Sunday 31 December 2023

E.C. Tubb’s Space: 1999 Rogue Planet (TV tie-in novel)

E.C. Tubb’s Rogue Planet, published in 1977, was the ninth of the Space: 1999 TV tie-in novels. It is an original novel, not a novelisation of episodes from the TV series. It’s based on Year One of the TV series.

E.C. Tubb was a prolific British science fiction writer. He wrote several Space: 1999 novels.

It’s relaxation time for the crew of Moonbase Alpha. They’re enjoying an amateur performance of Hamlet, but when the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears they see and hear something strange, something Shakespeare certainly did not write. It’s a warning that Moonbase Alpha is heading for danger. But every member of the audience saw and heard something different. And every member of the audience agrees that what they saw and heard was terrifying.

Was it some kind of mass delusion? Was it some mysterious message beamed from somewhere in space? Not long afterwards some kind of temporary collective madness afflicts the Alphans. It passes, but again it was terrifying and inexplicable.

Moonbase Alpha’s commander, John Koenig, wants answers. The base’s chief scientist Victor Bergman and chief medical officer Dr Helena Russell cannot provide answers, only speculation. Alpha’s instruments can detect nothing threatening.

Then the brain appears. It can’t be a brain of course, but it looks like one. An enormous brain the size of a planet. And Moonbase Alpha is trapped in a separate miniature universe. There appears to be no escape but some means of escape must be found. One crew member has already died of old age and he was only thirty-two. The same fate may await all of the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha.

Space: 1999 was a great series (or at least Year One was great) but you do have to accept the outrageous premise of the series - the Moon being thrown out of orbit and hurtling through space at an absurd speed like a gigantic spaceship. You also have to accept the idea that in the almost unimaginable vastness and emptiness of space they keep encountering countless planets and alien spacecraft. But then the science fiction genre as a whole requires a huge suspension of disbelief. If you love science fiction you learn to accept some wacky science.

The novel captures the feel of the series extremely well. The principal characters - Commander Koenig, Dr Russell, Professor Bergman, chief Eagle pilot Alan Carter etc - behave the way they behave in the TV series. There’s the same mix of space adventure and reasonably cool science fiction concepts.

There’s a reasonable amount of emphasis on Koenig’s responsibilities as commander and the need to be strong and decisive while always bearing in mind that he’s dealing with people not machines. Similarly with Dr Russell there’s emphasis on the awesome responsibilities she has to shoulder alone.

Tubb’s prose is straightforward but pleasing enough.

It’s a very entertaining story with a few serious touches. The crew of Moonbase Alpha have to confront the imminent threats of death (death from accelerated ageing which is certainly a very frightening prospect) and madness. Death is ever-present in this story, in varying forms.

Space: 1999 was not a series that offered spectacular space battles. It offered action, but the action was more likely to be battles against strange unseen alien forces rather than hostile star fleets. This novel follows the same sort of formula. There are narrow escapes from mortal danger but the dangers in this case come from strange force fields and from being trapped in caverns and suchlike things.

This novel also offers us an alien life form that is genuinely alien.

Rogue Planet is a very decent science fiction novel. If you’re a fan of the TV series you’ll enjoy and even if you’ve never seen the series you’ll probably find it entertaining. Highly recommended.

I’ve reviewed one of Tubb’s other Space: 1999 novels, Alien Seed (which is excellent). I’ve also reviewed another Space: 1999 novel, John Rankine’s Android Planet (which is quite good).


  1. I'm a huge fan of Tubb's Dumarest of Terra series of novels, which led me to pick up the Traveller role-playing game long, long ago. I've mentioned the series on my blog, but I have a note on my to-do list to write a full review.
    I'm not a huge fan of 1999, although I watched it. The plot you describe reminds me of one of the Dumarest novels. Although I suppose hallucinations can be used more than once.

    1. I'm a huge fan of Tubb's Dumarest of Terra series of novels

      I'll have to check those out.