slowly pulls it out—and is baffled when the hand is completely normal.

After the assault, Warren returns to work, determined to discharge Mateo from his department. Soon, he is distracted by a cold draught. He hears a guttural voice whispering his name...then the sound of someone moving through the foliage. Warren screams when his nightmarish stalker emerges, its disfigured hand clamping around his throat. Laura and the staff respond to find the old man sprawled on the floor in a tangle of vegetation. It is obvious that Warren is dead—his back twisted at an unnatural angle, face a mask of terror.

As a stretcher team collects the corpse, Koenig interrogates a flustered Mateo. While it is common knowledge he was not fond of Warren, Mateo insists he did not kill him—and was definitely not present when the man died. Koenig cites the fact that all the strange events of the past few days seem connected to Mateo and his experiment. Bergman reveals that during each incident, in addition to the drops in temperature, the instruments have detected Mateo's electrical-wave pattern. The professor concludes the wave pattern represents a rare and powerful form of psychic energy.

The post mortem reveals Warren died from a shattered spinal column. Helena realises the damage was not caused by a blow, but by fear amplified to an unimaginable intensity. At a command conference, sceptic Alan Carter balks at the notion the base is being terrorised by a 'spook'. Bergman and Helena propose that Mateo, while experimenting with the most primitive, least understood segment of the brain, has tapped a latent paranormal power. Some unknown aspect of his work has stimulated this area to a never-before-seen level of activity—resulting in a destructive force capable of killing.

During this, Laura finds Mateo in the Hydroponic Unit, reassembling his device. With Bergman's announcement that his wave pattern is now detectable by conventional means, the botanist is convinced he is on the verge of a breakthrough. Laura pleads with him to stop, frightened by the force he has awakened. To sabotage his progress, she secretly steals a component from the transmitter. After catching her, Mateo furiously ejects her from the workroom. Threatening to tell Koenig everything, a sobbing Laura runs for the main hatch—and into the arms of the obscene spectre waiting for her on the other side.

With his girlfriend now murdered (in the same manner as Warren), the grief-stricken Mateo suffers a breakdown. He admits to threatening both Warren and Laura before their deaths. Mateo feels this force is connected with himself, carrying out his subconscious destructive urges. To bring it out into the open, he asks to recreate his experiment. Koenig agrees and the senior staff assembles in Hydroponics. With the mental power of eight participants, Mateo conjures up a chilling apparition—a being who is the image of himself, its right side grotesquely mutilated.

The doppelgänger circles the table, blaming Koenig and company for ending its life. It denies its presence here is accidental—it is a force of vengeance, seeking out those who collaborated in its destruction. During this, Mateo emerges from his trance. The overwhelming horror of confronting his own spirit drives him into a catatonic state; after Mateo's mental collapse, the wraith fades away. The botanist, in deep shock, is placed in isolation and heavily sedated.

Koenig and Bergman discuss the situation. The professor is fascinated by the concept of a spirit returning to avenge its death...before that death has occurred. Koenig's concern is that this force will continue to grow and begin operating independently. As Helena's encounter occurred while Mateo was drugged, sedation is not a solution. Bridging the gap between science and mysticism, Bergman proposes a scientific exorcism: summon the being at a time and place of their choice, isolate it from Mateo, contain it technologically...then somehow destroy it.

Koenig and his team proceed to the now-evacuated Medical building. To bring forth the spirit, Mateo is given mezadrine, a psychotropic drug which induces violent emotion. Bergman then encloses the botanist's bed behind a lethal energy barrier. Mateo awakens, furious to find himself locked in an isolation room and in restraints. His rage builds to the point where he threatens to kill Koenig. With that, the wraith springs from Mateo's body, hurling itself at the Commander—to be repelled by the force-field. Trying to reach Koenig, the spirit repeatedly flings itself against the barrier in a murderous frenzy.

Insane, Mateo tears off the restraints and grabs his nemesis by the throat. As they grapple, the spirit gains the upper hand and sadistically holds Mateo's face in contact with the sizzling energy field. The macabre death match ends when both collapse to the floor in a sudden explosion of blinding energy. The spirit vanishes, and Koenig moves to check Mateo's motionless form. The man is dead. When turned face-up, the Alphans are horrified—but not entirely surprised—to see the face and body burned in the precise manner as the spirit his death has exorcised...

Cast[edit]

Starring[edit]

Also Starring[edit]

Guest Artists[edit]

Featuring[edit]

Uncredited Artists[edit]

Music[edit]

Supplemented by the regular Barry Gray score (drawn primarily from "Another Time, Another Place"), English musician 'Big Jim' Sullivan would compose an eerie, atmospheric composition for the sitar to serve as the primary music track. Sullivan, a prolific session guitarist of the time, also appeared on camera—dressed in an Alpha uniform, he was the performer seen playing the piece in the story's opening scenes.

Production Notes[edit]

  • Script editor Johnny Byrne's idea for "The Troubled Spirit" arose from his desire to write a science-fiction ghost story. He was pleased with the symmetry that organically evolved—the spirit coming to avenge a death that had not yet occurred, and the Alphans, in their attempts to counter the dangerous presence in their midst, actually causing the death they are trying to avert. In the early 70s, the idea of human-plant communication was a popular concept, as was the notion that the human brain contained many underutilised areas which contained paranormal super-powers.[3]
  • Both Byrne and production designer Keith Wilson recall that producer Sylvia Anderson was greatly involved in the creative development of this episode. Mrs Anderson's usual concerns were production design and the supervision of the actors; executive producer Gerry Anderson normally oversaw the writing staff. Her interest in Byrne's tale had her running the story meetings for this instalment, rather than her husband.[2]
  • In 1973, when RAI had agreed to co-finance the series, they had one stipulation: the programme would feature Italian talent. The characters that became Sandra Benes and Alan Carter were originally written as Italian nationals. Giancarlo Prete had been selected to play 'Captain Alfonso Catani', head of Reconnaissance. Shortly before production began, the Italian actor resigned, unwilling to commit to the twelve-month stay in England the role would require.[4] (The part was quickly rewritten and awarded to Nick Tate.)[2] Prete would be the first of four Italian guest artists chosen to fulfill the agreement. Sylvia Anderson selected him because he was not intimidated by series' star Martin Landau; Landau's ego, she recounts, was threatened by the Italian actors visiting for screen testing.[3]
  • The script contained several differences from the finished episode: (1) The music programme was written as a string quintet, of which Victor Bergman was a member—this was suggested by the presence of a violin in his quarters in the earlier episode "Alpha Child"; (2) Characters were to have spoken Mateo's given name 'Dan' throughout the segment; in the televised version, everyone only used his surname—including his girlfriend; (3) In a scene cut for time (but glimpsed in the 'This Episode' sequence), Bergman demonstrated his method to destroy the spirit: energy matching the spirit's wave pattern, but with reversed polarity. When in contact, the two opposing forces would cancel each other out.[5]
  • The animated energy shimmer seen when the spirit vanishes and is absorbed into Mateo's body was the only new visual effect seen in this instalment; the shots of Moonbase were library footage. The superimposed images of the spirit were practical effects, done 'in camera' with a half-silvered mirror.

Novelisation[edit]

The episode was adapted in the fifth Year One Space: 1999 novel Lunar Attack by John Rankine, published in 1975.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fanderson - The Original Gerry Anderson Website. Original ATV Midlands broadcast date
  2. ^ a b c Destination: Moonbase Alpha, Telos Publications, 2010
  3. ^ a b "The Troubled Spirit" episode guide; Space: 1999 website 'The Catacombs', Martin Willey
  4. ^ The Complete Gerry Anderson - The Unauthorised Episode Guide, Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2003
  5. ^ "The Troubled Spirit" final shooting script dated 11 November 1974
  6. ^ Space: 1999 - Lunar Attack, Futura Publications, 1975

External links[edit]

Last produced:
"The Last Enemy"
List of Space: 1999 episodes Next produced:
"Space Brain"
Last transmitted:
"Space Brain"
Next transmitted:
"The Testament of Arkadia"