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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138
-at-popapostle-dot-com
UFO
"
The Force Field"
Countdown #19-25, June 26, 1971-August 7, 1971
Writer: Unknown (possibly Alan Fennell)
Art: Gerry Haylock

 

The aliens attack a mining survey base on Mars.

 

Read the story summary at Technodelic

 

NOTES FROM THE UFO CHRONOLGOY

 

The opening narrative of this story indicates it takes place in August 1981.

 

DIDJA KNOW?

 

On the Technodelic website, their feature on the history of the UFO comic strips in Countdown magazine speculates that Alan Fennell may have been the author of this story. Personally, I think it was a different writer than the one who did the previous UFO stories in Countdown; this story is less well-grounded in the UFO universe than the previous strips, ignoring or going far beyond SHADO's usual capabilities as depicted in the TV series.

 

DIDJA NOTICE?

 

Panel 12 on pages 1-2 depict the Control Sphere as the one to the left of the launch tower from our "camera view". Yet "The Dalotek Affair" depicts it as the one to the right (Sphere #3).

 

This story reveals that Earth has a small mining survey base on Mars.

 

The surveyors on Mars apparently are aware of the existence of the UFOs and Moonbase's role in stopping them. Perhaps Earth's governments felt the need to inform them of it from the start on the chance that the alien ships would attempt human abductions of the small group. And Lewis in particular seems to be familiar with Harlington-Straker Studios on Earth and knows that it is secretly the headquarters of SHADO. This tends to suggest that he (and possibly other members of the Mars mining expedition) is a member of the organization, not just part of a standard or civilian space exploration program. And page 11 of the story states the mining expedition is sponsored by SHADO. But, if so, why is SHADO interested in conducting mining surveys on Mars? Maybe they want to find out if Mars has the resources to build and support a fully-staffed SHADO base to provide additional surveillance and interception of UFOs?

 

The art of panel 7 on page 4 makes Moonbase look impossibly enormous on the surface of the Moon!
Moonbase

 

Straker orders Foster to take a lunar module to investigate the situation on Mars. And Foster is able to arrive at the planet and return to Moonbase in mere hours! This is impossible. SHADO does not have anything approaching the speed of the UFOs in space. It would take five months or more at Mars' closest approach to Earth to fly there with our own current technology and even with SHADO's slightly more advanced technology, the TV show still depicts relatively slow-moving space vehicles, not to mention the fuel requirements of such a rapid trip.

 

Astronaut Jack Lewis on Mars is seen wearing a spacesuit similar to the ones worn by Moonbase personnel during a moonwalk.

 

Lewis drives a Mars buggy that is a different design than any other vehicle seen in the series.

Mars buggy 

 

Besides the typical UFOs seen in the TV series, this story also provides a look at a larger alien spacecraft as well as small, one-man flyers. Large UFO   One-man UFO

 

As the aliens chase the running Lewis across the Martian wastes in their flyers, Lewis just happens to fall through a thin layer of surface to the mine shaft below, saving his life while leaving the aliens believing he's finished. Convenient. 

 

Straker's screen On page 9, panel 7 of the story, Straker is using the screen in his office, which normally displays abstract light patterns, to display an image of the planet Mars as he goes over his plan to rescue Lewis from the red planet.

 

This story reveals that an arsenal of interplanetary missile launchers are hidden in the craters around Moonbase. These missles are capable of targeting and striking points on and near Mars (and presumably other planets in the solar system if needed), again an unlikely-to-exist technology in the SHADO depicted in the TV series. Apparently these missiles are only for such long-range targets as later episodes "The Cat With Ten Lives" and "Reflections in the Water" fail to depict these crater-based missile launchers in favor of mobile rocket launcher vehicles when Moonbase is directly threatened by UFOs. But, on page 13, the Moonbase interplanetary missiles rather easily destroy the alien missiles launched from Mars targeting SHADO HQ. If it's that easy, why don't they use them more often against UFOs instead of relying on the Interceptors?

 

In this story, SID is depicted has being armed with a laser beam capable of shooting all the way to Mars! Why didn't SID use this laser to defend itself from the UFOs that damaged the satellite earlier in "Too Old at 32"? One might argue that the laser was added after the events of that story, but the later episode "The Man Who Came Back" also depicts SID being damaged by a UFO and still no laser to defend itself. Of course, we see no evidence throughout the TV series that SHADO has any laser defense technology.

 

Page 12 states that Lewis is dangerously low on water and food. Yeah? What about air? He's been in that same spacesuit since the beginning of the story! And just how much time has passed? Seemingly no more than a couple of days, but surely his oxygen tank would have expired by now! We could argue that he found spare tanks in the mine and possibly spare water and food pouches for his suit as well.

 

Panel 8 of pages 11-12 depicts the lunar module landing horizontally on the Martian surface. If it can land horizontally (and presumably take off again), why does SHADO land it vertically at Moonbase in all other appearances? It seems like it would be much easier to land in the horizontal position.

 

This story reveals that the lunar module is apparently capable of carrying a SHADO Mobile inside it! Foster takes one with him for use on Mars.

 

Oddly, the final two-page chapter of this story changes the title from "The Force Field" to "Invasion from Mars". 

 

This story reveals that Straker can use the code word "sidewinder" to order all available SHADO Mobiles to form a defensive ring around SHADO HQ. But wouldn't the civilian employees of Harlington-Straker Studios notice a little thing like that?! 

 

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

 

How were the aliens able to project a force field entirely around Mars?

 

What was SHADO's interest in Mars mining in the first place?

 

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