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Features: Articles & Interviews

Interview with John Kenneth Muir


I want to praise you on your attention to subtle detail. For example, when you mention Kelly (from "Space Brain") on page 90, you mention he was raised in Canada. Ironically, so was Shane Rimmer, the actor who played Kelly. In the same passage, you also mention a swimming pool, which Rimmer's alter-ego in Thunderbirds (Scott Tracy) flew his Thunderbird 1 rocket out of.

There are also nods to other aspects of the series, from an overview of worlds affected by the space brain (such as the rock creature world of "All that Glisters,"), Kano's comments about habitable worlds from "Matter of Life and Death," Tony Verdeschi's aversion to aliens (supremely ironic and humorous, considering the future addition of Maya,his ev entual alien love interest), among others.

Was there anything in particular that you hope the readers see/look at closer when they read the book?

Thank you again for your generous words. The Kelly reference was originally to England, I believe, until Martin Willey reminded me that Rimmer was indeed from Canada. But you are dead right about the Thunderbirds reference. That was a (very small) in-joke, an oblique reference that I think nobody, not even Mateo, commented on or recognized. I couldn't resist. Originally, I gave Kelly a first name: Shane. But it was too much and I took it out.

The other references were absolutely intentional. One of my theories about Year Two was that it was a very wild, uncontrolled year. Heat waves smash Alpha in "Catacombs of the Moon," space warps bedevil it again and again ("Metamorph," "Space Warp"), and space weather belts ("The Seance Spectre") and galactic explosions ("The A-B Chrysalis") vex it too. It's just totally out-of-control. My theory on this was that the mechanisms of the galaxy had been shattered by the Alphan's encounter with the Space Brain, and that it had once kept these forces in check, but now, suddenly, in Year Two, all those forces were out of control and the Alphans had to deal with them.

Much of Year Two deals with shortages of essential supplies ("Bringers of Wonder" and "Beta Cloud," for instance), and I thought - 'wow, maybe that happened because the space brain used to nurture these alien races and now they're on their own, and in danger of extinction!' So those "symbiosis" references to future episodes were important.

I wanted to offer fans a new theory of how to fit the two universes (seasons) of 1999 might fit together as a coherent whole. In one year, the galaxy is controlled by this benevolent shepherd and there's a certain decorum, even if the Alphans don't understand it. Then in the next year, all bets are off and space is really an out-of-control wilderness. Koenig came to understand this and that's why he went from being even-handed (refusing to shoot first and launch pre-emptive attacks) to quite the opposite in the second year. It was a whole new ball game. He couldn't take risks; he had to make Alpha's fate for himself, or suffer the consequences. That's how I saw it.

The ironic comment from Tony Verdeschi about aliens was a matter of controversy. More than one person advised me to take it out. I disagreed because I felt it was very true to who Tony Verdeschi is. He is suspicious of aliens, as we see in "The Metamorph," so it seemed absolutely character-driven, not just a silly joke. I loved this line, and wouldn't let it go, and Mateo is not a dictator at all. He doesn't override the writer on issues if he can at all help it, and let me have my way.

There are some Easter Egg-style secrets in the book, that I would like readers to discover. As far as a deeper understanding of the book, I would want readers to ask themselves, who are the Forsaken of the title? And, if the MUF is clearing the planet of the Cryptodira, is it necessarily doing so for the Alphans?

Also, the book has a crazy malfunction in the climax (just as there was a crazy malfunction in the last third of the "Space Brain" episode). This malfunction is not really dramatically motivated or even possible (as the book notes). How did it happen? Did the MUF cause that malfunction, and if it did, who was it trying to stop, Paul or Koenig? Those are some of the core issues there, but there are a lot of philosophical things in the book that bear closer scrutiny, I hope. I hope people will read the book at least twice, and have a different experience each time, as they delve deeper.

Paul Morrow: Ever-frowning, dedicated, respectful of authority in the public eye and quietly passoniate. Morrow is the main protagonist - and painfully, the quasi-antagonist within the storyline. Had you discussed the evolution of Morrow with the actual actor, Prentis Hancock, before writing the book? What feedback had you received since he read the novel? How did it touch you personally, particularly as he wrote the book's foreword?

I didn't discuss the Morrow character arc with Prentis Hancock, who I have talked with at Conventions, but as it became clear that "The Forsaken" was headed the way it was, I petitioned Mateo to have Prentis Hancock write the foreword. To my everlasting delight, Mr. Hancock agreed. His response was that he liked what the book did, and wished he had gotten to play such a meaty role on TV. I'm glad he liked the book and felt that the plot was valid.

I don't really see Paul as an antagonist, but just someone with a different opinion; a strong leader in his own right, a man in search of his destiny, you know? I was thrilled that Mr. Hancock came on board to write the foreword and that he supported the book. I'm pretty sure he pressed Mateo to include the Interlude, the short section wherein Paul makes a decision about Sandra, and I think that was a very astute choice. Nobody knows Morrow better than Prentis Hancock, so I'm thrilled he feels that the story is true to Paul's character.

You introduce new people within Moonbase Alpha - and bring aboard characters who will surface in the show's second season, such as Tony Verdeschi. Did the book permit you to explore the characters as fully as you would have liked? Did you want to spend more pages on any particular characters?

My biggest disappointment with the book is that there was no logical way to include Maya. I really like Maya and wanted to write her character, but she just didn't fit into the timeline of "The Forsaken." I loved having the opportunity to introduce Tony. I felt it was important that he play an important part in this story because in the series he goes from never being seen, never even being mentioned, to becoming Koenig's first officer. I thought that the events of "The Forsaken" should prove to Koenig that Tony was a loyal, team-player.

In general, I felt very happy that Alan, Bergman, Russell, Koenig, Sandra, Kano and Mathias all had moments of importance in the book. The series has wonderful supporting characters and I was delighted to give them new tasks and shade them a bit differently - and more in-depth - than a fifty-two minute episode could allow.

Tony Verdeschi eventually has a showdown with Paul Morrow. I have to ask, in your thoughts, during the fight sequence, was it Barry Gray's Year One music, or Derek Wadsworth's Year Two music?

You know, I'd say Derek Wadsworth's Year Two music was probably in my head, because it was a fight scene, and his music had a faster, more action-y tempo. But there were many, many occasions where I heard Gray's music too. For instance, the last scene with Koenig and Victor...

I understand that one of your favorite episodes is the Johnny Byrne-penned "Force of Life." Your book also plays heavily with the fallout of events from Christopher Penfold's "Space Brain. Did these episodes, or any other episodes, specifically fuel your imagination and storytelling skills when writing? How so? (Did you re-watch episodes, find anything specific about the characters you wanted to focus on, find unexplained items which you wanted to add context to, etc?)

Well, that unexplained malfunction in "Space Brain" always puzzled and inspired me. I don't think it was an accident the malfunction occurred when it did, because Penfold is such a brilliant writer. I think it was one of those unexplained things that got viewers really engaged; thinking. I mean, why would the space brain go to all of the trouble to commune with Kelly and figure out a way to save the moon, only to then destroy it with the Eagle's nuclear charges? That doesn't make sense! That was the moment that "The Forsaken" came out of, the gap that I thought would be fun to fill.

I did re-watch many episodes, including "Space Brain," "The Testament of Arkadia," "The Last Sunset" (mainly to view Paul), "War Games," "The Exiles," "Bringers of Wonder" and "Collision Course."

I also included other details, like a notation about Koenig's grandma (who he briefly mentioned, while insane, in "Bringers of Wonder.")

I felt that the end of the book should be a mirror image of what we saw in "Testament of Arkadia," and so I tried to play against expectations. For instance, Helena Russell gets into trouble again, but this time, she figures things out before she can be a hostage. I wanted to do a little flip on that story; leave the audience expecting one thing and then doing something else. I liked the opportunity to use the "symbiosis" procedure from "Space Brain" and talk a little bit about it, since it was kind of an oddity on the show that was never mentioned again. Basically, there are probably references to almost every Space: 1999story in there, if you can find 'em.

Was "The Forsaken" a story which you've been wanting to tell? Or do you still have something that you'd eventually like to write?

Ultimately, "The Forsaken" became the story I wanted to tell, after cycling through my other notions ("Futility," "Fortune's Fools"). It was the right story at the right time, and I'm very satisfied with it. It went through multiple drafts, and I think it became better on each rewrite I undertook. I think "Futility" still has possibilities, but needs to be tied to another story too. It may not be big enough to be a novel on its own.

I recently gave Mateo an outline for a follow-up 1999 novel, "Space: 1999 Communion," which would expand mysteries raised in "The Forsaken." One of the intentionally enigmatic aspects of "The Forsaken" is the totem on Havana. It is not Cryptodira technology, so who put it there? Who built it? "Communion" would answer that question, with the Alphans coming across the people that built that totem, the communications tower between the Space Brain and its "flock," so-to-speak. I'd really like to write that novel, because I think it would be neat and because I've set it in Year Two... and would get to write a Maya story.

The MUF - The Mysterious Unknown Force - is known by devoted fans as the catalyst/lynchpin to various unexplained events of Space: 1999. It was never identified outright within the series, although it was allegorized in various episodes.

Your depiction of the MUF within "The Forsaken" consists of a summary of the Space: 1999 series in philosophical and religious examples and metaphors (around pages 158 and 159). Do you personally find it easier to analyze the metaphysical nature of the series (and the MUF) in religious, scientific and or philosophical terms? Did you see the MUF as a cosmic force overriding the space brain's presence/fate in favor of the Alphans?

For me, the discussion of the MUF is a way to illustrate a core conceit of the series, which is that science and religion are the same thing. They both try to explain mysterious things, and neither one is more accurate than the other. You know, Johnny Byrne has called Victor Bergman Alpha's "interpreter of the runes," and I think he is - as is typical of Johnny - absolutely spot-on. Star Trek believes that science and technology can unchain man from poverty and war, but Space: 1999 has a different opinion. It seems to suggest that as we move deeper into space, we'll understand that science, religion and philosophy are all connected; they are all systems of belief and not one is pre-eminent over the other.

As regarding the MUF in "The Forsaken"... I believe the MUF overrode the space brain's presence intentionally, yes. But whether it did it in favor of the Alphans - or something else - is open to interpretation. I have "the" definitive answer, because Mateo insisted I plot it all out and that it make sense, but it is a state secret and I can't reveal it. One day, the truth will come out...

The Forsaken - cover variant #2

John Kenneth Muir's
"The Forsaken" novel,
from Powys Media.
(Cover art variant #2.)

What was your first impression of the cover art? As the author, how did the cover art metaphor strike you? Any general comments about the cover art?

I really liked both covers. As per the first cover, I thought it was innovative, artistic and very true to the spirit of the book. The picture shows the moon with a trail of rose petals, and that image comes out of a particular passage in the book. To me, it is absolutely valid and even a bit daring. It gets boring after a while if you just keep using photos from the show or images of outer space, so I credit Mateo for doing something bold and different. You look at that cover and say "wow, this is different." And ultimately, I think that's a good mind-set by which to read the book, so I approve wholeheartedly of it.

I understand some folks didn't like it though, and so Mateo offered an alternate cover - which I also like. But the rose petal cover represents the state of mind of a character in the story, and you don't really understand that until you read the book. I think that is very smart and very cool.

And by the way, Mateo showed me both covers ahead of time and allowed me to comment on them. That is one thing people may not understand about writers - they are pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole, even when they are the authors of a book! They don't get say on lay-out, price, or cover. Mateo was very kind and discussed the cover with me, because he didn't have to, and just recently, my agent was able to add into my contract with another publisher that I have veto power of the cover. As you get more well-known you get more authority, but it is very funny to see yourself criticized by fans over covers, prices, book layout and photographs when you generally have no final say over any of those things! You just have to live with the way things turn out...

What's next? Can you discuss your short story in the forthcoming Space: 1999 anthology book, "Shepherd Moon" by Powys Media? Other projects?

My story in "Shepherd Moon" is a flashback tale that recounts, in sometimes very disturbing detail, a space mission that changed the way Commander Koenig views space. It's based on a story mentioned twice in the TV series during Year Two.

At some point, I also want to do "Space: 1999 Communion" as the continuation of the MUF/"Forsaken" story. That would be part Two of a proposed trilogy that sheds light (or further doubt...) on the motives and mechanisms of the MUF.

On non-Space: 1999 fronts, I have my "Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television" from McFarland coming out in hardback during the next several weeks. It's a look at tons of superhero movies and programs from 1951 - 2003. McFarland also plans to re-release my "Wes Craven: The Art of Horror" book as a cheaper soft-back edition come Spring, 2004.

I have my next major "films of" book from Applause coming out in Spring 2004, to follow up last year's "An Askew View: The Films of Kevin Smith." I don't want to give too much away until Applause officially announces it, but I did over thirty interviews for the book and it is about a director who is much beloved.

I have about three more books in the pipeline right now, at various stages of development, due out between now and the fall of 2005, so I'm keeping busy... which is exactly how I like it! But I hope to clear time in my schedule for more Space: 1999 soon. I'd love to hear from the fans about the book, and they can e-mail me at my web site at Thanks!

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To obtain "Exploring Space: 1999" and "The Forsaken" please visit's online store. "The Forsaken" and other books by the author can also be obtained from his official web site.

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Moonbase Alpha's Eagle One
Alan Carter
Dr. Helena Russell
Dr. Bob Mathias
Tanya Alexander
Controller Paul Morrow