Planet Zeta is a rather barren planet with no visible signs of life but it is strategically important for Earth. A team, of what they call “Pathfinders”, is sent to the planet to prepare it for colonization. The team disappears. A second team is sent to find out what happened to the first team. They too are never heard from again. Then a second search team is sent. Once again communication stops and nothing is heard. With colonization scheduled to begin in about six months a fourth team is assembled to find out what is going on with Planet Zeta. This fourth team is comprised of six people. They are Commander Clark Young (Gordon De Vol), Biologist Carol Sisco (Hildy Brooks), Engineer Paul Carey (James A. Watson Jr.), Medical Doctor Linda Saunders (Jacqueline Ray), Security Officers Chief Officer Sigmund Stewart (Stanley Wojno) and Gore Stat (Jackson Bostwick).
Before the team reaches the planet, they intercept an emergency beacon coming from the planet. It is an Earth made beacon. The message it contains is from the last survivor of the last mission and is a warning to Star Fleet. The sender says not to send any more people to the planet or they will just end up hollowed out. The message raises more questions than it answers. The team has no choice but to land and investigate.
When the team lands they find that everyone from the previous missions are dead. Their bodies appear to have been sucked dry and all their soft tissue gone. They have been, in effect, “hollowed out”. Autopsies show no internal organs but a rock-like object is found in each body. No sooner do they begin investigating when they begin getting killed. Review of the original logs show that the killers are a rock-like monster that can blend in with the landscape of the planet.
Inside the abdomen of an ancient animal that once lived on the planet researchers found a rock. The rock creature was brought to life by a researcher when she cut the rock in half and accidentally cut her finger and blood landed on it. The rock absorbed it. The researchers nurtured the rocks feeding them meat. They accidentally killed one of them but they weren’t sure how. The other rock went crazy and broke out. The escaped rock appears to have reproduced asexually and now there are two of them again and they appear to be extremely intelligent and capable of revenge. This time they are out to kill all humans.
“The Killings at Outpost Zeta” was released in 1980 and was directed by Robert Emenegger and Allan Sandler. It is a low budget science fiction thriller.
When your plot is mostly dialogue driven and your monster is a rock, don’t expect a lot of action. What they can’t do in special effects they do in conversation. The movie is so average that no one really knows if it was made for TV or if it ever had any kind of theatrical release. Some even call it an “Alien” 1979 rip off. I prefer to think of it as a cross between “The Thing from Another World” 1951 and the Horta from the Star Trek episode “The Devil in the Dark” S1E25.
Like a lot of Emenegger’s work, the movie is mostly blah but there is usually something at least slightly interesting in them. In this case it is the story of the rock monsters. They start out as an egg. Blood brings them to life and they can liquefy people’s innards like spiders do. They are asexual. They are as smart as people and can problem solve. They hold a grudge. They breathe Nitrogen and Oxygen kills them. Nothing could be more farfetched than that.
Director, writer, producer Robert Emenegger has a cameo as a high-ranking mucky muck that approves the suicide mission to Planet Zeta.