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Space: 1999

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Space1999 Year1 Title

Space: 1999 Title Card

Space: 1999 (ITC Entertainment and RAI, 1975-77) is a British science-fiction television series. In the pilot Breakaway, nuclear waste from Earth stored on the moon explodes in a catastrophic accident on September 13, 1999, knocking the moon out of its orbit and sending it and the 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha hurtling uncontrollably into outer space. The series was the last produced by the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, famous for the TV series Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Fireball XL5, and UFO.


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

Space: 1999 is the last in a long line of science-fiction series that the Andersons produced as a working partnership, beginning with Supercar in the early Sixties and including the famed marionette fantasy series Stingray, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Joe 90 and The Secret Service, as well as the live-action alien-invasion drama UFO. Space: 1999 owes much of the visual design to pre-production work for the never-made second series of UFO, which would have featured a more extensive Moonbase.

Space: 1999 has since become a cult classic and is available on DVD.

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Main Mission

The massive Main Mission set from Year 1 of the series

In common with many Lew Grade presentations vying to break the American market, the first season of Space: 1999 used a teaser intro (sometimes called the cold open) which was popular in U.S. action-adventure series. This was followed by a title sequence that managed to convey prestige for its two main stars Landau and Bain (both separately billed as 'starring'), and give the audience some 30 plus fast cut shots of the forthcoming episode. The second season of the series eliminated this montage. In 2004, American science fiction screenwriter Ronald D. Moore stated that the style of the first season opening credits of Space: 1999 inspired the opening credit sequence for his acclaimed remake of Battlestar Galactica.

Principal castEdit

The headline stars of Space: 1999 were American actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, who were married at the time and had previously appeared together in Mission: Impossible. In an effort to appeal to the huge U.S. television market, perhaps to sell the series to one of the major American networks,[1] Landau and Bain were cast at the insistence of Lew Grade 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 programme also brought Australian actor Nick Tate to public attention. Roy Dotrice appeared in the first episode as Commissioner Simmonds, and at the end of the episode it appeared that he would be a regular character, however by the second (transmitted) episode the character had vanished without a trace, only to appear partway through the first season in the episode "Earthbound", his only other appearance on the show (in which the character is permanently written out).


Cast of Year One of Space: 1999


Cast of Year Two of Space: 1999

{| class="wikitable"|- bgcolor="#CCCCCC"

! Actor !! Role !! Appearances |- | Martin Landau || Commander John Koenig, leader of Moonbase Alpha (Year 1 & 2) ||(47 episodes, 1975-1977) |- | Barbara Bain || Doctor Helena Russell, head of Medical Section (Year 1 & 2) || (48 episodes, 1975-1977) |- | Nick Tate || Alan Carter, third in command, chief pilot (Year 1 & 2) ||(45 episodes, 1975-1977) |- | Zienia Merton || Sandra Benes, data analyst (Year 1 & 2) ||(37 episodes, 1975-1977, 1999) |- | Catherine Schell || Maya, science officer (Year 2) || (24 episodes, 1976-1977) |- | Anton Phillips || Doctor Bob Mathias, Helena's deputy (Year 1 & 2) || (24 episodes, 1975-1976) |- | Barry Morse || Professor Victor Bergman, science adviser (Year 1) || (24 episodes, 1975-1976) |- | Prentis Hancock || Paul Morrow, second in command, Main Mission controller and base (Year 1) executive officer || (23 episodes, 1975-1976) |- | Clifton Jones || David Kano, computer operations officer (Year 1) ||(23 episodes, 1975-1976) |- | Tony Anholt || Tony Verdeschi, second in command, head of Security and Command Center controller (Year 2) || (23 episodes, 1976-1977) |- | Suzanne Roquette || Tanya Alexander, base operations officer (Year 1) || (19 episodes, 1975-1976) |- | John Hug || Bill Fraser, Eagle pilot (Year 2) || (9 episodes, 1976-1977) |- | Jeffrey Kissoon || Dr. Ben Vincent, deputy medical officer (Year 2) || (7 episodes, 1976-1977) |}

Guest artistsEdit

Over the course of its two series the programme featured guest appearances by many notables including Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Judy Geeson, Ian McShane, Leo McKern, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, Peter Bowles, Sarah Douglas, David Prowse, Isla Blair, Stuart Damon and Brian Blessed. (Blair, Damon and Blessed each appeared in two different episodes portraying two different characters.)[2][3]

Catherine Schell had guest-starred as a different character in the Year 1 episode Guardian of Piri before moving into the role of Maya during the second series.

Original broadcastEdit


(L-R) Creators Gerry and Sylvia Anderson with stars Barbara Bain and Martin Landau

The series premiered in 1975, although the first episode had actually been filmed in 1973. Live action was filmed at Pinewood Studios and special effects at Bray Studios. There were two seasons of 24 episodes each made by Gerry Anderson for ITC Entertainment. The first season was co-produced by the Italian state broadcaster, RAI. As part of this production agreement, various episodes featured Italian actors in guest-starring roles. In Britain the series was originally seen on ITV stations but was not simulcast nationally until a screening run on BBC2 in 1998/99.

In the U.S., efforts to sell the television series to the major networks failed and as a result it was syndicated to local stations. In the months leading to the beginning of the fall (autumn) 1975 television season (in the U.S., September is traditionally the month in which new TV series begin), Landau and Bain participated in special preview screenings in select cities.[1] Landau is said to have personally contacted editors of the widely read and influential TV Guide magazine in some markets to secure coverage of Space: 1999 in its pages upon learning of ITC's somewhat poor promotional efforts. While most of the U.S. stations that aired Space: 1999 were independent (such as powerful Chicago station WGN-TV, Louisville station WDRB-TV, Los Angeles station KHJ-TV, and New York City's WPIX-TV), a handful were affiliated with the major networks (such as San Francisco's KRON-TV, at the time a strong NBC affiliate, and Fresno's KFSN-TV, at the time a CBS affiliate) and sometimes pre-empted regular network programming to show episodes of the series; most U.S. stations broadcast the episodes in the weekday evening hour just before prime time or on weekends. The series was broadcast in 96 countries, mostly from 1975-79. However, it aired in its entirety in very few countries. Often there were long gaps between first run and rerun or even within first run.

It was shown in Italy as Spazio: 1999, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic,Guatemala and France as Cosmos: 1999, Denmark as Månebase Alpha, Brazil and Portugal (1976 - 1977) as Espaço: 1999, Germany as Mondbasis Alpha 1, Sweden as Månbas Alpha, Poland as Kosmos 1999 (1977-1979), Finland as Avaruusasema Alfa, Greece as Διάστημα 1999, Hungary as Alfa Holdbázis, Spain, Chile, Venezuela, and Colombia as Espacio: 1999, Mexico as Odisea 1999, and South Africa as Alpha 1999, ( 1976, dubbed into Afrikaans).

Countries where the show was popular include Yugoslavia, Poland, Ethiopia, South Africa, Turkey, Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Peru, Japan, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. One of the first previews of the series was in Australia on the Seven Network in July 1975, but the station later split the first series into two seasons. The second season was shown in 1979.

In the UK, the episodes of the show's second season were shown sporadically over a period of a couple of years, starting in 1976 while the last episodes were still in production. In some regions the final first-run episodes appeared in 1978, more than a year after they were produced; in other regions of the UK, the second series was never shown.

The series is being broadcast on ITV4 and ITV HD on a regular basis in the UK (in fully-remastered versions that were also used on the most recent DVD release).


S99-nuclear explosion

13 September 1999 - Moonbase Alpha - Massive Nuclear Explosion - Moon Torn Out of Earth's Orbit - Hurled Into Outer Space[4]

The underlying storyline of Space: 1999 centered on the plight of the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha following a calamity on 13 September 1999. A huge nuclear waste dump on the far side of the Moon detonates in a massive thermonuclear explosion, initiated by the buildup of magnetic radiation which was released, causing a nuclear chain reaction. The force of the explosion causes the Moon to be sent hurtling out of Earth's orbit and into deep space at colossal speed, stranding the 311 crew members[5], in effect becoming the "spaceship" on which the protagonists travel, looking for a new home. During their interstellar journey, the Alphans encounter a vast array of alien civilizations, dystopian societies, and strange phenomena previously unseen by man.

The concept of traveling through space encountering aliens and strange worlds is similar to Star Trek and Lost In Space, although the production's visual aesthetics were heavily influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey. In another nod to Kubrick's epic, the first series of Space: 1999 tended to explore mystical and metaphysical themes, although the revamped second series would centre on more "action-oriented" plots and dynamic character interaction, with a deliberate aim at a younger audience.


Main article: List of Space: 1999 episodes

Other mediaEdit

Main article: List of Space: 1999 books and other media

Series flaws and criticismsEdit

Scientific inaccuracyEdit

Isaac Asimov pointed out that any explosion capable of knocking the Moon out of its orbit would actually blow it apart, and even if it did leave orbit it would take hundreds of years to reach the nearest star.[6] The episode The Black Sun was intended to address the second issue, by showing the Moon falling through a hole in space-time into another region of space (possibly one with different physical laws), but was generally screened after several others had already shown the Moon reaching other solar systems.

Rise and fall of Year TwoEdit

Fred Freiberger

Fred Freiberger

Following the departure of Sylvia Anderson after her separation and subsequent divorce from husband Gerry, Fred Freiberger was brought in to help guide the series as producer. Freiberger produced the final season of Star Trek in 1968-1969 and later the last season of The Six Million Dollar Man. Freiberger also produced 8 episodes of the first season of The Wild Wild West (including one in which Martin Landau guest-starred) before being dismissed. His writing credits included Slattery's People, The Iron Horse, All in the Family, Petrocelli, and Starsky and Hutch.

ITC Entertainment President Sir Lew Grade cancelled the series' production in 1975 when ratings in the United States dropped during the months of the autumn of that year. Nick Tate returned to his native Australia, and other regulars accepted other acting roles. Grade had already been disappointed by the lack of a U.S. network broadcast. Gerry Anderson and Fred Freiberger consulted and pitched the idea of the addition of the alien Maya. The argument was that an alien character on Moonbase Alpha would shake up the dynamic of interaction on the Moonbase and regain viewer interest in the United States. On the strength of Anderson and Freiberger's proposal of adding the Maya character, Grade approved a renewal of the series for a second year.


Barbara Bain and Martin Landau sporting season 2's brightly colored jackets.

In addition to the Maya character, to be played by Catherine Schell, were numerous other changes for what was branded as Year 2. The most visible change was the absence of Professor Bergman (Barry Morse). Morse's departure was due to a salary dispute, but he would later claim that he was glad to leave, and he had told Anderson: "I would rather play with grown-ups for a while." Template:Harvnb With Morse gone, the role of the scientist on Alpha would be filled completely by Maya, whose people's science is far ahead of that of humans. Also, her character was conceived to be able to provide "outside observation of human behavior" as had been provided by the character of Mr. Spock on Star Trek. Maya shared Spock's logical approach to problem-solving, but differed in that she was a fully emotional person. Most importantly, however, her abilities as a metamorph, which allowed her to "molecularly transform" into any living thing for an hour at a time, were designed to add a certain "wow" factor to the newly-revamped series. Maya had a sense of humour. When a friend brewed some alcohol-like drink, Maya tried it and turned herself into Mister Hyde.

Schell had previously guest-starred as a different character in the Year 1 episode Guardian of Piri.

In addition to Bergman, Year 1 secondary characters Paul Morrow (Prentis Hancock), David Kano (Clifton Jones) and Tanya Alexander (Suzanne Roquette) also disappeared from the cast (Paul and Tanya's disappearance is explained in the Powys Media book The Forsaken by John Kenneth Muir). Dr. Bob Mathias (Anton Phillips) was present in the first two Year 2 episodes, was mentioned in the third episode, and then also disappeared without a trace. His character was initially replaced by Dr. Ben Vincent (Jeffrey Kissoon), and by Dr. Raul Nunez (Raul Newey) for one episode, but towards the end of the season, the role of Dr. Russell's colleague in Medical Center was filled by Dr. Ed Spencer (Sam Dastor). Also, Alan Carter (Nick Tate) was to have been written out of the series, but he had become so popular with fans that he remained. Sandra Benes (Zienia Merton) remained with the series as well, but her name was shortened to "Sahn" and the character only appeared in a fraction of the episodes, albeit more prominently in some episodes (e.g. Space Warp, The Bringers of Wonder) than in many of those of the first series. To make matters more confusing, the novelisations of the second series written by Michael Butterworth had Sahn referred to as an Asian male character. Butterworth didn't realise Sandra and Sahn were the same character.[7]


New characters Maya (an alien from the planet Psychon) and Security Chief Tony Verdeschi join Year Two

Along with Maya, Tony Anholt was added to the cast in Year 2 as Security Chief Tony Verdeschi, a character who neither appeared nor was ever mentioned in Year 1. His character was designed to serve primarily as a secondary male action hero, and he also became a romantic interest for Maya. Initially named Simon Hays, the character was made an Italian national at the insistence of the Italian backers, who wanted more Italian presence on the show.

No on-screen explanations were offered for these cast changes. One scene in The Metamorph mentioning Bergman's death was scripted and filmed, but cut from the final edit. The Moonbase Alpha Technical Manual explains that Bergman died due to a faulty spacesuit, an explanation also mentioned in passing in the Year 2 novel Planets of Peril. Likewise, it was mentioned in the Year 2 Writers' Bible that Morrow and Kano had died in an Eagle crash between seasons, but this backstory was, again, never referred to onscreen. The Technical Manual also explains that Dr. Mathias, supposedly Alpha's psychiatrist (although he seems to be more Russell's assistant) transferred to another section of the base. Once again, this was never stated onscreen. The viewer was left to posit his or her own explanations for the disappearances of the aforementioned characters.

Other changes included the main titles and theme music. The montage of events from Breakaway and the episode about to unfold featured in Year 1 was dropped in favor of a special-effects sequence depicting the Moon being blown out of orbit into space. With Morse gone, Schell was featured in her place as a regular alongside Landau and Bain, and all three were depicted in action-oriented images as opposed to the mannequin-like stances Landau and Bain had assumed in the Year 1 main titles. New series composer Derek Wadsworth's new theme dropped Barry Gray's alternation between stately, orchestral passages and funky rhythmic ones in favour of a more consistently contemporary piece.

Rudi Gernreich's minimalist costumes were considerably modified from their original unisex design to include an optional skirt for women and much more detail work on the tunic portion, including stripes, patches and photo ID badges. In addition, colourful jackets – generally red, blue or orange – became part of most characters' ensembles. The expansive Main Mission set, with its balcony and glass windows revealing the lunar surface, was replaced by a more compact Command Center, supposedly deep underground. (Once again, this change was explained in the Year 2 Writers' Bible and Technical Notebook as necessary for security, but never shared with viewers). The Medical Center and Alphans' living quarters became smaller, while the interior of the Eagle Transporter was updated with additional buttons, flashing lights and viewscreens, while the Eagle also lost a section of corridor between the passenger module and the cockpit. The sombre mood created in Year 1 by the effective use of light and shadow in the filming of Moonbase Alpha interiors was abandoned in favor of a generally brighter cinematography, and even the lettering used in signage and costuming—most noticeable on spacesuits and Eagle Transporter doors—changed to a simpler, less futuristic style.

Freiberger emphasized action-adventure in Year 2 stories to the exclusion of metaphysical themes explored in Year 1. Of Year 1, he commented, "They were doing the show as an English show, where there was no story, with the people standing around and talking. In the first show I did, I stressed action as well as character development, along with strong story content, to prove that 1999 could stand up to the American concept of what an action-adventure show should be." [8] Since Year 1 was quite serious in tone, one of Frieberger's ways to accomplish this objective was to inject humor into Year 2 stories whenever possible, but much of it seemed to the more vocal fans to be forced, especially at the conclusion of an episode, where the Alphans were seen as jovial and light-hearted despite whatever violent or tragic events may have previously befallen them.

Members of the Space: 1999 cast were disenchanted with the scripts. Martin Landau: "They changed it because a bunch of American minds got into the act and they decided to do many things they felt were commercial. Fred Freiberger helped in some respects, but, overall, I don't think he helped the show, I think he brought a much more ordinary, mundane approach to the series." [9]. One particular episode (All That Glisters, which dealt with the threat of an intelligent rock) was of such allegedly deficient quality that it sparked a confrontation between Freiberger and the cast. Landau disliked the story so strongly that he wrote the following notes on his copy of the script: "All the credibility we're building up is totally forsaken in this script!"; "...Story is told poorly!"; and "The character of Koenig takes a terrible beating in this script — We're all shmucks!" Anholt revealed that, "the more the cast complained about a script's flaws, the more intractable and unyielding Freiberger became." Disatisfaction on Landau's part about scripts was not new to Year 2, though. Sylvia Anderson remembers that he often voiced criticisms of scripts during production of the first series.

Year 2 did nevertheless fare admirably on CBC Television in Canada, airing in English in a family viewing period, late Saturday afternoons before the hockey broadcasts, with a mostly undisrupted run and rerun of all 24 episodes from September 1976 through September 1977. And Year 2 episodes ran in French Canada-wide during the same broadcast year, in early evening on Saturdays. Ratings were sufficient for a full additional year's transmission of Year 1 in the English CBC Saturday programming slot in 1977-1978. Episodes of both Year 1 and Year 2 were repeated regionally in Canada in English and French through the early-to-mid-1980s, to an enthusiastic reception by the general viewing audience. YTV Canada broadcast both seasons with reportedly good ratings in 1990-1992, in a late Saturday afternoon airtime closely matching that of the CBC English network in the 1970s.

In contrast to its airing on CBC, the presentation of Year 2 was not as consistent elsewhere in the world. Some Year 2 episodes did not air in the UK until nearly two years after they were produced, while the regional ITV station HTV serving Wales and West of England did not pick the series up until 1984, and then only showed 19 out of the 24 episodes from series 2 (the last episodes would not be screened in Wales until the series was broadcast by Bravo on the Sky Satellite network in the mid 1990s). Plans were nevertheless put in place for a third season, but still dropping ratings and fewer syndication and commercial sponsor sales contributed to the series' cancellation. Landau faulted Lew Grade's foray into film production; the projected budget for the third season was, coincidentally, equivalent to the advertising budget for Raise the Titanic, and some commentators have suggested that it came down to one or the other.[9] However, since "Raise the Titanic" did not start principal photography until 1979 (and was not advertised or released until the following year), it is more likely that money which ITC might have allocated to a third season of Space: 1999 instead paid for the production of the company's Return of the Saint television series.

The abortive Year ThreeEdit


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". However, during production of the later episodes of the second series, plans for the shape of the third year began to develop.

  • The third year would have been far shorter than the previous two, with only 13 episodes. This was intended as a budgetary compromise between the quantity and quality of episodes.
  • Maya was considered to be the breakout character of the series, and very early on the producers began grooming her for her own spinoff show, which was at one point intended to run concurrently with series 3 of Space: 1999. Had this project gone ahead, Maya would have also been absent from Space: 1999. This "Maya" series was also intended to run for 13 episodes a year.

Message from Moonbase Alpha and the abortive cinematic revivalEdit

S99-Message From Moonbase Alpha

Message From Moonbase Alpha (Premiered Sept 13th, 1999) starring Zienia Merton as Sandra Benes

Filmed on 29 August 1999, Message From Moonbase Alpha is a fan-produced mini-episode made with the co-operation and involvement of Space: 1999 script editor Johnny Byrne, who penned the script. Filmed inside a private house on a remarkable working replica of a small section of the Main Mission set and utilising the original prop of Koenig's Command Center desk and Sandra Benes's original Year Two Alpha uniform, the short film was first shown at the Space: 1999 Breakaway Convention[10] in Los Angeles, California on 13 September 1999 -- the day the events in episode 1 of the series were supposed to take place. With the permission of (then) copyright owners Carlton Media International, the film included brief clips from seven episodes to illustrate the deserted Moonbase Alpha and the Alphans' exodus to planet Terra Alpha. Previously unused footage shot for the Year Two title sequence and The Last Enemy was used to create a sequence showing the Moon being affected by a gravitational disturbance and thrown into an unknown solar system. Short excerpts from 12 other episodes appeared in a montage as Sandra Benes recalls her life on Alpha.

The seven minute film features Zienia Merton reprising her role as Sandra Benes delivering a final message to Earth as the only crew member left on Moonbase Alpha while a massive exodus to a habitable planet, Terra Alpha, takes place with the rest of the crew. This basically gave the series the finality it never had in its initial run.

Modified versions of Message From Moonbase Alpha are available on the SPACE: 1999 Bonus Disk in the U.S. and Canada, and on a DVD bonus disc in France and in Italy. The original version appears as a bonus feature on the Space:1999/UFO - The Documentaries DVD produced by Fanderson.

Around the same time Message From Moonbase Alpha was being filmed, Johnny Byrne and Christopher Penfold attempted to revive the franchise as a movie series, similar to the way Star Trek had been revived cinematically in the late 1970s. The first film would have picked up the story several years after the series ended, and would have featured a heavily-redesigned Moonbase Alpha. Ultimately the project failed, and nothing came of it.[11]



Works citedEdit

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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