UFO (TV series)

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UFO
UFO Titles.PNG
Also known asGerry Anderson's UFO (Australia)
GenreAdventure
alien invasion
drama
science fiction
thriller
Created byGerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Reg Hill
StarringKeith Alexander
Harry Baird
Steven Berkoff
Michael Billington
Ed Bishop
Ayshea Brough
Gabrielle Drake
Antonia Ellis
Peter Gordeno
Anouska Hempel
John Kelley
Dolores Mantez
Georgina Moon
Basil Moss
Gary Myers
Mel Oxley
Norma Ronald
George Sewell
Maxwell Shaw
Vladek Sheybal
Grant Taylor
Wanda Ventham
David Warbeck
Jeremy Wilkin
Composer(s)Barry Gray
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes26
Production
Producer(s)Gerry Anderson
Reg Hill
Editor(s)Mike Campbell
Lee Doig
Harry MacDonald
CinematographyBrendan J. Stafford
Camera setupSingle
Running time49–51 minutes
Production company(s)Century 21 Television
DistributorITC Entertainment
Broadcast
Original channelATV
Picture formatFilm (35 mm)
Audio formatMono
Original run16 September 1970 (1970-09-16)  – 24 July 1971 (1971-07-24)
 
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"SHADO" redirects here. For other meanings, see Shado (disambiguation).
"Gay Ellis" redirects here. For the 1920s era singer, see Annette Hanshaw.
UFO
UFO Titles.PNG
Also known asGerry Anderson's UFO (Australia)
GenreAdventure
alien invasion
drama
science fiction
thriller
Created byGerry Anderson
Sylvia Anderson
Reg Hill
StarringKeith Alexander
Harry Baird
Steven Berkoff
Michael Billington
Ed Bishop
Ayshea Brough
Gabrielle Drake
Antonia Ellis
Peter Gordeno
Anouska Hempel
John Kelley
Dolores Mantez
Georgina Moon
Basil Moss
Gary Myers
Mel Oxley
Norma Ronald
George Sewell
Maxwell Shaw
Vladek Sheybal
Grant Taylor
Wanda Ventham
David Warbeck
Jeremy Wilkin
Composer(s)Barry Gray
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes26
Production
Producer(s)Gerry Anderson
Reg Hill
Editor(s)Mike Campbell
Lee Doig
Harry MacDonald
CinematographyBrendan J. Stafford
Camera setupSingle
Running time49–51 minutes
Production company(s)Century 21 Television
DistributorITC Entertainment
Broadcast
Original channelATV
Picture formatFilm (35 mm)
Audio formatMono
Original run16 September 1970 (1970-09-16)  – 24 July 1971 (1971-07-24)

UFO is a 1970 British television science fiction series about an alien invasion of Earth, created by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson with Reg Hill, and produced by the Andersons and Lew Grade's Century 21 Productions for Grade's ITC Entertainment company.

UFO first aired in the UK and Canada in 1970 and in US syndication over the next two years. In all, 26 episodes, including the pilot, were filmed over the course of more than a year, with a five-month production break caused by the closure of the MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, where the show was initially made.

The Andersons had previously made a number of very successful children's science fiction series using marionettes, including Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and Joe 90. They had also made one live-action science fiction movie, Doppelgänger, also known as Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, and now felt ready to move into live-action television and aim at a more adult market.

UFO was the Andersons' first totally live-action TV series. Despite the assumption of many TV station executives, the series was not aimed at children but was intended for an older audience; many episodes featured adult themes such as adultery, divorce, and drug use. Most of the cast were newcomers to Century 21 although star Ed Bishop had previously worked with the Andersons as a voice actor on Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons.

Plot overview[edit]

The show's basic premise is that in the near future – a fictional version of 1980 (a date indicated in the opening credits) – Earth is being visited and attacked by aliens from a dying planet and humans are being covertly harvested for their organs by the aliens. The show's main cast of characters are members of a secret, high-technology international agency called SHADO (an acronym for Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) established to defend Earth and humanity against the mysterious aliens and learn more about them, while at the same time keeping the threat of an alien invasion hidden from the public.

UFOs[edit]

The extraterrestrial spacecraft can readily cross the vast distances between their planet and Earth at many times the speed of light, but are too small to carry more than one or two crew members. Their time on station is limited: UFOs can only survive for a couple of days in Earth's atmosphere before they heat up, deteriorate and finally explode. The alien craft can survive for far longer underwater; one episode, "Reflections in the Water", deals with the discovery of a secret undersea alien base, which shows one UFO flying straight out of an extinct volcano, which Straker describes as "a back door to the Atlantic". A special underwater version of the standard UFO design is seen in "Sub Smash". In flight they are surrounded by horizontally spinning vanes and emit a distinctive pulsing electronic whine that sounds like a Shoooe-Wheeeh![1] (This was produced by series composer Barry Gray, on an Ondes Martenot.) The craft is armed with a laser-type weapon, and conventional explosive warheads can destroy it. The personal arms of the aliens resemble shiny metal submachine guns; these have a lower rate of fire than those used by SHADO. Later episodes such as "The Cat with Ten Lives" show the aliens using other weapons, such as a small device that paralyses victims.

Aliens[edit]

A fan-made CGI illustration of two aliens from the series

Notably for science fiction, the alien race is never given a proper name, either by themselves or by human beings; they are simply referred to as "the aliens". They are humanoid in appearance, and the autopsy of the first alien captured reveals that they are harvesting organs from the bodies of abducted humans. Their faces are stained green by the hue of a green oxygenated liquid, which is believed to cushion their lungs against the extreme acceleration of interstellar flight; this liquid is contained in their helmets. To protect their eyes the aliens wear opaque sclera contact lenses with small pinholes for vision. The show's opening sequence begins by showing the image of one of these contact lenses being removed from an obviously real eye with a small suction cup, even though the lens is not shown in contact with the eye. (The entire lens-removal sequence is shown in the pilot episode.)

At no point in the series are more than two of the aliens seen on screen at any one time. Only two copies of the alien suit were constructed for the series. In the episode "Ordeal," Paul Foster is carried by two aliens while he is wearing an alien space suit, but one of those two aliens is always off-screen when Foster is on-screen.

The alien spacesuit costumes were made of red spandex. At the start of production the alien spacesuits were ornamented with brass chain mesh, as seen in the episode "Survival". Later this was replaced by silvery panels as in the image. In reality, the dark vertical bands on the sides of the helmets were slits meant to allow the actors to breathe.

SHADO[edit]

Region 1 DVD release cover, displaying (left to right) actors Gabrielle Drake, Michael Billington and Ed Bishop

To defend against the aliens, a secret organisation called SHADO, the Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation, is established. Operating under the cover (as well as under the premises) of the Harlington-Straker Studios movie studio in England, SHADO is headed by Commander Edward Straker (Ed Bishop), a former United States Air Force colonel and astronaut, who poses as the studio's chief executive.

Establishing the main character as a studio executive was a cost-saving move by the producers: the studio was the actual studio where the series was being filmed, originally the MGM-British Studios and later Pinewood Studios – although the Harlington-Straker studio office block seen throughout the series was actually Neptune House, a building at the former British National Studios in Borehamwood that was owned by ATV. Pinewood's studio buildings and streetscapes were used extensively in later episodes, particularly "Timelash" and "Mindbender", the latter featuring scenes that showed the behind-the-scenes workings of the UFO sets when Straker briefly finds himself hallucinating that he is an actor on a TV series and all his SHADO colleagues are likewise actors.

Typical of Anderson productions, the studio-as-cover idea was both practical and cost-effective for the production and provided a ready-made vehicle for the viewer's suspension of disbelief. It removed the need to build an expensive exterior set for the SHADO base and combined the all-important "secret" cover (concealment and secrecy are always central themes in Anderson dramas) with the trademark ring of at least nominal plausibility. A studio was a business where unusual events and routines would not be remarkable or even noticed. Comings and goings at odd times, the movement of vehicles, equipment, people and material would not create undue interest and could easily be explained away as "sets", "props", or "extras".

Another Anderson leitmotif was the concept of the mechanical conveyor, e.g. the automatic boarding tubes of the Stingray and the Thunderbird craft. In UFO, this appeared in the guise of Straker's "secret" office, which doubled as a lift (elevator) that takes him down to the SHADO control centre located beneath the studio. The pilots of the space interceptors and the submersible "Sky One" jet interceptor slide down boarding chutes into their craft. The interceptors then rise from their hangar via elevating platforms to a launch pad disguised as a lunar crater. This was a carry-over from the earlier marionette series where it was used due to the difficulty in getting puppets to walk and get them into cockpits.

SHADO equipment[edit]

SHADO has a variety of high-tech hardware and vehicles at its disposal to implement a layered defence of Earth. Early warnings of alien attack would come from SID, the Space Intruder Detector, a computerised tracking satellite that constantly scans for UFO incursions. The forward line of defence is Moonbase from which the three Lunar Interceptor spacecraft, carrying nuclear missiles, are launched. The second line of defence includes Skydiver, a submarine mated with the submersible, undersea-launched Sky One interceptor aircraft, which attacks UFOs in Earth's atmosphere. The last line of defence are ground units including the armed, IFV-like SHADO Mobiles, fitted with caterpillar tracks. Special effects, as in all Anderson's marionette shows, were supervised by Derek Meddings, while the vehicles were designed by Meddings and his assistant, Michael Trim.

Stories[edit]

The show's concept was unusually dark for its time: the basic premise was that Earth had not simply been visited by extraterrestrial visitors, but indeed was under brutal alien attack, and that alien invaders were abducting humans to use as involuntary organ transplant donors. A later episode, "The Cat With Ten Lives," contains a sinister plot point which suggests that the UFO pilots are not humanoid aliens at all, but are in fact human abductees under the control of the alien intelligences, suggesting that, as in Captain Scarlet, the aliens, in the dialogue of Dr. Jackson, "may have no physical being at all and therefore need a container, a vehicle – our bodies".

The show also featured realistic, believable relationships between the human characters to a far greater extent than usual in a typical science fiction series, showing the clear influence of American programmes like The Twilight Zone and Star Trek and British action series such as Danger Man. One early episode, "Computer Affair," suggested an interracial romance between two continuing characters – something that was uncommon in British TV of the period – while others showed the heroes making mistakes with sometimes fatal consequences. Furthermore, relatively few episodes of the series actually had happy or (for the characters) satisfying endings.

The episode "Confetti Check A-OK" is almost entirely devoted to the breakdown of Straker's marriage under the strain of maintaining the secrecy of the classified nature of his duties. "A Question of Priorities" takes this exploration further, and hinges on Straker having to make the life-or-death choice of whether to divert a SHADO aircraft to deliver life-saving medical supplies to his critically injured son, or allow the aircraft to continue on its mission to attempt a last-chance intercept against an incoming UFO. Two key images from "A Question of Priorities" – Straker's son being struck down and his ex-wife declaring she never wants to see him again – are repeated in flashback in two subsequent episodes, "Sub Smash" and "Mindbender," suggesting that Straker remains haunted by these unresolved emotional issues.

Another episode, "The Square Triangle," centres on a woman and her lover who plan to murder her husband. When they accidentally kill an alien from a downed UFO instead, SHADO intervenes and doses the guilty pair with amnesia drugs. (This was decades ahead of a similar story device in Men in Black, and it was one that was deployed for similar reasons.) Straker realises, however, that the drugs will not affect their basic motivation and, worse, he cannot reveal the truth to local legal authorities. The end credits of this episode run over a scene set in the near future, showing the woman visiting her husband's grave and then walking away to meet her lover.

Some critics complained that the emphasis on down-to-earth relationships weakened the show's science fiction premise and were also a means of saving money on special effects. The money-saving argument might have been true to a limited extent, but the Andersons made a virtue of necessity. They had always hoped to direct live-action TV drama, and although the marionette shows helped them develop impressive skills in effects and scripting, they had always considered them as essentially being a way of keeping in work and earning money while they tried to break into "real" TV drama. Others countered that the characters were more well-rounded than in other science fiction shows and that science fiction concepts and special effects in themselves did not preclude realistic action and interaction and believable, emotionally engaging plots. Ultimately, the mix of dark human drama with traditional science fiction adventure is probably the reason for UFO's enduring cult popularity and what sets it apart from the rest of TV SF series. For example, the time-freeze plot of the episode "Timelash" is similar to The Outer Limits episode "The Premonition". But UFO adds a drama twist: Straker repeatedly injects a drug (X 50 stimulant) to remain awake during the time freeze, which results in Straker being hospitalised in SHADO's medical centre. The ending not only shows him lying in bed recovering from the harmful effects of drug use, but has a subtext that the plot of the episode may, in fact, have been a drug-induced delusion, although actual evidence of the events such as Turner – guest cast member Patrick Allen – being found shot dead by Colonel Paul Foster (Michael Billington) and guards at the start, plus Colonel Virginia Lake (Wanda Ventham) being found having been knocked out, also the gate security officer's records showing Straker's car as being 'logged out' but not 'logged back in' to SHADO H.Q. together with a high powered hand-held rocket launcher being found on a building roof having been fired, would subsequently prove the events depicted in the episode HAD in fact occurred....

UFO confused broadcasters in both Britain and the United States, who could not decide if it was a programme for adults or for children – In the UK, the first series was originally shown in the 5.15pm 'tea-time' slot on Saturdays, and on Saturday mornings during an early repeat, by both London Weekend and the-then South-East franchisee, Southern Television, which began broadcasting the first series almost two months before the London area. (The fact that the Andersons's companies, like APFilms and Century 21, were primarily associated with children's programming did not help matters.) This confusion – coupled with erratic broadcast schedules – are considered contributing factors in its cancellation, although UFO is credited with opening the door to moderately successful runs of later live-action, adult-oriented programming by Anderson such as The Protectors and Space: 1999.

Special effects[edit]

The special effects, supervised by Derek Meddings, were of the highest quality and outstanding for their day, given the relatively limited resources at the production's disposal.

In a refinement of the underwater effect developed for Stingray, Meddings' team devised a disconcerting effect – a double-walled visor for the alien space helmets, which could be gradually filled from the bottom up with green-dyed water. When filmed from the appropriate angle it produced a very convincing illusion of the helmet filling up and submerging the wearer's head.

Second series and Space: 1999[edit]

Two years after the 26 episodes were completed, the series was syndicated on American television and the ratings were initially promising enough to prompt ITC to commission a second season of UFO. As the Moon-based episodes appeared to have proven more popular than the Earth-based stories, ITC insisted that in the new season, the action would take place entirely on the Moon. Gerry Anderson proposed a format in which SHADO Moonbase had been greatly enlarged to become the organisation's main headquarters, and pre-production on UFO 2 began with extensive research and design for the new Moonbase. These developments were not without precedent in the earlier episodes: a subplot of "Kill Straker!" sees Straker negotiating with SHADO's financial supporters for funding to build more moonbases within 10 years. However, when ratings for the syndicated broadcasts in America dropped towards the end of the run, ITC got cold feet and cancelled the second season plans. Unwilling to let the UFO 2 pre-production work go to waste, Anderson instead offered ITC a new series idea, unrelated to UFO, in which the Moon would be blown out of Earth orbit taking the Moonbase survivors with it. This proposal developed into Space: 1999.

Merchandise[edit]

As with many Anderson productions, the series generated a range of merchandising toys based on the SHADO vehicles. The classic Dinky die-cast range of vehicles featured robust yet finely finished products and included Straker's futuristic gull-winged gas turbine car, the SHADO mobile and the missile-bearing Lunar Interceptor, though Dinky's version of the interceptor was released in a lurid metallic green finish unlike the original's stark white. Like the Thunderbirds- and Captain Scarlet-related models, the original Dinky toys are now prized collectors' items. All the major vehicles, characters, and more have been produced in model form many times over by a large number of licensee companies; the Anderson shows and their merchandise have always had widespread popularity, but they are especially popular in Japan.

DVD release[edit]

The complete series was released on DVD in the UK and in North America in 2002 and in Australia in 2007. Bonus features include a commentary by Gerry Anderson on the pilot episode "Identified," and an actor's commentary by Ed Bishop on the episode "Sub Smash". There are also some deleted scenes and lots of stills and publicity artwork.

Characters[edit]

UFO had a large ensemble cast, and many of its members would come and go during the course of the series, with a number of actors – most notably George Sewell and Gabrielle Drake – leaving the series during the production break that occurred when the series had to change studios midway through production. It is established early on that SHADO personnel rotate between positions, so the occasional disappearance of characters – some of whom would later return in other positions – fits in with the concept of the series. Also, due to the scheduling of the series, which did not reflect the production order, some episodes featuring departed cast members were not actually aired until late in the series, giving the impression that no major cast changes occurred. Among the major actors, only Ed Bishop appeared in all episodes. These are the major recurring characters in the series:

Commander Edward Straker[edit]

Commander Edward Straker, portrayed by Ed Bishop, is a former American Air Force pilot and astronaut originally from Boston, Massachusetts who organised SHADO following a series of UFO attacks in 1970. Straker masquerades as the head of Harlington-Straker Film Studios, SHADO Headquarters being located directly below the studio. He might or might not have been involved with the United States Air Force's Bluebook Project; this is never made clear in any of the instalments.

He was married to Mary Nightingale in 1970, but they soon divorced after the birth of John, their son. Timeframes are never given for events before the series, but it would be reasonable to presume that their marriage had ended by the end of the flashback presented in "Confetti Check A-OK". As if perhaps to show her opinion of Straker and his cold attitude, Mary registered their son as John Rutland, after his new stepfather, played by Philip Madoc.

In "A Question of Priorities," John was later seriously injured when he was hit by a car and Straker, against his own rules, used a SHADO aircraft in order to fly in antibiotic drugs from America. But when his second-in-command, Col. Alec E. Freeman, was forced to divert the plane in order to investigate some curious UFO-related events in Ireland, Straker's sense of duty prevented him from informing and overruling him as to the plane's original mission. The drugs arrived too late at the hospital, and John died. His ex-wife blamed him for their son's death, and in the waiting room spat angrily at him, "I never want to see you again!"

In other sci-fi series, a character must face a challenge and overcome it, though the problem is invariably solved by hour's end after which all is well. In contrast, the UFO series makes it clear that Ed Straker has had to completely sacrifice his personal life for the organisation, and that although he has learned to live with the fact, he has never forgotten the suffering it has caused to him and people he loved most. Moreover, it is repeatedly demonstrated that there is no realistic prospect of Straker's circumstances ever improving, though if circumstances were different he would undoubtedly embrace change. Straker's underlying tension and unhappiness is the foundation of his wounded character, exemplified most powerfully in the "Confetti Check A-OK" episode. The overall effect of Straker's regularly referenced back story is to transform what could have been a stereotypical sci-fi character into one who is three-dimensional, complex and sympathetic.

One relatively consistent element of Straker's character is that he refuses to drink alcohol even though he has a fully stocked bar in his SHADO office. The very first instalment, "Identified," refers to him possessing the willpower to avoid alcohol, yet in "Confetti Check A-OK," he drinks champagne at his own wedding, and later to commemorate his wife's pregnancy. Some fans have suggested he might be a recovering alcoholic, but nothing within the series supports this idea. On the contrary, if that were the case, then the comments Alec Freeman, his best friend, makes in "Identified" of would be entirely out of character; for in the instalment he says, "Sometimes I think drinking requires more self-control". However, Straker is fond of cigars, and he can be seen smoking in some episodes. Straker suffers from claustrophobia, a fact known only to the SHADO doctors and Alec Freeman. This was a major sub-plot in the episode "Sub Smash".

His voice in the television episodes sounds somewhat higher-pitched than Ed Bishop's real voice actually was because the episodes were recorded at 24 frames per second but on television were played at 25 frames per second.

Col. Paul Foster[edit]

Colonel Paul Foster (portrayed by Michael Billington) is introduced in the second episode, "Exposed". A former test pilot, his plane was critically damaged when SHADO's Sky One intercepted and destroyed a UFO in close proximity to Foster's jet. His subsequent persistent investigation of the incident threatened to expose SHADO's existence and Straker considered having him killed, but instead was impressed enough with Foster to offer him a position with SHADO. Foster appears to be something of a protégé of Straker's, as he is shown in a number of major positions. He is Moonbase Commander for a time (substituting for Lt. Ellis), is assigned to Skydiver for several months, and also receives a position of authority at SHADO HQ. He masquerades as one of Straker's film producers in the studio and enjoyed a brief relationship with Col. Virginia Lake. Foster has the unique distinction of having once befriended one of the aliens, though he could not prevent the alien from being killed by SHADO personnel; his overall demeanour became noticeably more cynical after this event, which the instalment "Survival" chronicled.

Lt. Gay Ellis[edit]

Most often seen as Moonbase Commander during the first half of the series, Lt. Ellis (Gabrielle Drake) is occasionally portrayed as lacking self-confidence, and at other times as a take-charge officer. She is briefly reassigned to SHADO HQ when it is suggested that she may be romantically involved with Interceptor pilot Mark Bradley ("Computer Affair"). She also appears to be attracted to Ed Straker, though nothing comes of this.

Col. Alec E. Freeman[edit]

SHADO's first officer until about the three-quarter point in the series (when actor George Sewell left following the change of studios, being later unavailable when series production resumed at Pinewood studios). In the French-dubbed version, Freeman is Canadian – Straker sometimes calls him amicably "The Canadian." However, his nationality was never mentioned in the English-language show and his original British accent makes a Canadian origin doubtful. Initially depicted in the pilot episode, "Identified," as being a cheerful ladies' man in his early 40s, Freeman is thereafter a much more straight-laced, more serious character who is Straker's right-hand man and, occasionally, his muscle. Everybody's pal at SHADO, Freeman takes a sardonic attitude towards some of the things Straker and SHADO must do to survive, and once submitted his resignation in protest over a decision ("Computer Affair"). Straker's closest friend and best man at his wedding, Freeman was the very first operative recruited into SHADO by Straker, as seen in "Confetti Check A-OK." His pre-SHADO background includes a history as a combat pilot as well as in Air Force Intelligence (for which country was unspecified). Freeman finds standing in for Straker difficult in "The Responsibility Seat," but in other episodes, such as "Close Up," he has become confident at handling control in Straker's absence. He appears to have overseen the training of Paul Foster following his recruitment to SHADO in the episode "Exposed" and formed a friendship with the new officer, as they are seen out at dinner in "The Dalotek Affair". Freeman is a key figure for scenes with Straker in the MGM Borehamwood episodes, but besides the episodes "Identified," "Computer Affair," "Flight Path," "E.S.P.," "Confetti Check A-OK," and "Court-Martial," he is largely a SHADO control-based senior figure, unlike Foster and, later, Straker himself, having no further background character development.

Gen. James Henderson[edit]

Henderson (Grant Taylor), Straker's superior officer, serves as the President of the International Astrophysical Commission, which is a front for SHADO and is responsible for obtaining funds and equipment from various governments to keep SHADO operational. Straker and Henderson butt heads frequently over the needs of SHADO and economic realities.

It can be inferred that Straker and Henderson became somewhat estranged after Henderson is injured in the car crash following a UFO attack in the pilot "Identified". Also, Henderson is 'passed over' as first choice for SHADO Commander due to his age. Straker also impressed the United Nations delegation committee (especially the French Representative, Duvalle) with his presentation as Henderson's deputy by urging the necessity for SHADO to be set up. Straker is then chosen as the first Commander, though Henderson offers him the opportunity to decline, as depicted in "Confetti Check A-OK," and we are led to believe Henderson effectively rammed the post of SHADO Commander down Straker's throat in "Confetti Check A-OK". This presumably has the effect of straining their relationship and causing friction between the two men.

Over time Henderson appears more and more resentful of Straker. Episodes such as "Conflict," "Court-Martial," and "Mindbender" particularly highlight their personality clashes. However, later episodes such as "Destruction," where they share a working breakfast in Straker's office, and "Timelash," where Henderson refers to Straker as "SHADO's most important piece of manpower..." suggests a remaining bond of friendship.

Col. Virginia Lake[edit]

Col. Virginia Lake (Wanda Ventham) first appears in the opening episode of the series ("Identified"), as a SHADO scientist and a target of Alec Freeman's romantic attention. A computer specialist, she was a member of the "Eutronics" tracking device design team. Lake, like Paul Foster, is a comparatively recent addition to SHADO: both Col. John Grey (Gary Raymond) & Col. Craig Collins (guest star Derren Nesbitt) are shown as being of longer experience and senior within SHADO to both Lake and Foster. She was romantically involved with Foster for a time, and later served as Moonbase Commander. During the last quarter of the series, Lake returns to take over the post of SHADO first officer, replacing Freeman. She initially has a somewhat tense working relationship with Straker, though by the end of the series they appear to have grown close and she is seen comforting him in the final scene of the final episode, "The Long Sleep".

Capt. Peter Carlin[edit]

During the first third of the series, Carlin (Peter Gordeno) is the commander of the submarine Skydiver and pilot of its interceptor aircraft, Sky One. In 1970, Carlin and his sister found a UFO and were attacked; he was shot and wounded and his sister vanished. He joined SHADO in hopes of finding out what happened to his sister, and eventually learned that her organs had been harvested ("Identified"). Originally intended as a major regular character, Carlin appears only in "Identified," "Computer Affair," "Flight Path," "A Question of Priorities," "Exposed," and "Conflict". It is rumoured Peter Gordeno's agent decided to pull the actor out of the series; a few scripts such as 'Ordeal' were apparently originally written for Carlin but re-drafted to then feature Paul Foster instead. The main role of Skydiver Captain and Sky One pilot was passed on to Capt. Lew Waterman thereafter.

Lt. Nina Barry[edit]

One of Straker's first recruits into SHADO (and in the unenviable position of being mistaken for the "other woman" whom Mary Nightingale blamed for Straker's estrangement from her), Barry (Dolores Mantez) works as a Space Tracker at Moonbase and later replaces Lt. Ellis as its commanding officer. She also serves aboard Skydiver at one point ("Sub Smash"). One of several women attracted to Straker, she is the second most frequently appearing character in the series, appearing in 23 of 26 episodes.

Capt. Lew Waterman[edit]

Initially an Interceptor pilot on the Moon, Waterman (Gary Myers) is later promoted to captain and replaces Peter Carlin as commanding officer of Skydiver and pilot of Sky One. He becomes a very close friend of Paul Foster's, as suggested in "Ordeal." Given Gerry Anderson's business dealings in the 1960s with MCA-owned Universal, his name could well be a parody of that of veteran agent and studio head Lew Wasserman. Despite being described as a 'main character,' he is involved in very few episodes.

Lt. Keith Ford[edit]

Former television interviewer who became a founding member of SHADO and its main communications officer. Actor Keith Alexander left the series after the production break, so the character disappears at the 2/3 mark of the series.

Lt. Ayshea Johnson[edit]

A SHADO headquarters officer in most episodes. Initially seen doing miscellaneous tasks –stationed at a computer console, Johnson (Ayshea Brough) is the woman seen turning in her seat to smile and wave at an (offscreen) Col. Alec Freeman in the opening credits, which consisted of stock footage from "Identified;" she later becomes SHADO's communications officer following the departure of Lt. Ford. In her final appearance, she is stationed at Moonbase ("Mindbender"). Highly observant, she provides crucial information in the episode "The Cat with Ten Lives". NB: this character's full name is given in episode scripts but only referred to once on screen, in "The Sound Of Silence". In the credits she is identified only as Ayshea (as is the actress).

Dr. Douglas Jackson[edit]

SHADO psychiatrist and science officer. A somewhat sinister-looking figure who sometimes appears to have his own agenda, Jackson (Vladek Sheybal) serves a number of capacities within SHADO, including acting as prosecution officer during the court-martial of Paul Foster. When Foster escapes custody after being found (falsely) guilty, Jackson successfully convinces General Henderson to have his guards use tranquiliser darts in their pursuit, rather than shooting to kill. It is implied that "Douglas Jackson" is not the character's birth name, as he speaks with a strong Eastern European accent. His origins, however, are never explored.

Lt. Joan Harrington[edit]

Another Moonbase Space Tracker, Harrington (Antonia Ellis) was one of the organisation's earliest recruits, as seen in "Confetti Check A-OK".

Miss Ealand[edit]

Ealand (Norma Ronald) is a SHADO operative masquerading as Straker's movie studio secretary. She is the first line of defence against anyone entering SHADO HQ via Straker's office/elevator. The character is not seen in most of the post-studio change episodes, being replaced in two episodes by a Miss Holland (played by Lois Maxwell).

Lt. Mark Bradley[edit]

Bradley (Harry Baird) is a Caribbean-born Interceptor pilot based on the Moon. He becomes romantically involved with Lt. Ellis for a time, leading to a temporary assignment at SHADO HQ on Earth, and later briefly assumes the position of Moonbase Commander. Baird left the series after filming four episodes, but appeared in stock footage in several later episodes.

Minor characters[edit]

One of the unnamed female Moonbase operatives was played by Shakira Baksh, who later married actor Michael Caine. Producer Gerry Anderson later said that he had lost his temper with her so badly on the set of UFO that he always feared the idea of running into Michael Caine at some actors' function, and being punched on the nose by him.[2]

Steve Minto, one of the interceptor pilots, was played by the actor Steven Berkoff.

Look of the show[edit]

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30 Seconds of opening theme

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Predictions[edit]

UFO, which was filmed in 1969 and 1970, made a number of predictions about what life in the 1980s would be like, some of which have come true. Among the innovations predicted by the series:

Episodes[edit]

Due to the then-highly localised nature of the ITV "network" in the United Kingdom, the 26 episodes of UFO were shown out of production order, and every broadcaster showed the episodes in a different order. As the list below (loosely based on information from the book The Complete Gerry Anderson) shows, on several occasions during the first run, various broadcasters aired different episodes of the series on the same day. Some UK broadcasters did not air some episodes until 1973; as a result, some episode guides may list these episodes in a different order.

The North American DVD release of the series usually follows the production order, with a few diversions and the website ufoseries.com offers seven viewing order possibilities. According to The Complete Gerry Anderson, the episode "Exposed" was intended to be aired second, but it was produced fifth and appears as the fifth episode in the American DVD release. It was only when the entire series was repeated by BBC Two in 1996–1997 that the series was shown in chronological production order in the UK for the first time.


EpisodeUK air dateEpisode titleProduction orderWriter(s)Guest castEpisode summary & notes
1-011970.09.16Identified1Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson and Tony BarwickShane Rimmer,
Michael Mundell,
Gary Myers
After 10 years of planning, SHADO officially goes into operation and encounters its first UFO. An alien pilot is captured and discovered to have transplanted human organs within him.
1-021970.09.23Exposed5Tony BarwickJean Marsh,
Robin Bailey,
Basil Moss,
Arthur Cox,
Matt Zimmerman,
Vladek Sheybal
When civilian test pilot Paul Foster inadvertently witnesses a SHADO operation, he is given a choice: join SHADO or die.
1-031970.09.30Kill Straker!16Donald JamesDavid Sumner,
Louise Pajo
Foster and his lunar module co-pilot are brainwashed by aliens to kill Straker.
1-041970.09.30The Cat With Ten Lives19David TomblinAlexis Kanner,
Geraldine Moffatt,
Steven Berkoff,
Windsor Davies,
Colin Gordon,
Lois Maxwell
A SHADO pilot is placed under a hypnotic spell by an alien-influenced Siamese cat.
1-051970.10.07Conflict6Ruric PowellDrewe HenleyAfter Lunar Module 32 is mysteriously destroyed, Straker campaigns to have space junk removed from Earth's orbit.
1-061970.10.07E.S.P.15Alan FennellJohn Stratton,
Douglas Wilmer,
Deborah Stanford,
Stanley McGeagh
A man with ESP knowledge of SHADO is co-opted by the aliens.
1-071970.10.07The Sound of Silence18David Lane and Bob BellMichael Jayston,
Susan Jameson,
Richard Vernon,
Gito Santana,
Basil Moss,
Burnell Tucker,
Tom Oliver,
Malcolm Reynolds
A showjumper is abducted by the aliens.
1-081970.10.14A Question of Priorities8Tony BarwickSuzanne Neve,
Philip Madoc,
Mary Merrall
Straker faces a terrible decision: attend to an alien defector or deliver life-saving medicine to his critically injured son.
1-091970.11.11The Square Triangle11Alan PattilloAdrienne Corri,
Patrick Mower,
Allan Cuthbertson,
Anthony Chinn,
Godfrey James
SHADO and an alien find themselves in the midst of a murderous romantic triangle. End credits video is not typical spacescape, but instead about the aftermath of the triangle.
1–101970.11.11Sub-Smash17Alan FennellAnthony Chinn,
Paul Maxwell,
Alan Haywood,
Burnell Tucker
Straker must face his claustrophobia when Skydiver is damaged and is unable to surface.

This is the only episode where Sky 1 is launched 10 degrees down. Also, the UFO's shape differs from those shown in all other episodes.
1–111970.12.02Destruction20Dennis SpoonerStephanie Beacham,
Philip Madoc,
Edwin Richfield,
Steven Berkoff,
Jimmy Winston
The aliens attempt to destroy a Royal Navy County class destroyer dumping toxic nerve gas into the ocean.
1–121970.12.09Computer Affair2Tony BarwickMichael MundellA SHADO investigation reveals that romance may be complicating Moonbase operation.
1–131970.12.16Close Up13Tony BarwickNeil Hallett,
James Beckett,
Peter Burton,
John Levene,
Alan Tucker
SHADO obtains what may be the first photos of the alien homeworld.
1–141970.12.30The Psychobombs22Tony BarwickDavid Collings,
Deborah Grant,
Mike Pratt,
Tom Adams,
Alexander Davion,
Christopher Timothy,
Hans De Vries
The aliens transform three humans into walking bombs.

This is the only episode that shows a Skydiver with Sky 3 attached, with mention of a Sky 4 jet – indicating a fleet of submarines.
1–151971.01.06Survival4Tony BarwickSuzan Farmer,
Gito Santana,
David Weston,
Ray Armstrong
Foster is stranded on the Moon, where he befriends a similarly stranded alien.

In this episode, Straker says that racial prejudice burned itself out "five years ago"; this said on 13 April 1981. In the other Anderson series, Space: 1999, Cmdr. Koenig hints that prejudice was finally ended in a great conflict about 10–12 years prior to 1999.
1–161971.01.13Mindbender25Tony BarwickStuart Damon,
Charles Tingwell,
Anouska Hempel,
Philip Madoc,
Steven Berkoff,
Peter Halliday,
Basil Dignam,
Stephan Chase,
James Marcus,
Stanley McGeagh
An alien crystal causes Lieutenant Andy Conroy, Straker and other SHADO operatives to hallucinate.

Ed Straker hallucinates that he is an actor in a television series about UFOs and aliens. He then steps out of the set and onto the real-world sound stage where UFO is filmed, and we can see all the sets that were used to film the series. Also, in Straker's hallucination, all the actors (except Ed Bishop) are called by their real names: Paul Foster is called "Mike" (as in Mike Billington), General Henderson is called "Grant" (as in Grant Taylor), and so on.
1–171971.01.20Flight Path3Ian Scott StewartGeorge Cole,
Sonia Fox,
David Daker
A blackmailed SHADO operative opens the door for a possible alien attack on Moonbase.
1–181971.01.20Ordeal9Tony BarwickDavid Healy,
Quinn O'Hara
The aliens abduct Foster.

Includes "Get Back" by The Beatles at the party, released in 1969 – about the same time this episode was filmed originally.
1–191971.02.03The Man Who Came Back21Terence FeelyDerren Nesbitt,
Lois Maxwell,
Roland Culver,
David Savile
A SHADO pilot believed dead suddenly turns up alive – much to a SHADO operative's suspicion.

Straker and his close friend fly to "The Cape" and travel to orbit in a rocket rather than the usual spaceplane. SHADO seems to have ties to NASA.
1–201971.02.10The Dalotek Affair7Ruric PowellTracy Reed,
Philip Latham,
Basil Moss,
John Breslin,
Clinton Greyn,
Dr. Frank E. Stranges,
David Weston,
Alan Tucker
Communications problems at Moonbase are traced to a non-SHADO mining operation.

The president of the Dalotek corporation speaks to Commander Straker, who is in his office under the film studio. The president of Dalotek does not seem surprised that Straker the film producer and Straker the commander appear to be the same person. This episode features another base on the moon and communication between it and the SHADO base.
1–211971.02.17Timelash24Terence FeelyPatrick Allen,
Ron Pember,
John J. Carney
Time stands still at the film studio for everyone but Straker, Col. Lake and a mysterious enemy.
1–221971.03.03The Responsibility Seat10Tony BarwickJane Merrow,
Patrick Jordan
Straker is attracted to a reporter who poses a possible security leak to SHADO.
1–231971.04.01The Long Sleep26David TomblinTessa Wyatt,
Christian Roberts,
John Garrie,
Christopher Robbie
A woman awakening from a decade-long coma sparks a hunt for an alien bomb.

It is often reported that the references to drug use in this episode led to several regional networks dropping it from the original UK run, but this is a fallacy.
1–241971.05.01Court Martial12Tony BarwickJack Hedley,
Pippa Steel,
Louise Pajo,
Georgina Cookson,
Tutte Lemkow,
Paul Greenhalgh
Foster is tried and sentenced to death after a security leak is traced to him.

Foster dives through the display screen behind Straker's desk and takes another elevator to ground level.
1–251971.07.10Confetti Check A-O.K.14Tony BarwickSuzanne Neve,
Shane Rimmer,
Jeffrey Segal,
Tom Oliver,
Donald Pelmear,
Geoffrey Hinsliff,
Jack May,
Alan Tilvern,
Gordon Sterne
A flashback episode focusing on SHADO's formation and how it caused the failure of Straker's marriage.
1–261971.07.24Reflections in the Water23David TomblinSteven Berkoff,
James Cosmo,
Richard Caldicot,
David Warbeck,
Anouska Hempel,
Gordon Sterne,
Conrad Phillips,
Gerald Cross
Straker and Foster investigate an undersea alien base.

The massive UFO attack battle scene at the end was almost entirely a compilation of special effects shots from previous episodes. Four interceptor missiles are seen to be launched, implying that a spare craft was launched for the emergency. The terrestrial portion of the battle seemed to suggest that Sky 1 took out 25 UFOs unassisted.

On the website shadolibrary.org, Deborah Rorabaugh attempts to use logic to put each episode in order chronologically, using a few known dates and facts. For example Exposed should come before all other episodes featuring Paul Foster, and there are a few definitive dates given (two newspaper dates, a death and script date) so with other clues, it is possible to form a good correlation UFO Episode Timing.

A number of episodes were edited together in the late 1970s to form the feature-length Invasion: UFO, which was syndicated to American and European broadcasters. It primarily consists of approximately 30 minutes each from Identified, Computer Affair, and Reflections in the Water, with the ending taken from The Man Who Came Back. Shorter segments from ESP and Confetti Check A-OK are used to bridge continuity gaps.

UFO stories in other media[edit]

Stories set in the Gerry Anderson UFO series have appeared in various media:

Revivals[edit]

Several attempts have been made to either revive or remake the series. The first attempt, as mentioned above, evolved into Space: 1999. In the 1990s and early 2000s there were scattered reports of production companies around the world investigating the possibility of producing a new TV series or film, most recently in 2003 when Carlton International Media (current rights holders for the series) announced that an American company was planning to produce a new series.[citation needed] But as of 2007, nothing had yet come of this. Australian company Bump Map run by Albert Hastings pitched a revival of UFO to one of Australia's major TV production companies in 1995/6. Also in 1996, Ed Bishop briefly corresponded with independent Australian film maker/UFO fan Adrian Sherlock about an unofficial revival called Damon Dark: Shadofall. The project funding fell through but the script has been made into a fan-made audio production and uploaded to YouTube and continues as an independent series.

Film[edit]

In May 2009 it was announced that producer Robert Evans and ITV Global would be teaming up to produce a big screen adaptation of the series. Ryan Gaudet and Joseph Kanarek were writing the script, which would be set in 2020.[9] On 23 July 2009, it was revealed that the UFO movie would see visual effects supervisor Matthew Gratzner make his directorial debut.[10] On 23 November 2009, it was confirmed that Joshua Jackson would be playing the role of Paul Foster,[11] and that the spring start of the movie would be in summer 2010.[12] Ali Larter was also linked to the role of Col. Virginia Lake in the movie.

Producers Avi Haas and Matthew Gratzner posted on the official UFO movie website[13] that the film is under development and currently planned for a Summer 2013 release.[citation needed] The UK website Fanderson[14] has a post dated 10 July 2011 repeating the producers' statement, indicating that as of summer 2011 the production is still in the planning stages.[15]

Contrary to initial reports that SHADO HQ would be hidden under a Hollywood studio, director Gratzner confirmed in an interview[citation needed] that the base would remain in Britain. The degree to which other elements of the TV show (the design of the UFOs, for example) would be replicated in the film was unknown as of early March 2011, though Gratzner did state that the aliens would be humanoid in form.

Translations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Distinctive UFO sound can be heard here: "UFO Sound Effects". Ufoseries.com. Retrieved 21 May 2009. 
  2. ^ UFO DVD commentary track, disc 1, episode 1 – A&E/Carlton 2003
  3. ^ "The Fast Show". Comedy Connections. 2006.
  4. ^ "Straker Car". Cloudster.com. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  5. ^ "USGS Geologic Atlas of the Moon". Lpi.usra.edu. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  6. ^ "UFO Series Home Page – Books". Ufoseries.com. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  7. ^ "summary of UFO comic strips". Ufoseries.com. 25 August 1973. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  8. ^ "The Making Of: X-COM: Enemy Unknown | Features | Edge Online". Next-gen.biz. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  9. ^ "Robert Evans, ITV team for 'UFO' film – Entertainment News, Cannes News, Media". Variety. 20 July 2008. Retrieved 21 May 2009. 
  10. ^ Fleming, Michael (22 July 2009). "Vfx guru set to captain 'UFO' film". Variety. 
  11. ^ Fleming, Michael (22 November 2009). "Joshua Jackson's captain of 'UFO' – Entertainment News, Film News, Media". Variety. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  12. ^ However, as of early 2011, no filming dates had been confirmed, and no further productions updates had been issued, which suggested that the project either had stalled or was "on ice". British TV Invasion Series 'UFO' Being Adapted for Big Screen
  13. ^ "UFO Home Page". Ufo-themovie.com. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  14. ^ "Fanderson Home". Fanderson.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  15. ^ "UFO Film Producers Issue Announcement". Fanderson.org.uk. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 

External links[edit]