Out of the Unknown – Thirteen to Centaurus Review (or “Let Down By The Running Time…Again”)

At this point, I think it’s safe to say that Out of the Unknown is hit and miss in terms of quality.

But that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering its format. When you change the writers, actors and stories every week, you’re unlikely to find a level of consistency.

With that said, I’ve fallen slightly behind on my reviews of the show and find myself in a situation where I have to do two in one afternoon.

And as you might expect based on the intro, my feelings on them both are mixed.

The first of those episodes is Thirteen To Centaurus. 

Out of the Unknown – Thirteen To Centaurus Review

Usually I would start this with a ‘What’s This One About’ section, but I’m not going to.

Instead, I’m going to quote the synopsis – from the keyboard of ‘Hutch48’ – written on imdb for this episode.

It says…

“Interstellar travel at sub-light speeds: the enormous distances, isolation from human culture and the aching loneliness of space are enough to drive the strongest personality insane. Better to block all memories of human contact and to program the 12-strong crew to accept only the reality they can see and touch within their spacecraft. But a child born on “the Station” becomes insistent on learning the truth about ‘Outside’.”

But here’s the thing; it isn’t really about that at all.

Oh my god!!! They aren't really on a spaceship!!! Let's spoil that surprise less than a third of the way through the episode!!!

Oh my god!!! They aren’t really on a spaceship!!! Let’s spoil that surprise less than a third of the way through the episode!!!

For the first 18 minutes of this episode, you could be forgiven for thinking that was an accurate synopsis, but the swerve – the sort of swerve that would happen at the end of a movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan – comes very early. You see, they aren’t on a spaceship at all. Instead – much like in The Invasion of the Dinosaurs – the people on board that ship are actually still on Earth, but are made to believe they are in space as an experiment.

I liked the swerve of course, but I think they shot their load too quick by revealing it almost as soon as the episode began.

This caused a problem because there was another 42 minutes left in the episode. So what happened? Well it became something of a political/human rights story based on the government pulling the funding for the Centaurus experiment and the debates and discussion on what they should do with the people on board the ‘ship’. In the end, the plot takes another twist when it turns out the boy looking to learn the truth about ‘Outside’ realises he’s in an experiment, brainwashes the guy controlling it so that he stays on board under his control (hence why it’s called ‘Thirteen to Centaurus’), and decides to stay on as the ruler of his own very small colony.

 

All of that is fine in theory, but the middle section went on for far too long and at such a slow pace that I ended up losing interest.

That’s a general problem with episodes from this first season of Out of the Unknown; interesting ideas hindered by an overly long running time. It should come as no surprise that from season two onwards, the episodes were cut to 50 minutes.

If this was shorter, it would have been better. I had high hopes for it, but they were let down.

Lesterson and King Thous debate the issues of the day over a fag.

Lesterson and King Thous debate the issues of the day over a fag.

The Old British Actors Checklist

We’ve hit the jackpot on former Doctor Who actors, as this episode includes Noel Johnson (The Underwater Menace & The Invasion of the Dinosaurs), Robert James (Power of the Daleks, The Daemons & The Masque of Mandragora), John Line (Colony in Space), Robert Russell (Power of the Daleks & Terror of the Zygons), John Moore (The Myth Makers & The Frontier in Space – though to be fair he only played an extra in these stories) and best of all, John Abineri (Fury from the Deep, The Ambassadors of Death, Death to the Daleks & The Power of Kroll).

Out of the Unknown – Thirteen To Centaurus Review – Final Thoughts

I’ve got to be honest, I couldn’t think of a single Random Observation to add to this.

Ultimately, I think I’ve said it all; it’s a good idea and it should have been better, but the pacing and overly long running time prevent it from living up to its potential.

Though it is one of the better episodes I’ve seen so far, for what that’s worth.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

 

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