[Space: 1999 Metaforms]

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

by David Welle

"One Moment of Humanity"

Review/Analysis (Spoiler-Free)

I was not sure what to expect at this point in the Year Two Omnibus. Now past my favorite and one of my least favorites, to an episode that registers as sufficiently enjoyable but lacking in some ways, one of the weaker entries of the season.

I always liked the interplay of characters, including the presence of the geologist Dave Reilly, the "Irish Cowboy" as described, and his rather clumsy attempts at getting Maya's attention.

Still, with Maya stuck with the wretched "Red is death! Red is death!" line, seeing a little image of her humanoid form in the rock form, and away from her character, some other elements of irritation, I was not sure what was going to be the case in the new novelization. Actually, I had completely forgotten the earlier novelization, but as usual, I got the copy of it (in #6, The Edge of the Infinite) for some comparisons.

It is here that a first contrast is found. The original ATG novelization, at the start of Edge, has a separate log entry from Helena, setting the scene of a Moon hurtling towards the edge of the galaxy, with nothing but emptiness beyond until the next galaxy, and that they have slim hope of reaching orbit of a planet, and are otherwise trying to gather the resources they need.

This is a scene-setter for the original #6 novelization, and fitting with its title, but obviously has no place in the Omnibus. Instead, though, I have already gotten an increased sense of the resource worries throughout, if not this particular dilemma -- at least not yet. Furthermore, the Omnibus had an added extended phrase regarding the need for mineral supplies for survival.

Some phrases are dropped, such as describing Alan as Australian, since ATG in the Omnibus is not at the start of a novelization like it was decades ago. Also, though not entirely related to this point, I noticed some other redundant phrasings removed, such as describing Tony as "Security Chief" twice in a paragraph. Having more time, or another chance to revisit the text, can be helpful.

Interestingly, I had forgotten the earlier version had heavier gravity described for the planet, which the Omnibus retains. Makes it seem even more of a "let's find the resource and get out of here." Both novelizations make it clear it is a world that is only tolerable for short stretches.

Speaking of resources, the Omnibus again flips the resource in question from "milgonite" over to the familiar S19 "tiranium" instead. Now, I never minded that Alpha may need multiple materials to survive, but I also don't object to the increased consistency either.

A minor but welcome change is dumping the "beautifully" from "Coolly, deliberately, and beautifully she activated the geoscanner...." Maybe if this was from Tony's POV at some point...? It is not, however, so simply coolly and deliberately is better here. Also, "uncriticizable" to "above reproach" is another minor but welcome improvement within the same paragraph. Several more follow in subsequent paragraphs as Reilly tries to attract Maya's attention and Tony reacts. All smooth the earlier overblown statements into a better version.

I like how "Koenig smiled at her [Helena] disarmingly" to "He smiled painfully at her" -- a reminder of the planet's gravity.

Random comments: The term "petroscope" (both versions) is rather interesting.

Tony is rendered insensate and seemingly somewhere between life and death, while the story takes the computer's voiced messages down a notch in contrast, from "indifferent" to "inane" now. Reilly, finally gathering there's something between Maya and Tony, offers her a statement of sympathy, and here too, there's a minor improvement eliminating a phrase that was seemingly unnecessary.

Here, the novels cut somewhat more to the chase of Maya trying to communicate with the main rock (back on the surface) directly after its fragment's assault against Tony (in the Eagle). Gone is all mention of the fluid seen in the episode, except for a brief mention earlier. That the rock, already known to be living, did need fluid to survive seems like a key point, but at the same time, it is made clear in later plot points as the rock's actions escalate. It also does eliminate the episode's Other improvements in character descriptions follow, including toning down the overblown "rage" of Tony to "anger" as Reilly tries coming onto Maya.

With "The Metamorph" it was over my favorite episode, "The Exiles" wondering how the re-ordering of this novelization over the prior would work, and "One Moment of Humanity" (OMOH) wondering what the novelization would do with one of my least favorite second season episodes. It isn't my least favorite of Y2 (that is "Catacombs of the Moon"), but among the lower five. I still like many elements and scenes of the episode; but overall, it just doesn't work as well as most. I'll end up getting into that more as I go along in this review of the Omnibus version of the episode.

Immediately, it gets into the resource problem, this time again with the rare tiranium needed by a number of systems. Alphans get a respite, and it is stated that social events start reasserting themselves, something I've long figured would happen after awhile, among other changes, or many Alphans would soon be in severe depression. Thus, I've never had much problem with the change of tone, even though I've also long felt it needed more transitional signs.

Actually, this initial part was already in the original novelization, apparently unchanged; but that was nearly a third of the way through those 1970's versions, and this is the start of the third episode. I think it works in either location, though I'm not thoroughly re-reading the originals. What does get a bit compressed is a reference to having seen every movie in the library a dozen times already. Later in Y2 (years into the journey), maybe; but in the revision, it seems a bit hyperbolic, but perhaps that is all it really is (a simile lacking the "seems like..."). On the other hand, the revision is not listing dates, which leaves the reader free to assume Y1 occurred in a longer timeframe and that the Alphans are indeed that many more years into the journey. I like that, actually (assuming what I'm seeing so far holds).

What I wondered if perhaps a little compressed too is Helena "half expecting an announcement of an engagement before long" between Tony and Maya. In "The Exiles" novelization (prior chapter in the Omnibus), Helena is acting a subtle go-between to make Tony aware that Maya wouldn't mind a pass from him. Yet the prior chapter, as indicated in this reviewer's earlier analysis, did a better job setting up this relationship than the similarly-early scene in the original novelizations. So... this lack of changed text in an episode moved back earlier actually does work better I first thought (and it does say only "half expecting...").

Early on, when systems start going haywire, it is Tony, Sandra, and Alan who are in Command Center. Curiously, it was Yasko instead of Sandra in the earlier version. Probably just as well it is Sandra here, because this story is now moved back to its production order, before Yasko appeared in the episodes. This is just an observation; I'm not sure if that is the reason. It may be interesting to see how Yasko is introduced in the Omnibus.

In the scene were Zamara arrives, the novels (both versions) clearly indicate the Alphans are conscious while they are immobilized -- something I wondered about from time to time.

Also noticeably different in the novels is that when they go immobile, Tony doesn't end up supporting Helena (or both each other?). In the episode, Zamara is wandering among each Alphan, peering at Koenig (perhaps discerning he is the leader), noticing Maya's alien appearance, and that Tony and Helena are in contact. When she soon chooses the latter two, and given events later on, I assumed she was probably figuring them to perhaps be a couple. When she comes across Othello, that just seemed to add up to a way of trying to provoke the presumed couple.

In the novels, those observations are absent, making it somewhat less clear why Zamara chooses Tony and Helena to come with her to Vega. It is, though, still easy to assume Zamara doesn't want to wrangle with the leader and she rejects Koenig.

Still, having it as a mystery why Zamara makes her choices still works, and actually adds a little to the scene where she discovers Othello and thinks there is a possibility.

The Omnibus adds a great line, via Tony's thoughts: Here we go again. He and Helena were just kidnapped by the Exiles, and now they're being dragged away together again. Given the reordering in the Omnibus, this is a great line to have to acknowledge the coincidence. I like how he finds Maya's eyes and sort of rolls his eyes, as if implying (my interpretation): Hey, this wasn't my idea.

Small detail, but I noticed a few other changed wordings along the way. "Radio" is replaced with "communication system" and some references to "girl" (regarding Zamara at least) with "woman" instead. These and other little tweaks work well. Unchanged is how Zamara's smile is "coldly artificial" -- nice foreshadowing.

Tony's got a pretty good interpretation of Zamara so far, though obviously not the full picture yet, and like in the episode, it is Helena that is given a cue. A presumed android warns her, thus setting up that fun scene where Helena is complementing horrible-tasting food to the confusion of Tony. This reproduced well onto the page.

It is ironic that Helena thinks the inhabitants (which she still understandably believes are those like Zamara and Zarl) carefully "controlled the population growth." Regardless of how she's lacking key facts here, it does add consistency, of observing situations seemingly similar to Alpha.

Plus the novelizations get to point out, via Helena's perception, during the real humans' explanation of past events, that Zarl, despite being an android, perhaps does show a bit more than just mimicry. This is a clue of something that becomes critical later. (It still works on screen without this clue, but the early clue here is still good). There is at least another clue in the novels.

Curiously, the novelizations describe the computer in terms that sound not unlike Psyche, in physical form though not its energy source: "liquid chemical circuitry was a staggering accomplishment." Perhaps coincidental, or perhaps a case of seeming partial inter-culture consistency. (In the episode, Maya is later checking out wire-based tech instead.)

From here, though, we reach one of the extended scenes that I found somewhat disappointing in the episode.

The first one is on the Moonbase copy. It is a clever idea by the original script writer; yet at the same time comes out a little disjointed on screen. Perhaps I lacked a clear sense of timing, which in turn makes Tony's and Helena's actions seeming to reach desperation quickly. The novelization seems to add a little more clarity, even suggesting "anticipation of future loneliness" is quickly starting to take a toll. In fact, this more effectively echoes (in my mind anyway) what John started going through in "Guardian of Piri" when he was abandoned on Alpha.

Also of a bit of note is that he thinks of Maya, but the written language is toned down from "his beloved Psychon" to simply ending the sentence earlier. Given the story is moved "back" to earlier in the timeline, this is a small but good move, that even if Helena is seeing potential sparks, it hasn't progressed that far yet (or at least that is how it looked to me).

I always liked the next scene, of Zamara being discovered in Recreation Centre and John, Alan, and Maya confronting her. Zamara is checking for information on what may motivate humans into the reactions she wants to learn from. Koenig's ploy to get Maya to Vega, and how it embarrasses Maya -- but maybe because while there is something starting between her and Tony, Koenig is simply saying whatever it takes to fool Zamara.

Once there, the novels indicate that Zamara is thinking too much of the likelihood of success with the Vegans trying to interfering with John and Helena's relationship to notice Maya slipping away. Maybe Zamara only brought Maya as a backup ploy, in case the first try doesn't succeed, especially after seeing Helena and John embrace and her whisper to him after his arrival. Regardless, nice to see Michael Butterworth realized that little gap and sought to fill it, rather than the episode leaving it up to the viewer to assume something like that.

Then we reach the key scene. This is where the episode fell rather flat -- or worse -- in my opinion. It is clearly meant to be an awkward, just flat out wrong, dance, of course. Helena is being coerced in order to coerce John into a very hostile response that he has to try holding back. The problem is that while this much does get conveyed, the whole scene feels terribly awkward on screen for other reasons, which I cannot entirely define.

Maybe it is the music, featuring what I consider the worst track of Y2. I like and enjoy most of the Y2 soundtrack, especially "The Metamorph" suite but also some others, even while much of the Y1 soundtrack is so much more epic. This track grates, though. The Vegans are supposed to be setting up a falsely-sensual scene that grates on John, but the music itself fails to set that up (just my opinion of course), and instead grates on the viewer.

Maybe it is the choreography too, which is perhaps a curious thought because probably neither character (Zarl or Helena) danced such a song before. Still, it visually grates for some reason I cannot identify.

This scene works far better in writing. It is also kept more "brief" in some senses too: maybe while some time is passing for the characters, the writer keeps focus on the main points. It conveys its character and plot points more efficiently and effectively at the same time in this case, while also adding some more depths to the eponymous metaphorical change within Zarl that dooms his fellow androids and himself, freeing the real human Vegans. The point was clear and poignant in the episode, but comes across even more in the novelizations.

The novelization ends on a little interchange between John and Helena over recent events. Also, the newer novelization eliminates what I thought was a flawed detail of the original novelization, namely of an Eagle already arriving to pick them up.

Actually, however, there were few changes I noticed different compared to the original novelizations, mostly to alter brief bits of inter-episode bridging, and some other subtle changes. However, light and subtle is good too, and that does smooth over a few previously-noticeable flaws. Note that the reviewer did not do a through re-read of the earlier version, so some other changes may have been missed. Regardless, though, the novelizations actually greatly improve on one of the episodes that was weaker though not without merit. Here, I just enjoyed it more without feeling unclear timing or just annoyed by two entire scenes.

Important Addenda

After later posting a summary of this review at the Powys forum, the Powys editor-in-chief, Mateo Latosa, pointed out something. I had missed a key change point. Years ago, I made an assumption (or interpretation) that the Vegan motivation was not just in seeing violence, but in witnessing and trying to (re-)create its underpinnings. My own assumption had me missing a change in the Omnibus. As pointed out, words of "can't" or similar were changed to "won't" or similar in the Omnibus -- and this eliminates something which was hurting the episode as well.

After all, the Vegans were already draining life support from Moonbase and once the Vegans started that, could have let the Alphans die. In my opinion, it now seems clear, in the revisions, that the Vegans wanted to grasp the emotional underpinnings of hate, feeling that was an emotion of strength. However, Zarl absorbed understanding of that but also love, and the latter, with Helena pressing the point, won out.

So this reviewer admits this key oversight.

In more closely analyzing this, I also noticed that a lot of now-anachronistic references were "added" (probably due to not having design details) by the original novelization, such as "cassettes" and "microtape" made of "celluoid" -- instead of the disks that in the episode resembled mini compact disks, years before such were seen in real life, as far as I know. I've long appreciated this design element, seen in at least two episodes, and am glad to see the Omnibus restoring this then-forward-thinking technology which happens to look rather familiar to us now!

(Note: Link to next chapter -- "All That Glisters" -- will probably appear here at a later point.)

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

M-05/24/10:  finished
A-05/31/10:  minorevs
F-06/04/10:  addendum