"I gave up on the number of Eagles destroyed. The worst career for life expectancy was probably an Eagle pilot. "
-- From the The Space:1999 Population Countdown web page (http://www.io.com/~jwtlai/space1999.html)
had its origins in a follow-on series to UFO
called UFO: 1999
. The concept was the moon
was no longer tethered to Earth by the pitiful forces of gravity and orbital mechanics
. It was transformed into a giant moveable, errr, death star
upon which there was a massive base and an array of really massive weapons. This planetoid size, errr, base-star
would fight the UFO menace in space, making the UFO Gorgon Men pay in their cold green space blood. Give 'em a taste of hell
in deep space for a change.
Creator Gerry Anderson
liked the moon setting as he felt a purely space-and-moon theme would make the special effects easier in a way. One didn't have to create Earth-like backdrops. This is not to say UFO: 1999
would skimp on the effects. There would be no Doctor Who
style monsters made from shredded green trash bags. That would have to wait until Season Two of Space: 1999
. On the contrary, boyee, the raison d'être
for the all new UFO: 1999
was to make a bigger budgeted, more effects intensive series.
's ratings were waning in the USA. While it was popular in the UK, the planned budget for season two could not be recouped with just a British audience. An American audience was absolutely needed. Anderson consulted with ITC
's American representative in the USA named Abe Mandell. Mandell agreed FX were where it was at with American audiences but UFO
wasn't the right, errr, vehicle. Another concept was needed.
Anderson still felt like creating a show set just on the moon. How would Earth be kept out of the picture, wondered Mandell. The Earth would simply have to go, quipped Anderson. They'd simply blow it up. Mandell put the kibosh
on that idea. He felt blowing up Earth would alienate
American viewers as the American viewer would eventually work out that a blown up Earth implied a blown up America. Anderson then mused if the Earth couldn't be blown up, then what about blowing up the moon in such a way as to get it away from the problematic Earth?
Well, that's a show!
Anderson and his wife hammered out a half hour pilot called "Zero G
". By all accounts it was silly and putrid. It was reworked by a script editor into an hour length script called "The Void Ahead". The script editor did not last long and was replaced by American Edward Di Lorenzo and Irishman Johnny Byrne. They proved to be a writing team on par with Lennon/McCartney or maybe at least Dr. Who
's Douglas Adams
. They went on to pen 13 out of 24 scripts for the show's first season.
Anderson was also taken with the husband/wife team of Martin Landau
and Barbara Bain
, last seen together acting as a team on Mission: Impossible
. He offered them the roles of Commander John Koenig and Doctor Helena Russell (I'll let you work out the sex/name relations to figure out which role was offered to Landau and which role was offered to Bain).
To create the costumes, Anderson made a curious choice. He hired Rudi Gernreich
, a designer who created a small kerfuffle
in the fashion world when he created the topless bikini (monokini
) in 1964. (Also, Gernreich is generally accepted to be the inventor of the thong-backed bathing suit in 1974.) Even more curious Gernreich named his Moonbase Alpha
uniforms "Century 21
Fashion", despite the show's title which firmly set the show a full year (or two full years as calendar pedants will tell you) before the 21st century. The name probably is a nod to Gernreich source of inspiration, which was 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey
probably did a lot more to influence Space: 1999
than just costume design. Much of the first season's stories seemed an endless and confused quest to capture 2001: A Space Odyssey
's confused themes of man and metaphysical
questions of his place in the universe. Unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey
-- which left you with a Star Child
at the end and a mind going "Okay, what the fuck?
" and "This might have made more sense if I didn't pass on that blotter" -- Space: 1999
tried to offer commentary. Yeah, no shit.
Commentary was provided by Canadian actor Barry Morse
playing the role as humanist/philosopher/scientist Professor Victor Bergman. Morse, a trained Shakespearean actor and '50s TV character actor
, typically got the best lines. ("We believe that revenge sanctioned by authorities is also a sign of a debased culture.") Morse explained his character's thoughtfulness was a result a back story Morse invented for his character. Bergman was an Eastern European
who had survived the Nazi
holocaust as a boy.
The second season was a bit of a shake up. Since Jeri Ryan
was a still child and still too young to get breast implants
, Anderson tried to sex up
the show with an alluring shape-shifting alien called Maya
. Also the navel gazing
was dumped in favor of action-packed plots full of blazing guns, fisticuffs
, and monsters made from shredded garbage bags.
Naturally, Professor Victor Bergman had to go. He, along with characters Paul Morrow
(aka the guy with the thick Mark Spitz
mustache) and David Kano
(aka the black guy) were unceremoniously spaced
. No explanation was ever given for their disappearance, although a book called Moonbase Alpha Technical Manual
explains that these characters were killed between the two seasons. Morrow and Kano died, plausibly, in Eagle crashes. Bergman died when his space suit
Maya proved to be one of the rare improvements made in the second season. She was sexy and provided the Spock
/7 of 9
alien with super abilities thrill.
ITC was being backed by Italy's RAI
and as a nod to RAI's financial backing they added an Italian security chief
character named Tony Verdeschi.
began with 297 people. As the "Space:1999 Population Countdown" web page reveals by the end of season 2 some 47 people are shown being killed. Moonbase Alpha then had a maximum population of 250 by the end of the series. No accounting is made for deaths that might have resulted in episodes where bad space people blew up various parts of the moon station. Strangely in the second season, the most violent and action packed of the two seasons, Moonbase Alphans seemed to enjoy a charmed existence: no Alphans were shown killed for 12 straight episodes!