Space: 1999
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"The Seance Spectre"

From: South Central ( Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 07:28:44 -0800 (PST) Subj: Space1999: Episode by Episode

THIS WEEK: The Seance Spectre
From: Monday, October 26
TO: Sunday, November 1
BTW: It IS a habitable planet!

From: Floyd Resler ( Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 12:34:44 -0500 Subj: Space1999: The Seance Spectre

This remains one of my favorite episodes of either year. I, of course, loved the Eagle crash. And the return of the damaged Eagle was very well done. Overall, a very entertaining and well-done episode.

From: Paul Dorion ( Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 20:41:54 -0800 Subj: Space1999: Space 1999: Seance Spectre

A view of Alphans at each other's throat, in a tale of betrayal and mutiny on an out of control moon in a collision course with a planet. Once again (such as in "Catacombs of the moon", "Seeds of destruction", and "Lambda Factor"), the story is about humans fighting themselves.

In an attempt to prevent the Alphans to have their hopes of finding a new home crushed by another failure (as it has happened too many times in the past), Koenig conducts their next survey in secrecy. Access to all relevant information is strictly limited to Command Center personnel.

Now, all through Y1 and Y2, we have seen the Alphan's command structure unravel bit by bit. After the events told in many episodes (from the early Y1 episodes such as "Earthbound" and "Missing Link", to later episodes in Y1 such as "Collision Course" and "Death's other dominion" or Y2 such as "Seeds of Destruction"), the Alphans as a community are coming to realize that something is terribly wrong with the current command structure and makes it unstable and unable to cope with some events. Different power struggles within (or outside) Alpha's command structure have happened, but it seems that in the aftermath of those events, proper lessons were not learned or, at least, corrective measures were not correctly implemented. Here, Koenig makes a big mistake assuming that temporary secrecy would be an adequate solution, as this decision causes despair in some members of the community.

This cloak of secrecy as the Moon comes near another planet cause Sanderson and his team to lose confidence in their commander. They feel betrayed and do not trust him or the other members of the command crew anymore, especially as they truly believe their vision (acquired during a seance) that this planet is indeed habitable and is perfect for colonization.

By the way, I have to say that I feel the whole seance aspect is probably the major flaw in the story. IMO it is not absolutely needed in the plot nor does it bring much to it. I feel the story would have been better without this aspect. I feel some Alphans have good enough reasons to challenge Koenig's leadership without needing an additional spooky motivation. The "vision" aspect was better used and more appropriate in the core of the "Catacombs of the moon" story. Anyway, it is a minor glitch in an otherwise very good story...

The conflict is displayed in many great scenes, one as Sanderson first invade the command center in the prologue, then in another scene as he confronts first Tony then Koenig after leaving the medical center. There is also conflict between Tony and Helena as how to define a proper "treatment" or course of action for the rebellous members.

By the way, I do not see all those scenes as gratuitous conflicts, but rather as different points of view hotly debated in a community while trying to figure the best course of action. Contrary to others on the list, I find such conflictual points of view on a given situation rather similar to what I encounter daily at the office. This seems realistic from my own experience.

Anyway, the command structure instability is mirrored in Sanderson's own instability as later on it becomes clear to his colleagues that he is losing little by little his grasp on reality and is becoming increasingly paranoid and delusional.

The special effects dept outdoes itself in the eagle sequence on the planet surface (great shots of an almost totally destroyed Eagle tearing itself apart from the planet surface as Carter brings it back to Alpha). It is also nice to see some hardware (such as the remote control for Eagles) seen in Y1 also used in Y2; great continuity).

As we see that the atmospheric integrity of the Eagle is compromised, I would have thought that lack of atmosphere would be the major problem (as the atmosphere inside the Eagle would leak outside the ship), not a specific lack of oxygen... Hence it was a little bit disappointing to learn that the main solution to the problem involved Maya's transforming into a plant ! This would indeed regenerate oxygen (from CO2), but probably not enough (and not fast enough) to be an effective countremeasure for the atmosphere leak...

Another minor flaw is the end of the second act, as it does not quite propel the story forward in a suspenseful way as the excellent prologue's, first act's and third act's endings do. But I am nitpicking here... :)

As the moon is found to be on a collision course with the planet inside the "weather belt" (whatever that is... ;) ), a desperate Koenig is forced to consider blasting a few remaining nuclear waste domes to divert te moon from its collision course (in Freiberger's rule in Y2, it would have been out of place to have another MUF such as Astheria making the planet disappear at the last moment! ;) ).

Another great scene occurs when Sanderson is confronted by his team in the travel tube. He has to grundginly acknowledge that he cannot and will not use dictatorship to command his colleagues. He also realizes that he must do on his own what he believes to be the good thing. The novel written by Michael Butterworth makes this very clear as the Sanderson character, "having tried all his life to live by his ideals, and wanted to provide a new and happy life for the Alphans" believes "Tony and Koenig to be fools", and acknowledges "in all likehood he would fail and be killed himself, for he knew now that it was an ironic fact of Life that the fools always won".

By the way, in the novel, the events of Seance Spectre occurs simultaneously as those seen in Devil's Planet, hence explaining why Helena, Maya, Carter and Tony are not those who leave Alpha seaching for the commander as he is marooned on Entra. In the novel, Tony is the main protagonist of Sanderson.

When the last Eagle is gone, it is discovered that Sanderson is not on board. At the same exact moment, Sanderson invades once again the command center and stun Koenig. By now, he is completly delusional and Maya is finally able to prevent him to kill Koenig, before he evades capture once again.

Time is running out, and Koenig and Maya have to set up the nuclear explosion. In a nail-biting fourth act, Sanderson shoot Maya's Eagle down then battles Koenig near the nuclear domes. The suspenseful scenes are greatly enhanced by the slow motion sequences on the moon surface (probably the best Moon surface combat sequence in the entire series) and the tense messages broadcasted back and forth from the Eagles in space as they try to keep track of what is going on on the surface. Sanderson falls to his death in one of the nuclear pits, and Koenig finally is able to board the Eagle and lift up mere moments before the explosion.

A suspenseful third script by Donald James who outshines even his previous efforts ("The Exiles" and the well-loved "Journey to Where"). I feel the greatest S1999 episodes include a thought-provoking main event, some great dialogues in well-acted scenes (in this instance mainly during conflict scenes) and and outstanding action-packed suspenseful climax. This episode can be enjoyed solely on its entertainment values, but afterwards I for one have felt compelled to analyse the events leading to the mutiny and wonder if, given the human nature and all that has happened since Breakaway, the whole mess could have been avoided.

Another good point is that the whole cast is there for the proceedings (even Sandra has the opportunity to show some backbone (pun intended) when she replies to Tony as he yells at her in the Eagle cockpit while she works in order to magnify the image of Sanderson lunal jeep on the moon surface).

Some people have complained about Sanderson's voice and accent in this episode. I have only seen it in french, but in the dubbing process, Sanderson's voice has probably improved since it matches its owner perfectly : deep, sturdy, strong and opiniated! ;)

Once again, Wadsworth'score is magnificent; it is almost unbelievable that the score was not written specifically for this episode, as it fits perfectly each scene's mood. The musical editor (Allan Willis ?) does probably it best work in the whole series: for example, the use of the action theme in the fourth act is probably the best time this particular theme is used in Y2 !

IMO, one of the best (if not the best) Y2 episode.

Paul :D

From: "B" ( Date: Mon, 26 Oct 1998 23:59:41 -0500 Subj: Space1999: Space 1999: Seance Spectre

A view of Alphans at each other's throat, in a tale of betrayal and mutiny on an out of control moon in a collision course with a planet. Once again (such as in "Catacombs of the moon", "Seeds of destruction", and "Lambda Factor"), the story is about humans fighting themselves.

Interesting analysis of the episode, I honestly don't remember this one, but it sounds as if it really does bear watching, I think the idea of a mutiny brewing on Alpha is quite plausible and perhaps unavoidable giving the stress they must be under.

By the way, in the novel, the events of Seance Spectre occurs simultaneously as those seen in Devil's Planet, hence explaining why Helena, Maya, Carter and Tony are not those who leave Alpha seaching for the commander as he is marooned on Entra. In the novel, Tony is the main protagonist of Sanderson.

That brought to mind my own thoughts on this, when the "spliced episode" movies came about years ago (DESTINATION MOONBASE ALPHA, SPACE PRINCESS,etc.) I wondered why they didn't merge DEVILS PLANET and DORZAK. Tony, Maya, Alan, and Helena were occupied with Dorzak while Frasier and Alibe had to run command center and rescue Koenig....

From: "Simon Morris" ( Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 18:13:22 -0000 Subj: Space1999: Seance Spectre

There is a similarity in theme between this episode and aspects of the EC Tubb novel EARTHFALL. Namely,a demonstration of the fact that there *is*some distrust of the command team in some quarters. In the novel,Tubb has Raoul Anoux and others plotting to take control of Alpha and establish their own dictatorship. In Donald James screenplay, a form of "green sickness" is responsible for Sanderson and his followers to question the nature of Koenig's leadership. The only thing is that in "Seance Spectrre" there is no evidence that Sanderson's concerns are shared by other Alphans(apart from his team)and it appears to be Sanderson's own delusions that are propelling his increasingly murderous state of mind.

I was initially suspicious of the premise that Koenig had decided to keep the presence of the approaching planet a secret. Why? After all,he has never done it before,I thought. But in hindsight its quite an intelligent action to take since I'm sure the cumulative effects of so many disappointments in the past would be quite unsettling to the average Alphan. I'm surprised that this sort of issue was not explored in other episodes.

Having said all that,I wasn't terribly impressed with Sanderson and his crowd sitting in a circle with him shouting ITS A HABITABLE PLANET etc etc. Seems pure phantasmagoria to me......also the poor security guards come off worse as usual when two of them(two!) get beaten up by Sanderson on his own. He doesn't seem to be a superman to me...are Alphan security guards bloody useless or(more likely)is it a bit of waek writing? There do seem to be some aspects of the episode that were better left out of it. Like Paul Dorion I didnt like the so-called "Seance" aspect of the scripts and couldnt see a lot of point in its inclusion.

A quite ingenious few scenes in the Eagle where Maya transforms into vegetation to boost the oxygen levels: I didn't believe it could possibly generate enough to sustain Maya and Koenig(or even just one of them)but I was prepared to suspend my disbelief. Also I hate to say it but the entire sequence of the Eagle crashing and then getting lifted by remote control back to Alpha etc etc smacks of padding. What did it really add to the episode other than yet another gratuitous Maya-transformation?(And an admittedly well done SFX sequence)

Ken Hutchison turns in a good performance I thought...a bit over the top perhaps but it seems to marry well with Sanderson's increasingly unbalanced character. What is interesting about the script and the performance is that there is an ambiguity about Sanderson's motives. He says he is doing what he's doing for the sake of all Alphans and there is no strong evidence to disprove this. So...until he actually hijacks Command Center and Maya at gunpoint I do have a lot of sympathy for the guy. From that point on,he's obviously a basically good man gone completely off the rails. Does anyone else on the List have a certain empathy with Sanderson or does everyone find him an utter bastard? He allows the others in his team to give themselves up which leads me to believe there is still a part of him that remains decent.....

"The John Koenig philosophy- if there are chips on the table,we're still in the game." "Right On"

I like the above lines from Helena and Koenig. they always stick in my mind and exemplify the Freiberger/Y2 approach that they can deal with anything that's thrown at them. I liked this approach throughout Y2 but I can understand those who did not.

The final showdown between Koenig and Sanderson is,I have to say,something we saw in BRINGERS OF WONDER and SPACE WARP etc and therefore nothing new. It is extremely well staged and very pacy but to me only shows how important the music score was to Y2 to prop up scenes that,in themselves,were not terribly original. I agree again with Paul Dorion that the music which accompanies the fight on the moon surface only enhanced the scenes and probably provided most of the excitement! I was a little disappointed that the episode ended with such a standard Y2 climax(ie fight). I'm sure an alternative version could have been written which maintained some of the sympathy that the viewer(well,me anyway)had with Sanderson up to a certain point.

Overall there is some good dialogue in the show-much of it from Sanderson with a performance to match... "....Or Maya won't be Maya any more!" (Nasty man....)The action sequences were well done but lacked any real originality at this point in the series and Wadsworth's score provided much of the pace.As usual!

Not a bad one overall. I just think so much more could have been done to build on it.

And now,if you'll excuse me.....South Wales is about to be flooded out again this evening and all the emergency services are on standby. I'm ambulance officer on call tonight and my pager has just gone off! Time to go swimming..........


From: "Anthony D." ( Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 17:20:22 -0800 (PST) Subj: Space1999: Seance Spectre


I don't have this episode on tape so I can't comment fully, just a quick point. It was a pretty good episode, but I didn't like the idea of blowing up the radiation domes *again* to move the Moon out of the planet's way. That was lame writing. I feel they did this too many times in Year Two (BofW was another episode). In Year One they would never think of doing that. Yes, they used explosives, etc. but I don't recall them blowing up the radiation domes in Year One.

Just a quick 2 cent comment!


From: "Ellen C. Lindow" ( Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 22:50:45 -0500 (EST) Subj: Re: Space1999: Seance Spectre

Yes, blowing the waste dumps -- again--was hokey. But on the whole, I liked this episode. One thing I didn't like was tossing Greg Sanderson down the pit. I agree with Simon, he was a very sympathetic character. If there'd been a bit of the megalomaniac, like Simmonds, he would have come off very differently. But you got the feeling that Greg was just a working stiff, good at his job, but overworked. Like a lot of us. And he just wacked out for a while.

But I didn't like them killing him. In fact, I frequently ignore that when writing fan fiction. He's 'way too good a character to kill off, and I've used him in several different stories. And I'll go on keeping him alive too. (Of course, I'm one of the die hards that won't believe that Victor, Paul or Kano are dead either until I see the bodies.)

From: David Acheson ( Date: Sun, 01 Nov 1998 11:37:05 EST Subj: Space1999: The Seance Spectre

Like the episode before it, THE SEANCE SPECTRE shines because its a story dealing with emotional conflict amongst the Alphans and does not concentrate on BEMs. I actually like this one a lot and will go out on a limb to say its my favourite episode of year two. I think this is due to the fact its a nice mix of emotional drama and the action adventure formula that Gerry Anderson and Fred Freiberger tried to sell the show as. This was one of the few times it actually worked.

The emotional conflict stems from an age old problem of space exploration. The feeling of loneliness and hopelessness after being out amongst nothing for extended periods of time. It would only be natural that the Alphans would develope "green sickness". Helena mentioned the surface explorations that took about a month at a time. That would do it for me and I believe after many years even the best trained would feel some effect. That is exactly what Sanderson has gone through and we see an everyday man develop grand illusions and turned into a cult leader. His little band of followers probably looked up to him in the beginning as a great astronaut and simply allowed themselves to get caught up in his dreams as they were basically in the same situation.

I am not sure where this astral projection would have started but it definitely was a product of Sanderson's inner determination to find a habitable world and end the emptiness he had to endure for so long. Unfortunately, like all crazed leaders, he reaches the point where his wishes takes over reality. He and his team use their astral projection to say just about anything encountered was a habitable planet. Koenig would come across as the enemy that must be destroyed because Koenig represents the reality that clashes with Sanderson's dream-like world.

What makes the story even more interesting is that not only is there conflict between Sanderson and Alpha at large but also conflict developing within his own group. Obviously, Sanderson had gone too far over into fantasyland but his followers, including girlfriend Eva, aren't yet as far gone. So they began to question Sanderson as things begin not to work as planned. Sanderson doesn't like that one bit.

Ken Hutchinson plays Sanderson rather over-the-top and has been criticized by some for it. I think its a rather neat performance myself. Not one of the series' best mind you but I can live with it. Does anyone know anything about this actor? One of my favourite all-time character actresses, Carolyn Seymour, plays Eva rather well even if its a small role. Eva is definitely torn between her loyalties to Koenig and Sanderson whom she both respects - and in Sanderson's case loves. It would have been neat to see Ms. Seymour reprise the character in future episodes but it is not to be. Since 1999 I have seen her appear in guest roles in many British and American sitcoms and drama series.

Martin Landau also put in a good Koenig here. Imagine being the leader of a base and then having to deal with a brewing mutiny. One has to reevaluate every step one takes and Koenig does this quite well.

There is even an homage to the series pilot in this entry. The disaster of September 13, 1999 is recreated to push the runaway moon away from the gas cloud and planet that it is on a collision course with. One question though: Were did this stockpile of nuclear waste come from? Was this leftovers from the BREAKAWAY event or is this a totally new stockpile? Unfortunately, the story never quite made this clear.

I credit the success of the story due to its writer Donald James who also wrote THE EXILES and JOURNEY TO WHERE which many have placed on their "better of" year two lists. He is definitely my favourite year two writer. Peter Medak returns to direct his second entry - his first being SPACE WARP. Mr. Medak certainly has a knack for filming high energy action but unlike his previous story he actually has a story behind the sequences. Peter Medak, I believe, has gone on to direct feature films.

Speaking of the action there are certainly some memorable scenes. The best being the crash of the Eagle on the alien planet and the return of the damaged Eagle back to Alpha. Along with the battle at the end of the episode and Derek Wadsworth's action score one is continuously kept at the edge of his seat until the end. This, mixed with a rather good psychological drama, is the second season that we should have seen more of.

Just a personal opinion.

David Acheson

From: Date: Mon, 02 Nov 1998 00:23:44 -0500 Subj: Space1999: Seance Spectre

This episode has a variety of interesting camera shots...very nicely done.

Why would the command staff look at that quasar-like image and think it might be a planet?

Nice touch Carter and Koenig chating in the eagle in the teaser.

I laughed out loud when Eva knocked unconscious Maya off the console.

Sanderson pulls panels out of the computer and causes sparks and there are no alarms or indications anywhere?

The onboard and main computers can't process at the same time?

The helmets got damaged? I don't think so.

Why didn't they use the oxygen from their suits?

Did Maya break her one hour rule staying a plant for the three hour trip, or do we assume she reverted back and forth during the trip back?

The moon is on a collision course and they waste time talking to the nuts locked in the travel tube?

Why did they wait until everyone left the base before going out and planting the charges...or at least blowing the cover off the domes?

As discussed in Bringers Of Wonder, where did these waste dumps come from? And Koenig does refere to them as the "old" nuclear silos. And why all this business on the surface? Where is the building where they were going to trigger in BOW? (Actually the answer to that is they do speak of a small triggering, so maybe they couldn't do a controlled explosion from that building.)

Well, there's another open helmet...this time on Sanderson.

Auhhhh...isn't little Maya cute? But in a nighty? Maybe they wanted to save on the cost of making a miniature Maya uniform that would be on screen for all of five seconds.

The former

From: Ariana ( Date: Mon, 2 Nov 1998 11:21:28 -0000 Subj: Re: Space1999: The Seance Spectre

I'm surprised everyone is going on about the Alphans blowing up nuclear waste in Y2 as if this was yet another sin of that unfortunate season. Wasn't that exactly what Paul and Co were trying to do in "Collision Course"? It's not as if these easily-explodable, course-altering nuclear dumps suddenly materialised in Y2.

Concerning post-ExE, something has just occurred to me. I could post the story I'm currently writing to the list -- that should keep us all busy for ages. I was thinking about serialising it, perhaps one <25K post per week?


From: "Anthony D." ( Date: Mon, 2 Nov 1998 09:20:24 -0800 (PST) Subj: Re: Space1999: The Seance Spectre


This brings up an interesting point that I think was mentioned before...the twin episodes idea.

This episode could be paired with Collision Course of Y1. The basic story is the same, the resolution far different. One possible point of discussion -- how did the elimination of the MUF in Y2 change the nature of the series and episodes?


From: Date: Tue, 03 Nov 1998 00:15:54 -0500 Subj: Re: Space1999: The Seance Spectre

I'm surprised everyone is going on about the Alphans blowing up nuclear waste in Y2 as if this was yet another sin of that unfortunate season. Wasn't that exactly what Paul and Co were trying to do in "Collision Course"?

No, if I remember correctly, they were going to mine space between the moon and the planet and that would cause a shock wave that would divert the moon from collision.

From: Ariana ( Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 13:56:13 -0000 Subj: Re: Space1999: The Seance Spectre

(Emma finally gets a break from Star Trek cons, Publisher training and writing and has a look at Online Alpha)

No, if I remember correctly, they were going to mine space between the moon and the planet and that would cause a shock wave that would divert the moon from collision.

At the risk of being pedantic (but then, this *is* me talking after all), here's a bit from the script of "Collision Course":

Paul and Victor are by the diagram.
PAUL: "How about this?"
PAUL: "We alter our own trajectory by setting up a blast on the other side of the Moon." <snip> "We recreate by design the accident that originally blasted us out of Earth's orbit."

Admittedly, the idea is then dissed in favour of Victor's mines, but my point was that the possibility was already there in Y1.

BTW, I've received quite a lot of encouragement to post that story of mine to the list. That should ensure enough Y2 content to last for ages. I want to get it finished or as close to finished as possible before posting it, so it won't be for another month or so. If anyone has any objections to the idea, let me know or discuss it on the list.


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