Wednesday, January 7, 2015


My descent into the desert of 70's televised sci-fi continues. When last I wrote, I had just discovered Canadian apprenticepiece THE STARLOST, isolated onto its own Roku channel to keep it from infecting other shows. I have made it through the whole 16 episodes, a journey as aimless as the voyage of the misbegotten Ark itself. Counted two attempts at spinoff series among them, by the way, both featuring interesting protagonists! A strategy they should have gone for up front, if you ask me.

But a few years before that, the folks pulling the strings behind THUNDERBIRDS and SUPERCAR took the plunge into "live action" with a show called UFO. It's streaming on Hulu and I advise a look. Seriously, look. Just turn down the sound, because it ruins everything.

UFO is about the efforts of a top secret international organization called SHADO (Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) to protect us from the surprisingly frequent attacks of alien craft on Earth. It takes place in 1980, which the show's futurists envision as a golden age of hair color choices. For reasons best left unexplained (and they certainly are) Shado's headquarters are hidden a mile below a British film studio. Both are run by Commander Edward Straker (Ed Bishop), an unnaturally blond American.

Straker coordinates the efforts of a base on the Moon, a battle submarine with a detachable flying nose, and a tank and... honestly, who cares? It's just like Thunderbirds only when you aren't looking at great model vehicles you're looking a puppets, only in this case they happen to be actors.

The show took a lot of flack at the time for the expressionless acting style, but I think I'll be generous and just say that they were encouraged to underplay a little.

Anyway, it hardly matters what the people are doing here, because it's uncompelling nonsense. The reason to watch the show is it's a visual assault. The art direction, considering the whole thing only took place ten years later, assumed an awful lot. It assumed computers wouldn't change so very much but military spacewear would.

On the other hand, navel outfits would go more for a netting theme:

(That picture is entitled "sub crew" and it's hard to not imagine that there must be a Dom crew nearby)

Anyway, you get the idea - the future was going to be improbably sexy. Oh and the aliens look like us, only greyed.

I only have seen the pilot so far but it looks like fun, if exhausting, viewing. Maybe it gets better, but that's not what I've heard. You read stories about this show but I don't think it played in my area, probably because it was hard to convince American TV buyers to field the angry letters about men's nipples.

Eventually Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, producers, calmed down a little and brought us Space: 1999, which assumed we'd have a little functioning city on the Moon by the end of the century. Wrong again you guys! I don't even have a Supercar yet! The Andersons have a lot to answer for.

1 comment:

  1. Hah!
    Sylvia designed the costumes, and made the amazingly intuitive leap that soon everyone would wear wigs as part of their uniforms.
    Frankly, it doesn't get much odder than this, save I have the complete series as a box set.