Sci-Fi stories are like westerns. Put a wagon out in the desert and you are half way to a decent western. Put some people on a spaceship, and you’re halfway home with me.
It is day 315 of the Mars III Mission. The math suggests that they have been on the surface for about 100 days. Thanks to some brilliant scheduling, they are exploring a cave a few hours before liftoff rather than say, going over the pre-launch checklist, resting up for the most important procedure of the flight, or spelling their names in the regolith.
Their dedication pays off, at least in the short run, as they find some writing in the cave. Nearby, they discover a pod. Following in the tradition of brainiacs from Alien to Prometheus, their first instinct is to take the pod back on the ship. Short of putting their lips on it, there could be no worse idea. Nothing good ever comes in pods — it’s always evil murderous aliens; or peas.
The pod emits a burst of light and gas, knocking the 3 astronauts unconscious. They wake up an hour later but are due to lift off in a few hours so can’t explore or document the find.
All is well for the next seven months as they are en route to earth, only 3 days from home. As they are watching football, there is an Apollo 13-esque explosion. They lose communications with NASA (which is now apparently fully staffed by one oriental woman), and also lose half the oxygen. Pete Claridge (Michael Dorn) finds some goo on a bulkhead and takes a sample. It turns out to organic and multiplying.
Ed Barkley goes below to check on the equipment as the temperature soars to the 120’s. Claridge says he is looking forward to getting back to his lakeside cabin, and gets a skeptical look from Al Wells, which plot-wise makes no sense. We find out later that Claridge is an alien — why would the alien know everything about his host, but make up a cabin?
As the temperature gets unbearable, Wells goes nuts from the heat and turns the cooling back on almost killing Barkley. Claridge — the crew doctor — decides to draw some blood from Wells to be sure he is OK. And by “draw” I mean “inject” and by “blood” I mean “alien juice.” When Barkley comes back up to the cabin, Wells is hiding a wound on his arm that is oozing green slime.
When Barkley spots this, Wells transforms into an alien. Barkley forces him into the airlock with a fire extinguisher. When Claridge re-enters the cabin, Wells has transformed into a human again and pleads with him to stop Barkley from opening the hatch. Before Claridge can stop him, he blasts alien Al Wells out into space.
After they lose another power cell, Barkley goes below deck where he finds a space suit with Claridge’s body in it. The alien Claridge catches him and fesses up saying they didn’t have time to eject that body.
His species is from far away and went to Mars hoping to be discovered. Barkley makes it clear he does not intend to allow that ship to return to earth. Claridge seems like a pretty benevolent alient, and dangles the cure for cancer in front of Barkley.
They begin working together to save the ship, but when they get communications back, Claridge’s family is on-screen to greet him. He pulls off his act very well, but Barkley can’t allow him back on earth.
Once alien Claridge sees what Barkley intends to do, he gets very self-righteous. He says their species is millions of years old, therefore it is their right to take puny human lives to ensure their survival. Barkley alters the angle of re-entry and they explode.
They get a little too cute building paranoia at the expense of logic, but it ends up being another good episode.
- Director Tibor Tobaks’ work was last seen in Blood Brothers. Other credits include Mansquito, Ice Spiders and Mega Snake.
- Grant Rosenberg also wrote the previous episode.
- Claridge is played by Worf from Star Trek TNG. He does a great job here and I was surprised he had never done anything outside of Star Trek. Until I checked his IMDb page and saw he has a huge resume; even including the original Rocky where he played Apollo Creed’s bodyguard.
- OK, whales also come in pods, and they’re cool. But they also come in gams, which are hot.
- They are returning to Earth from Mars. It is hard for me to envision a route wherein the sun would be at their backs: