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Fly me to the Moon
January 16, 2009 8:37 PM   Subscribe

At the time of its production, it was the most expensive British TV series ever made. In addition to highly regarded special effects, it had one of all-time great theme songs.(previously)
posted by Joe Beese (45 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Was watching Space 1999's creator Gerry Anderson's first live action series, U.F.O., earlier today. Like Space 1999 it has that strange, almost autistic-like focus on technology + fetishism of design at the expense of 'real' or adult relationships.

Couple years ago I directed a bunch of TV shows for the showrunner of another Anderson series, Space Precinct, and have been meaning to ask him 'what's up the guy' - there's something very strange going on, (see also Journey to the Far Side of the Sun - warning self link).
posted by jettloe at 9:04 PM on January 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


O hai! Is this where we talk about how great BSG was under the flimsy pretense of talking about another science fiction show? 'Cause it was pretty great, I have to say.

Strangely enough, I have no memory of ever having seen the season/series one opener of Space: 1999 until right now, but I remember the season/series two opener vividly. Makes me wonder if perhaps the first season didn't get so much airplay here in the States...or maybe I was just more interested in the episodes with Maya. Who, to my adult eyes, looks much less strange than Barbara Bain. Does anyone else think Barbara Bain looks kind of like an android?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:16 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I got a Victor Bergman 'action' figure for Christmas one year.

Futuristic brown jumpsuit? Check! Middle age, balding w/muttonchops? Check! Staplegun 'weapon'? Check, check, check!

Good times.
posted by mazola at 9:21 PM on January 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Space 1999 was my first exposure to science fiction. To my childish eyes it was the greatest thing ever. 25 years later I bought the first season on DVD. And the Eagles and moon buggies and the moon base still looked cool, but the acting was some of the worst I've seen on big budget TV.
posted by razorian at 9:48 PM on January 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


razorian, I loved Space 1999 as a kid and haven't dared revisit it as an adult.
posted by maxwelton at 10:08 PM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Space 1999 was fine and all, but its theme song and opening don't hold a candle to UFO's.

1980!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:16 PM on January 16, 2009


Space 1999 was fine and all, but its theme song and opening don't hold a candle to UFO's.

1980!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:16 PM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


ITV4 are showing episodes of Space: 1999 at the moment (and U.F.O. too) and it's great to see them again. The first series theme was just awesome.

If i remember correctly, it was from S2 onwards that it became a U.S. co-production (which is probably why that's where your memory of the show kicks in, kittens), which brought in bad stories, tacky patches all over those awesome uniforms and a weaker theme tune. But on the plus side, it did improve the typography.

And, wow, I loved the look of the Eagles. Dragon's Domain scared the crap out of me when I was a wean and there was an episode with Joan Collins wearing an outfit that made Jenny Agguter's in Logan's Run look like a nun's habit in comparison.
posted by jackiemcghee at 10:18 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I've learned from this:

1980 and 1999 should have been far groovier than how I lived through them.
posted by mazola at 10:19 PM on January 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


1980!

The thing about U.F.O. is that it's so swinging. People are constantly on the make; smoking, drinking - fantastic design and technology coupled with what now seems like stone age sexism. A heady brew, (plus story lines that just peter out, sub-plot cul-de-sacs with long takes of people watching people talk...the strangeness just goes on and on).
posted by jettloe at 10:32 PM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ok I'm sorry and it's late - but my GOD: Barbara Streisand using a control console from UFO
posted by jettloe at 10:35 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, I hate you for almost making me miss this post. Is not explicitly mentioning the subject in vogue these days?

Fascinated with this show as a kid. Crazy about those Eagles.

UFO attracts the hell out of me. Never seen that before. Will have to track it down.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:48 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ehh. I liked the second series theme better. I guess I just have prole tastes. Anyway, I was like six or so when this series was first being aired, and unlike the other scifi I watched as a child (Star Trek, BSG (the first one) etc.) I have never seen it as an adult.

Does anyone who's more familiar with the show remember that freaky monster that would, say, grab some hapless victim, pull said victim underneath itself, and then spit out the burned/melted corpse? I don't know exactly what was going on in that episode, since I was like six or seven, but I remember that it freaked me the fuck out. Perhaps I should have stuck to Buck Rogers.
posted by Palquito at 11:25 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


A Clockwork Orange and UFO were from the same universe, different parts of town.
posted by pracowity at 12:02 AM on January 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


ITV4 are showing episodes of Space: 1999 at the moment (and U.F.O. too) and it's great to see them again.

Absolutely. Saving up a big bunch of them then watching 3 hours worth in a go is my current guilty pleasure. I was absolutely obsessed with the programme for about a year when I was a child. As others have mentioned, the Eagles were definitely a big part of it but there was something else: something about the universe Anderson had created and how complete it seemed.

Watching the series now for the first time again in about 15 years was definitely a petite madeleine moment.
posted by greycap at 12:44 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Palquito, that's the monster from the Space: 1999 episode "Dragon's Domain" that jackiemcghee mentioned above. For the record, it scared the hell out of me as a kid too. Courtesy of YouTube, you can now re-experience THE HORROR.
posted by The Tensor at 1:40 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Palquito, that episode is called "Dragon's Domain" from the first season, which so scared the crap out of me[ when I was about the same age] that I ran away like a little seven year old. I never got to see the whole episode until last year when I bought the 1st season.
Right now I'm struggling with which episode to watch now. "Infernal Machine" "End of Eternity"?
Isolation, mortality, insignificance, I've loved these themes since I could think. I have a dog now.
posted by qinn at 1:42 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't hate you Tenser. But I might freeze you.
posted by qinn at 1:44 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Like Space 1999 it has that strange, almost autistic-like focus on technology + fetishism of design at the expense of 'real' or adult relationships ... Couple years ago I directed a bunch of TV shows for the showrunner of another Anderson series, Space Precinct, and have been meaning to ask him 'what's up the guy' - there's something very strange going on

Some years ago, I heard Anderson interviewed and he was direct (and a little bitter) about having wanted to do big budget, live action films but instead having ended up making "puppet shows". In the marionette-led shows, the heavy design detail and focus on explosions and huge set pieces can be seen as an (economical) substitute for a big Hollywood film.

But then we're lead to wonder why his live-action pieces have the same aesthetic. Perhaps it was habit. Perhaps Anderson still held the post-war British spirit that looked to the future and believed in technology and a better way of life. Perhaps he was just a bad director.
posted by outlier at 2:39 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


don't know exactly what was going on in that episode, since I was like six or seven, but I remember that it freaked me the fuck out.

I still haven't seen that whole episode. I first saw it while visiting my grandparents. I was in a sleeping bag in the den, shivering with fear for hours.
posted by generichuman at 2:53 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had a small epiphany when they showed Thunderbirds are GO! on the television last year. It has a long opening section where a spaceship that is about to fly to Mars is wheeled out onto a runway, and slowly different elements - wings, rockets and so forth - wheel themselves out and attach themselves, and ultimately the nose-cone (containing the crew), appears and is fitted to the front of the ship. Sometimes the crew are shown, but they don't actually do anything. There are voice-overs to explain what parts are being attached, but it's purely functional.

This section goes on for a number of minutes.

I realised that the film was about machines, the sort of thing that would have excited the Futurists no end. As a child, it was clear to me that the characters in Gerry Anderson's series served as a pretext for the machines, and I would have been happier if there had been a series that just had machines in it. Thunderbirds has the most memorable characters - Brains, Lady Penelope, Parker, poor mad John Tracy (hated by his family so much that he spends his entire life alone in a space station) - but for the rest it's the machines we remember.

(There was the one with Professor Stanley Unwin as the spy/vicar, but I doubt whether anyone remembers that.)

Most of the time I watched Space:1999 waiting for the bit where the Eagles took off. And then I'd be unexpectedly freaked out by the alien that sucks all the life out of you.
posted by Grangousier at 3:46 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dragon's Domain is the most memorable episode for me. Now the monster just looks like a pissed-off automated carwash.
posted by loosemouth at 4:00 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was freaked out deeply by Brian the Brain, voiced by Bernard Cribbins. At the time he was the voice of The Wombles, so I was confused.
posted by scruss at 5:10 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Space:1949
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 5:42 AM on January 17, 2009


You're all going on about THE HORROR, but I assumed the clip would be from 'Bringers of Wonder' two parter.

Only Mission Impossible Guy and Proto-Odo can see that they're not from Earth, they're EIGHT-FOOT SPAGHETTI MONSTERS.

I loved this show. It's very important that I not watch it now because I'm certain it really sucked out loud.
posted by genghis at 5:43 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Aha. There they are.

Apparently the one to the left of the centre column is a life-size photo cutout. Genius.
posted by genghis at 5:53 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hated Space 1999 as a kid and most likely would as an adult if I bothered to watch any of it again, which I won't. Still, remembering I hated it seems odd since I loved everything Sci-fi, including one of the worst shows of all time, The (7 minute promo) Starlost (episode guide).

I've since discovered that John Colicos who appeared in the Starlost seems to be in a lot of sci-fi.
posted by juiceCake at 6:06 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Like the Woman in White that Bernstein sees in Citizen Kane, not a month has gone by when I don't think about those creatures who absolutely scared the living s**t out of me as a child.
posted by jettloe at 6:51 AM on January 17, 2009


Yes it's strange that he couldn't get out of the habit/rhythms/style of his puppet show for live action - we're the better for it of course as the genuine strangeness of it all is so appealing/fascinating!

For me there's a big clue in the first ep of U.F.O. = as the purple-haired moon ladies are laying around relaxing in-between Alien Attacks one of them pulls out 'Design' magazine and starts reading - this is very clearly shown - it's as if in THE FUTURE human nature is no longer the subject of interest - instead it is the machine/the computer/the design of things etc., (obviously Strangelove/2001 had big impact on Anderson).
posted by jettloe at 7:06 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Literally the only thing I can remember about Space 1999 is that one of the characters had weird eyebrows (weirder than Martin Landau's, I mean) and they scared the shit out of me. Couldn't watch for fear of the eyebrows.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:07 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wheatsheaf eyebrows and spagetti monsters! SCARED NOW
posted by asok at 7:51 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I loved this show. It's very important that I not watch it now because I'm certain it really sucked out loud.

Not that I want to be responsible for ruining your childhood memories or anything, but we watched Space:1999 again when it was first released on DVD, and I thought it held up extremely well. Aside from the idea that in THE FUTURE everyone would wear 70's white jumpsuits and high heeled boots, it was still a great series.
posted by biscotti at 8:03 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Toy That Got Away was an Eagle with a winch you could lower. I recall finding it a Toys R Us advertising flyer in Newsday - back when it was still only published on Long Island - and leaving the flyer in a place where my mother couldn't miss it. But she apparently failed to realize how cool the winch was.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:28 AM on January 17, 2009


Both UFO and Space: 1999 managed to achieve their quasi-futuristic look with stuff that was commercially available at the time. I've always wanted to do this -- have a house that looks like a sci fi set, but created out of stuff you can order fro catalogs.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:23 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joe Beese,

As a child in England I had a couple of Dinky Eagles - a cargo one with a winch and a regular one (inexplicably painted green.)

The cargo Eagle carried a set of surprisingly authentically labeled "radioactive" canisters, which would occasionally cause panic amongst kids' parents.
posted by Cosmo7 at 9:45 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


God, this brings back memories. I watched UFO and Space:1999 all the time. I had a friend with the giant plastic Eagle. I tried everything to get it away from him, including offering to barter some of the Danguard Ace toys my father had sent me from Japan, but all for naught.

And the moonbase chicks in UFO were teh sexxor.
posted by Samizdata at 11:19 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


No Christmas has ever matched up to the one when I got the Eagle. Holy shit that thing was awesome.

I had forgotten about the pasketti monsters. Holy crap those things were scary!

Wasn't there also an episode with Jesus in it? Am I imagining that?
posted by popechunk at 12:10 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I loved loved loved Space:1999 as a kid. Probably cause it was so pessimistic. That just appealed to me for some reason.

I almost posted the entire last episode, THE DORCONS, when it was available on youtube, but by the time I got around to doing it, the full episode was gone.

Popechunk -- there were a lot of characters who looked like Jesus in Space:1999, but I wonder if you are thinking of the episode MISSION OF THE DARIANS, in which a creepy looking Jesusy dude decides whether or not you are a MUTANT!

I should also mention the UFO episode in which the commander of SHADO imagines he is an actor in a television series and that SHADO doesn't really exist. I waited YEARS to see that episode after I read about it as a kid.
posted by wittgenstein at 12:52 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Of course, the best ting about the TV show UFO was the uniform worn by the submarine crew...

*gulp* Quite stunning when you're fourteen.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 2:30 PM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I loved Barry Morse as Victor Bergman. Now, with (vaguely) adult forty-year old eyes, I always see Bergman furtively sliding away an inevitable bottle of scotch whenever Koenig enters. I mean, they're on the Moon for hell's sake, blasted out of Earth's orbit, careering toward a grim and pointless death. Drinking your way out of this would be entirely appropriate.
posted by specialbrew at 4:33 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know I saw a few episodes of this show, because I remember those funny guns and the woman who could shapeshift, so I thought that theme song was going to fill me with a rush of nostalgia. But I didn't remember a single note of it. How odd. Don't recognize the second season either. Huh.
posted by DU at 6:29 PM on January 17, 2009


Catherine Schell was the alien shapeshifter Maya, if I remember right. Cousin of Maximillian Schell, right?

And yes she was the babe with the warts for eyebrows, and I was completely in love.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 10:03 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Palquito, that's the monster from the Space: 1999 episode "Dragon's Domain" that jackiemcghee mentioned above. For the record, it scared the hell out of me as a kid too. Courtesy of YouTube, you can now re-experience THE HORROR .

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST.

So me and the missus sit down to watch The Fountain. We'd been putting it off. She'd never seen it before, and I'd only seen this terribly grainy pirated version on a laptop (and having heard it was a beautiful movie, knew this wasn't doing it justice). Anyway, finally, tonight, we sit down and get the full-on effect with the big screen tv and surround sound, and walk away in a quiet, contemplative mood. We don't want to watch or listen to anything else, because we're still rolling the movie around in our heads, along with the tranquil soundtrack.

Fifteen minutes later I check out your link.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:04 PM on January 17, 2009


Only Mission Impossible Guy and Proto-Odo can see that they're not from Earth, they're EIGHT-FOOT SPAGHETTI MONSTERS.

Wow. I would believe in that.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:11 PM on January 17, 2009


Costume design for this thread by Sylvia Anderson.
posted by Artw at 1:04 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


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