In a recent installment of the Saturday Night Showcase we looked at Space: 1999, a sci-fi series by the team mostly known for “Supermarionation”, Gerry & Sylvia Anderson. While watching Linkara catch up the YouTube version of Atop The Fourth Wall the show UFO came up more than once. I remember seeing part of an episode at my local comic store and this just pushed my curiosity forward. So tonight you get to share in that with two episodes that set up this series.
UFO predates Space: 1999 and was created in 1970, while taking place in the far-off year of 1980. SHADO, the Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation, is a secret defense force that protects the Earth from an unknown alien threat. It seems the guy behind their financing, Lew Grade, wasn’t into second seasons, kind of like most Japanese shows. CBS affiliates in the US aired the show and the network itself considered funding a second season but that fell through, and the idea of SHADO moving to a moonbase was then changed into what became Space: 1999.
I’m showing you the first and third episodes. The first introduces you to how SHADO functions. The third goes further into how the aliens operate. (I was going to add the second one to show them recruiting a new member but figured episode three had the other details I wanted and works fine for my needs.) I’m also showing two episodes because this first one…is kind of silly. If it wasn’t for Linkara’s endorsement as well as that of my friend Hube’s when I was Tweeting about the show last night, it might not have been here at all. It was silly for the wrong reasons. Lucky for me I gave two more episodes a shot and they were much better.
In the first episode we’re introduced to SHADO’s secret movie studio headquarters, moonbase, and one of their fighter jet-shooting submarines. Some of the dialog needed a rewrite. From what I’ve read Sylvia Anderson gave the women purple wigs because she liked them and both Andersons thought wigs would become standard military uniform. Your guess is as good as mine but it’s a decent introduction to the players.
I found myself riffing on this episode. The wigs were silly (and only the women wear them), the mesh shirts of the sub crew make little sense to me (but I’ve never worked on a submarine), and Straker’s speech at the end was weak. The second episode was better in establishing the tone of the show. While not involving aliens, except for the beginning where test pilot Paul Foster sees a SHADO fighter take down an alien saucer, it does establish the reason for SHADO’s secrecy, to keep the general public from panicking about an attack by extraterrestrial forces, although Paul himself wants to know the truth of the event that led to him crashing and his co-pilot dying.
From here we go to the third episode, where a member of SHADO finds himself a pawn of the aliens. A different explanation is given for what the aliens want, but we’ll get into that after the episode.
So what is the aliens’ real motivation? Apparently there wasn’t a unanimous answer from the writers. Some episodes involved harvesting, some involved them trying to destroy the planet…I don’t think they had a definite answer. Maybe if that second season had happened they would have come up with something. The aliens were never even named, either by SHADO or the aliens themselves.
Partway through the series events cause a large break in filming that forced some reshifting and new hires as cast members had to find other work.
Some of the more astute viewers may note that everyone drives on the right side with the steering wheel on the left, like in the US, while England usually does it the other way around. Apparently Gerry Anderson thought someday the British would do it the US way, as most of his shows set in the future had the same thing. As of 2016 AD he has been proven wrong.
There have been numerous attempts to bring the show back, either as a series or a movie, but considering how these things happen nowadays I’m not sure you’d recognize it as the original show. Here in America you can get the series from A&E Home Video or just watch more episodes on Hulu for as long as you can. (Check the related articles below.) It has a cult following so there must be something to it, right?