Out of the Unknown – Lambda 1


Story by Colin Kapp, Adapted by Bruce Stewart
Directed by George Spenton-Foster

In the future, conventional travel has been rendered obsolete by the TAU craft.  It doesn’t travel on or above the Earth’s surface – instead it travels through it.  The TAU craft operates under four atomic modes – Gamma, Delta, Epsilon & Omega – with Gamma being the safest and Omega the most dangerous.

A routine passenger craft (the Elektron) slips into Omega mode and becomes trapped in solid rock with seemingly no means of escape.  UK TAU controller Paul Porter (Sebastian Breaks) has a personal stake in ensuring the craft is recovered – his wife Julie (Kate Story) is aboard.  So Porter is persuaded by Eric Benedict (Ronald Lewis) to pilot the Lambda 1 craft on a hazardous rescue mission.

Lambda 1 is something of a shambles.  There’s the germ of a good idea but the production is so flawed that it only works intermittently.  At the start of the story we’re given a great deal of information about the TAU system, the various atomic modes it uses and are introduced to numerous characters.  The problem is that there’s too much information and too many characters – so there’s not a great deal that makes a lasting impression.

As time goes on it becomes clear that Paul Porter will become an important character, but it’s not initially obvious that he’s based in the UK and isn’t on the stricken ship.  Although the action cuts back between the ship and the UK command base, it takes a while to differentiate between the two.

Charles Tingwell is good as the boozy Captain Dantor and Michael Lees is quite effective as a twitchy passenger, Ferris, but the rest of the cast don’t make much of an impression.  George Spenton-Foster’s direction is somewhat loose – cues are late, the camera positions are sometimes a little off and there are occasions when a retake would have really helped the production.

The sequences when Porter enters Omega mode and is beset by strange hallucinations work very well and they’re easily the best part of the story.  But the problems with the script, direction and performances do tend to dissipate the audience’s goodwill, so that by the end it’s difficult to imagine many people will really care about the fate of the ship and its passengers.

Certainly one of the least engaging of the surviving episodes, Lambda 1 was probably a victim of its own ambition.  By over-reaching, it ends up as a rather unsatisfying experience.

Next up – Level Seven

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