[Space: 1999 Metaforms]

Review and Analysis of
Space: 1999 Year Two
(The Y2 Omnibus)

by David Welle

"The Metamorph"

Review (Spoiler-Free)

Well, I think I have to say right up front that the televised episode is not only my favorite of the series, but really does stand as my favorite episode in science fiction. I have reviewed the episode at length elsewhere so I'll refrain here.

Oftentimes, seeing a good movie and then reading the novel(ization), the novel is richer, adding more depth. With favorites, though, the novel(ization) can be hard-pressed rising all the way up to the bar the filmed material set. It often adds some richness in spots but in others I'm left preferring the filmed version, but still enjoy the novelization.

I'm familiar with this effect, so I was expecting similar of this novelization, and in fact, it did work out this way too, that this novelization did not surpass the episode overall, but that it still did in spots while not elsewhere, but nonetheless stands alongside as a worthy and enjoyable supplement.

In characterization, plot, and theme, Michael Butterworth clearly grasped the elements from Johnny Byrne's script (teleplay) and knew how to work with them to make a strong novelization, not clearly not just churning out a simple rewrite into novel form, but going into further depth, trying to add more detail in character, plot, and theme. Most of the time he succeeds, I think.

In this revised novelization, he also "corrects" many "factual errors" the original (understandibly) had due to having to work off non-final scripts rather than the final filmed material. The novelization still varies in some aspects from the filmed material, but that is normal for a novelization, in attempts to make further expansion points that could not be done in a teleplay, or for other reasons, so that was not necessarily a problem for me (though in a few cases, the divergence does disappoint rather than enhance).

Also, in working with Powys Media, the publisher of this revised novelization and a number of other Space: 1999 original novels, there are inserted details referring to two of these other works, and in both cases I noticed in "The Metamorph," they very neatly take up open ends to use as expansion points, inserting details that fit the tone and placement in the novelization of this particular episode, in a clear attempt to build additional bridging material beyond the author's early attempts in the earlier version.

Curiously, while the original "Metamorph" novelization ended with an attempt to make an inter-episode bridge forward to a subsequent episode of the season. While I recall from my initial read that I appreciated the attempt, I also recall how hasty it felt. Thankfully, that bridge was torn down in this revision, replaced with wrapping up some loose character ends and briefly reprising aspects of the first season as well.

I was already aware Powys wished that the Omnibus reorder episodes according the order suggested by the episodes themselves, and I'm already seeing a positive sign here. It should be interesting to continue this review into subsequent episode.

Overall, I think the changes to this episode's revised novelization from the original novelization are positive. Clarifications were made, some consistency changes, and various tweaks to dialogue or descriptions were made. What tie-ins were kept or added seem logical, and what was removed, though a good effort under what seems to have been time pressure, was not something I would miss if I hadn't been doing a more detailed review. Of course, this is just the first chapter, so it's a little soon to judge overall; but it is a good start, in my opinion.

After this point, a more detailed analysis, with what could be considered some mild spoilers. Please read the Reviewer's Introduction for more detail on what that means in this context, as it is a little different than in most of my analyses. If you don't want these spoilers for this chapter, you can continue on to the review of the next chapter, to continue on the spoiler-free review. Otherwise, continue on to....

Detailed Analysis with Mild Spoilers

First off, I definitely appreciated the correction of some character names to the familiar ones, though I understand quite well why the original version of the novelization had a few unfamiliar names: the author, Michael Butterworth, did not have the final names in hand when he was writing! Such is the nature of writing concurrent with or ahead of filming when there are tight deadlines (see also the author's Foreward :)). Though mildly puzzling when I first read the original novelizations (written in the 1970's but read by me in the mid-1990's), I gathered who was being referred to and read on. Now, it is much smoother. Of course, this had to get corrected once a revision was going to happen, but I still felt compelled to mention it.

There's the titanium/tiranium bit here, but I'll say simply that I agree with using the latter term in the novelization. Plus listing more compounds than just elements, which makes sense too. Yes, there are a some such details different than the episode, but I'm willing to go along with it, and sometimes understand why it is being done, and even like it better that way, as is often the case with novelizations being able to add more detail.

Also, the what's "at stake" is more clearly set up by some of the changes, perhaps improving a bit on this point from the episode.

Some added dialogue describing the planet, that is actually nicely done and (intentionally) amusing too. There are a number of dialogue additions and differences, but again, I expect (and often want) such out of a novelization anyway.

Interesting added character touch as Fraser and Torens try to flee the ball of light, and the former simply says something encouraging to the latter even in the face of hopelessness, until Fraser too gets caught up in the hopeless feeling.

Where the earlier novelization made a vague reference to Koenig's past at this point, the revised novelization included a couple concrete details of his past, as revealed in both a Y1 episode and a Y2 episode. There is another continuity point about added laser batteries too.

Effective introduction of Mentor, though I still find it curious that most of his characteristics are mentioned but still nothing of one of the most distinguishing Psychon characteristics! Not a problem, of course, as it is mentioned later in regard to Maya, though. What did get added at this point, though, was very subtle but fun reference: "There was something familiar... about his face, but Koenig suppressed the feeling of recognition. This was an alien." Hmm, I think this is a funny but perfectly done subtle reference to a Y1 episode! :)

Koenig's wariness is, as in the episode, very well portrayed.

Koenig's first sight of Maya as a lioness is early (on screen), instead of later as I took the episode to portray. It is sort of a curiosity, but again, episode vs. novelization. It is sort of funny how in the latter, Verdeschi thinks there is something different about the animal. Indeed.

Tony speaks his mistrust aloud in the novel, though, whereas it is conveyed in body language on screen and could have been "translated" as such. Leaves me wondering if Mentor heard this less subtle thing, as it does not write if Tony whispered this line.

However, after Mentor does recognize the mistrust (same as in the episode) and Tony comments on past betrayals, I like the bridging reference to events in one of the Powys original novels. See also Spoiler Note #1 later.

Once communication has ceased, Maya reverts. Description of her eliminates the incorrect "brunette" reference of the original novelization. It mentions she had "complete mastery" over the art of molecular transformation. I actually rather like that the episode does not imply such so strongly, leaving it open that maybe she improves her skills later. Then again, maybe I read too much into that statement. I'll have to see again when I review later chapters.

There is also the curious statement of her being "the last descendant of their race." What about the ships discussed in a later episode? Or is this a statement in "omniscient narrator" mode? Or is it that these Psychons may think she's the last descendent? It left me somewhat puzzled. (The original version of the novel had the same statement.)

The inner look at Mentor's thoughts is a nice, more detailed supplement to that brief troubled look he sometimes got when carrying out his deeds. The narrator's thoughts about being able to destroy the universe still make no sense to me, unfortunately. A fair amount of 1970's and earlier fiction, in my opinion, were a little cavalier with the word "universe" where "galaxy" or sometimes even simply "star system" or "stellar neighborhood" felt like more the correct scale. Mentor nonetheless has at his hand (or that he could tap mentally as implied by the novelization) an immense amount of power over his planet and nearby space.

Also nicely expanded on is the father-daughter relationship portrayed, the light-hearted sides of both, and his own thoughts about what he is hiding from her.

The novelization makes clear what an astute viewer already assumed of the episode, that the approaching Alphans were not sure of the greeting they'd get on planet.

The novel (both versions) has Maya in the Grove of Psyche and in sight of the Commander when communicating from the Eagle, which is different than the episode but still works well when he meets Maya/lioness later.

Vivid descriptions of the effects of trying to escape Mentor's ship. Just as "visual" in its own way as the episode.

Different detail in how Mentor gives away more of a hint of his plan when he shows Picard and Fraser being strapped into Psyche's systems, to Koenig and the others while they are still on board Eagle 4 after they were captured. This is unlike the episode where Fraser and Picard are only seen (by those on Eagle 4) being brought into the Grove. In both cases, Fraser breaks away to shout a warning to the grounded Eagle 4. Unfortunately, in the novelizations, this warning feels much more superfluous. Why would his warning add anything more after what the Alphans saw on their screen?

The novelization made something clear that I had assumed from the episode, that Fraser ends up saving himself, because in ending up stunned unconscious, he is not strapped into Psyche right then -- that Psyche apparently needs its victims conscious, horribly enough.

That Mentor seems somewhat troubled by what he's doing yet does it and still smiles at the results is well-drawn in the novelization, even more than in the epiosde. Nicely done. Yikes, and his deceptive comment to Maya about Torens -- "Look... he's tired" -- is striking, sickening really.

I've commented in various other places that this seems to be most of the last of his honor and even decency: that while most of him has been devolving into one of the worst of the Psychons while trying to save their planet, that he's protecting his daughter from that psychotic, murderous part of himself, so that she could grow into the best of Psychons. Both the novelization and the episode make that duality of Mentor and resulting contrast between him and Maya very clear, even while they still feel very much like father and daughter.

Helena picks up enough tiranium "to repair the life support systems, and last Moonbase Alpha for a day or two." I like the focus on getting the supply even given the circumstances (which matches the episode), but the "day or two" seems too low a time unit, implying that they'll be in some sort of trouble already on return from Psychon.

The description of the beings, already among the more varied as seen in the episode, is even more varied in the novel. Yet they all shared that same zombie-like look and movement.

Nice touch, in both versions of the novel, about Sandra struggling to get any readings off Psychon, but trying also to reassure Tony that Annette Fraser is not going to crack up, all while feeling strain herself. Good hint to her recent loss of Paul?

The first direct meeting of John and Maya is, as always, memorable. The only tiny quibble here in the novel is John's line of "I'm not getting into contact with one of those again." It just feels tacked on. In the new novelization, the writing of Maya's verbal statement about the force field has an added ellipsis, to match the pacing in which Catherine Schell delivered the line.

On various points, many of some more significance than the last point, it is interesting to note the various details (not all listed here by any means) that were adjusted to better fit the episode but the others that were left different to let the novelization, as most do, be somewhat different than the visual story, to have more room to expand on other points.

Koenig seems even more assessing as Maya brings him to Mentor and Psyche and he looks around but also takes note of Mentor and Maya's brief conversation. Even from the episode, I figured he did, but this is nicely drawn as Koenig shrewdly (or simply instinctively) taking all the details he can, looking for whatever gets him and his people out of crisis.

Oh, and I got a chuckle out of the written " 'hair-dryer' hoods" reference. It is what they look like, and Koenig could have drawn the comparison, and it acknowledges it directly and succinctly. :-)

When Koenig starts ordering Verdeschi to evacuate Alpha, I liked how the revised novel added this sentence, about how the description of the evacuation struck Tony: "This wasn't exactly standard operating procedure for Operation Exodus..." Though it was clear from the episode that Tony found something odd about it (this being before Directive Four is issued), I like this clear statement here.

Both forms of the novel also had a reference to Tony wishing Victor were around for counsel. Nice bridging bit that existed all the way back to the 1970's.

Also regarding this scene, see Spoiler Note #2.

The updated novel put in a reference to Psychon being very unstable when Verdeschi and Petrov discussed carrying out Directive Four. That solves something that bugged me about the episode, where I had reached the same conclusion as well. Destroying a planet seemed out of Alpha's league, even after possible "lessons" of Breakaway, until I one day realized it was not fully about the strength of the attack but the weakness of the target: Psychon was already on the verge of falling apart. Still, to see it in writing in this version is good.

Excellent additions from Maya's POV as she and Mentor realize the deception, including more thoughts illustrating her nagging doubts yet overall acceptance of her father's words all these years.

The main confrontation between Koenig and Maya, is, as always, very strong, and the novelization views much of it from Maya's confused POV. It further details just how she was convinced to check the Alphan's story, how, as I and other fans have pointed out, that this scene is one of Maya's transformations as well, not physical, but mental and emotional.

"While father and daughter looked at each other in a moment of mortification." Excellent line.

The final confrontation of Koenig and Mentor and Maya and Mentor was mostly strong, except for one thing.... Something is lost in how Maya was removed from the scene differently, the novel lacking a tragic but strong point from the episode: her just staring, in shock, tears streaming from her eyes, as everything she knew was in flames.

The last scene of this chapter is largely re-written compared to the earlier version of the novelization. What the original hinted at made no sense to me, like what was coming was virtually inside in Psychon's star system. It felt like too strong an inter- episode bridging attempt even on first reading. Instead, that is removed, and there is some nice psychological moments regarding how Maya might adapt, Bill wanting to return to his wife, how much of a pounding Alpha took again -- and how it had taken so many hits over the last year. How they all were "unwilling pioneers" -- well put.

Overall, I found this a very satisfying novelization. On the whole, it was mostly as strong as the episode, added a number of points, but had a few detracting points too. Still can't quite beat the episode (but as I said, it is my favorite :-), but it nonetheless does a solid job and does add more depth in places as well.

That this chapter does bridge a few times to Y1 (sometimes from the original novelization and sometimes new in the revised), and to two Y1-timeframe Powys Media novels (see Spoilers below if you wish) is very good too.

To skip spoilers regarding connections to other Powys Media novels, skip the remainder of this page after this paragraph. A link to the review/analysis of the next chapter, "The Exiles" will eventually appear at this point. Otherwise, click here to return to the Y2 Omnibus Intro page or click here to view the Powys review page.


Warning: These are spoilers to events in other Powys Media novels, namely Survival and The Forsaken. They are brief but somewhat stronger spoilers, referring to key facts in those novels. If you have not read them, I would strongly suggest refraining from reading the following part of the review.


Spoiler Notes:

  1. Tony's comment to Mentor about past betrayals, in the episode and the first novelization, left an open end as to what. The revised novelization picked up that end in a fine way, with a reference to events of one of the Powys novels (Survival), regarding Leira and Remer, in which Tony experienced some of the events firsthand. The reference is kept brief but effective, fitting in nicely as recall from Tony's POV of something that explains his reaction at the time with more immediate memory rather than just a general reference that is understandible if vague. Nicely done.
  2. That the revised novelization explains the coded Directives were written after events at Pyxidea (in the Powys novel The Forsaken) was an excellent addition, perfectly taking up an open end, namely of what in particular prompted addition of these directives.

Next: Review of "The Exiles"

[Eagle 44] Review of Y2 Omnibus (Intro page)

R-04/08/10:  firstwri
F-04/09/10:  restruct
M-04/12/10:  addition (paragraph starting: "After this point")