Star Trek Deep Space Nine – Lifeforce – tape 2314

The tape starts with Malcolm McDowell and Lori Petty talking about Tank Girl, whose Sky premiere was soon.

McDowell: “My mother’s probably a bit too old for this one, but who knows? She loved Caligula, you know? That tells you something about my mother, right?”

Then we have an episode of Deep Space NineBroken Link. Odo collapses in Garak’s store as his body spasms. There’s something wrong with his Changeling physiology, but nobody really understands anything about Changelings.

Meanwhile, Klingon leader Gowron is rattling sabres, threatening war. Plus, Kira is pregnant, and instead of getting nauseous like a human, she sneezes uncontrollably. Way to belittle female physiology, Star Trek guys.

To cheer Odo up, Kira gives him an iPad.

Cheer up Odo

The only hope for Odo is to try to find the home planet of his people, the Founders, who had previously had a big war with the Federation and Cardassians. The script finds the most tenuous reason to put Garak, the Cardassian spy, on the Defiant when they travel to the Gamma Quadrant, since the ship doesn’t really require a tailor. Still, having Andrew Robinson and Rene Auberjonois verbally sparring is always good value.

One of the founders makes contact, with a few Jem Hadar troops in tow, and tells Sisko that Odo’s only hope is The Great Link. She tells him that he must join with the Great Link, and if he doesn’t join, he will die.

Garak confronts the founder to ask if any Cardassians survived the attack on their homeworld. She tells him “They’re dead. You’re dead. Cardassia is dead. Your people were doomed the moment they attacked us.”

Odo beams down to the homeworld with the founder, Sisko and Bashir. The founders are not much for architecture.

Odo's Homeworld

Worf catches Garak trying to take control of the ship’s weapon systems, intending to destroy the planet and the founders. Back on the planet, Odo is returned to the rock, and he now appears to be human. The Great Link had judged him, as the only shapeshifter to have killed another.

And back on the station, Gowron is again agitating for war, and Odo remembers his name and face from his joining with the Great Link, and declares that Gowron is a shapeshifter.

Cut to credits. This was the cliffhanger at the end of season 4 of the series, and not a bad one, because it resolves the major story, but opens up the direction for the next series.

Next, recording switches, and despite the label promising Star Trek Voyager, we’re actually on Sky Movies Gold for a surprise treat.

It’s Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce, a horror-inflected science fiction movie that I have a great affection for, despite it not actually being much good.

It was based on Colin Wilson’s novel The Space Vampires, and I think it might have had more success if it had retained the original title, since that would have signalled more the schlocky roots of the film.

The Space Shuttle Churchill is on a joint British/American mission to rendezvous with Halley’s Comet. The voiceover tells us that the revolutionary ‘Nerva’ engine maintains a constant 1G acceleration, giving the ship artificial gravity. But then every shot of the ship shows the engine firing in the direction of flight. Which is slightly confusing, but actually correct, because the ship would be decelerating on approach to the comet. But having said ‘acceleration’ in the voiceover makes it appear wrong.

They detect an artificial structure, miles long, inside the comet, so a team of astronauts goes on an EVA into the structure. They find it filled with the desiccated corpses of huge bat-like creatures. And in the centre of the vessel, they discover three humanoid figures, apparently in suspended animation, one woman and two men, all naked (or “nude” as one of the astronauts oddly says). The decide to take them back to the ship – a curious decision given they have no idea how the suspended animation works, nor whether detaching the capsules they’re in would stop it working.

Cut to the British Space Agency, and luckily, things are in safe hands, as here’s Frank Finlay as one of the top men in charge.

Frank Finlay

On the other hand, they also employ the former head of Global Chemicals, so perhaps things aren’t quite so rosy.

Head of Global Chemicals

The female alien, played by Mathilda May, seems to exert some kind of hypnotic force on all nearby men – as this is the only thing that can possibly explain why they all become lecherous asses in her proximity. I guess, to be fair, this could merely be the gender swapping of the idea that Count Dracula is irresistible to women, but I don’t recall Dracula prancing around naked all the time.

Her nakedness does lend some of the scenes a little humour – when she’s walking out of the Space Centre building, and is confronted by the most English security guards you’ve ever met, one of them even start offering her a bit of his sandwich, as if she’s a squirrel.

She’s having none of that, and zaps them with her space lightning, then walks out.

Luckily, help is at hand in the dashing shape of Peter Firth, before he became Harry off of Spooks, and after he was Scooper off of the Double Deckers. His entrance is a classic of cinema. Striding purposefully from his car, all trenchcoat and turtleneck, his goons ripping cameras from the hands of waiting reporters.

                       KANE
               I'm Colonel Kane.
                       BUKOVSKY
               From the SAS?
                       KANE
                    (To Reporters)
               Gentlemen that last remark is 
               not for publication, this is 
               a D-Notice situation.

Colonel Kane aka Peter Firth

This movie really embraces its 18 certificate – not just all the nudity, but plenty of gore too. And given it’s the 80s, loads of old-school animatronic effects courtesy of Nick Maley and a large crew that included Bob Keen, Geoff Portass and (according to iMDb) an uncredited Stephen Norrington.

Lifeforce animatronics

This film is so seedy. A woman’s body is found in a local park, drained like the guard above. The two blokes who found the body don’t appear to be particularly fazed by the desiccated state of her body, and they remember Mathilda May – “She didn’t have much in the way of clothes” and confess “we angled on back to see if we could, you know, see ’em doing stuff”

Eventually, Colonel Carlsen (Steve Railsback) from the crew of the Churchill returns to Earth in the escape pod, and he explains that the crew had all died, drained of life, and he set the ship on fire to kill the aliens. He’s also having sexy dreams about Mathilda May which he’s not very happy about it. Frank Finlay hypnotises him, and he’s able to see what Mathilda May is doing – she has taken over the body of another woman, and we get to see her seducing an old bloke in a volvo. Will the seediness never stop?

As if all this weren’t bad enough, the alien ship from the opening has left the comet and is heading into Earth orbit.

They track the girl to an asylum, run by Patrick Stewart. She’s a nurse there, and Carlsen and Kane go to talk to her. But then, in one of the most ridiculous scenes in the film, Carlsen gets rough with the nurse, declares that the alien presence has moved to another body, then says that the nurse knows to whom, but “she’s an extreme masochist, she wants me to beat it out of her. You can wait outside if you want” to which Kane replies “Not at all, I am a keen voyeur.”

I mean, really. Luckily for us, Carlsen gets a mental description from the girl with a bit of rough kissing, but even so, this is a deeply misogynistic movie.

It turns out the alien presence has travelled into Patrick Stewart. Carlsen tries his aggressive interrogation techniques on him, when he starts talking with Mathilda May’s voice and occasionally her face. Suddenly there’s lots of special effects.

Aggressive Questioning

Meanwhile in London, Frank Finlay (offscreen) has managed to kill one of the male aliens, by plunging a large lead spike through his ‘energy centre’. Quite where he got that impressive spike is never revealed. It’s very gothic.

Frank Finlay, Space Vampire Slayer

During the altercation, Aubrey Woods, who plays a minister, and is as usual delightful, sadly drops dead. Carlsen and Kane take his body, and an unconscious Patrick Stewart back to London in a helicopter, but before the can get there, blood starts gushing out of the bodies of Patrick Stewart and Aubrey Woods to form a huge ball of blood and pus, which coalesces into Mathilda May, who then falls through the floor of the helicopter in a huge splash of blood.

That’s not something you see every day.

Carlsen goes to find May, wherever her body has been hiding, and Kane goes back to Frank Finlay to get his super vampire-killing spike, then tracks Carlsen down to St Paul’s Cathedral, through some truly impressive scenes of chaos and carnage, as London is engulfed by an epidemic of 80s effects animation and zombie make-up.

Chancery Lane

 

These scenes are the movie’s most successful, and if the makers had concentrated on the space vampire bits, and London in flames, maybe the movie would have been more successful.

Kane makes good time running from there to St Paul’s, and finds Carlsen and May, kit off, smooching in the crypt. Kane tosses the killer spike down to Carlsen, who impales both May and himself, stemming the flow of lifeforces, and causing the spaceship to leave Earth orbit and head back to the comet.

The End.

More than anything else, thanks to the London setting, some dodgy acting from supporting players, and the prurient nudity and sex, this movie eventually comes across as a big-budget porno version of Quatermass and the Pit. It’s a remarkable film, but rarely for good reasons.

One oddity in the credits – it has a troupe of mime artists (including Bob Goody, erstwhile comedy partner of Mel Smith and recently seen in Crime Traveller) lead by Adrian Hedley, perhaps better known by some as a performer in BBC’s Jigsaw, and the man responsible for Mr Noseybonk.

Following Lifeforce, there’s the start of Spymaker: The secret life of Ian Fleming starring Jason Connery. There’s about an hour of this before the recording stops and underneath is more Sky One stuff. There’s about a minute of Early Edition before the tape stops.

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3 comments

  1. A trail for “Must See TV”? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Sky’s abrupt chucking of that slogan was due to NBC having a word.

    “I don’t recall Dracula prancing around naked all the time.”

    Probably just as well in the case of some of the actors who’ve played him.

    Bad as “Lifeforce” is, at least it gave the great Henry Mancini a rare latterday fantasy movie – “The Pink Panther” is all very well, but his dramatic chops were something.

    1. Yes, the score is very good, although before I rewatched I had forgotten it was Mancini and thought it was John Barry.

      It’s probably time for a reboot of this as an HBO series.

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