I can fondly remember on a Sunday evening, in the mid seventies , settling down in front of the TV to take in my second most favourite show after Dr Who. Yes , there was something very odd about a bunch of hippie looking , flared trousers wearing futurists who basically informed us that the world at the end of the millennium would look surprisingly like your average 1970’s landscape but , really, I didn’t care.
Space 1999 premiered in the UK on September 4th 1975. I certainly don’t recall watching this episode but was totally enthralled by the special effects. Clearly inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the show depicted some of the best visual effects ever seen on TV at the time. This was in part due to the brilliance of Brian Johnson, but also the groundwork laid down by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s previous shows.
Most of us remember these two names fondly with classics such as , Stingray, Captain Scarlet,Thunderbirds and UFO – their first foray into live action. Because they had become experts at dealing with miniatures, by the time they moved onto , what would be, one of the most expensive television shows ever, they knew they’d be able to deliver a realistic enough portrayal of life in space.
As for the story itself, it was somewhat apocryphal in that a nuclear explosion blew the moon containing moonbase alpha out of it’s orbit and into the wilds of deep space; and that’s where the adventure began.
The fearless crew was headed by the bronzed and square jawed Commander Koenig- an American cast to appease the influential US market no doubt, and the ethereal looking Helena Russell. Both roles were portrayed by former “Mission Impossible” stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. The rest of the cast was a mixture of lesser known British actors headed by Barry Morse, Catherine Schell and Tony Anholt.
There will always be several images that evoked the brilliance of the show; the most memorable for me was the Eagle Transporter, often making the top ten list of the most influential spaceship designs ever. Interestingly enough, when planning the design of the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars, the designers, quite accidentally, came up with a ship that looked surprisingly similar to this craft.
The stories, were , for the most part formulaic and revolved around the monster/baddie of the week. By the time its second season came to an end, the fact that it had failed to find a market in the US was probably why it was not renewed for a third Season. Just as well, because around this time , a young George Lucas was putting a film together at Elstree Studios which would change the landscape forever.
Space 1999 proved that you could make good science fiction on TV without wobbly sets and dubious special effects. It remains a shining beacon of Sci-Fi and I’m sure that one day it will return.