Helena Russell

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Doctor Helena Russell
Space: 1999 character
Barbara Bain as Doctor Helena Russell
Portrayed by Barbara Bain
Species Human
Gender Female
Affiliation Moonbase Alpha
Posting 23 February 1999, first tour of duty on Moonbase Alpha
Rank Doctor, Chief Medical Officer
Section Medical
Date of birth 5 August 1960, Chicago, Illinois, USA[1]
Home planet Earth

Helena Russell is a fictional character from the television series Space: 1999. She was played by Barbara Bain. She is American and apparently in her early forties.

Helena Russell is a doctor of medicine and a scientist, and as of the time of "Breakaway", the first episode of Space: 1999, she was Moonbase Alpha's Chief Medical Officer.

Meta Probe Crisis[edit]

In September 1999, a mysterious rash of deaths hit Moonbase Alpha. Eleven astronauts — nine workers at Nuclear Disposal Area Two, and Frank Warren and Eric Sparkman, the two pilots for the manned probe to a newly discovered planet christened Meta — experienced all the symptoms of radiation sickness: malignant growths, disorientation, irrational and violent behaviour, before lapsing into comas and dying. Doctor Russell believed that the astronauts' deaths were being caused by radiation leakage from the nuclear waste disposal sites on the Moon. Repeated tests of the waste disposal areas revealed no detectable leakage.

She attempted to convince Commander Gorski, then commander of Moonbase Alpha, to allow her report her findings to the World Space Commission authorities on Earth, but he refused (under orders from Earth Command to conceal the incident behind a 'virus infection' cover story). Gorski was subsequently relieved of duty and replaced as Moonbase Alpha's commander by John Koenig. Unlike Gorski, he investigated her suspicions and they proved to be true - the astronauts were all affected by a previously unknown form of magnetic radiation effect produced by the accumulated nuclear waste and building towards a massive explosion. When it happened, the Moon was hurtled out of Earth orbit and plunged into deep space.[2]

Character development[edit]

Following the Moon's breakaway from Earth, Dr. Russell and the other Alphans have one encounter after another with mysterious and often hostile alien races and inexplicable forces. In the second episode, she encounters her long lost husband, Lee Russell, who had been declared dead after the Astro Seven mission to Jupiter on which he was serving was lost. He is discovered living apparently alone on a habitable planet named Terra Nova by the Alphans. In the episode's climax, he revealed that he has been transformed into a being who is far superior to normal humans, possibly anti-matter in nature.[3]

In Series One, Helena Russell often appears to be a somewhat cool, emotionally flat individual, especially in responding to the various crises which occur during the first season. However, over the course of the first series, she develops an emotional attachment to John Koenig. Koenig is equally smitten with Helena. At their first meeting in "Breakaway", there was an obvious spark of attraction; subsequent episodes indicated a growing, if discreet, relationship (see "Matter of Life and Death", "Black Sun", et cetera). In an alternate future, Helena married Koenig, only to lose him in an Eagle crash.[4] In "Missing Link", she was seen in throes of an emotional struggle as her professional duty required her to terminate the life-support systems of the man she loved. In "War Games", her feelings for him allows her to tap into an alien power to bring him back to life after his having been fatally shot, and later rescue him from certain death after his having been marooned in space.

Professionally, Helena had more failures than successes during the first series as the Moon traveled through a universe beyond human understanding. She is unable to save Regina Kesslann, a woman who is living in both the present and future after the Moon's passage through an unexplained space phenomenon, especially after she apparently manifests a 'second' brain.[4] She also loses Technician Anton Zoref to a heat-absorbing life force[5] and Botanist Dan Mateo to a paranormal force raised from the depths of his own mind.[6] After being co-opted by the Space Brain in the episode of the same name, Astronaut Kelly also dies despite her best efforts at freeing him from its influence. She herself is a victim of the Tritonians as she is turned into a tool for relaying information from Alpha's main computer. The Triton ship is destroyed before they would have burned out her brain.[7]

Series Two[edit]

In the show's second series, Helena Russell became more outgoing and personable. Her relationship with Commander Koenig is open and deeply loving in the second season, and they often flirt and tease one another. The love between the two was most evident in episodes such as "Brian the Brain", in which Helena Russell and Commander Koenig are given a "love test" by the maniacal computer Brian. During the test the two are placed in separate airlocks, and display the depth of their love for each other by transferring all the air to each other, saving each other's lives. Koenig also shows the strength of his passion and devotion in "Journey to Where", as he tenderly cares for an ailing Helena, even kissing her deeply when she reveals she will soon be near death from viral pneumonia. Their passion is also shown in "The Taybor", as under the influence of a mind-altering perfume they prepare to make love. The ending of this episode makes it clear that Koenig will follow Helena to her bed to resume their interrupted lovemaking.

The sudden change in Dr. Russell's personality was the result of a deliberate attempt by the show's producers to "spice up" the chemistry between the main characters and to make them more lively and interesting.

Her make-up and altered hairstyle also reflected her new, softer persona. Her hair was lightened and her makeup warmer and more flattering. She was observed in several episodes in high-end (and somewhat revealing) formal gowns, such as "One Moment of Humanity" and "The Taybor".

Professionally, Helena continued as Alpha's Chief Medical Officer. She also became responsible for overseeing the Moonbase Life Support Section, in the episode "The Exiles". During the course of Series Two, Helena diagnosed and devised a cure for the Archanon 'Killing Sickness', only to find out that her cure was known to this race, but fatal in its execution. In "Catacombs of the Moon", she and Dr. Ben Vincent also constructed an artificial heart based on the Dorfman model devised in 1987 and successfully implanted it into Alpha operative Michelle Osgood. She also experimented with the Ellendorf Quadrographic Brain Complex and its abilities to accelerate patient recovery from coma and other traumatic brain injuries in "The Bringers of Wonder". In "The Lambda Factor", Helena led the investigation into the elevated mental powers of the Alpha personnel influenced by a space phenomenon/entity.

Personal details[edit]

The daughter of a well-to-do American West Coast physician,[8] Helena Russell is an outstanding scientist, medical doctor and surgeon; in the series' first episode it was revealed that she had won a replica of an 1887 Donnelmeyer antique microscope (a duplicate of Louis Pasteur's microscope) as a prize for her work in medical school. The second series two-part episode "The Bringers of Wonder" revealed that she had a close friendship with medical school tutor/mentor Dr. Shaw. In dialogue trimmed from that episode's final cut, it was revealed that Helena still carried a little guilt that the first patient she ever lost was her own father, who collapsed from a heart attack in their home while she was still in medical school.

She married Lee Russell, who was in the space programme. The Series One Writer's guide stated he was in the medical division. (It also stated his given name was 'Telford'.) In 1994, Helena was widowed when Lee Russell departed on the Astro Seven mission to Jupiter and never returned. All hands of the mission were declared dead. The couple never had children.[3]

After her husband's death, she was employed on Earth by the World Space Commission. In 1997, she was part of a team evaluating the mental state of Captain Tony Cellini. Cellini, the sole survivor of the Ultra Probe mission, returned to Earth speaking of his ordeal with a deadly space 'dragon' lifeform in a spaceship graveyard on the far side of planet Ultra. Her report, she felt, reinforced the already overwhelming case against Cellini, who was the Commission's scapegoat for the failure of the high-profile and expensive space mission.[9]

At this time, she was aware of John Koenig, but was not acquainted with him personally. She was acquainted with the woman whom Koenig was seeing at this time: Space Commission navigating officer (and notorious 'man-eater') Diana Morris. Not on the best of terms, they seemed to regularly trade polite barbs and insults.[10]

Assigned to Moonbase Alpha as head of the Medical Section, Helena Russell is depicted as a dedicated and concerned physician and a highly competent practitioner of space medicine. Despite her apparent emotional detachment, she did empathise with her patients and their loved ones (see "Force of Life", "Voyager's Return", "End of Eternity" and "Space Brain"). In "Alpha Child", she was overjoyed at the birth of the first child on Alpha and was initially willing to accept his fantastic transformation into a five-year-old boy that occurred hours after the birth.

In addition to her relationship with Commander Koenig, Helena Russell was close with Moonbase scientist Victor Bergman, with whom she shared a close father/daughter relationship. A friendship was also apparent with fellow physician Bob Mathias.

In the second series she becomes much more friendly and outgoing, developing a sharp sense of humor and sense of playfulness. As stated earlier, her relationship with Commander Koenig became much more overt and demonstrative, with many public displays of affection in front of others. She also becomes close friends with Maya after the metamorph's arrival on Alpha.[11]

An interest in the arts is revealed in "The Exiles" where we see an extensive microdisc library in her quarters devoted to literature, art and fashion. In this episode, it is also revealed that she is a talented sculptor (an unrealised fact originally included in her backstory created for the first series). Her sculpting abilities are further touched on in the later episode "The Taybor" when she assists in the construction of an inanimate life-sized figure of Maya for that episode's title character.

Doctor Russell was in all forty-eight episodes of Space: 1999, though she had only a narrator's part in "Devil's Planet".


  1. ^ The Moonbase Alpha Technical Notebook
  2. ^ Episode synopsis for "Breakaway"
  3. ^ a b Space: 1999 episode "Matter of Life and Death"
  4. ^ a b Space: 1999 episode "Another Time, Another Place"
  5. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Force of Life"
  6. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Troubled Spirit"
  7. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Ring Around the Moon"
  8. ^ Series One Writer's Guide
  9. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Dragon's Domain"
  10. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Bringers of Wonder"
  11. ^ Series Two Writers' Notes

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