Written and Directed by David Tomblin
In my post on The Sound of Silence I mentioned how the second production block of UFO saw stories that sent the series in new directions, and this is certainly the case with The Cat With Ten Lives.
Writer/Director David Tomblin had previously worked on The Prisoner and he brought something of the style of that series (along with guest star Alexis Kanner) to The Cat With Ten Lives. It’s very much Kanner’s episode (possibly not surprising since he and Tomblin had a lengthy working relationship – stretching back to the film Reach For Glory in 1962, where Tomblin was the assistant director).
Jim Reegan (Kanner) is an Interceptor pilot back on Earth for 48 hours leave. Along with his wife Jean (Geraldine Moffatt) he’s driving home after a dinner party (which involved a rather strange sequence with a oujia board) when they spot a cat in the middle of the road. Jean takes a fancy to it and asks to adopt it, but before Reegan can answer they both spot a UFO close by. They are overpowered and taken to the UFO (Tomblin has some nice shots here from their point of view as they are carried to the alien’s ship). Reegan awakes to find himself back in his car, along with the cat, but there’s no sign of Jean.
Straker is interested in his story but tells Reegan to report to Moonbase for duty the next day. He doesn’t seem in any fit state, but Straker is adamant. Reegan has taken the cat to SHADO HQ and this is where things start to get really odd. Somehow, the cat is being controlled by the aliens and in turn the cat is controlling Reegan. And by having free range of SHADO HQ, the cat is able to observe everything that takes place.
Jackson (Vladek Sheybal) has another theory about the aliens – he believes that they may not have any physical form at all, as a recently recovered alien body turned out to be completely human. He surmises they may be able to “re-program” human brains, thereby providing them with physical vessels to pilot the UFO’s to Earth. Like all the information that’s drip-fed abuot the aliens it never really goes anywhere, but whilst this could be seen as a weakness it’s also one of the series’ strengths. UFO poses many questions about the aliens and their intentions but never provides any answers. Maybe a second series would have come closer to providing some solid facts, but there’s something more frightening about an adversary who is unknowable and intangible,
Reegan is unable to destroy the UFO carrying Jean (thanks to the cat telling him not to!) and Straker recalls him to Earth for a medical assessment. It has to be said that it’s impressive that the cat was able to control him when Reegan was orbiting the Moon and the cat was on Earth, but distance seems to be no objective. When he’s back on Earth, the cat has the same amount of control over hm and under its influence Reegan attacks Foster and returns to Moonbase.
By a somewhat tenuous bit of theorising, Straker and Foster decide that Reegan’s being controlled by the cat. Yes, really. Straker is able to deal with the moggy and this breaks the control it has over Reegan. Although this isn’t necessarily good news for him.
The Cat With Ten Lives is, as I’ve said, an odd one. You can either sit back and enjoy the ride or decide it’s too silly for words. I favour the former and there’s plenty of other incidental pleasures along with way. Kanner was always a strange, idiosyncratic actor and this is very much in evidence here. He’s always compelling though and it’s difficult not to feel sorry for Reegan. It’s a pity that he wasn’t in more episodes, as the opening section of the story is quite interesting as we see the exhausted Interceptor pilots relaxing in-between engagements. A few more scenes like this, which have a similar vibe to WW2 pilots resting between missions, would have been welcome.
A purrfect episode, you might say.