I have avoided writing about this show before and I'm going to be upfront about the reasons to clear the air at the beginning of this post.
One of the reasons is that I think it is entirely fair to say that this show is something of a hot mess, but I have been unsure how to say that and also make it clear that I think it is great. It has some really enthusiastic fans, but I think is somewhat neglected in the blogosphere for this same reason. A show commissioned in the wake of the relative failure of Joe 90, by a man famous for puppet shows for children, yet with real actors and intended for adults, is never going to be comfortable for the public. Add that it's set a bare ten years into the future and is therefore futuristic in the most blatantly seventies stylistic way possible, and it's not going to sit well with future generations.
Thus far it's just a show which takes some effort to appreciate, but add in that it is definitely a hot mess and there's a whole layer of sexiness (intentional or not) which makes it difficult to place with the perception that it's a children's show. The skydiver uniforms alone have left whole internet message boards fantasising about what the women had on underneath (a bra thingy, because you can't see their nipples as you can the men's, for the record). I have leapt straight into this because my chosen episode has Alexis Kanner guest starring, and I have had a HUGE crush on him since I first saw him in The Prisoner.
The third reason I have avoided writing about this show is - let's be frank here - it's not exactly what you would call tightly plotted. For this reason I am going to use the approach recommended by Archive TV Musings:
The Cat With Ten Lives is, as I’ve said, an odd one. You can either sit back and enjoy the ride or decide it’s too silly for words. I favour the former and there’s plenty of other incidental pleasures along with way. Kanner was always a strange, idiosyncratic actor and this is very much in evidence here.
To this end I would like you to picture me donning a purple wig and green face paint to write this post and I'm simply not going to take it at all seriously. In fact I have decided to give it an Avengers-style subtitle:
In which an entire Interceptor crew get fleas in their chest hair and a cat starts talking to Alexis Kanner.
Because (in true seventies fashion) how much chest hair do the Interceptor crew have between them? And why are they all scratching at it? I did say the reasons I've avoided writing about this show and also did say I wasn't going to take it seriously! And yes, I'm jealous. I always wanted a hairy chest but as you can see don't have any.
I do like the build up to the cat very much because it gives an impression of a normal day in SHADO. I like the dinner party and I love the truly period feature of the ouija board. I have no idea how versatile an actor Kanner could be, but in every thing I've seen him in he excels at the rebellious misfit role. It's interesting how he goes into the same persona as expectant dad Reegan, particularly when the subject of the baby is brought up. You don't hire Alexis Kanner to get normal dad behaviour! He looks incredibly confused when doing the parts under the influence of the cat.
A major question this episode raises is one I always find myself picking up on in TV - that of employment. It is rather bizarre to put the Interceptor crew straight into combat training from a mission and particularly to send Reegan into duty instead of off sick. It has been a while since I have watched this show but I don't remember other cases of the crews being driven so hard. Perhaps they are there and I just don't remember. It's obviously essential to the plot but it's also rather bizarre that while that is going on they have a stray cat in headquarters. There is also the slight matter of missing personnel and not being where they expect to be, which doesn't seem like a problem fast enough.
The sequence where the cat appears is wonderfully strange and clearly indicates something odd about the cat, to my mind. In UFO the cat just sits there in the road, the Reegans assume it is lost, and pick it up with a view to taking it to the police. At no time in human/feline history would that have gone that way. I think this is intended to provide a clue to what the cat's about.
This episode can fairly be criticised for not fully explaining what the aliens are up to, what form they are likely to take and why the cat. To my mind the obvious explanation is that the cat isn't a cat, it's one of the aliens. I think the attention of the aliens was attracted by all the calls of 'is there anybody there' at the seance, and I think they chose Reegan because he had the most interesting to them stuff in his head, when the aliens looked. I do like shows that make you resolve it in your own head. To be frank in this one the staff of SHADO are fairly consistently behind what is happening. Being a cat myself, I can of course see the situation clearly before curling up for a nap.
As always in UFO the visuals of this episode are excellent - I particularly like the way the normal UFO look, which is cool anyway, is cut with footage of the cat right from the start. I love the clips of purring too.
Frankly my outstanding impression of this show is that Straker is a lot of the problem and most of this drama could have been avoided. I doubt that this was the impression intended, but you surely don't expect me to write about a show normally. I have no major criticism.
To end, you know you want to hear Merlin from Torquay, the Guinness Book of Records loudest purr record holder.