Space: 1999

From Academic Kids

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Left to right: Barbara Bain, Catherine Schell and Martin Landau from Space:1999's second season.

Space: 1999 (ITC Entertainment, 19751977) was a science-fiction television show produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, famous for Thunderbirds and UFO.

Contents

Series overview

Space: 1999 was the first attempt since the demise of Star Trek in 1969 at producing a large-scale weekly science fiction series, and the show 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 in fact previously worked on both Thunderbirds (as Brian Johncock) and 2001.

It was the last in a long line of successful science-fiction series that the Andersons produced as a couple, beginning with Supercar in the early Sixties and including the famed marionette fantasy series Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90 and the gritty live-action alien-invasion drama UFO (TV series). The Andersons' marriage fell apart and their partnership dissolved during production of Space: 1999, although Gerry Anderson has continued to produce TV series into 2005.

Much of the visual design for Space: 1999 was originally intended for a never-made second series of UFO which would have featured an expanded Moonbase. When this fell through the ideas were used for Space: 1999 instead.

The stars were American actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, who were married at the time and had previously appeared together in Mission: Impossible. Also starring were Barry Morse (in the first season) and Catherine Schell (in the second season). The series also made Australian actor Nick Tate quite popular. There were guest appearances by the likes of Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Ian McShane and Brian Blessed.

The special effects in the show were highly regarded. The show featured many well designed and intricate scale models including the Eagle, a lunar shuttle. Special effects director Brian Johnson and most of his team went on to work on Ridley Scott's Alien, followed by Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

The series premiered in 1975, although the first episode had actually been filmed in 1973. 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. In Britain the series was originally seen on ITV stations but never simulcast nationally. In the US it was syndicated.

The series was reportedly broadcast in 96 countries, mostly between 1975 and 1979. The series was shown in Italy as Spazio: 1999, France as Cosmos: 1999, Denmark as Månebase Alpha, Portugal as Espaço: 1999, Brazil sometimes as Terror no Espaço, Germany as Mondbasis Alpha 1, Spain as Espacio: 1999, Sweden as Månbas Alpha 1999, Poland as Cosmos 1999, Finland as Avaruusasema Alfa and on German television (ZDF) as Mondbasis Alpha 1. The series was also broadcast in 1982 in South Africa as Alpha 1999, dubbed into Afrikaans by Leephy Atlejees in Johannesburg.

Countries where the show was popular include South Africa, Turkey, Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, Malaysia, Canada, Mexico 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 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. In many countries, including the US, UK and Germany, individual episodes were cut to reduce the running time.

Plot

The show involved the plight of the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha following a calamity on September 13, 1999. When a huge nuclear waste dump on the far side of the Moon detonates in a massive series of nuclear explosions, it sends the Moon hurtling out of Earth's orbit and into deep space at colossal speed. (Isaac Asimov was quick to point out that any explosion capable of knocking the Moon out of its orbit would actually blow it apart, and probably send billions of tons of debris crashing down onto Earth as well.) The Moon in effect becomes the "spaceship" on which our heroes travel, looking for a new home. A "space warp" conveniently serves to explain how it is the Alphans manage to meet so many alien civilizations instead of spending most of their time drifting through the interstellar void.

The concept of travelling through space encountering aliens and strange worlds is similar to Star Trek and Lost In Space, although the crew were obviously more influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey (except in terms of scientific accuracy).

Taking another page from 2001's book, the series tended to explore mystical and metaphysical themes rather than scientific ones. Yet many of the first season's episodes were striking.

The cynical "War Games", said to be the highest-budgeted single episode of any TV series up to that time, was an overt commentary on humanity's combative nature. Alpha finds itself under attack by an unstoppable alien force that kills most of its population. Yet in another of the series' metaphysical twists, the Alphans are given a second chance at the end, and time is reversed to mere moments prior to the attack so that Commander Koenig (Landau) can rethink his fateful decisions. "Dragon's Domain" and "Force of Life" were more typical variations on the alien monster theme, but executed impressively. However, most of the writers seemed to have very little knowledge of astronomy, which might seem to be a minimal requirement for a series set in space, and the action was often surprisingly slow-moving for an adventure series.

Second season production troubles

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Barbara Bain and Martin Landau

The second season was problematic; producer Fred Freiberger was brought in, and made numerous changes that upset the series' continuity (which was shaky to begin with) and proved controversial with fans.

Barry Morse and a few other regular cast members from the first season were dismissed (the book The Complete Gerry Anderson reveals that Morse left due to a salary dispute). Freiberger, best known (and, to some fans, infamous) for producing the critically derided third season of Star Trek and evidently wanting his own Mr. Spock, insisted that an alien join the regular cast, and this led to the addition of Catherine Schell as the shape-changing Maya.

No on-screen explanation was ever offered for the sudden disappearance of Professor Bergman and other characters, however the original script for the first episode of Season Two had some expository dialog that mentioned Professor Bergman had died in a space suit malfunction, and that Paul Morrow and David Kano had died in an Eagle Crash. These scenes were actually shot, but cut when the episode ran long.

The fans liked Maya, but the stories in season two were less popular. Landau was especially unhappy. The episode "All That Glisters" sparked a major confrontation between Freiberger and the cast. Landau disliked the story so strongly he reportedly nearly left the show, and 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!"

Tony Anholt picked up the role of action hero as Security Chief Tony Verdeschi, a character who did not appear in the first season and who suddenly appeared among the Alphans without explanation. In an interview, Anholt revealed that the more the cast complained about a script's flaws, the more intractable and unyielding Freiberger became.

The show fizzled after the second season, with some episodes from the season not even airing in the UK until nearly two years after they were produced. Plans were still made for a third season, however a lack of American syndication sales led to its cancellation.

Fans were upset by the lack of narrative closure, particularly in that the ultimate fate of the Alphans was never resolved. Years later, a short film titled Message from Moonbase Alpha was produced by fans and written by series scribe Johnny Byrne. Featuring a moving eulogy performed by series regular Zienia Merton (in character as Sandra Benes), it told of the Alphans finally colonizing the planet Terra Alpha and saying their final farewells to the Moonbase as the Moon drifted out of range.

The entire series, including the Message from Moonbase Alpha short, has been released on DVD.

Episodes

Individual episodes were intended to be broadcast in almost any order. The only guidelines are that Breakaway should be the first episode, followed by Season 1 episodes. The Metamorph should be the first of Season 2, followed by the remaining episodes (there is a two-part episode in the second series).

The order shown below is for ATV, the UK regional station based in Birmingham. Other stations, and other countries, used very different orders. In some cases, this included mixing Season 1 and Season 2 episodes at random.

One preferred order is to use the original filming order, to account for subtle production changes in sets. For Season 2 episodes, a date since the first episode is often quoted in dialog, which follows filming order. DVD releases have followed the filming order.

Season 1 (1975-1976)

Episode # Original Air Date (UK) Days since leaving Earth Episode Title
1-01 17 October1975 -4 Breakaway
1-02 24 October1975  ? Force of Life
1-03 31 October1975  ? Collision Course
1-04 7 November1975  ? War Games
1-05 14 November1975  ? Death's Other Dominion
1-06 21 November1975  ? Voyager's Return
1-07 28 November1975  ? Alpha Child
1-08 5 December1975 877 Dragon's Domain
1-09 12 December1975  ? Mission of the Darians
1-10 19 December1975  ? Black Sun
1-11 26 December1975  ? Guardian of Piri
1-12 9 January1976  ? End of Eternity
1-13 16 January1976  ? Matter of Life and Death
1-14 23 January1976  ? (mere weeks) Earthbound
1-15 30 January1976  ? The Full Circle
1-16 6 February1976  ? Another Time, Another Place
1-17 13 February1976  ? The Infernal Machine
1-18 20 February1976  ? Ring Around the Moon
1-19 27 February1976  ? Missing Link
1-20 5 March1976  ? The Last Sunset
1-21 12 March1976  ? Space Brain
1-22 19 March1976  ? The Troubled Spirit
1-23 26 March1976  ? The Testament of Arkadia
1-24 2 April1976  ? The Last Enemy

Season 2 (1976-1977)

Episode # Original Air Date (UK) Days since leaving Earth Episode Title
2-01 4 September1976 342 The Metamorph
2-02 11 September1976 403 The Exiles
2-03 18 September1976 unknown Journey to Where
2-04 25 September1976 578 One Moment of Humanity
2-05 1 October1976 1150 Brian the Brain
2-06 8 October1976 1095 New Adam New Eve
2-07 15 October1976 640 The Mark of Archanon
2-08 22 October1976 892 The Rules of Luton
2-09 29 October1976 565 All That Glisters
2-10 5 November1976  ? The Taybor
2-11 12 November1976 1608 Seed of Destruction
2-12 19 November1976 1288 The AB Chrysalis
2-13 26 November1976 1196 Catacombs of the Moon
2-14 3 December1976 1807 Space Warp
2-15 10 December1976 1702 A Matter of Balance
2-16 17 December1976 1503 The Beta Cloud
2-17 24 December1976 2308 The Lambda Factor
2-18 4 August1977 1912 The Bringers of Wonder Part One
2-19 11 August1977 1913? The Bringers of Wonder Part Two
2-20 18 August1977 2012 The Seance Spectre
2-21 25 August1977 2009 Dorzak
2-22 1 September1977 2306 Devil's Planet
2-23 1 May1978 2310 The Immunity Syndrome
2-24 28 August1978 2409 The Dorcons

Season 2 aired on ATV over the course of more than a year. Due to the long mid-season gap, some sources consider episodes 2-18 to 2-24 to be a third season. In some parts of Britain, the final episode, "The Dorcons", did not air until the summer of 1978; in others, it was not shown until the 1998 BBC "repeats".

The number of days since leaving Earth might allow an interpretation of the calendar date, however, even if the Alphans still use the Gregorian Calendar, Earth has moved forward considerably in time, as evidenced by Journey To Where, where it is 2120 on Earth. The series was not consistent in how it used this number; the two parts of "Bringers of Wonder", for example, are said to take place hundreds of days apart, which is not possible.

Motion picture releases

Four films were culled together from various episodes of the series in the 1970s and 1980s. One aim was to provide content for new US and European Cable TV and Satellite TV stations (and, potentially, for theatrical release which occurred in several European countries). A fifth film, Spazio: 1999, was created specifically for theatrical release in Italy. These films (with the exception of Spazio: 1999) were released to home video years before any episodes were officially available in that format.

  • Spazio: 1999 was a 1976 Italian release made up of heavily edited segments from the episodes "Breakaway", "Ring Around the Moon" and "Another Time, Another Place". This obscure release is notable for having a musical score by noted film composer Ennio Morricone, replacing the original television score by Barry Gray.
  • Destination: Moonbase Alpha, released in 1978, was the first widely available reediting of the series, based upon the two-part second season episode "The Bringers of Wonder." In many countries, this episode could only be seen in the movie form, as it was removed from the syndication package (though the two episodes were restored for the North American DVD release).
  • Alien Attack, released in 1979, retroactively introduced foreign audiences to how Moonbase Alpha came to be travelling through space, by combining the by-now six-year-old pilot episode "Breakaway" with another episode, "War Games", but moving the events far into the 21st Century from 1999. This feature also included new footage shot for this release, specifically scenes at offices of the International Lunar Commission on Earth.
  • Journey Through the Black Sun (1982) combined the first season episodes "Collision Course" and "Black Sun".
  • Cosmic Princess (1982), focused on the second-season character Maya and featured the episodes "The Metamorph" and "Space Warp" combined together. The alien's dialogue from "Space Warp" is altered, and the alien's difficulties, and Maya's condition, are staged as being directly related to the events of "The Metamorph" as if they occurred only days before.

Some US home video editions of the English-language releases included specially filmed introductions by b-movie queen Sybil Danning. Series stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain were reportedly upset at this re-packaging and launched legal action.

Books, comics and media

A number of novels were published in the mid-1970s, consisting of novelizations of televised episodes and some original novels. Authors included E.C. Tubb, John Rankine and Perry Rhodan author Kurt Brand. In 2003, Powys Media launched a new series of officially-licensed original novels, as well as revised editions of previously issued novelizations by Michael Butterworth.

Charlton Comics in the United States published seven issues of a comic book based upon the series, as well as eight issues of a black-and-white illustrated magazine featuring more adult-oriented stories based upon the show. There were also comic books in various formats in the UK, Germany, Italy and Portugal. In addition, Power Records published two special comic book editions with 45 rpm vinyl records enclosed featuring dramatized readings of the comic books.

Silva Screen Records released a CD of music from Season 1 in late 2004

The Eagle Transporter spaceship is a popular subject for models, ranging from die cast models from Dinky Toys to plastic construction kits from various companies.

The series has been released several times to home video. The first releases, in 1980, were of the movie compilations. From 1991 individual episodes were released on video and laserdisc. Since 2001, the episodes have been released on DVD in many markets, including A&E in the US.

External links

sv:Månbas Alpha

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