In this science-fiction tale, America still has a space program. Four men have just lifted off from Alpha Centauri where they were apparently the first to land on the entire star system. Sadly, they left 2 of their crew-mates “buried in the red dust.” They only needed to go as far as Mars to accomplish that. Or Sedona if they were really on a budget. Off-season.
The Captain tells them not to grieve over Kelly and Schwartz. “It’s a log way to Earth. You might need those tears for yourself.” On Alpha Centauri, they found a culture hundreds of years more advanced than ours. Dr. Davidson is excited at how much mankind will gain from this appropriation. The weird thing is that the cities were all deserted, and covered in pink dust.
They notice that some of the red dust is now in the ship. As the days pass, the crew notices the dust is growing. Davidson examines a sample under his microscope and discovers it is radioactive; or something. I’d like to think there was some alien influence warping their minds, but I think it was just lousy writing:
- Kelly & Schwartz died because they did not take their radiation shots, saying they were allergic. You might think that would disqualify you from being an astronaut.
- Charlie says it should have been OK because they detected no radiation before landing. The doc now says the radiation is “in the dust!” Hmmm . . . the same dust that covered the planet?
- Meanwhile, Duncan and Kurt are lounging around the cabin remarking on the successful mission. “When we signed up for this thing who would have thought we would have made it there and back without a hitch.” Yeah, except for 1/3 of the crew being killed.
The doc determines that the dust “is a weird sort of radioactive life. A virus that attacks any living matter that comes near it.” Unfortunately, he tells the crew that the radiation shots can’t stop it, only slow it down. He expects them all to be dead in 10 years. Charlie freaks out and throws himself out of the airlock. I don’t expect an Aliens-caliber decompression, but couldn’t they at least have used a electric fan to simulate the change in pressure? This was like opening a screen door.
The doc realizes that Charlie’s rantings were correct — they are taking death back to Earth!
After the commercial, the writing becomes weird again. Kurt says, “Look doc, start at the beginning and go back. Why can’t we return?” The doc answer, “That should be obvious, Kurt. Kelly, Schwartz, Charlie, Duncan, you, even the doctor — if we landed, do you think the red dust would stop with us?” Was the doctor referring to himself in the 3rd person?
The doc says that once they are in contact with Earth, they will radio their discoveries, then they must self-destruct. Kurt isn’t on-board with the whole suicide thing. In the action portion of our show, Kurt pulls a gun on Charlie and the doc. Duncan is able to conk Kurt on the head, the the doc shoots Duncan. Kurt wakes up and Duncan shoots him.
Slipping for the third time into this alternate reality of shifting perspectives and pretzel logic, as Duncan is dying, he begs the doc not to take the ship back to earth. “I know you’re a scientist, but give them a chance!” Well, that was Doc’s position all along.
Just as in last week’s The Plague from Space, the decision is made to sacrifice everyone to save the planet. The doc reads the mission’s findings over the radio, then blows up the ship.
-  It seems absurd that on an astronomical timescale, we would find a culture within 100 years of our own. But then, that was the case with most of the planets on Star Trek.
- Also seen today: The Boy, not to be confused with The Boy. It somehow takes a pretty flimsy premise and makes it both intriguing and suspenseful for most of its run time. As always, the questions are more interesting than the answers, but that does not diminish the result. Also, Lauren Cohan.