Collision Course (Space: 1999)
|Space: 1999 episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1|
|Directed by||Ray Austin|
|Written by||Anthony Terpiloff|
|Original air date||18 September 1975|
"Collision Course" is the thirteenth episode of the first series of Space: 1999. The screenplay was written by Anthony Terpiloff; the director was Ray Austin. The final shooting script is dated 13 August 1974. Live-action filming took place Tuesday 27 August 1974 through Tuesday 10 September 1974.
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A large asteroid hurtles through space on a collision course with the Moon. As Moonbase Alpha is located within the impact area, the staff quickly formulates a plan to avert disaster. To guarantee the asteroid's destruction, twelve nuclear charges will be planted at strategic locations. The Eagle task force delivers eleven of the charges as planned. At minus two minutes to detonation, the twelfth, carried by Alan Carter's Eagle One, has yet to be deployed. The ship has developed a malfunction in its main booster and cannot achieve full thrust. To give Carter the time necessary to complete the operation, John Koenig orders the blast delayed.
Victor Bergman protests; the timeline must be preserved in order to avoid their being caught in radiation and debris from the explosion. Circumstances worsen when Carter finally arrives at his designated site. After lowering the charge, the release mechanism for the cargo grip jams—the explosive cannot be deployed. Agonising over this latest setback, Koenig informs the astronaut that the charge must remain on site...at any cost. Desperate, Carter shorts the grip mechanism, then manoeuvres his ship until the charge is dislodged. As Eagle One departs at a modest speed, Koenig delays the blast another ten seconds to give the astronaut a fighting chance.
The charges are detonated. First Carter's Eagle, then the Moon, are engulfed in a mammoth debris cloud billowing outwards from the now-volatised asteroid. Radiation interference blots out communications and scanners. The staff compiles damage reports and monitors the functioning of the protective radiation screens. Koenig repeatedly tries to contact Eagle One, irrationally refusing to believe Carter is most likely dead. When discovering that signals transmitted on the interstellar frequency are able penetrate the radiation field, he reckons that three-way contact could be established between Moonbase, a rescue Eagle equipped with a more powerful transmitter, and Carter.
Paul Morrow voices the danger of the pilots' potential exposure to radiation. Koenig disagrees, feeling the Eagles' radiation screens are sufficient. Bergman stresses there is an unknown class of radiation present in the cloud against which they may have no defence. The Commander disregards his advice and lifts-off in Rescue Eagle Four, with Morrow volunteering to serve as co-pilot. They are literally flying blind through the plasma cloud, sending out hails and receiving no answer.
Carter is alive. Though unconscious and unable to hear Morrow's signal, he stirs at the whisper of a woman's voice. She instructs him to answer his friend, which he does—while still unconscious. Koenig and Morrow are elated by the response. When trying to determine Carter's position, the same disembodied voice whispers coordinates in Koenig's ear. Watched by a puzzled Morrow, the Commander programmes a course without computer assistance. They soon find Eagle One drifting beyond the boundary of the cloud.
They move in and dock, Carter's mysterious benefactor urging him to perform all necessary actions on his end. She then takes her leave, assuring him she is a friend. When Koenig boards the ship, he finds Carter insensate. He assumes the effort of the docking must have been too much for the astronaut—then is stunned by what he sees through the forward ports. Morrow joins him as the two men gape at the huge planet that has appeared out of nowhere...and is bearing down on the Moon.
Facing another collision, they make their way back to Alpha with Carter and his ship. To Helena Russell's chagrin, Koenig opts to skip decontamination procedures. The doctor is concerned and a little suspicious of his attitude, but he is found to be clear of radiation. As Carter is conveyed to Medical, Koenig rushes to Main Mission with the data from his on-board computer. After a quick analysis, David Kano reports the planet measures thirty-four times their size and will impact with the Moon in 105 hours.
Bergman proposes exploding a series of nuclear charges between the Moon and the planet to create a shock wave powerful enough to force the two bodies apart. With no other options, Koenig orders him to start planning the operation. An in-depth analysis of the planetary data reveals it is marginally habitable and could be supporting life. Should Bergman's 'Operation Shockwave' fail, the Alphans could evacuate to safety on the far side of the planet—if it proves able to withstand the collision. With sensors still scrambled by the radioactive cloud, Koenig opts for a reconnaissance flight.
In the Medical Centre, Carter awakens to see a mysterious figure—veiled, gloved, and cloaked in black—standing at the foot of his bed. Speaking with the same voice he heard earlier, the woman assures him he is safe and well. Wanting to see her face, he goes to lift the veil...only to find his hands raising Helena's hair. Koenig enters the care unit as Carter desperately searches for the elusive apparition. After struggling with the nurses, he is sedated and returned to bed. Helena is certain the hallucinations and disorientation are symptomatic of radiation sickness. After three hours drifting through the radiation cloud, it would be surprising if he was not affected.
Koenig feels she is overreacting to what could have been a nightmare. They argue over her assumption that if the instruments were wrong about Carter showing no sign of radiation exposure, they must also be wrong about Koenig. With no time to spare, Koenig dismisses her concerns and lifts-off alone in the reconnaissance Eagle. The question of whether or not the planet supports life is answered by the appearance of a giant spaceship rising to intercept him. Evasive manoeuvres prove useless as Eagle Four is dragged toward it by some unseen force. The alien's bow then opens like a python's mouth to swallow the helpless Eagle.
Koenig is left alone in the dark as the Eagle's power inexplicably fades. He tenses when the ship's hatches spontaneously open. Stun-gun drawn, he moves out into the alien craft. The Eagle hatch closes behind him, and he enters a vast, abstract chamber draped with dusty cobwebs. As he arrives at a dais, the veiled mystery being is illuminated, seated on a throne. The veil is raised to reveal the wizened yet still beautiful face of an ancient woman. Her voice strong and regal, she addresses Koenig by name and introduces herself as Arra, Queen of Atheria—the planet whose course has terrified the Alphans.
She announces she has been anticipating this encounter for many millions of years. The pragmatic Koenig is confounded when informed the Moon being blasted out of orbit was no random accident. Their two worlds have been forever destined to meet in the body of time for the purpose of mutation. The collision will act as a catalyst, allowing her people to evolve into a noncorporeal form of existence. To achieve this, she asks the Alphans do...nothing.
Despite himself, Koenig believes her. He asks what will become of his people. The Moon will continue on, Arra tells him, its odyssey knowing no end, spreading humanity throughout the deepest reaches of space. She pauses, sensing the thoughts of Bergman and company as they finalise the plans for Operation Shockwave. Three cargo Eagles are dispatched with nuclear charges, which must be deployed in space at the exact position now occupied by the Atherian vessel. She tells Koenig this activity must cease immediately—nothing must be done to interfere with this sacred event.
Though he has complete faith in the aged monarch, Koenig knows it will take more than eloquence to convince his colleagues; Helena already believes he is suffering from radiation exposure. Arra must return with him. She refuses. While his role is to do nothing, she has much to do to prepare for the coming transmutation. Koenig must rise to the challenge, as destined since the beginning of time. As she fades away, her last words reverberate: 'I go to shape the future of eternity. And I need your help.'
Its power restored, Eagle Four is released from the alien ship. As it departs, Koenig contacts Alpha, dumbfounding the staff by ordering Operation Shockwave suspended. At a command conference, the Commander relates his encounter with Arra. With the Moon emerging from the plasma cloud, readings confirm the collision with Atheria in seven hours. As rational scientists, the senior staff is flabbergasted by his intention to do nothing. However, Helena and Bergman support Koenig, citing his case is not based on logic, but on faith. If Arra has convinced Koenig, they should place their faith in him. Koenig confirms Shockwave is cancelled.
After the meeting adjourns, Helena and Bergman reveal they were merely humouring the Commander. His unwavering faith in this Arra 'fantasy' proves to them he is delusional. The doctor quietly confines Koenig to his quarters under sedation. Morrow is directed to assume command and proceed with Shockwave. Sensing their treachery, Arra reaches out to Koenig. Once roused from a drugged sleep, he overwhelms the sentries stationed outside his quarters and escapes. After arming himself, he meets up with Carter, also called into action by Arra.
Still in pyjamas, they make their way to Main Mission where, at minus three minutes to detonation, Morrow is arming the atomic triggers of the spaceborne nuclear charges. After storming the room, Koenig orders Computer to seal all entrances. The two men then herd everyone away from the detonation switch. Koenig tries to convince the hostages that the collision will not result in destruction, but in the evolution of the Atherians to a higher form of life. His desperation only reinforces everyone's belief he is mad. At the risk of being shot, Morrow makes a dash for the switch.
A brawl erupts as the two worlds rush toward each other, ending with the two 'madmen' being restrained. While Koenig begs her to trust him, Helena moves to detonate the charges. Realising the countdown expired during the fight, Bergman stops her—the collision is now inevitable. The Alphans instinctively back away from the visual of Atheria's approaching surface on the big screen. Koenig waits for Arra...who does not appear. Clinging to his faltering faith, he calls out for her as the floor begins heaving beneath his feet.
At the moment of contact, Atheria vanishes from existence...the Moon ploughing through the space it once occupied. Later, Koenig broods as he stares out a window into the empty space sky. He is joined by Helena, who begins apologising for her actions. He interrupts, insisting she did nothing wrong. His story was mad. How could anyone possibly know that two planets on a collision course would not collide, but merely touch...?
Special Guest Star
- Margaret Leighton — Arra
- Prentis Hancock — Controller Paul Morrow
- Clifton Jones — David Kano
- Zienia Merton — Sandra Benes
- Anton Phillips — Doctor Bob Mathias
- Nick Tate — Captain Alan Carter
- Suzanne Roquette — Tanya
- Sarah Bullen — Kate
- Annie Lambert — Main Mission Operative (Julie)
- Alf Joint — Alphan Man (Balcony Jumping Man)
In addition to the regular Barry Gray score (drawn primarily from "Breakaway" and "Another Time, Another Place"), music tracks composed by Gray for the previous Anderson productions Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90 and the film Thunderbird 6 were also utilised.
- Along with "Black Sun" and "War Games", "Collision Course" is considered to be one of the programme's most successful instalments by actors, crew and fans alike, exemplifying its metaphysical approach to science fiction. Penned by American-born British television writer Anthony Terpiloff, this story would showcase the author's pet theme of the perseverance of faith and trust over logic and reason. This approach would be seen in his subsequent contributions to the series ("Death's Other Dominion" and "Catacombs of the Moon").
- The casting of Margaret Leighton as Arra was a coup for the series. The accomplished and prolific British actress had appeared in stage, film and television productions on both sides of the Atlantic, winning numerous awards. Suffering from multiple sclerosis, the role of Arra was her penultimate performance (she died 13 January 1976 at the age of 53, four months after the episode was broadcast by ATV). Production designer Keith Wilson recalls while she had no difficulty with her craft, she required direction from Ray Austin to understand her abstract and complicated dialogue. Austin recalls her being transported to and from the set via wheelchair. She would tell him "You'd better get this shot, because I'm not going to last long," and they ploughed through her fifteen pages of work in an unprecedented two days.
- The final shooting script contains unaired dialogue between Arra and Koenig. Cut for time, it had Arra explaining to the Alphan that if he were to consider the Universe as a microscopic cell, his galaxy could be thought of as a single chromosome, the solar system as one gene and himself as a minuscule fragment of that gene. This missing sequence made sense of Arra's later line that the gene of which she and her people were part would mutate. Also lost was the end of the epilogue, where Koenig would leave Helena alone at the window. Gazing out into space, she was to suddenly assume an enraptured expression and utter "Arra..."
- Martin Bower constructed the Atherian spaceship and nuclear charge miniatures. Both would reappear in later spaceship graveyard sequences in "Dragon's Domain" and "The Metamorph".
The episode was adapted in the fourth Year One Space: 1999 novel Collision Course by E.C. Tubb, published in 1975. While being true to the script, Tubb would attempt to address the scientific criticism that shock waves cannot propagate through the vacuum of space. Bergman would theorise that the atomic blast would divert the Moon and Atheria by the creation of a 'sub-etheric' shock wave; the creation of a 'sub-atomic vortex' would act on not actual particles of matter, but on the 'sub-spatial matrix' confining them. It would be like moving bricks by moving the mortar binding them.
- Fanderson - The Original Gerry Anderson Website. Original ATV Midlands broadcast date
- Destination: Moonbase Alpha, Telos Publications, 2010
- "Collision Course" episode guide; Fanderson - The Official Gerry Anderson Website
- Margaret Leighton Wikipedia Article
- The Complete Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Episode Guide, Reynolds & Hearn Ltd, 2005
- "Collision Course" episode guide; Space: 1999 website "The Catacombs", Martin Willey
- "Collision Course" final shooting script, dated 13 August 1974
- Space: 1999 - Collision Course, Futura Publications, 1975
- Space: 1999 - "Collision Course" - The Catacombs episode guide
- Space: 1999 - "Collision Course" - Moonbase Alpha's Space: 1999 Page
|List of Space: 1999 episodes||Next produced:|
"Death's Other Dominion"
"Force of Life"