Having cut their teeth on the Supermarionation of Thunderbirds, Joe 90, Captain Scarlet, and Stingray, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson turned their attention to live-action science fiction with the TV series – UFO and Space 1999, as well as the action-adventure show, The Protectors, featuring Robert Vaughan.
UFO was one of my favourite science fiction shows. It had the cool, futuristic cars. Aliens that were harvesting humans for their organs. A sort of Enemy Mine (1979) episode (though 10 years before that novella and 20 years before the film). There was some interesting intrigue within the shadowy(!) organisation SHADO (Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation), and both Earth-based and outer space-based story lines.
SHADO (another global defence organisation) posed as a movie studio, coordinating their forces in land, sea, air and space. 26 episodes were produced in all, and the series carried a genuine sense of threat that the puppet-based series, with the exception of Captain Scarlet, hadn’t really captured. A few of the episodes were glued together as longer TV films.
Pretty much all the episodes survive on YouTube but you can buy the DVD sets too.
There were UFO books, comics and toys. I remember having a sticker book that you could colour-in too.
UFO is credited by many as a significant influence on the X-COM series of computer games.
Space 1999 (1975-1977)
Space 1999 gave me some decent childhood nightmares. Mostly my parents sent me to bed before it was on, but sometimes I’d catch the beginning of an episode or sneak a look through the lounge door.
The overall premise was decidedly dodgy – the nuclear waste dump on the moon explodes, blowing the moon out of Earth’s orbit and sending it through space for a series of adventures spaced over 48 episodes! Set in 1999 the crew of Moonbase Alpha now have to fend for themselves, while encountering environmental, social and alien threats. Later episodes referred to wormhole kinds of things to explain the travel.
It had some top-shelf TV actors, the special effects and vehicle models had developed, and a classic soundtrack. And lots of cool toys.
There was even an ice lolly/block. (This will become a later blog post)
In Italy, they spliced together three episodes to make a cinematic release, Spazio 1999, and had the legendary Ennio Morricone create a musical score for it.
Season 1 title (with the disco beat)
Season 2 titles (featuring Maya)