The Last Sunset
Now certain that it is some type of missile, Alan prepares for the worst as it zeroes in on his ship. It closes the gap, and surprisingly does not detonate, but attaches itself to the hull of the Eagle's cockpit section.
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Koenig orders Eagles 2 and 7 back to the base, and evacuates the personnel of launch pad 1. Paul lands Eagle 2 remotely, and Koenig orders the pilots to get clear as soon as they touch down. Unable to gather any information about the object by remote scans, Koenig orders it brought into the base for analysis. While Victor attempts to learn more about the object, Koenig speculates that the people of Ariel sent it as a diversion to keep the Alphans from landing on their planet. Victor is still unable to provide much information about the object after his scans, but as he declares that it is totally inert, the object raises its antennae, and begins emitting gas.
Koenig has the Technical Section evacuated, sealed off, and its airlocks opened to the surface. The volume of gas being released by an object that small, is beyond their comprehension. Tanya alerts Koenig to the "invasion" of countless probes landing on the surface.
Before he can even react, Victor contacts Main Mission with his analysis of the gases emitted by the alien object. He tells Koenig that it is air. As Koenig digests this information, a red glow appears in the windows of Main Mission. Everyone runs to look out, and is amazed to see a red sunrise appearing on their horizon. Koenig is the first to verbalize the realization that the people of Ariel have given them an atmosphere. As the sun rises, and the sky turns blue, the probes lift off after starting the process that will increase the Moon's gravity to that of Earth.
After doing her analysis of the atmosphere, Helena tells John that as far as she can tell, it's safe. The only thing left is to test it. Koenig announces her findings, and asks for two volunteers to go outside and make sure. Everyone clamors to be selected, but Paul and Sandra are chosen. They go out onto the surface in space suits, while their vital signs are constantly monitored in Main Mission.
Paul is the first to remove a glove, then open the visor on his helmet. After a breathe of fresh air, he and Sandra hug, and attempt a kiss, which is thwarted by their helmets. Soon, there are many Alphans on the surface enjoying the sun and fresh air, while John, Helena, and Victor look on from an open window. Paul and Sandra go for a walk, and find themselves discussing the possibilities of a new life outside of the confines of Alpha.
This leads to another, more successful, kiss. John tells Victor that they need rain and time to make the Moon livable, thus they should focus on seeing if Ariel will support them. At that moment, the alien object begins the cycle of rain in the lunar sky. The Main Mission staff run outside to play in the rain, while Victor and John watch from a window. Victor is caught up in the excitement, telling John that the Sea of Tranquility will become a real sea, and the Moon will be covered with circular lakes.
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But an unpleasant realization hits John. Alpha is built at the bottom of a crater, and will be sitting at the bottom of one of those lakes. This prompts an expedition to search the surface for a viable location to set up a new community, should this come to pass. Russell leads the team, consisting of Alan, Paul and Sandra, to this end. They lift off for their mission carrying the hopes, and future, of Alpha with them.
They quickly learn that an atmosphere is both a blessing and a curse. Their communication is riddled with static, and data from their onboard computer can no longer be read by Alpha's main computer, as they head into an electrical storm. The storm worsens, and all contact is lost with Alpha.
The Eagle is hit by lightning, causing total systems failure. Unable to restore power, the Eagle crashes on the lunar surface, and is quickly being covered with lunar dust. In Main Mission, Koenig orders the remaining Eagles to begin a search of a mile radius of Eagle 28's last recorded position.
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He and Dr. Mathias will join the search in Eagle 1, loaded with medical supplies. Helena takes care of Sandra, who has received a concussion during the crash. With all the Eagle's systems blown, they realize that all they can do is wait to be found. While the other Eagles are searching for their location, Paul and Alan try to open the Eagle's door to let some air in. When one thinks of Aldrich's visual style, one perceives two elements that seem at odds with each other: a deliberate and formalized compositional sense; and decoupage that runs a little wild, and can even seem messy.
In the scene I described above, it occurred to me for the first time how those two elements might work together. On the whole, I didn't care a lot for the film, despite some appealing hard-edged long-shot compositions. The acting is very uneven and ungoverned though Lynley is wonderful , and there's something middlebrow about the way that the script is constructed in non-psychological terms get these people on a cattle drive together, and don't bother me with the details!
The introduction of the incest theme into 60s Hollywood only heightens the middlebrow effect: suicide is an implausible solution to Douglas's problems, but an acceptable way to soothe the audience's discomfort.
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