UFO watch (Episode 09 – Ordeal)

ordeal - ellis

Written by Tony Barwick
Directed by Ken Turner

Going from the previous episode, A Question of Priorities, to this one is truly a journey from the sublime to the ridiculous.

One interesting point, however, is that reportedly it would originally have been Carlin (Peter Gordeno) abducted rather than Foster.  As silly as this episode is, it would have given a bit more screen time to Carlin’s character, who apart from the debut episode has had little to do.

The re-write may have been a factor in Gordeno deciding to leave the series after recording just six episodes, so his appearance in the previous episode was his final work for UFO.

Anyway, onto the episode.  We open at a marvelously groovy party that in no way resembles a party from the early 1980’s, unless of course they were having a late 1960’s retro bash.  And after bopping the night away, Colonel Foster has to check himself into SHADO’s Research Centre for a full physical examination.

After a heavy work-out in the gym, Foster is relaxing in the sauna when he notices the door has been locked.  Aliens have infiltrated the building, killed everybody else and they drag the barely conscious Foster away.  He’s taken aboard their flying saucer and forced to wear one of their space-suits.  As soon as the helmet is put on, it’s flooded with the green fluid that the aliens need to survive in Earth’s atmosphere.

Straker, despite knowing that Foster is aboard the UFO, demands that it be shot down.  Captain Waterman in Sky One (replacing the departed Carlin) can’t bring himself to kill his friend so he doesn’t fire a fatal shot.  But the UFO is already damaged and crashes on the Moon, although Foster survives this impact.

But can Foster be separated from the alien space-suit and the breathing apparatus?  We’ll come to that in a minute.

Good things about the episode?  I love the opening party scenes which are just so 1969.  And there’s yet another example of Straker’s ruthless streak when he orders the UFO with Foster aboard be destroyed.   Colonel Freeman can hardly believe it and says to Straker: “You just better hope I’m never in a position to press the button on you!”

The scenes of Foster’s abduction look very good as do the final scenes with the Moonbase crew desperately trying to save his life.

But this is all negated when it’s revealed at the end that it was just a dream.  Possibly he partook of something at the party that he shouldn’t have?  It’s such a ridiculous ending to the story that it almost beggars belief.

Given this, it seems churlish to pick holes in the plot, such as why the aliens decide to abduct Foster and how they know he would be at the health farm and even that the health farm exists.  Everything we’ve seen so far has told us that the aliens can only survive on Earth for a couple of days, so the amount of forward planning is impressive to say the least.  But as it was all just a dream, there’s no point in arguing any of these points too vigorously.

It seems that Tony Barwick’s original script made it much clearer very early on that everything was unreal, but unfortunately the direction didn’t follow this.  So either the director should have emphasised the dream-like nature of the story or they should have treated it for real and worked out a reasonable explanation of how to extract Foster from the alien’s clutches.   Neither was done, so we’re left with the worst of both worlds.

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