Dave's Corner of the Universe

Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide

Geek Obscura: UFO

Title

I had to be in my late teens before I could look at the moon and not associate it with hot women in silver jumpsuit and purple wigs. The reason is an English 70’s TV show called UFO. It only lasted twenty-six episodes but this show by Gerry Anderson (the creator of Thunder Birds) had a strong influence on me, as a child. I remember playing with my friends, an Avalon Hill board game called UFO, which though not a licensed product of the show, it followed the plot of the TV series closely. Secret government rocket ships and satellites attempting to create a barrier around the Earth to prevent marauding UFO’s from laming here.

ufo-game-1978

AH game of same name and idea

The show created in 1970 was set in the then future year 1980. In case you missed when it is supposed to take place, there is a 1980 title card flashed four times during the opening sequence (Despite the final episode taking place a decade after 1974). It revolves around the men and women of a covert agency called SHADO. (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization) who fight organ harvesting aliens in their secret invasion of our world. To hide its covert alien busting operations SHADO was based under a movie studio. The decision to place it under a movie studio was because it saved the producers money, but in world it’s brilliant. “You saw some strange high tech vehicle fighting a UFO, well we are just making a movie.”

shado

The invading aliens are never called anything but ‘The Aliens’ and all though there is speculation, we never really learn much about their nature or culture. The aliens who may be mutated captured human that may or may not be controlled by a disembodied mind, are converted in to beings that are able to survive in a liquid environment, which absorbs the stress of traveling faster than light. The liquid changes their skin to a blue/green color. They wear bright red spacesuits when on earth. There is never more than two aliens on the screen at a time because the studio only bothered to make two costumes.

ufo alien

An Alien in the infamous red space suit.

UFO

A crashed UFO

SHADO has an arsenal of high tech weapons to fight the aliens, a submarine whose nose is submersible jetfighter, called Skydiver, and a moon base with space fighters that each carry one nuclear weapon in its nose, an AI satellite called SID. And of course a top secret moon base run by hotties in purple wigs.

Interceptor

Lunar Interceptor

skydiver4

Skydiver

The show was a true ensemble cast piece. With only Ed Bishop as Commander Edward Starker appearing in every episode. The show does spend time in character development for as many characters as possible. In the end the characters are not the same people they were at the beginning, but this make since with the plot lines. The show even includes a hint of an early interracial romance which seemed risqué in the seventies.

Ed

Originally Bishop Bleached his hair white. Till it began to damage it then he started wearing a wig.

Girl

brown hair

They didn’t wear the purple hair when they were on the earth.

For normal people not obsessed with mauve wigs the key point of the show were the high tech vehicles. Though the models looked cool the stop motion filming was somewhere between the jets and tanks that fought Godzilla and a kid filming his Tonka truck. But for the 70’s English TV it was cutting edge special effects.

The series lasted twenty-six episodes. One of the problems was that the networks both in England and the US didn’t know how to market it. They assumed that since it was a Gerry Anderson show it should be aimed at children. This is defiantly not a kid’s show. Dark and suspenseful the show often didn’t have what we would call a happy ending. It dealt with subjects like security versus freedom, sacrificing family members for the greater good, adultery, drug use and attempted rape. Still the networks would often show them before or after Saturdays morning cartoons, (That’s how I discovered it.)

At first the ratings were good so ITC gave Anderson the approval for a second program, but by the airing of the 26th episode in the US, viewership had dwindled and they pulled the rug out from any more episodes. Since fans seemed to really like the moon base episodes (because, I mentioned hotties in silver miniskirts and purple wigs right?) the new program was going to focus on the moon base. When the show was canned Anderson had already spent a metric ton of money on the expanded moon base Sets, so he used them to make another 70’s sci fi classic Space: 1999.

space 1999

Unused UFO sets became the core for Space;1999.

UFO has more in common with the Roger More era James bond than it does with the X-Files. Sexy scientist who speak in double entendre innuendo, swinging jazz background music and gadgety vehicles. The look of what future would be like is comical now, with prolific indoor smoking, wired telephones, gull-winged door cars, teletypes and Nehru jackets. But the show doesn’t dissolve into a joke with hindsight because of the dark edgy, and compelling storylines.

Dr

Lake, Dr Virginia Lake.

The reason that UFO isn’t better know is because it only had a twenty six episode run. And there has been some talk about re-invigorating the franchise, but nothing has happened so far.  I think that is only a matter of time Hollywood has really been taping the classics of my childhood, especially if the Man from Uncle movie does well this year, I think that UFO may have a chance at the big screen. after all who doesn’t love w woman in a purple wig.

Advertisements

15 comments on “Geek Obscura: UFO

  1. Jack Flacco
    March 15, 2015

    Man, talk about taking me back to my childhood! I saw all those shows you mentioned and then some. Remember The Invaders? Another short-lived TV series with an interesting premise. Loved also Land of the Giants. Gosh, I miss those shows. But yes, UFO, for a kid my age back then, terror used to spread on my skin whenever I heard the theme to that show. Loved it completely!

    • davekheath
      March 15, 2015

      thanks. I was going to mention Invaders but it just didn’t work out in the piece. There was some good sci fi back then.

      • Jack Flacco
        March 15, 2015

        Land of the Giants, especially, was my favorite. You’re right, great sci-fi back then!

  2. Jack Flacco
    March 15, 2015

    BTW, I have the theme to UFO on my iPod. Listening to it now!!!

  3. Cassidy Frazee
    March 15, 2015

    I not only watched this, but I have the UFO game you’ve shown.

  4. aaforringer
    March 16, 2015

    Must not have been on in my area, I don’t recall this at all. I have vague recollections of Space:1999.
    Was the purple hair ever explained?

    • davekheath
      March 16, 2015

      am told (Though I haven’t read them) In the novel tie ins it is siad that the wigs and the silver jumpsuits or mini-skirts were to cut down static charge, though the men never wore them. In reality Anderson thought that they looked futuristic and worked better with the lights they had on that set.

  5. The Opening Sentence
    March 16, 2015

    Gerry Anderson’s capacity was limitless when it came to storytelling and ideas. He had an adult perspective on television and a kid’s enthusiasm for storytelling. I think that’s why so many adults remember these series from their youth. They were so ahead of the field they’re not embarrassing to reminisce over.

    And wasn’t it his wife Sylvia Anderson who designed the costumes?
    Chris

  6. Pingback: Best Fiction and Writing Blogs | M.C. Tuggle, Writer

  7. Mike
    March 16, 2015

    There’ll always be a place in my nerdy little heart for cheesy sci-fi movies!

  8. Steven Lyle Jordan
    March 18, 2015

    UFO was always a favorite series of mine: It largely predated the present era of making relationships more important than the show’s basic premise. It was ahead of its time.

    • davekheath
      March 18, 2015

      I binged watched it last week and really held up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on March 15, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: