Journey Through the Black Sun (1976) – Film Review
Directors: Ray Austin and Lee H Katzin
Cast: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse
By Roger Crow
Alan Carter, the amiable Aussie pilot played by Nick Tate, is having trouble with his main booster. (That happens when you get on a bit). He’s on a bombing mission to destroy an asteroid by dropping nukes on it, long before it became a thing in Armageddon and recent all-star comedy drama Don’t Look Up.
Alan is basically stopping everyone on Moonbase Alpha from dying, and Koenig can’t stress the point enough. In fact he gets a bit teary at the thought of losing Eagle One.
Carter and Koenig’s bromance was one of many elements of Space 1999. Thankfully lovely old Victor Bergman (Barry Morse) tries to give him a shoulder to cry on, but Koenig is just so uptight, he can’t chill out. Inbetween all this emoting, there’s more of that stunning model work, which still looks better than any CG nonsense in a show with 100 times the budget.
So Koenig and Paul Morrow (Prentis Hancock), the one with the moustache, go off in search of Alan.
When a mystery voice tells Koenig where Carter is, Paul looks at him a bit funny, but sure enough, there’s Al, who seems asleep at the wheel, likes he’s spent too many hours surfing the ‘net. Eventually they rescue Carter, and a huge planet emerges, which leads to Koenig running around some very impressive sets.
Naturally boffin Victor is left to hatch a plan, because science will always save the day. And when it doesn’t, metaphysical nonsense fills that gap.
Eventually almost everyone is evacuated from Alpha; Victor puts a scarf on, which suggests how good he would have been as Doctor Who, and things get a bit chilly.
Things also get a bit philosophical as Koenig and Bergman discuss their pending fate while prog rock noodling wafts over the soundtrack.
“Slow burn screenplay”
Once more Barry Morse turns out to be the show’s MVP. Journey Through the Black Sun boasts a lovable performance from The Fugitive veteran, while some other actors have slightly more range than Captain Scarlet puppets.
Bergman is no fool. He breaks out the 60-year-old brandy before he and John face “the end”. Luckily they have two pristine brandy glasses for the occasion rather than mugs.
Given the fact that in reality many of the cast have now died, these scenes are all the more poignant, even if the picture quality is often so sharp you’d think it was shot yesterday.
Obviously a lot of the richness in the slow burn screenplay was lost on me as a kid, and though not perfect, it’s still a compelling watch with some lovely touches.
The trippy finale of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey feels like it’s been recreated as John and Victor morph into old men while Alpha travels through the black sun. At this point you may feel like cast and crew were tripping on camera, such is the nature of the screenplay.
But then, spoiler alert, everything is fine and our younger middle-aged heroes have emerged on the other side, while viewers may wonder WTF?
You too may be overjoyed that the force field held over Moonbase Alpha and they got through. It’s a classic case of ‘too much time to fill and not enough substance’, but I still have a soft spot for it.
Naturally the returning Alphans are thrilled to be home, not least because they missed all the stroky chinned philosophy. Oh, and Victor finally gets to smoke his cigar while sort of breaking the fourth wall and suggesting we, the viewer, come along for the ride. It’s a very odd moment, and yet strangely repeatable.
Four ‘Space: 1999’ movies, ‘Alien Attack’, ‘Journey Through the Black Sun’, ‘Cosmic Princess’ & ‘Moonbase Alpha’, rebuilt form the high definition restorations created for the series episodes, are presented here in their original 4:3 fullscreen aspect ratio alongside new 16:9 widescreen special editions.
On Blu-ray from Network, £50.