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space1999This week on Throwback Thursday I wanted to take a look at the classic series Space: 1999 that ran for two seasons in the mid seventies.

Comfort food; there are times when we all need it, and comfort food of the television variety means such wonderful shows as Space: 1999, currently available on Hulu. Now wonderful is a relative term here and is mainly about the nostalgia factor, but still all 48 episodes covering the two seasons of the show is something to curl up with.

Space: 1999 was the creation of Gerry Anderson, who was responsible for the classic marionette shows Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlett and the Mysterons and Joe 90. Anderson had moved into live shows with U.F.O., also available on Hulu, before embarking on Space: 1999, which was first broadcast in September of 1975. The series postulated that some 24 years hence there would be an active space research colony on the Moon and that the Earth would be using the far side for the disposal of nuclear waste. That waste reaches critical mass on September 13 1999 and blasts the Moon out of Earth’s orbit sending the survivors on a perilous journey through space.

As a base concept it’s both brilliant and very silly. On the positive side, the journey allows all manner of confrontations and adventures, a la the original Star Trek, only limited by the writers’ imagination. Conversely life would have been effectively wiped out on the Earth from the upheaval resulting from the absence of the Moon’s gravity even if the Moon could have survived an explosion of the magnitude imagined.

The then husband and wife team of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, who had been very good in Mission Impossible, were cast as the leads in the show as Commander John Koenig and Doctor Helena Russell in an attempt to sell the show to a US network. Bain is, in some spots, almost painfully awful with some very wooden acting. No network picked up the show and instead the producers created an ad hoc syndication with various stations in different markets. Nor did the show fare much better in the UK where there was little uniformity to the broadcasts, especially in the second season.

Nick Tate played chief pilot Alan Carter and was a firm fan favorite while Barry Morse, Zienia Merton, Anton Phillips, Prentis Hancock and Clifton Jones fleshed out the rest of the crew. And surprisingly it worked very well not least with the extensive use of models to represent the Eagle transporter spacecraft that the base used.

As noted there was a second season and it involved some significant changes that split the fan base. Gone were Morse’s Professor Victor Bergman along with the characters played by Phillips, Hancock and Jones. In their place the alien Maya, played by the exotic Catherine Schell, and head of security Tony Verdeschi (Tony Anholt) arrived as the show took on a bigger action element rather than some of the metaphysical themes of season one. The suspicion is that the sweet spot for Space: 1999 was probably somewhere in the middle of the two seasons in terms of the style of show that they were attempting to portray.

Regardless it’s good clean, cheesy fun. Excellent for those of us who remember the original, but with enough going for it to be recommended for those who enjoy a science fiction based show.

- Wallace Poulter

 

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