Space: 1999 (1976) – The Last Sunset, and The Infernal Machine

Christopher Penfold penned this adventure for Moonbase Alpha that first debuted on 1 January, 1976.

The moon draw close to a planet they refer to as Ariel, but as Alan (Nick Tate) approaches in an eagle, some form of device attaches itself to the ship. Upon emergency return to Alpha, the device generates a breathable atmosphere on the barren surface of the travelling moon.

But when it doesn’t enter orbit around Ariel, Alpha is threatened with destruction caused by its new atmosphere.

Koenig (Martin Landau), Bergman (Barry Morse) and Russell (Barbara Bain) are all stunned by the device’s abilities, and as they delight in their new living conditions, they continue puzzling over the intriguing machine.

It gives them a whole new way to look at their existence on the moon, and they begin to wonder if it is a gift from the residents of Ariel. Everything seems perfect, and the projections that they may be pulled into orbit, cause a sense of giddiness around the base – even as they deal with new problems like storms, rain, and finding somewhere to live that isn’t at a base of a crater that may fill with water…

In terms of continuity, the relationship between Sandra (Zienia Merton) and Paul (Prentis Hancock) is hinted at (while also exploring the adverse condition on Paul of the new atmosphere and its ‘blessings’ that the aliens provide for them), as their exploratory expedition is brought down by a storm filled with churned up moon dust.

As truths are revealed, the Alphans watch the last sunset provided by the atmosphere before they continue their tumbling journey through space.


The Infernal Machine was penned by Anthony Terpiloff and Elizabeth Barrows. It first debuted on 8 January, 1976.

With no assistance in identification from Computer, a giant starship approaches Alpha, and asks for permission to land on Alpha, citing an emergency. The ship, unbeknownst, to the Alphans is self-aware, calling itself Gwent. It seems the ship serves as an extension of the personality of the sole traveller on the ship, known as the Companion (Leo McKern).

The ship’s emergency is that it needs supplies, but as the Companion’s health begins to fail they realise Gwent may want something more from Koenig, Bergman and Russell.

The trio slowly realise that Gwent is insane, lonely, and possibly edging towards the homicidal. But there may be hope for the trio when Alpha sends out a flight of Eagles, and small mobile attack units to cut Gwent down to size. But how many lives will be spent before Gwent is finished?

Will they find an answer before it’s too late? Or will Gwent get everything he wants from Alpha?

I rather like this one, it’s a concept that has been explored a few times, and done well just as many, and this is definitely one of the good versions of the story. And, the model work is exemplary.

Next week, the journey continues on Space: 1999!



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