WARNING – THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS ABOUT THE SERIES!
UFO is considered by many to be one of the best science fiction series ever created. After years of creating thrilling action series with sophisticated puppets, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson made the leap to a full length live action television series with UFO. Set in the then-future of 1980, the premise of UFO couldn’t be simpler: Aliens are coming to Earth in an attempt to harvest body parts from humans in order to keep their own species alive. Earth is defended by the highly secret government agency SHADO – the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organisation.
UFO is by the very nature of the story, often bleak and dark. Numerous episodes end with a downbeat climax, the ‘good guys’ don’t always win. In terms of tone, it shares far more with the militaristic Captain Scarlet than the optimism and humour of Thunderbirds.
Therefore it’s not surprising that the proverbial rug is often pulled right out from under the feet of the audience as episode by episode, the series deals a number of powerful emotional blows. Which of these proved to be the most shocking? Have a look at our nominations and see if you agree!
STRAKER’S SON DIES – A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES
Well, it doesn’t get more shocking than this. After Straker’s son John suffers serious injuries when he’s struck by a car, Straker secretly orders a SHADO transporter aircraft to fly an experimental lifesaving drug from America to England in a desperate bid to save John’s life. Hiding his personal agenda from everyone at SHADO, Straker is almost successful.
However, Alec Freeman, quite oblivious to Straker’s plight, diverts the transporter to aid in on ongoing UFO incident in Ireland. On learning that the transporter has been diverted, Straker rushes to the hospital, but he is too late. An emotionally devastated Mary Straker emerges from John’s hospital room, telling Straker “I never want to see you again!”.
TIME IS BROKEN – TIMELASH
Time’s a funny thing. Sometimes it flies, sometimes it drags and sometimes it moves so slowly it feels like it’s standing still. Well, that’s exactly what happens during the course of Timelash!
Straker and Lake are returning to SHADO HQ one evening when they are attacked by a UFO. Suddenly, a strange force passes over them and the UFO retreats. After SHADO HQ fail to answer a radio call, they return to the film studio as quickly as possible, but the moment they enter the main gates, they emerge into daylight! Quickly realizing that time is literally at a standstill, Straker and Lake find people standing like statues and objects frozen in mid air. Spooky!
FOSTER DIES, OR DOES HE? – COURT MARTIAL
Paul Foster has been put on trial, charged with selling SHADO secrets to a mysterious contact. Before the trial officially concludes, Foster makes a break for freedom, smashing through the colourful light display in Straker’s office and activating the hidden elevator behind it.
The SHADO guards chasing Foster are authorised to use lethal force and waste no time firing at the accused as he flees out of the studio and makes it the edge of a nearby quarry. A sitting target, Foster makes one last effort to get away, but is shot in the back by one of his pursuers, collapsing in a heap. Learning of Foster’s death, Straker is furious, confronting General Henderson personally, having cleared Foster’s name. However, all is not how it appears, Foster was shot with an anesthetic dart and will make a full recovery!
NINA BARRY IS TRAPPED – SUB SMASH
Confronting his claustrophobia, Straker heads out to sea with the crew of SkyDiver, when it is attacked by an undersea UFO. With the submarine stranded on the sea floor and the escape chamber damaged, Straker orders Lieutenant Barry to use the cramped Sub Smash evacuation tube to escape the stricken vessel.
We learn that while the actual process of moving along the escape tube is exceptionally uncomfortable, it is a supposedly foolproof escape method, and we take it for granted that the Lieutenant is as good as safe. However, things are not always as they seem. As the final seconds tick by, Barry braces for the impact of the sea when the hatch is blown. Except nothing happens. The deadline passes. Nothing. She waits. Nothing. Panic starts to set in as she realizes that she’s stuck at the end of the the escape tube with no easy way back. In desperation, she lets out one long scream “STRAAAAKEEEEER!”.
FOSTER THE ALIEN – ORDEAL
This is one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry, the real stuff of nightmares!
Foster is at a SHADO health farm for assessment when he manages to get trapped in a sauna. Unfortunately for him, some Aliens have identified the facility as a SHADO target and waste no time in killing the rest of the personnel and capturing Foster.
Foster is taken aboard a nearby UFO, where he is fitted with an Alien spacesuit, complete with helmet. Powerless to prevent it, Foster struggles in horror as the helmet starts filling up with green liquid, pouring straight into his lungs as well!
THE END TITLES OF THE SQUARE TRIANGLE
Just when you thought the end titles couldn’t get any creepier, try this one for size.
Liz Newton and her lover, Cass, are planning to murder Liz’s husband, Jack. Their plan is meticulous, but fails due to the unexpected arrival of an Alien, whom Liz mistakes for Jack and fatally shoots him.
SHADO arrive on the scene, taking Liz and Cass in for interrogation. They discover the plot to kill Jack Newton, but choose not to do anything other than wipe the short term memories of those involved so that they forget their encounter with the Alien. The episode ends with Liz visiting Jack’s grave before meeting up with Cass, their plan having succeeded on the second attempt. Chilling!
Phew! Just reading through those was enough to shock us, yet they’re far from the only shocking moments from the series! Which shocking moments have stuck in your mind ever since the first time you watched them? Let us know in the comments!