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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

UFO: Scanner Shut-Down UFO
"Scanner Shut-Down"
Countdown #96-100, December 16, 1972 - January 13, 1973
Writer: Unknown
Art: John Burns


The nearby United Earth Space Exploration Centre is causing scanner blackouts for Moonbase.


Read the story summary at the Internet Archive




This is a 5-part 15-page story serialized in Countdown #96-100, December 16, 1972 - January 13, 1973


For some reason, the first two pages of each 3-page chapter of this story are in color, with the third page in black-and-white.




On page 1 of the story, SHADO sends a Moonmobile from Moonbase to observe the launch of a rocket from the site of the United Earth Space Exploration (UESE) Centre. This is the first mention of such a base on the Moon. The "United Earth" part of the title goes towards further suggesting that Earth is under a one-world government in the 1980s of the UFO universe, as previously suggested in earlier Countdown stories.


The rocket launches by the UESE on the Moon are creating brief blackouts of SID's scanning ability, endangering Earth from attack by UFOs. Straker takes his case before the International Astrophysical Commission (IAC). The IAC is the branch of world government above SHADO and was introduced in "Identified"


A Venus probe returns from a three year mission in this story. The probe has a similar, though not identical, design to the Venus probe seen in "The Cat With Ten Lives".
Venus Probe from "Scanner Shut-Down" Venus Probe from "The Cat With Ten Lives"


On page 6 of the story, the three aliens who have landed the Venus Probe on the lunar landscape seem to head in three different directions. But on page 8, they are all walking together towards Moonbase.


As he is sneaking up on one of the aliens on the Moon's surface, Foster accidentally dislodges a rock with his foot, causing the alien to spin around and fire his weapon. But the alien should not have been able to hear the fall of the rock; the Moon has virtually no atmosphere, so sound can not carry across the surface. In the letters column of TV Action #106, letter writer B.A. Hussain points this out to the magazine's editor, which garners this response: "Top marks for observation, you're quite correct in saying that sound cannot travel in a vacuum. However, even in Moon conditions, it is possible for vibrations to be detected by sensitive equipment. The Apollo astronauts used explosives in this way to make seismic recordings of the Moon's strata. Since the Aliens are more advanced in their technology, we assumed that the Alien in this scene would be able to detect the vibration from the rock fall in this way."


The narrative box in the last panel on page 12 of the story says "Then a second alien materializes..." It should read "a third alien" as Foster has already taken down two others.


On page 13 of the story, the Provisions Sphere of Moonbase is reported destroyed. This is the first mention in any UFO story of the Provisions Sphere. In fact, only five spheres are visible as part of Moonbase and they have all been identified already in previous stories and articles (Command Sphere, Sleep Sphere, Leisure Sphere, Reception Sphere, and Reactor Sphere). It seems more likely that the alien blew up some kind of annex section of Moonbase. In fact, page 12 appears to depict the alien planting his bomb at a structure that is a bit removed from the main structures of Moonbase, though page 13 seems to show him closer. Foster gives the order to seal off the area to preserve the atmosphere in the undamaged spheres, implying that the Provisions Sphere was connected to the rest.


This story reveals that the Moonmobiles have a remote control setting.




Did the aliens know about the scanner/communications issue at Moonbase caused by the rockets lifting off from or returning to the UESE centre on the Moon? It seems they must have and used it to their advantage for their scheme seen in this story.


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