From: South Central (Tamazunchale@webtv44.net) Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998 11:54:01 -0700 Subj: Space1999: Episode by Episode
This weeks book for discussion (Monday through Sunday) is Phoenix of Megaron.
Next week we start with YEAR TWO!
From: "Simon Morris" (firstname.lastname@example.org) Date: Thu, 28 May 1998 20:01:04 +0100 Sent: Mon, 8 Jun 1998 20:49:44 -0700 Subj: Re: Phoenix of Megaron Novel
I'm typing this up in the few hours before I head off for the beaches for 2 weeks. Time has run out on me and so this is going to be brief,I'm afraid!
I very much enjoyed John Rankine's "PofM" novel though not as much as ANDROID PLANET (though it goes without saying it was a lot more enjoyable than EC Tubbs efforts). Again,I thought the characters were faithful and sympathetic and there was a nice line in humour. There was quite a bit of ancient wisdom in the novel eg "Living is struggling.....you have to get to like it" etc. But basically there isn't a great deal to the story featuring as it does the Alphans getting involved in a kind of civil war and using it to get back to Alpha. It wasnt for me quite as engrossing as his first original story but that apart,it was just a rattling good adventure story with no pretensions to be anything else. And thats how I view both the television episodes and the John Rankine novels.
I thought the introduction of Rhoda (a golden eyed Hyrian beauty who falls for Alan Carter) was an interesting move which I suspect Rankine conceived before the part of Maya was conceived by Freiberger. It would have been nice to see a character like Rhoda in the tv series...but then again it would have been nice to see her again in novels had Rankine written another one. Certainly at the end of PofM she travels back to Alpha with them to make her home there....a nice touch I thought. Again there is a fair bit of action in the book,including Koenig leading a sabotage mission on top of manned torpedos similar to what were used in World War 2 and such. My only gripe is that I wish that Rankine would be a BIT more sci-fi in some of the situations he portrays. Also would someone from another planet say such a thing as "Outer Space my ass!". This might be the way some people speak NOW(certainly I've heard it in the UK...used it myself actually....)but would an Alphan say something like that,let alone someone who had never been to Earth? I don't think so!
Time's almost up. I'd just like to add that in 1982 I tracked down Rankine (or Douglas Rankine Mason as his real name is)and had some brief correspondence with him re: PofM. I enlisted his help as I was trying to get hold of a copy(it never having been published in the UK). He couldn't be of much help but having had his attention drawn to it,he had read his one file copy and concluded it was a good tale! He said that theoretically there should have been(in the Uk) a paperback and a hardback edition but (quote)" There was a confusion after ANDROID PLANET. A new company bought out the original ATV/ITC organisation and the three writers (Tubb,Ball and me) were displaced by a Directors nephew!" I never did bother to ask what this meant. Did this have some bearing on the Y2 novelisations being published by another company with a different(hack)writer. Was the "Directors nephew" part of the new ITC company or what? I never did find out.......
As for Rankine(or Mason as he really is)today....I don't even know if he's still around,if he;s still writing or if he's even living! (I don't know about the others either). One day when I have time I'll try and find out......
And so....to the beaches.Hope to be back in a fortnight when the Y2 discussions start. I have to say I liked Y2 on its own terms. A straightforward entertaining action adventure show.Nothing more---nothing less. Just like Rankine's novels.
Date: Sun, 14 Jun 1998 22:33:17 From: David Welle (email@example.com) Subj: Space1999: Phoenix of Megaron
(SPOILER WARNING: Obviously, this review is a massive spoiler for anyone who hasn't read Phoenix of Megaron; but my point here is that I do mention a few events from the earlier novel Android Planet as well.)
Wow, what can I say? This novel was an absolute delight to read. Engaging, engrossing, thought-provoking, with scarcely a flaw or complaint, in my mind.
John Rankine makes the story interesting from the beginning. John Koenig and Victor Bergman are considering the possible future of Alpha and any colony they might make. Planning out the future with a keen eye on humanity's past mistakes. How to best balance a myriad of social needs. Rankine's Alphans know that humanity isn't perfect, but could certainly try making a fresh start into a good start.
Then the planet that is found is a good shot as far as living conditions but a long shot for the Eagles, making for a very unique version of Project Exodus. I loved this switch in theme. (With my story, "The Transfer," I had an approach to a star system that was still far beyond Eagle range, much less project Exodus, but I had never considered what would happen with the "in between" case of a marginal approach.)
The single reconnaisance Eagle flies over dead, monolithic cities (there's almost the image of the cities being grave markers for a powerful but long gone culture), while another part of the world has signs of an apparent nuclear war, ancient and contained, but worrisome.
Then, not unlike Rankine's Android Planet, the Alphans first reach an almost robotic sort of people, those from a much smaller, flatter city called Caster. They aren't androids by any means, but seem to run on extremes of cold uncaring and violent heat. Without responding the Alphans' hails, they open a hail of fire on the Eagle, then take suicidal runs against it, eventually cracking the Eagle's hull, killing an Alphan, and downing the ship. John, Victor, Alan, and Helena survive. Helena had put herself aboard against orders (I liked how the commander handled that, including how he told it to Paul in the way that would still maintain the order of command despite Helena's breach of it). The four are taken to a prison that seems more like a Middle Ages dungeon, all too far complete with a naked, beaten, starving prisoner -- a young woman named Rhoda whom Alan immediately takes under wing.
From her, the Alphans begin to understand the shape of this world's civilizations. There's little more than scattered remnants from a greater age. She herself has been imprisoned by a bunch of people who seem fond of a mind-altering drug that she fears so much that she'd rather starve herself to death before touching anything offered to her. It seems a drug specifically designed to allow much greater suggestiveness, and this fact is gradually expanded on over the course of the novel.
Meanwhile, Alan is subjected to some brief torture, while Rhoda tries to draw their attention to her while Alan tries to keep it off her. They are already full into trying to protect each other, and in general, the attraction is obvious. When the tormentors leave for awhile again, rescuers break through the floor, and after some brief questioning of whether to take the Alphans along (again, very realistic), everyone makes good their escape.
People known as the Outfarers, a democratic culture, survive in a few small sections of the hull of one of the old, monolithic cities, a thirty kilometers from Caster. There's a vote on whether to accept the Alphans, and it turns out to require two further votes to break first a non-clear majority (a "clear majority" of 2/3 was needed), and then a tie vote among the immediate consul. The final "vote" was by chief executive, Karl, and the Alphans are admitted as citizens. Previous to the vote, Koenig had taken a controversial stand, urging that the initiative had to be taken and that freedom had to be fought for.
The clear problem in Koenig's eyes is that both sides are stagnant. The people of Caster are under fairly strong control were everyone is made suggestible to outside order and made to feel satisfied with their lot in life, while the Outfarers maintain their own status quo, however based on individualism it is. The latter society is embarked on a centuries- or even millenia-old march towards rebuilding what was obviously an advanced but long since collapsed civilization, of which remnants such as the Outfarers and Casters -- and other unseen enclaves that were thought to exist -- remain. Koenig, however, perceives that there is actually very little forward movement among the Outfarers, and no attempt whatsoever to help and later join with their neighbors. There is little concern about whether to interfere or not, but while the Outfarers seem to have no interest in interfering with Caster, Koenig thinks it is vital they do so.
It was likely his controversial stand both excited and disturbed various Outfarers, but in the end, the Alphans were accepted. No sooner than that, and the remnants of the city come under air attack. It is little more than a strafing and reconnaisance run, but it shakes everyone up, for it is the sign that the pseudo-stability between the two cultures has been broken. This is similar to Rankine's Android Planet, yet it is largely similar to events in many other episodes. The Alphans inevitably alter the fabric around them, just as the Moon itself alters the gravitational fabric of space as it moves along.
For once, though, and in stark contrast to the Copreons of Rankine's other S19 novel, Android Planet, the second side doesn't have its own designs on the Alphans. The Alphans are largely treated as equals among the Outfarers, and given a lot of individual movement and even discretion. This, however, doesn't go perfectly, either.
First, when Koenig tests two watercraft, they end up discovering that someone among the Outfarers attempted sabotage that nearly killed him, Alan, Helena, and Rhoda. In the middle of that sequence, an air car from Caster appears, as if it had been cued. Yet Koenig and Alan manage to ambush the two-man crew (Max and Gara) when the car lands to investigate the empty watercraft that survived the sabotage.
Hmm, as a curious sidelight, there were some names similar to ours, and some that were outright the same. Karl, for example. Rhoda and Phyllis? Rhoda was the Outfarer we saw the most, while Phyllis was just a name thought of by one of the Casterians; but I started wondering when a Mary would show up. (Phyllis and Rhoda were characters on the Mary Tyler Moore Show of the 1970s, and in looking at the IMDb, I see each character got her own spinoff series in 1974-5. I wonder if Rankine or his wife(?) was a fan.)
Then there's Max, who's drowned by Koenig. Carter kills Gara, the pilot. The storyteller did not forget that even Max and Gara were still human, even if reduced to little more than drones, and Helena is the voice of conscience. There's a poignant moment where a signed picture of Phyllis ("I'll be waiting," she wrote). Helena confronts John with "You're turning into a savage. Or maybe you always were one under civilisation's veneer?" In this case, I have to side with Helena (wow, that must be a first for me -- at least for the "Year One" Helena): killing both pilots was too much. Certainly the second didn't need to be killed, and Carter was evidently very savage about it, for basically the wrong reason, because while Carter "was still incensed at the thought that Rhoda had been within a fraction of being torn apart by the exploding strike craft," Gara had nothing to do with that.
It was interesting on how this strained John & Helena's relationship for awhile afterwards, and how John had to get back into Helena's good graces again. Like real people, there was first action, initial reaction, and lingering feelings. Even John & Alan's actions were believable as real people, but was much harder than I'm used to seeing from *them* in particular. Well, Alan was in a murderous rage one other time, albeit in an episode I found hard to believe for all the stupid things everyone was doing then. So it seemed out of character for them, in a way, but was within the realm of general believability, so it introduced some interesting consequences, not only between John and Helena, but got this reader wondering how it reflected on Alpha and a possible future of devolution (I kind of wish Rankine had commented on that, at least briefly; but I guess it wasn't necessary because it does get one to think about a nasty sort of reality or at least possiblity).
Rhoda is stunned by realization that a fellow Outfare had apparently sabotaged the watercraft, while Helena is sour about Koenig's actions. They keep and hide the aircar, after using it and the watercraft to salvage equipment from Eagle Seven.
Koenig decides Karl isn't responsible for the sabotage, but considering the large minority that voted against the Alphans, and the fact of the Caster attack shortly thereafter, it could be one of many Outfarers.
Using the medical supplies that were salvaged from Eagle One, Helena determines the chemical nature of the drug, and creates an antidote, which, to have maximum effect, must be inserted into the food processing systems at the main farm facility outside Caster.
On a later night, the same team (John, Helena, Alan, and Rhoda) travels by watercraft and then a short distance overland and successfully break into the facility and administer the antidote. In the meantime, however, a large security force from Caster materializes (a sign that having involved only a few Outfarers still brought a traitor into the picture), and orders the family onsite to activate the lights, which reveals some more interesting facts about the original drug itself. It turns out not to be a broad-band hypnotic, but a rather specific tool. It does suppress general will-power to a degree, but it is much more powerful as a means of outside control. The Casters can be instructed, through certain keyword sequences, which were obviously taught long before, to immediately snap to business and carry out the instruction, regardless of other factors, including individual will, which has largely been sapped away. Yet at the farming complex, we see several "citizens" of Caster who still snap at each other, just like people on Earth, leading to this thought by Koenig: "Even with a thought-control system, the human scene had its unresolved problems." I like that Rankine took this tack, that there was a keyword-tripped programming where certain combinations of words were what turned the people of Caster into nearly mindless drones in some ways.
In fact, Rankine again paints another vivid picture of a divided alien culture and the Alphans that dropped in, with new insight unfolding after every event (instead of being dicated all at once or never explained at all).
Part of that division is within one of the parts. By the time the team arrives back (having abondoned their original watercraft and hiked a difficult terrain and distance to the air car they had stashed under cover), the Outfarer city had suffered a second, even more devastating attack, and were in the middle of a military overthrow of the executive council, along with a kangaroo court that was half-tempted to execute one half of the executives, along with Rhoda and the Alphans. As it was, they are sentence to banishment, but instead escape in the same air car.
The vivid picture grows to expand on the evidence of the previously advanced but now collapsed civilization of Megaron. Throughout the story, there are references by the Outfarers to the previous civilization, already long since shrouded by time in mystery. There is not much in the way of legends swirling around them, just realistic understandings that they let their technology get ahead of their growth as a society, with nuclear war being one result. The Outfarers wish to rebuild a larger civilization, some time down the road -- and do it in a better way, not unlike the Alphans do.
There are, in fact, a multitude of parallels to Alpha, not only in the Outfarers and their possible future, but the possibility of becoming as uncaringly brutal as the Caster military and as trapped as the people of Caster.
The nine Alphans and Outfarers (including Rhoda and Alan, who are falling in love) make their careful way into the intact space center, a massive relic of the old Megaron civilization that collapsed long before. Carefully cleaned up and set with defenses, as if to both discourage intermediate settlement, as well as "grave robbing," it awaits the resurgence of a civilization strong enough in willpower and technology to travel to the stars.
In the heart of the complex, they find the last survivor of the old Megaron civilization, Cydon, a wizened old man weak of body but strong of mind. His surviving culture had done little more than that -- merely surviving -- for so long that the will had left his people. They had waited, and waited, and waited for higher civilization to rebuild itself and strive again for the stars. They had waited too long, and slowly died out, until Cydon was the last, alone twenty years after his wife died, childless, barely able to rouse enough energy for hope that came with the nine Alphans and Copreons. In there was another lesson for the Alphans to learn, which Koenig did not fail to notice.
The space center is not without another survivor of sorts: an incredible ship, the Phoenix, which the surviving Megarons -- and finally just Cydon -- had hoped would rise like its namesake, from the ashes of Megaron's largely ruined past. Yet Cydon had little to hope for from the enclaves of society that remained. One was under a strong, drug-enforced, stability. The other was laboring under its own hesitation, and reeling from two powerful attacks and under threat from more. Cydon could see things coming further unraveled than ever before, and decided to help the nine individuals driven there. In them, he saw the vitality and hope that was so missing elsewhere. So he, as the last caretaker, decided to put his trust in them.
Between all of them, they formulated a daring plan to launch the Phoenix. To do that, they have to throw a switch so that power would be funneled to the space center from Caster -- but the switch was back at Caster, at the other end of kilometers of tunnel that carried the vital power cable. John, Alan, and Carter find a trolley and exert their muscles to power it down the line. Once there, they surprise a few Casterians by emerging from underground and stunning them.
One nit, sort of: linguistics. As usual for much of science fiction, I've had to suspend disbelief in regard to Alphans knowing the language native to this world. I have no problem doing that, but I thought this novel stretched it a bit when, in this scene, when Karl started refering to "omega" and such. Where did this "Greek" come from? Then I realized that Karl had said something about it being written in an old language. That language was to modern Megaron as Greek was to English. It's a sort of consistency that can pull itself back under the shield of "suspension," and seem okay after all.
What the "omega" is about are omega orders, the top level commands that the people of Caster are bound by drugs to obey, and what the team of three turns up is a computer system. To this point, the main debate was whether there were drug-free overlords running Caster -- drug-free because it seemed that someone had to be thinking clearly and independently, to be able to make the main decisions. Yet a computer system is found to be at the heart of things. Unlike HAL in "2001" or the Guardian of Piri, the focus of the story is not on an obvious computer system, but one hidden in layers of command, under a haze of drugs, and in a city seen from a distance for most of the story.
With that, however, the team has found *the* handle with which to lever the society of Caster. The Commander, already in intermittent contact with Alpha, switches the computer's input systems to one of Sandra's favorite frequencies, and with the power switch thrown, head back to the space center. The military of Caster was unable to penetrate the core of space center, but still buzzes about. Alpha is now linked to both the computer under Caster, and with the Space Center, and Koenig makes an absolutely wonderful speech (one of the best in S19, IMO) *through* Spadec, the computer controlling Caster's people, and in one fell swoop of words of words that prove more powerful than any force, returns freedom and responsibility to Caster's people and utterly isolates the Spadec computer. It's a startling solution, and impresses Cydon and the Outfarers, and erases most of the remaining doubts that Rhoda has about a decision... to go to Alpha with Alan. They have fallen in love, and though the other four Outfarers wish to remain on Megaron (even *before* Koenig's powerful speech), she wants to be with Alan (a nice moment too was when she had to get Alan to *say* that he loved her!).
Koenig's last words are about the launch of the Phoenix almost brought tears to my eyes: "As a symbol of renewal, a great ship, built by your ancestors, will be launched in a bid for the stars. Watch her and know that she bears the message of your ancient thinkers: 'wisdom shall rise again.'" Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.
The ship rises on flames, and the very military man -- Mestor -- from Caster that the Alphans and Rhoda had escape from early on, now throws his ship towards the towering rocket, on a suicidal run. The rocket is accelerating too quickly, though, and Mestor finds himself flying into the great fireball beneath.
The Phoenix escapes the gravity well of Megaron, and has enough fuel to reach the retreating Moon's Eagle range. Sadly, they cannot keep the incredible ship for themselves, but they are more than happy to be met by Eagles. Already, the energetic, strong-willed Rhoda is starting to figure her place on Alpha -- or what it won't be. "She was resilient. She was nobody's hey you. She would be all right on Alpha."
All the effort -- one man dead, an Eagle permanently lost, four command personnel almost left behind, and an aborted Operation Exodus -- seems to have resulted in very little, but Victor has a pleasant surprise: hearty strains of grain to help reinvigorate Alpha's hydroponic efforts.
They also leave with many lessons, including this they took from Megaron's ancient space center, "which had endured through the millenia and had finally shrunk to one frail old man and his electronic shadow. It was a warning. Alpha could go the same way. He knew he had to redouble their efforts. They had to break out of their confining shell or they would get to like their chains and that would be the beginning of the end."
Remarkable. This was a remarkable novel, in my opinion.
About a quarter of the way through, after an interesting start, I started getting a little bit concerned that he was starting to parallel his own previous story, Android Planet. Though there were a couple superficial parallels, they were otherwise very different stories, with Phoenix of Megaron being better than Android Planet as well.
With Megaron, Rankine created a wonderful and complex world with two active societies, the remains and a single survivor of a much larger and more advanced civilization, and the exploring Alphans. He kept it all very consistent, drew many thematic and social parallels to Alpha and us humans in general, nailed *all* of the Alphan characters, drew several more characters in very convincing fashion, and handled a fairly involved plot well. On the second last point, Rhoda was very well-written -- a complex and believable character. Unlike the other "one story" romance (if it even was such) in Y1 -- of John and Vana in "Missing Link" -- I found it Alan and Rhoda falling in love to be very believable.
He also toned down from what seemed like a lot of British idiom in the previous novel. I enjoy new idiom, but Android Planet seemed thick with it, often to the point of not being able to understand what he was saying, whereas Phoenix of Megaron seemed a lot easier to read through. (He still stuck with the "Earth Planet" references, though.)
Other than that..., After only two novels, I've really gotten to like Rankine's storytelling style. Besides all of the above, he's very strong with descriptions of scenes, events, and people, and practically PAINTS a vivid story. It seems he really got the hang of the Space: 1999 "universe," and he even manages to correct some of what I perceive as problems with Y1. His stories, as Ellen (?) and others have mentioned, "feel" like a blending of Y1 and Y2 styles, and I for one greatly appreciate that.
I'll have to catch up with the episode novelizations he wrote to see if he does well with that. I was not entirely impressed with Butterworth's go at the Y2 novelizations (at least the two I read), and am beginning to wonder if it wasn't too bad Rankine had done at least some of those as well.
A few other notes....
There was an anti-technological stance in this story, which is not unfamiliar in S19. Here, Rankine took a more moderate tone, showing how technology could be a useful tool or a destructive weapon, depending on who was using it -- the *wisdom* of who was using it.; Rankine also outright stated, through the mouths of the Hyrians -- as well as Koenig -- that the technology itself should be the means, and not the ends. A much more balanced and realistic view, in my opinion. The Phoenix was a sign of a technological prowess that had been absent for millenia, but the phrase it carried was that "wisdom shall rise again." Maybe this time it would be wisdom to avoid the foolish use of technology, and instead use technology wisely.
That stance also appeared in his other original S19 novel, Android Planet. In that novel, the Copreons forged the androids as a means to an end (mechanical servants to cater to their creators' needs) but were made too smart). Yet far from becoming rabidly anti-technological after the andoids pushed the humans out, the Copreons kept most of their technology (sans androids, of course) and rebuilt elsewhere -- until the balance-altering Alphans entered the picture and disrupted the delicate balance between the two sides.
In the end, the Copreons couldn't see past their own noses, and made foolish decisions which eventually drove them to destruction at android (and to some degree, Alphan) hands. The Megarons, on the other hand, were given a new lease, having undergone a startling transformation under the Alphans' influence -- intentional and unintentional. Caster was waking up from a long, drug-induced "sleep" of sorts, and the Outfarers, after having suffered two nightmarish attacks, would find new reasons to hope. Megaron's fate was by no means certain, but for the first time, there was hope. While Alpha suffered the loss of one person, it gained a new resident, and some additional hope of its own in the form of new seeds -- and some powerful lessons.
As an aside, I never really got around to ranking either Android Planet and Rogue Planet, so I'll do that here. I liked both stories, for generally different reasons, but said I'd need "a week before deciding if one actually edged the other, though...." After a week (and before I read Phoenix today), I realized that I liked Android Planet better than Rogue Planet. Although Android Planet was a somewhat more straight-forward story than Rogue Planet, the whole dominating psychic forces thing of Rogue Planet is a theme that never particularly appealed to me much (Y1, Y2, or elsewhere), though Tubb carried it out very well. And though Tubb did well with putting the science in science fiction outside of the psychic stuff (and even trying to apply it *to* the psychic forces) -- a definite plus with me -- his characterizations were largely superficial, the Omphalos uncomfortably reminded me of Triton, even though the Omphalos was handled better, and the ending was a tad too abrupt (what happened to "denouement?"). So, in the scheme of pluses and minuses, I give Android Planet a small edge over Rogue Planet.
Phoenix of Megaron, however, bested both of those novels.
So, of the original S19 novels reviewed the last four weeks:
Alien Seed........: --- (unread) Android Planet....: 3.0 Rogue Planet......: 2.5 Phoenix of Megaron: 4.0Yes, I really enjoyed this last novel that much!
Well, enough of Welle for now,
From: Paul Dorion (firstname.lastname@example.org) Date: [unknown] Subj: [unknown]
Late... again ...
Although I agree with David Welle that Pheonix of Megaron is a better novel than Android Planet, I must say that I find it less successful than Rogue Planet.
David explained in great details how there were parallels to be made between Alpha And Megaron, and I agree the novel was successful on this level (if you happen to like this plot device). I also agree that the main characters were treated well. As for the Rhoda character, I may have been impressed for her level-headedness (she sure seems to be a character that is able to think her way out of trouble and feel her way in life -- a person who lives with her heart and her brain on her sleeve -- , but I did not particularly feel for her, and the "romance" between her and Alan seemed more a plot point casually thrown in the novel than a genuine feeling between the two characters that came to grow as events unfolded.
A good point for Pheonix is how it describes the main computer of the Planet as a simple machine that follows the specific instructions of its programming. It is *not* a self-aware machine nor did it modify its instructions in any way. This is a far more realistic computer than the one described in The Infernal Machine, or Brian the Brain for example.
In my taste, Rankine as a writer is only able to show the events and thoughts "from the outside". I feel Tubb was more succesfull in describing the moods and thoughts of his characters. As of this, I did not feel as involved in the events of Phoenix... as in the ones described by Tubb in Rogue Planet. I also tended to be quickly bored with his description of scenery that could go on for whole paragraphs at times, and I feel he was not succesful enough in describing the action scenes.
I also came recently to understand that I am somewhat less satisfied with a story that deals mainly with aliens who are similar enough to humans as to draw interesting parallels with the human condition (something which is almost a trademark in Star Trek). This is probably why I am so impressed with Force of life, as it involves an alien entity which remains mysterious throughout the story as nobody on Alpha is able to communicate with it or understand its needs and motives. I have always felt that, in real life, the main problem upon meeting an extra-terrestrial entity would be being able to truly communicate, and I think this was adressed nicely in this episode, as in Rogue Planet. Other personal favorites from Y1 include Another Time Another Place, Last Sunset and Full Circle, while Journey to Where, Bringers of Wonder, The Seance Spectre and Immunity Syndrome are my favorites from Y2. Almost none of these stories is about aliens which would be more or less warped reflections of humans (and the only times that aliens are involved, telepathy is used as the method of cumminication). Now, I am aware this (being unsatisfied with too human-looking or human-sounding aliens) is a personal view and I also know that for many (the majority?), SF is first and foremost an original way of telling tales about the human condition rather than about an (more or less) alien point of view.
So my personal ranking of the Y1 original novels would be somewhat different from David :
Excellent : Rogue Planet
Fair/Good: Phoenix of Megaron
Yeech! : Alien Seed and Android Planet.
And now to Y2...
From: David Welle (email@example.com) Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 22:26:01 Subj: Re: Space1999: Phoenix of Megaron
A good point for Pheonix is how it describes the main computer of the Planet as a simple machine that follows the specific instructions of its programming. It is *not* a self-aware machine nor did it modify its instructions in any way.
You described why I liked that aspect better than I did in my own note!
This is a far more realistic computer than the one described in The Infernal Machine, or Brian the Brain for example.
I still liked both for the contrasts, as well as Brian the Brain for the humorous elements. In fact, quite a few S19 episodes involved computers or androids of some sort or another (and don't forget to through in Main Computer as well), and I think they all took a different look at the basic ideas.
Yes, though, more computers would be the less "intelligent" type like that on Megaron: "artificial intelligence" (AI) is much harder to create than most had thought it would be.
In my taste, Rankine as a writer is only able to show the events and thoughts "from the outside". I feel Tubb was more succesfull in describing the moods and thoughts of his characters.
Oh, wow, I thought completely the opposite of them! I thought Tubb did only a marginal job of characterizations, while Rankine did very well.
Tubb seemed to fit the Y1 "mood" more, in a very general sense, I suppose; while Rankine's fit as sort of a mixture of Y1 and Y2. That's probably an oversimplification, though....
I also tended to be quickly bored with his description of scenery that could go on for whole paragraphs at times, and I feel he was not succesful enough in describing the action scenes.
Hmm, I liked the descriptiveness. Yes, I do see it went on for a more than usual length, but he did it so well, and it fit so well, that it worked for me.
I also came recently to understand that I am somewhat less satisfied with a story that deals mainly with aliens who are similar enough to humans as to draw interesting parallels with the human condition
I like both angles, but I suppose I have a soft spot for stories with parallels, if well done (and I thought Rankine did it well in Phoenix of Megaron), while I never cared much for the strange psychic force thing, even in Y2. Still, I did loved episodes like "Guardian of Piri" too. We don't even know what the original (organic) Pirians looked like, and what happened to them, and the latter is a fascinating enigma that can prompt a lot of speculation.
(something which is almost a trademark in Star Trek).
I wonder why I've gotten so tired of the Star Trek universe in the last few years. Too much of the same thing, IMO, and far too much technobabble, probably (*despite* my liking the science part of science fiction as much as the fiction part, ST's stopped sounding like a science, however fictional, sometime midway through ST:TNG, I think). Other reasons, too, I suppose, especially Babylon 5.
This is probably why I am so impressed with Force of life, as it involves an alien entity which remains mysterious throughout the story as nobody on Alpha is able to communicate with it or understand its needs and motives.
Yes, that was a plus; but what really spoiled this one for me was the way people acted not making a lot of sense, and some of the dialog (like the "birth of a star" line). Those troubles proved too much too ignore or explain away, and too distracting for me.
I have always felt that, in real life, the main problem upon meeting an extra-terrestrial entity would be being able to truly communicate, and I think this was adressed nicely in this episode, as in Rogue Planet.
Yes, that would be the major problem, and it was the interesting element (the *inability* to communication) of "Force of Life." Other than that and a couple other examples, S19 was generally like most science fiction television series in that it glossed over the language problem.
Rogue Planet had its strengths, too, including what you mentioned; but the story, and especially the characters, around it didn't catch me as much.
Now, I am aware this (being unsatisfied with too human-looking or human-sounding aliens) is a personal view and I also know that for many (the majority?), SF is first and foremost an original way of telling tales about the human condition rather than about an (more or less) alien point of view.
That's probably why I find science fiction so fascinating: it can say a lot of things about a lot of different things, in a lot of different ways. I'm not picky about whether something is "hard" or "soft" science fiction, character-based, or even "space opera," as long as they're good; whereas I don't go much for horror.
So my personal ranking of the Y1 original novels would be somewhat different from David :
I find it fascinating to read the varying opinions. It'll be interesting to catch up with "Alien Seed," considering the generally negative reviews it got around here.
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