Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Play of Aryan Archetypes in Space 1999

Although Aryan themes abound in science fiction comics, books, TV and films, I will concentrate on those that run like a thread through the 1970s British TV series Space 1999.

Gerry Anderson's mid-70s live-action series starts with the Moon being blasted out of Earth's orbit after the catastrophic explosion of a lunar nuclear waste dump, and the rest of the series follows the adventures of the Alphans – inhabitants of Earth's only lunar colony, Moonbase Alpha – as they hurtle through the cosmos at unlikely speed. The initial premise of the Moon leaving Earth's orbit is an interesting reversal of Hans Hörbiger's Welteislehre: the scientific theory, popular in 1930s Germany, which proposed a succession of ice-formed moons sequentially crashing to Earth. The popularity of this theory can be explained in part by its similarity to ancient Germanic mythological concepts of the creation of the cosmos from the dynamic interaction between fire and ice, and therefore appealed directly to northern European race-consciousness.

Anderson's Space 1999 lasted for just two series, with the first judged generally far better - and more metaphysical – than the second. The latter series suffered the misfortune of being produced by Fred Freiberger, who had previously ruined the third series of Star Trek. All episodes mentioned below (Episode 3. Black Sun; Episode 14. Death's Other Dominion; Episode 16. End of Eternity; Episode 22. Mission of the Darians; Episode 24. The Testament of Arkadia) are from the first series.

In addition to these specific episodes, Space 1999 retained an identifiably British occult sensibility in other episodes by starring Hammer Horror stalwarts Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and with stories by Irish author Johnny Byrne, who has expressed his interest in Celtic mythology.

Black Sun

The most interesting feature of this early episode is the title itself, which has a long history in Aryan esotericism. Already by 1974, when this episode was shot, the commonly accepted designation for the interstellar gravity-pit that captures the Moon and its crew of Alphans was a “black hole”. The Alphans avoid their expected disintegration and annihilation on encountering this particular Black Sun, and instead undergo an enlightening mystical experience.

Death's Other Dominion

As the Moon drifts past the ice-blue planet of Ultima Thule, Commander Koenig decides to send an expedition to the surface. On landing the Alphans almost perish in a frozen wasteland, until rescued by a typically bombastic Brian Blessed. Blessed's band of rugged Thulians (formerly earthmen and women) have discovered the secret of immortality. Blessed offers the Alphans everlasting life in his “We shall be as gods of the universe...” speech, but the Alphans conclude that the price demanded is too high. In a previous scene they have been tipped off to the lurking danger by the trickster archetype in the form of a transposed medieval court jester. The episode was directed by veteran British director Charles Crichton, who was also responsible for editing H.G. Wells' 1936 classic Things to Come and directing a few of the post-war Ealing comedies. Ultima Thule in European mythology is the sacred land at or near the North Pole and an original Aryan homeland. Blessed's immortal followers, although they have access to the highest technologies, still dress in fur-skins.

End of Eternity

In this episode the Alphans rescue the oversized alien prisoner Balor from a sealed cave hidden deep within a passing comet. The inside of cave is painted with the grotesque scenes of horror and destruction that Balor had unleashed on his home-planet, a fate that awaits the Alphans should they be unable to return Balor to his entombment. Apart from the obvious reference to Balor of the Evil Eye from Irish mythology (the story was written by Johnny Byrne), the character can also be seen as a reference to other bound-giants of Aryan mythology, notably Prometheus and Loki. Like the culture-heroes Loki and Prometheus, the alien prisoner is portrayed as a catalyst to dramatic evolutionary change, and is punished for his efforts.

Mission of the Darians

The Darians (named from the Ancient Greek tribe of Dorians, and perhaps more remotely from the divine Celtic tribe of Tuatha Dé Danann) inhabit a generational galactic starship which had suffered a nuclear disaster some 900 years before the arrival of the Alphans. Led by the regal Joan Collins (who memorably guest-starred in such Sixties TV science fiction classics as Batman opposite Adam West and Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever) the chiton-clad Darians' ignoble mission is to survive as best they can by harvesting the organs and otherwise exploiting the less fortunate members of the crew who were previously abandoned in the contaminated regions of the vast ship. This is a basic re-telling of the modern European Industrial myth of the bifurcation of society into haves and have-nots; first posited as science fiction by H.G. Wells in The Time Machine (Morlocks and Eloi) and first filmed by Fritz Lang in Metropolis. The story was again written by Johnny Byrne, who also wrote the final episode of the first series, The Testament of Arkadia.

The Testament of Arkadia

This, the final episode of the first series, is the most explicit and influential of all the mythologically-driven plots; drawing on contemporary “ancient astronaut” von Däniken theories of the first impulse to civilization and older, Theosophical notions of the origins of mankind.

The lead character, Luke, played by Italian actor Orso Maria Guerrini, resembles Freddie Mercury during his 80s clone incarnation, complete with convincing clone moustache. It was no accident that he was chosen for his Indo-Iranian/ Persian good looks (“Testament Of Arcadia still generated a spiritual frisson when I last saw it - though at that time money was tight and we were lumbered with Italian leading men who could hardly speak a word of English.” - Johnny Byrne).

The Alphans use their Eagle spaceships to land on the apparently-dead world of Arkadia, which at first sight resembles a desolate WWI battlescape. Luke (from the Proto-Indo-European root word light: *leuk) stumbles into a skeleton-strewn cave and discovers a tablet with writing engraved into the wall. That this significant discovery is made in a cave is also no accident: the supreme act of the apotheosis of the Persian god Mithras, the sacred taurobolium – slaying of the bull – is performed in a cave. “The cave in which the 'bull' seeks refuge at the end of its run, corresponds to the alchemical 'cave of mercury' which is often associated with the subtle centre of the body located at the base of the spine, which the Hindu call muladhara; the Hindus relate it to the tattva [roughly: Truth] of the earth.” The Path of Enlightenment in the Mithraic Mysteries – Julius Evola

The engraved writing is in Sanskrit, and tells of how all life came to an end on the planet 25,000 years previously in “the light of a thousand suns” - an obvious reference to the quote from the Bhagavad Gita, famously recalled by J. Robert Oppenheimer on witnessing the Trinity first nuclear test explosion.

Luke and his female Alphan companion Anna read about how a few of the Arkadians managed to escape the catastrophe and establish their culture on a new planet – Earth. Luke and Anna come to understand, via some psychic Arkadian device, that their destiny is to bring life back to Arkadia, thus fulfilling a pre-ordained circuit in space and time. Their conversation is sprinkled with references to Providence - “when the lines of destiny meet” - and allusions to “going home”; realizations of the nature of fate which put them at odds with their “non-initiated” Alphan companions.

The name Arkadia/ Arcadia itself has huge resonance: named by the Pelasgians for the most favoured region in Ancient Greece and referenced in the Poussin painting that helped kick-off the whole Holy Blood, Holy Grail/ da Vinci Code phenomenon.

“The name 'Arcadia', written alternatively with 'k', is derived from the Sanskrit word arka respectively, the stem 'ar(k)', containing the mystical 'ra' symbolizing cyclic return. Its derivations prove to be a repository of Polar lore.
“The word arka means 'ray' or 'flash'. Both arka-tanaya or arka-nandana are translated 'Saturn'. Derived from arka, arcat means 'shining' and is one with the word catar or Cathar, explained previously. From arcat 'Arcadia' is derived. The Land of the Living is the Shining Realm or the Luminous Land of the Spirit-Light. The word arka-mandala has the meaning of 'disc of the sun', exoterically depicting the luminary in the solar system, esoterically applying to the Black Sun that shines above the Midnight Mountain.” Polaria: The Gift of the White Stone. W.H. Müller (Albuquerque, 1996).

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home