|As a reconnaissance Eagle is returning from a nearby planet, Main Computer names the planet Terra Nova, and declares that it is suitable for human habitation, with natural resources to sustain them indefinitely. The pilots report in, describing it as "just like Earth" and having no inhabitants. Their|
|transmission is cut off as a strange electrical discharge erupts in the cockpit. Despite the inability to regain communications, the Eagle's automatic systems keep it on course for Moonbase Alpha. An emergency team, lead by Koenig and Russell, prepares to meet it at the launch pad. The Eagle lands safely,|
|and when boarded, it's two man crew is found unconscious but alive. Victor calls out when a third person is found in the passenger module. John and Helena come to investigate. Helena checks on the unconscious man, and is stunned to find that it is her husband Lee. He and the pilots are|
|brought to Medical Center for observation. Koenig questions the fact that it could be Helena's dead husband. She clarifies that he was presumed dead, and stating that she knows her own husband, asserts that it really is him. They continue the discussion in Helena's quarters, where John recounts the|
|details of the ill fated Astro 7 mission as he recalls them, with Lee Russell's ship locked in the orbit of Jupiter, and burning up in the atmosphere. Helena only remembers that they lost contact with it over Jupiter. Dr. Mathias calls Helena back to Medical Center because the monitors are unable to record|
|her husband's vital signs. Because of this and the mystery of what happened to the two pilots, Koenig has put Operation Exodus on hold until they can find some answers. Koenig asks Helena to wake Lee with Metrazine so they might find answers to some of their questions. She reluctantly agrees|
|because of the limited time
they have to institute Operation Exodus. Lee Russell is relatively
unaffected by the drug, and provides no answers to how he came to be on
Terra Nova, how he got on the Eagle, or what happened to the pilots. But
when Koenig and Victor leave, he seems to
|become more alert. He asks Helena where he is, and she tells him about the accident that blast the Moon out of Earth orbit. He asks her what they want, and she says they think they found what they want on Terra Nova, a new home. He reaches for her, and she is struck by an electrical charge which|
|throws her across the room. Koenig is notified that she was found unconscious and brought to her quarters. He visits her there. She tells him she must have passed out while she was talking to Lee. He asks if Lee talked about the planet. Although she doesn't remember clearly, she is certain he didn't|
|mention the planet. After making sure Helena was feeling alright, John visits Victor who shows him several thermographic scans taken of Lee Russell. Two showing him as a living being, and one (taken in Helena's absense) devoid of any body heat. They conclude that Lee is somehow being sustained by Helena.|
|Koenig decides that it's time to get some answers from Lee Russell. He orders Helena to stay away from him, and has him brought to his office for questioning. Lee tries to warn Koenig not to go down to the planet. But unable to provide explanations, or give clear answers to Koenig's questions, Lee realizes|
|that his warnings will go unheeded. He sits down, and after mournfully uttering Helena's name, he passes away. Despite Victor's pleas to hold off on the survey of the planet until Lee's autopsy can be done, Koenig begins preparations, and checks in on Helena to see how she's holding up. She says she feels|
|she never really had him back at all, and that she's alright. Back in Main Mission, Koenig moves forward with Operation Exodus. Victor and Helena come to him with news about Lee Russell. His skin tests, show a change in polarity; the first stage in the theoretical change to antimatter. Victor asks|
|John to reconsider going down to the planet, but John's mind is made up. During the launch countdown, Victor contacts Koenig's Eagle to tell him that Lee Russell's body has disappeared, and, again, asks him not to go. Unconvinced, Koenig continues with the launch and heads to Terra Nova. They land|
|and find a beautiful planet with flowers, fruit trees, and fresh water. Analysis of the data collected seems to indicate that the planet is ideal for them to colonize. The mood is light, and their prospects seem promising, until Victor contacts John to tell him that the atmosphere seals on Alpha and the survey|
|Eagle are degrading. Koenig recalls the survey team, and has them head back to the Eagle. En route, Alan contacts Koenig saying there's smoke coming from the Eagle's instrument panels, and he is unable to get out. As they race back to the Eagle to help, Paul's laser explodes, killing him, and|
|blinding Sandra. Before Koenig can reach the Eagle it explodes. He contacts Alpha, and Victor's transmission breaks up as he tells John that Alpha's condition is deteriorating rapidly. Helena calls John's attention to the Moon in the sky, as it begins to glow, then explodes in the Terra Novan sky above them.|
|The shockwave rocks the planet, causing tremors and a terrific wind storm. Buffeted by wind and debris, John and Helena lose Sandra in the tempest. Aftershocks, cause a landslide, which takes Koenig's life while he is getting Helena to safety. Alone and distraught, Helena wanders through the|
|wreckage until she collapses in tears. Lee appears to her. She asks how it is possible, and he explains how he his ship burned up over Jupiter, and some strange form of radiation altered it's crew and scattered them in deep space. He tells her she must leave Terra Nova, that she can no more live in his|
|world of antimatter, then he can live in hers. Not understanding how she can leave, she asks him. He tells her to see what she wants to see. She imagines Terra Nova as it was before everything went wrong, and it returns to how it was. The Moon is back in the sky, and Koenig appears completely unharmed.|
|They stroll hand in hand back to the pond, where Helena tells John that they cannot stay on Terra Nova. He contacts Alan, who tells him that Paul and Sandra are waiting aboard the Eagle as ordered. He contacts Alpha and tells Victor to cancel Operation Exodus. Back on Alpha, the mood is solemn.|
|Kano approaches Koenig, telling him that he checked the feasibility studies the computer was running, and the Moon should pass nearly 10,000,000 planets of which, statistically, 3,600 should be Earth-like. Vicotr asks how old he will be when they reach the first one. More importantly, Koenig|
|asks Kano how old he will be by the time they reach the last of them. Kano tells him he will be exactly 2,543 years old. Koenig smiles and looks out into Main Mission. He sees Helena on the balcony looking out the windows, and goes to her as she silently watches Terra Nova recede into the distance.|
Screenplay..............................................Art Wallace and Johnny Byrne
Lee Russell................................................................Richard Johnson
Matter of Life and Death is not exactly one of my favorite episodes, but it seems to suffer from having a downside to most of the positive aspects of the show. We get to see the closeness of John and Helena's relationship, which is both good and bad. It's nice to see how much he cares for her. He obviously feels close enough to her to sit on her bed while visiting to see how's she's feeling after she "faints". John seems to be consciously restraining his jealousy. I got the distinct impression that he felt Lee Russell's re-appearance was inconvenient for their relationship, which was nicely played by Martin Landau. And I enjoyed seeing them holding hands after Terra Nova was restored. The "bad" part of this is that being the second episode, this seems a little rushed. I have heard that the episode was written in such a way that it might be aired out of order, as syndication at that time could not guarantee that the episodes would run in order. If this was, in fact, the case, it would also explain other lines of dialogue, like Parks saying "I think we made it this time", and Koenig stating that "many things have happened since we broke away from our solar system".
Another problem with this episode is their use of anti-matter. Victor seems to grasp the properties of anti-matter when he explains to John that if the process of reverse polarity were to reach completion in Lee Russell's skin samples, converting them to anti-matter, that it would mean annihilation for them. But many of the problems they faced in the episode seemed to have no connection to anti-matter. Why the electrical discharge on the Eagle at the beginning? Why would Paul's stun gun explode? Why would the seals on the Eagle (or Alpha for that fact) begin to degrade? It might have worked better if the Moon was destroyed by Lee's conversion to anti-matter, and the Eagle (it would have to be the same one used for the initial survey of the planet by Parks), with Paul and Sandra on board, was destroyed by skin, hair, blood, or something left behind as a result of Lee being on it earlier. The shockwave from the Moon exploding could still cause the landslide killing Koenig. This would alleviate the sense of randomness of the troubles they faced.
Another issue I always had with this episode is the fact that John seems determined to ignore the advise of the two people closest to him on the base, when Victor and Helena try to talk him out of going down to Terra Nova. I would have thought he would have taken much more stock in the opinions of not only his two closest friends, but his Chief Medical Officer, and his Scientific Advisor.
Then with the "reset" ending, there are no consequences for his actions. He basically doomed himself and everyone on Alpha to death with his stubbornness. Essentially the same thing happens in War Games, but it works better within the context of an illusion created by aliens.
On a more positive note, most of the effects in the episode are very nicely handled. The planet set is beautifully realized, and matches up nicely with the miniature effects. Although, I have to admit, I never found the sky quite convincing.
We see Alpha with lights for the first time in this episode. I think this really helps sell the illusion that it's real.
There is a
problem with continuity in this episode though. Both
times we see the Eagle on the launch pad, they show it
facing left in the close up with the boarding tube in the
background, and then facing left again in the long shots
with the boarding tube in the foreground, as shown below.
In my original review of this episode, I had mentioned that I enjoyed the fact that Paul Morrow died, if only temporarily, in this episode. I can only say that I feel differently now. I when I did the original page, I was till influenced by my original memories of the series. I remember never caring for Paul when I watched the show growing up. For some reason it seemed he was always the main character who would turn on Koenig. Pointing a stun gun at him in both Guardian of Piri, and Another Time, Another Place, and slugging it out in The Last Sunset. I guess I held that against him! But seeing the series through many times since then, I can see where Paul was more often at Koenig's side, than not.
As an interesting side note, I found a picture of a
deleted scene, or alternate take,
of Helena and John over Lee Russell in Medical Centre where she is wearing a white lab coat.
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The first reports on Terra Alpha
are suddenly cut off.
A mysterious passenger is found
aboard Eagle 1.
John just can't believe that
Helena's husband is back.
Victor tries to explain why
Lee Russell's life signs do not
register on the medical monitors.
guilts Helena into
waking her husband with
Metrazine for questioning.
Lee and Helena's talk comes
to a shocking conclusion.
Koenig and Victor can't decide
if Lee Russell is dead or alive.
Lee Russell's interrogation
Lee Russell's interrogation
Victor and Helena's advice
against Operation Exodus
falls on deaf ears.
Koenig announces his decision
to go down to Terra Nova.
|Koenig ignores Victors warnings again.|
Things start to go terribly
wrong on Terra Nova.
|Things go from bad to worse.|
John dies, and Helena
is left alone on Terra Nova.
Lee explains how he came
to be on Terra Nova...
in complete sentences.
Kano has some good news
for Koenig, relatively speaking.