Space: 1999: Aftershock and Awe

Writer: Andrew E.C. Gaska

Artists: Gray Morrow, David Hueso, Miki

Archaia, $24.95, color, 160 pages

The press release with this GN describes Space: 1999 as "a classic series!" The introduction by John Kenneth Muir describes the show as "impressive" and "spectacular," saying further: "Innovative and exciting, Space: 1999 quickly became a cause celebre, a driving pop culture phenomenon of the mid-1970s."

Wow, I honestly don't remember any of that being remotely true. I'm old enough to have watched Space: 1999 when it first came out, and I thought it was boring.

I do remember a lot of hype preceding it, especially what was considered a casting coup: The husband-and-wife team of Barbara Bain and Martin Landau, late of Mission: Impossible. Charlton Comics thought enough of it to roll out seven issues of a comic-book series (featuring the talents of Nick Cuti, Joe Staton and some new guy named John Byrne) and eight issues of a magazine (with Byrne, Gray Morrow and others).

As a full-fledged nerd, I felt obliged to support Space: 1999 in 1975, especially after the ignominious ending of Star Trek a mere six years earlier. But it was tough slogging. It seemed like Bain and Landau (and co-star Nick Tate) felt that the way to impart the seriousness of the show was to never change expression. They were utterly without passion, to the point where nothing -- from minor problems to potential destruction -- seemed to move them. The F/X were considered the best England had ever done to that point, and they probably were -- but, honestly, folks, have you watched 1970s Dr. Who? "The best England had ever done" was a pretty low bar.

And then there was the sheer implausibility of the show. I may have only been in high school at the time, but even I knew that if an explosion was strong enough to rip the moon from its orbit, there was no way the moon would hold its structural integrity -- combine the explosion with gravitic distortions and the moon would become a pile of rubble faster than you can say "asteroid belt."

Not to mention what that would do to earth! Naturally, without the moon to regulate tides and other natural patterns, earth would suffer mass extinctions on a gigantic scale. Not to mention huge weather problems, enormous tsunamis, volcanic activity ... really, the world would go nuts. Not to mention our own orbit degrading -- whether we moved closer to the sun or farther away, we would almost certainly move without the moon stabilizing our orbit, and we would quickly become way too cold or way too hot to support life, and the length of our day would almost certainly change (and not to our benefit).

In short, the violent loss of our moon would likely kill us all. And the first to go would be those ON the Moon.

So I had to gin up a huge chunk of suspension of disbelief every time I watched Space: 1999, even moreso than "warp speed" and "transporters" on Star Trek, or even all the alien planets that looked exactly like back lots in Southern California (with styrofoam boulders). Which would have been fine if Space: 1999 was exciting.


But it wasn't. Have I mentioned how boring it was? It only lasted two seasons, but I didn't even last through Season One. I found other 1975 shows more interesting, and never looked back.

I did collect all the comics, and they were actually pretty good. There was nothing they could do about the stupid premise of the show, but the artwork was often very nice. Gray Morrow, Joe Staton, early John Byrne ... honestly, these were pretty good comics.

Which brings us to this graphic novel by Archaia, which somehow incorporates some of the early Morrow work from the 1970s magazine. It's nice to see some work from that artist, who died in 2001. But I have to say it feels a little exploitative, since Morrow's contribution is small, and his is the biggest name associated with the project.

And I'll give credit for writer Gaska showing some of the repercussions on Earth of the Moon being blasted out of orbit, which I don't believe the TV show ever did. I don't believe what Gaska wrote -- as I wrote above, I think it would be a worldwide extinction event, not the inconveniences and individual perils he shows here. But, hey, points for trying.

Anyway, it's probably obvious at this point that nothing connected with Space: 1999 is really going to impress me at this point. The work in Aftershock and Awe is competent, but I really couldn't work up any interest in any of the characters or the mostly familiar storyline, which was a rehash of the "origin." It wasn't quite as boring as the TV show, but probably not quite as good as the Charlton comics, despite the computer rendering and color techniques.

So if you're a Space: 1999 fan -- and I'd really be curious how that came to be -- you'd probably think Aftershock and Awe is worth your $25, and hope for sequels. But if you're not, I doubt this book is worth your time and money. You should probably invest in the Charlton stuff instead.

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I, too, remember a whole lot of hype leading up to the debut of Space: 1999, but not a lot afterwards. In my market it was up against Star Trek (in syndicated reruns), and I wold watch it only if I had had seen that week’s Trek (but I watched it for both years). I think it did influence ST:TMP to a degree, at least in terms of the “pajama style” uniforms.

I am currently in the process of re-reading all of the Gold Key Star Trek comics reprinted by Checker Books (I’m nearly finished with the fourth of five), and plan to read this Space: 1999 graphic novel after that. (That seems appropriate to me.) Checker stoped publishing comic books about two thirds of the way through the Gold Key run, as you know. I recently contacted IDW (as the current Star Trek license holder) and asked if they had any plans to reprint the series in their “omnibus” format. (IDW has reprinted Star Trek material originally published by both Marvel and DC.) I was told that they definitely are at some point in the future, but currently they are contractually prohibited for an undisclosed (to me) amount of time.

The thing I loved most about the series was the eagle space craft. I always thought that from an engineering standpoint the eagle was a wonderfully designed craft. Modular, flexible and it looked like a space craft. I didn't mind the rest of the series but I always wondered why between season one and two when the science guy left that they never explained where he went. They also had some good surreal episodes sometimes. I've got at least one of the paperbacks somewhere.

The thing about the Eagles I never bought was how they could fly in an atmosphere. That, and they must have either had an endless supply or a top-notch repair facility because one seemed to explode and/or crash land every other episode.

Two other points I wanted to make (about the TV show, not the graphic novel) yesterday…

First, an explosion large enough to drive the Moon out of orbit would have pulverized it in the first place.

Second, I think any “moonbase” we might build would be on the Earth side of the Moon, if for no other reason than it would be psychologically comforting to see the Earth for those stationed there. Also, Earth/Moon communications would be easier, plus it would only make sense to store the nuclear waste on the far side of the Moon… “just in case.”

Then again, maybe not. Here’s how my version of Space: 1999 would work.

Moonbase: Alpha is built on the side of the Moon facing Earth and the nuclear waste is buried on the far side. A chain reaction builds and the waste detonates, propelling the Moon out of orbit directly into the Earth.

THE END

I thought the eagles were just very simple to make with a very modular design. If you watch the show you'll see that the cargo area and pilot cabin could be separated leaving a frame with four thrusters and a main engine. Never did question the atmosphere flight though and I guess I should have.

From the episodes I watched, I remember thinking incredulously of the Eagles "How many of those things do they have?" Probably after I'd seen, like, the fifth one in a month  blow up.

I never watched an episode of this show. I think I saw the opening credits a couple of times when it was being shown in syndication, but that was it.

I did get a toy of the Eagle though for Christmas one year, and I remember being very confused by it. It was from some show (or movie, I didn't know) that I had never heard of, and it was way to small for my any of my action figures.

Like I said, easy to replace. I remember seeing adds in the comics to buy model rockets based on the eagle design.

Captain Comics said:

From the episodes I watched, I remember thinking incredulously of the Eagles "How many of those things do they have?" Probably after I'd seen, like, the fifth one in a month  blow up.

It's been a while since I've seen series.....did they ever say what happened to the Earth after the moon left orbit? I vaguely recall an episode where some event or phenomenon copied the moon & everyone on it perfectly (save for one crewman, who went mad), and another where Commander Koenig was speaking with (a clone of or mirror-copy of) Professor Bergman, painting a landscape of a green Earth....but the sky of Ruined Earth was red & the landscape/background was devastated from the ecological disasters that befell the planet when the moon went rogue.

In the second episode they did have a time travel episode where it was revealed that the Earth was devastated after the moon left. There was also one where the moon slipped into a parallel universe and slipped into orbit around another Earth for a short time. There was also an episode where the moon drifted in between two warring planets and was fought over by them.

I actually did watch Space:1999 when it first aired (back-to-back with The Muppet Show), and re-watched it last year ... and as much as I wanted to like the show (if only to justify the cost of the DVDs and the time spent watching them), I can't really argue with anything Cap has to say about it.  The premise was dumb, Landau & Bain (so great in Mission: Impossible) were boring, the pace was glacial even with the weekly Eagle explosions and the thing was just so unremmitingly grim and joyless.  Barry Morse was just about the only really watchable thing on the show, and even he was gone after Season 1.

But ... I've never read the Charlton books (although I vaguely remember seeing them on the spinner racks), and I have a mind to.  I read the Gold Key Star Trek reprints Jeff is reading now, and they were so over-the-top crazy that I enjoyed them immensely.  Now I'm curious what Charlton made of Space..

I still haven’t read “Aftershock and Awe” (although I do still intend to!), but I see in Diamond’s new Previews catalog that the rest of Charlton’s old Space: 1999 material is going to be similarly repurposed. For those interested, see page 241 of the catalog and/or check out the online preview at www.archaia.com/archaia-titles/space-1999

I blush to admit that I still haven’t read “Aftershock & Awe”, but it has (as of yesterday) moved to a higher position on my stack of shame. Yesterday, the collection of the other repurposed material I mentioned above shipped. I don’t have the original material to compare it to, but skimming through it, I can ascertain the dialogue has been tweaked to provide a little more continuity, such as mentioning and dealing with the aftermath of Victor’s death in more depth than the TV show ever did.

Classic Space 19999: Everything That Was also features a timeline explaining exactly at which point the comic book stories occur in relation to the TV episodes. Almost all of them occur between seasons one and two, but the last four stories occur after the last televised episode (and the last of those is titled “Homecoming”).

One thing I hadn’t realized is that “re-writer” Andrew Gaska is the same guy who wrote the novel Conspiracy on the Planet of the Apes, which I enjoyed very much. C on the POTA adapted the first “Apes” movie (quite different from the novel on which it is based) told from Landon’s POV, plus it laid the groundwork for Beneath POTA and Escape from POTA, so Gaska has experience writing/adapting interstitial work of this nature.

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