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Wayback Machine: Space: 1999

Posted By: Wonder Worlock
Fri, 09/23/2011 - 10:27



picPlain and simple, the reason I recall the British sci-fi import Space: 1999 is 1) it took place on the moon, which I thought was cool, and 2) it starrted lost Mission: Impossible members Martin Landau and his wife, Barbara Bain. The series, as I recall, ran for two seasons and originally aired from 1975 to 1978.

Space: 1999was the last production by the partnership of Gary and Sylvia Anderson and was the most expensive series ever produced for television up to that time. The Andersons also produced the memorable Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds and UFO, among others.

IMHO, Space: 1999 drew a great deal of its visual inspiration (and technical expertise) from the Stanley Kubrik classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. The program’s special effects director Brian Johnson had previously worked on both Thunderbirds (as Brian Johncock) and 2001.

In the opening episode, nuclear waste from Earth stored on the moon's far side explodes in a catastrophic accident on Sept. 13, 1999 (two days less and two years more, and this would be prophetic; scary), knocking the moon out of orbit and sending it and the 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha (very original) hurtling uncontrollably into space.

The runaway moon in effect becomes the “spacecraft” on which the protagonists travel, searching for a new home. During their interstellar journey, the Alphans encounter a vast array of alien civilizations, dystopian societies and mind-bending phenomena previously unseen by humanity – including my favorite episode where an alien has the crew convinced he is Jesus Christ!

In another nod to Kubrick's film, the first season of Space: 1999 explored mystical and metaphysical themes, offering little exposition or explanation of plot points. The inhabitants of Alpha were unwilling travelers, and represented present-day Earthmen cast adrift in a vast, unexplainable universe where Earth-bound logic and laws of nature no longer operated. Several episodes hinted that the moon's journey was influenced (and perhaps initiated) by a “mysterious unknown force” which was guiding the Alphans toward some ultimate destiny.

The second series centered on more simplified, action-oriented plots (à la Star Trek), with a deliberate aim at the American audience, and there was no further mention of the “mysterious unknown force.”

picThe headline stars of Space: 1999 were, of course, Americans Landau and Bain. In an effort to appeal to the huge American television market, perhaps to sell the series to one of the major networks, Landau and Bain were cast at the insistence of Sir Lew Grade, head of distributor ITCEntertainment, against the strong objections of Sylvia Anderson, who wanted British actors. Also appearing as regular cast members were Barry Morse (as Professor Victor Bergman in the first season) and Catherine Schell (as the alien Maya in the second season). The program also brought Australian actor Nick Tate to public attention.

While the third season of Space: 1999 never actually entered production, the producers and studio had originally intended continuing the show. As filming on Year Two came to its conclusion, it became apparent that this was simply not going to happen and the series ended with the episode “The Dorcons.”

For this sci-fi fan, Space: 1999 never had the wonder of Star Trek, the character of Lost in Space or the imagination of Battlestar; Galactica.

So what are we left with?

Plain and simple: A British sci-fi import that 1) took place on the moon, which I think is cool, and 2) it starrted lost Mission: Impossible members Martin Landau and his wife, Barbara Bain.