Ether Signposts #28/52a: Zardoz, Space 1999 And Psychedelic Strands In 1970s Science Fiction
I remember being completely fascinated by the television series Space 1999 when it was originally broadcast, as I expect were many children of a certain age at the time.
Aside from the spaceships, ray guns and monsters that were much of what caught my eye back when, watching it today I was quite surprised in that it’s a curiously grown-up series in terms of its themes, dealing with mortality, parallel worlds and ways of life.
I often think it was made in the wake of the success of Star Wars being released in 1977 but actually it was first broadcast in 1974.
It had quite high-end production values, particularly compared to much of 1970s television, which while not on the same level as Star Wars they can often hold their own quite well.
However, in terms of pacing it is a world apart from the relentless blockbuster momentum that Star Wars heralded; Space 1999 is a much calmer, reflective viewing experience.
It’s actually quite psychedelic.
Not so much in a 1960s-esque bubble-trip aesthetics manner, although it does have some quite overtly psychedelic effects, more in a general exploratory and often dreamlike sense and a passing through into portals and other realities that often happens within the series.
The psychedelic, dealing with adult themes aspect put me in mind of John Boorman’s film Zardoz and its story of an enclave of humanity known as the Vortex which is inhabited by the Eternals who have become immortal and who now live a pampered, almost new age way of life where their folkloric rituals are underpinned and supported by advanced scientific technology.
The connection between the series and the film is quite overt in the Space 1999 episode Death’s Other Dominion, where also a group of human’s have become immortal and they lead a life which contains a curious intertwining of medievalism, craft and scientific research and methodology.
Alongside which in both Zardoz and Space 1999 one of the results of their immortality has been that some of their number still live but have become trapped in a mindless, stupefied immortality (known as The Apathetics in the former and The Revered Ones in the latter).
Also, in both Zardoz and Space 1999 there is a sense of flawed or corrupted Edenic paradises; in Zardoz this is via the parasitical Eternals enclave which can only exist through its exploitation and control of those excluded from it and which is slowly drifting into dissolution, in Space 1999 it is expressed in the various planetary idylls that the stranded moon base dwellers come across, only to find that their initial hopes are dashed by their inhabitants hidden darker intents or the planet’s destructive properties.
Curiously, both Zardoz and the first series of Space 1999 were released in 1974, which makes me wander if the psychedelic/exploratory aspects were a reflection of 1960s experimentations seeping out into more mainstream channels in not so obvious ways.
Another aspect of Space 1999 which comes as a welcome surprise as the episodes unfold are the number of revered and cult actors and actresses who appear as guest stars.
In a list that reads like a film and comic con memorabilia guest signee wish list, this includes Joan Collins, Ian McShane, Julian Glover, Peter Bowles, Isla Blair, Michael Culver, David Prowse, Pamela Stephenson, Peter Cushing, Leo McKern, Billie Whitelaw, Valerie Leon, Judy Geeson Patrick Troughton, Brian Blessed, Catherine Schell and Christopher Lee.
(And talking of Star Wars, a fair few of those above guests would later appear in it…)
(File post under: Other Pathway Pointers And Markers)
Local places of interest:
Day #177/365: Zardoz… in this secret room from the past, I seek the future…