LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS "We are all aliens until we get to know one another". Space 1999 lands on Horror
By James Whittington, Thursday 3rd October 2019
Imagine it is the 1970s, the space race has been won and news of trips to the moon are fading from public interest. But you want to see more than just people playing golf and taking rock samples there. You want to see the human race make a base there, to use it as a launch pad to help reach further into space and maybe one day we could populate it.
Step forward Gerry and Sylvia Anderson who in 1975 gave the world one of the finest and most adventurous Sci-Fi TV series ever made, Space 1999.
The premise is straight forward and smart: It is the (then) future and a base has been built and manned on the moon. Tragedy strikes on September 13th 1999 when an nuclear explosion causes the moon and all who are on it to be sent out into the dark reaches of space. But this is only the start of the danger and adventure that all of the 311 people who live on the Moonbase Alpha crew will experience.
Born out of the ratings failure of the live action series, UFO, Space 1999 would take viewers on a cosmic journey into the unknown. Shooting of the first 24-part season took place when Britain was wallowing in the "Winter of discontent" a time of three-day weeks and power cuts but this didn't halt any production on a series that was the direct opposite of the time, being all bright and shiny compared to Britain's grey and gloomy situation.
Shot on film with 2001: A Space Odyssey style special effects (who could forget the Eagle Transporters?) which made other Sci-Fi shows blush with embarrassment, the series boasted a stellar cast lead by Mission: Impossible stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain as Moonbase Alpha Leader John Koenig and Helena Russell who headed up the medical section. Both brought gravitas and American sparkle to the show which took a note from the Star Trek way of casting and made it a multi-national cast which also included Barry Morse, Clifton Jones, Zienia Merton and Catherine Schell.
Barry Gray, the man behind the themes for Stingray, Joe 90 and Thunderbirds gave the show its funky title music for Season 1, a disco infused amalgam of over-dramatic orchestra and pumping bass.
The series brought a dynamic and expensive looking energy to Sci-Fi TV, this was as close to Hollywood that British TV, especially science fiction, would get for some time and luckily for drama fans it wasn't all just glitz and glamour. The stories may have been aimed for family viewing, but the plotlines contained some pretty violent death scenes and creepy monster moments.
Over the two seasons containing 48 episodes the crew faced challenges in and out of the Moonbase encountering plenty of aliens and guest stars such as Patrick Troughton, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Brian Blessed and Billie Whitelaw.
Though a reboot has often talked about it was actually only this year that Big Finish Productions, the celebrated audio drama company have taken up the mantle and released a new season of adventures 42 years after Season 2 ended. Will it capture the feel of the original? Time will tell but one thing is for sure that September the 13th will always be celebrated as "Breakaway Day"!
Space 1999 starts October 10th on Horror.
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(Photo credit Dawson James Photography)
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