Home Uncategorized The Dawn of Space: 1999

The Dawn of Space: 1999

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Based on the initially promising ratings of Gerry Anderson’s first live action television series, UFO, Lew Grade was keen to build upon the show’s success and commissioned a second series in late 1972. Pre-production work began on expanding the world of UFO, including the design of a larger SHADO Moonbase.

However, the ratings on UFO during its syndicated run in America took a slight dip causing ITC to get cold feet and cancel the second series. Gerry felt that too much work had gone into developing the new designs and promised ITC’s Abe Mandell a way of utilising them for an entirely new television series. Mandell and ITC New York had one stipulation. The series could not take place on Earth. It was felt that the more earthbound episodes of UFO were less popular than those which took place predominantly on Moonbase. Gerry was allowed to start production on the promise that the first episode of the series would see the Moon and all the people on it blasted out of orbit. Thus, the unique and astounding basis of Space: 1999 was born.

Chris Thompson’s artwork based on an early design for the Eagle.

This requirement was, however, the first of many contributions (or interferences as many would come to interpret them) made by ITC New York. The next was the idea of casting Mission Impossible stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain in the leading roles of the series. Gerry and Sylvia had done all they could to entice the American stars but what it then came down to was negotiating their fee. Gerry often told the story of how Landau and Bain insisted on more money, but they were already pushing the limit of what Lew Grade was prepared to pay. Gerry and Abe Mandell were at their hotel in Beverly Hills, hours away from the period for negotiation coming to a close. It was 11pm in London. Lew Grade always went to bed at 9pm. Abe Mandell didn’t dare to phone him up and ask for more money. More time passed and eventually Mandell took the brave step and called Lew. To Gerry’s surprise, Mandell then immediately thrust the phone into his hand, forcing Gerry to be the one to ask a disgruntled Grade to make one last bid to get Martin Landau and Barbara Bain on board. The deal was done and the stars of Space: 1999 were flown over to the UK where production began in December 1973 at Pinewood Studios, funded by ITC and RAI Italian TV Broadcasting.

Gerry Anderson and Martin Landau on set.

With a £3 million budget for the series, only the best would do to bring Britain’s most expensive television series at that time to life. Brian Johnson headed up the special effects team based at Bray Studios. It was his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey that influenced a great deal of the shots his team created for Space: 1999. Keith Wilson, who had previously assisted Bob Bell on the Supermarionation series, designed for the series. Rudi Gernreich, the renowned Austrian fashion designer and friend to series star Barbara Bain, was responsible for designing the unisex uniforms worn on Moonbase Alpha.

Despite the talented staff working on the production, the first episode was incredibly difficult to complete. George Bellak who had been responsible for developing many of Space: 1999’s key concepts had initially submitted a 90-minute script titled ‘The Void Ahead’. This was re-written entirely by Christopher Penfold with the title ‘Turning-Point’. The original schedule allotted 12 days for the principal photography of each episode, but what eventually became ‘Breakaway’ ended up taking 25 days. Director Lee H. Katzin’s initial cut ran for over 2 hours and prompted Gerry Anderson himself to rewrite scenes to cut down the episode. Reshoots were then carried out following the production of the episode ‘Black Sun’.

Space: 1999 first premiered in Melbourne, Australia on July 28th 1975. Five weeks later the series began transmission in the UK. Despite the series failing to achieve a sale to any of the American networks, the series is still considered by fans all over the world as a great piece of science fiction television with the stunning production values for which Gerry Anderson is always remembered.

What did you think of Space: 1999? Would you have preferred to have seen a second series of UFO? Leave a comment down below with your thoughts.

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Jack Knoll

I've been a Gerry Anderson fan from birth, growing up on the repeats of Thunderbirds, Stingray and Captain Scarlet in the early 2000's. I'm also a fan of Doctor Who and other cult TV series including The Prisoner and Danger Man. I enjoy writing on a range of topics from across the Gerry Anderson back-catalogue from behind the scenes insights to fun and entertaining reviews. In my spare time I'm also a writer and film-maker.

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  • Neil Geddes Ward

    I was always spooked by the aliens on UFO and would have welcomed a second series of that! However, I always enjoyed Space: 1999 as well, as I loved all the space craft models and got to meet Martine Bower, the model maker who made them all, on a few occassions as a kid! He later went on to work on Alien amongst other things!

  • The MOSEPH!!

    A second series of UFO would have been great, but I’m incredibly grateful it became one of my absolute all-time favorite tv shows, Space:1999. Loved it! And it sported what has become my favorite sci-fi spacecraft, the Eagle.

  • R.Paul Clarke

    What a pity the second series of U.F.O was not made instead of Space 1999.In my
    opinion U.F.O is the best show ever made by Gerry Anderson,and I think ITC America
    were worried the UK was capable of making the best Sci-Fi show ever and gave it an
    off-peak time slot which caused failure in the ratings.How about a new remake of U.F.O
    with John Barrowman as Ed Straker,and Benedict Cumberbatch as Paul Foster? It would
    be a fitting tribute to his mother,Wanda Ventham (Colonel Virginia Lake).

  • Steve Cann

    I loved UFO as a child – it had an amazing kitsch charm, & some really genuine scary moments. I found Space 1999 a little bland in comparison – the hardware & sfx were top-notch, but it felt more like a space soap opera, & was always a little sombre for me.
    I think the idea of setting it all in space made it feel more ‘stagey’ too – most of my favourite UFO stories made good uses of real locations.
    Having said that, Space 1999 was still top notch, & streets ahead of anything else around at the time.

  • Graham Penson

    I was and still am a huge fan of UFO. Space 1999 was indeed a great series in its own right but perhaps should have been more of a UFO Spin off.

    Better still would have been to have had a second series of UFO as well as Space 1999 to be broadcast at different times of the year.

    Obviously money was the restriction so what we had was the best Gerry and his team could have done at the time.

    I hope one day a resurrection of UFO will take to our screens because it had magic element to it that you would find in a series such as “The Prisoner”. An atmosphere of mystery which was in every episode.

    Growing up in the 60’s I can honestly say everything which came out of the Anderson Emporium had such an impact as I grew up.

    I am an Aircraft Engineer to which Gerry Anderson sowed he seeds all those years ago

  • markee2010

    I liked Space 1999 but i was more into Ufo and they really should have commissioned the second series for that .I watched Ufo as a child and still watch episodes of it on utube to this day .I realize now that ufo was way ahead of its time when it originally aired.

  • Radioman

    The science of the series was completely flawed and would all be impossible in the real world which was something of a drawback but it was still a fun and entertaining series

  • andrewbeet

    if anyone asked me what series of Space 1999 do i like and still do i would have to say year 1. i liked that the writers attempted to end each episode in a thoughtful way and not like the year 2 episodes where they tacked on a family friendly ending. with year 1 i liked that the characters discussed the events that had transpired in the episode. the only episode from year 2 that came close to a year 1 episode is the episode Seed Of Destruction. but yes for Year 1 is my favourite series of Space 1999

  • I_have_a_theory

    For someone interested in UFO and its metamorphosis into Space:1999 there are two one-hour documentaries made by Kindred Productions called “UFO – The Documentary” and “Space:1999 – The Documentary”. I have no idea where they can be obtained from these days (I’ve had my copies since they were first released) but they tell the story of Gerry Anderson’s transition from marionettes to live action (for UFO) and the vast power of the American networks to demand what they wanted (for Space:1999). Highly recommended viewing….

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