Alien Attack (1976)

Article #1096 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-15-2004
Posting Date: 8-12-2004
Directed by Charles Chrichton and Lee H. Katzin
Featuring Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse

The moon gets exploded out of earth’s orbit, drifts out to space, and gets attacked by aliens.

I remember when “Space: 1999” was first announced to the world, and was heralded as the finest science fiction series since “Star Trek”. It wasn’t picked up by any of the major networks and was only available through syndication, and I was quite excited when one of the local TV stations decided to air it in prime time. On the night it premiered, I was right in front of the TV set, all ready for this new show. I was promptly underwhelmed.

I continued to watch the series, but as each episode went by without firing my imagination, it became more and more of a duty and less of an event. The odd episode would catch my attention, but for the most part I sat their in dull disappointment. It just didn’t have the spirit of “Star Trek”, and I think it had to do with the lifelessness of the characters. Barbara Bain seemed to be going to great lengths to avoid showing any emotion whatsoever, Martin Landau was competent but unexciting, and almost all of the other characters made no impact on me whatsoever. The only actor I enjoyed watching was Barry Morse, as he was the only one who seemed to show any interest in the proceedings. The central concept was also hard to swallow; with only 311 people on Moonbase Alpha, I was always amazed at how many casualties they suffered and how much destruction occurred without impacting what must have been a very fragile economy. I would like to figure out sometime just how many of those Eagle ships were destroyed during the course of the series.

When the second season rolled around several changes were made. When I heard that one change was the elimination of Barry Morse from the cast, I just gave up on the show. Actually, it wouldn’t have mattered what I did; the ratings had been so poor that our local affiliate didn’t bother to pick up the second season. This would also be the last season for the show.

Naturally, without a sufficient run of episodes to make an effective stab at returning the show to syndication, the decision was made (as for several other series suffering from the same problem) to recycle the episodes by editing them together into movies. I’ve always considered this a pretty cynical way to create product, but I suspect that nobody even cared if people could tell that they were being given two episodes of a TV show rather than a real movie.

That’s what ALIEN ATTACK is; two episodes of “Space: 1999”. The first episode is the beginning of the series, and the second episode involves Moonbase Alpha undergoing massive destruction at the hands of a planet whose residents “live without fear” through the help of a universal mind. My feelings haven’t really changed much for the show over the years; I still look to Barry Morse as the main acting asset. There are visual moments that are well done here and there, including a nice scene where we see one of the members becoming infected with a strange illness. There are also some interesting ideas at times, particularly in the second episode. The only problem is that without a strong story to support them, the ideas either reduce themselves to cliches or become rather muddy. Incidentally, my tape is part of a series of Adventure videos hosted by Sybil Danning, who introduces the episode by standing there in a skimpy outfit, clutching a futuristic-looking gun, and then dully talking about the thrills and excitement you are now going to undergo. I’m sure this will trip some people’s triggers; as for me, I really grew to appreciate the sense of fun that Elvira puts into her hosting duties.

Nowadays, this movie sits on IMDB with a 6.7 rating and the series is easily available on DVD. It seems that the series must be popular and well-loved in some circles, and maybe it is. All I know is that over the years I’ve heard practically every science fiction series ever made championed and praised by some group of people. Oddly enough, I’ve never heard this series praised in this regard, though I know its supporters are out there. Maybe someday I’ll hear from them…


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