As the moon falls out of orbit and goes drifting into space, the brave Alphans grit their teeth and hope for the best.
THE HIGH CONCEPT:
The British Star Trek – with some Americans (so as not to put off US viewers).
Gerry and Sylvia Anderson take us on an odyssey through time and space with a group of earthlings searching for a new home after a freak accident blasts them across the universe.
Lots of model work and sets in plastic and grey (it was the mid-70s, after all) and with a certain chin-scratching on the part of everyone concerned, reassuringly, you could also see where the money has gone.
Set on and around Moonbase Alpha, Space: 1999 follows the intrepid Alphans as they swished their nylon flares in the face of various over made-up aliens.
The show is split into two distinct halves; Series 1 (big budget, high profile and marked by a certain portentous plodding) and Series 2 (cheap, cheerful and with skirts for the ladies).
What unites both is great model work (especially the much loved Eagles) and the husband and wife team of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, stars of the show, and straight-faced thesps’ determined to inject some stagey actifying into this camp old nonsense.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
Though original shooting began in 1973, the first episode actually hit the airwaves in 1975 (syndicated in the US – no mean feat taking into account the competition for airtime), while in the UK the original series was scattered across the ITV schedule going out at different times on different stations.
Not confusing at all.
For some reason, however, Space: 1999 always seemed to be on at 9.30 on Saturday morning in Great Britain.
Series 1 was generally well-received on first run (particularly by the boys, perhaps aided by neat commercial tie-ins; annuals, comics and toys), though Series 2, with its wobbly injection of “action and humour” suffered in comparison.
Audience drift left hardcore followers and sci-fi fans to protect the brand as it drifted further in children’s television land.
HIT OR MISS?
Depends on which series you are talking about; Series 1 held its audience share, Series 2 failed to syndicate in the States (the kiss of TV death in the US) and was subsequently deserted by sponsors and viewers.
Inevitable cancellation followed.
REMEMBERED MAINLY TODAY FOR WHAT?
Series 1; which despite its ponderous ponderousness has an undeniable grace in its writing and execution; for its stylish and imaginative sets; for the gadgets (everyone wanted a comlock when Space: 1999 arrived on TV) and for the original episode opener that told you what was going to happen “this episode” set to a thumping disco beat.
Oh yeah, and then there was Space: 1999’s very 70s view on what the technology of the future would look like – black and white monitors, computers spitting out till receipts, Body Shop bottles everywhere.
Great costumes by Rudi Gernreich.