Space: 1999: A Series Review

When I put together my first Space: 1999 recap, I guess I was taking a lot for granted. I was assuming everyone was familiar with Space: 1999, and knew how bad of a show it was. And for that, I apologize. So I thought that before I post my next video review concerning a season two episode, I’d provide a bit of background regarding who created the series, how it came about, and why season two is so unlike season one in terms of look and tone.

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Gerry Anderson was a successful television producer, director, and writer who created several children’s TV shows during the late ‘50s and through the ‘60s, most of which used a process called “Supermarionation”. Supermarionation was the use of puppets with built-in solenoids that would respond to an actor’s voice, causing the lips to move. It gave the marionettes a bit more of a lifelike quality.

In the late ‘50s, Gerry met Sylvia Thamm. The two hit it off, fell in love, and Gerry presumably felt he had met his soul mate, because he soon divorced his wife to marry Sylvia.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

Sylvia became a true partner of Gerry, and between them they created some of the most memorable British children’s TV programming of the ‘60s, among them Supercar, Fireball XL-5, Stingray, and their biggest hit:

Space: 1999: A Series Review

Part of the success of these shows was the merchandising. I myself once owned a Thunderbird 2, having never, ever seen a single episode of the show. But damn it, the thing was so cool I had to have it!

Space: 1999: A Series Review

Look at it. It’s… beautiful. Now I’m wondering where it is. It’s either in the crawlspace under my parents’ house, or my dad sold it on eBay.

Thunderbirds was so successful as a TV series that they actually made two movies: Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6. The Andersons produced more shows in this vein, including Captain Scarlet, The Secret Service, and Joe 90. It was then that in 1970 the Andersons developed a live-action show called UFO.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

The series took place in the far flung year of 1980, where aliens secretly invaded Earth and an equally secret organization called S.H.A.D.O. engaged in a, well, shadowy war against them. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic series. Sure, it looks a bit dated, and it’s funny seeing how some people thought the near future would look, but the idea of aliens invading Earth and using human beings for spare body parts was pretty chilling.

Around this time, Gerry was producer of a movie called Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, also known as Doppelgänger. It didn’t do very well at the box office, which might be why the Andersons stuck to television. I saw the movie way back when, and I admit it’s a little weird. Later, Gerry Anderson produced the half-hour adventure series The Protectors with Man From U.N.C.L.E. star Robert Vaughn as the lead.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

In addition to the Andersons, there was Reg Hill, who worked with the pair as a model and set designer on their shows. Over the years, Reg had successfully taken on other roles as director, producer, and executive producer.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

And then there was Brian Johnson—

Space: 1999: A Series Review

No, not that Brian Johnson. I mean Academy Award-winning special effects wizard Brian Johnson. Although in a perfect world, the two would have been the same guy, and he would also have been a world-renowned brain surgeon. It would have been like if Buckaroo Banzai existed in real life.

The point is, by the time this bunch tackled Space: 1999, they inarguably had plenty of experience in all the various fields of TV and motion picture production. They had no doubt learned from both their successes and failures what worked and didn’t work when it came to contemporary science fiction and TV programming for children and adults. So when I sat down to watch Space: 1999’s first season, I was truly baffled at how they had gotten so much wrong.

To sum up what Space: 1999 is about: In the far flung year of 1999 (the show’s pilot was filmed in ’75—why the Andersons felt a need to place this show so close to the present day when Stingray, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet all take place a century in the future baffles me. Was it just because they liked the name?), Earth has united into one world government (see the problem with basing this show a mere 24 years in the future? The Andersons must have been incredible optimists). Earth has constructed a base on the moon, and dumped all its nuclear waste there. Why didn’t they just launch it all into the sun? It’s pretty sad when Superman IV makes more sense than this show’s premise.

All that nuclear waste achieves critical mass and spontaneously explodes, hurling the moon into deep space, which means the 311 men and women of Moonbase Alpha must now engage in a daily struggle for survival.

Like I said in my first recap, the show is a mess when it comes to its delivery. You had episodes where things happen after long stretches of nothing happening, and no one bothers to explain why or how the thing that happened just… um… happened. It’s like the Andersons watched 2001 and decided that they didn’t have to explain anything, as long as the sets looked awesome and the special effects were cool. Sorry, but Stanley Kubrick you guys ain’t.

Years ago, my friend Chuck summed up Space: 1999 pretty well: it’s like Star Trek, except the entire cast is Spock. You can see it in Barry Morse’s line delivery, Martin Landau’s dour scowls, and Barbara Bain’s blank stare. It was as if the Andersons told the cast, “Don’t emote, don’t act, be super-serious all the time.” It’s an exaggeration, I know, but not by much.

The characterization was particularly strange when you consider that for all their scientific knowledge, our heroes usually ended up standing around as helpless bystanders in the face of a universe that was inexplicably, indefinably weird. From episodes where the moon punches through a space brain like a bullet, to another where a woman acquires two brains that can both somehow fit in her skull, to members of the cast becoming cavemen by passing through some mist, to a man being haunted by his deceased future self, the writers and producers seemed to think their target audience would probably be too stoned to care.

The Spock similarities are the first of what I feel are unavoidable comparisons to Star Trek: the stories seem like rejected Trek scripts, the Bergman/Koenig/Russell dynamic mirrored Spock/Kirk/McCoy, and just like Star Trek, there was a supporting cast that was largely ill-defined and underused.

For a show that should have been focusing on the hardships of being stranded and lost in hostile space without any means of outside aid, they never seemed to have a problem having enough food or power. Hell, they blew through more Eagles in two seasons than Voyager did shuttles in seven. For example, take the episode “Alpha Child”. I’m supposed to be wondering how this kid goes from being a baby to being almost instantly five…

Space: 1999: A Series Review

…and I’m instead wondering where they got his clothes.

I don’t think it comes as any surprise that after season one, Space: 1999 was in danger of being cancelled. Also at this point, Gerry and Sylvia’s marriage had deteriorated and they were now separated. I don’t know if the show’s failure to catch on was in any way responsible for the marriage breaking down, but it surely couldn’t have helped.

Gerry needed help, and he turned to veteran TV producer Fred Freiberger. Freiberger’s name is often preceded by the words “series killer” by Star Trek fans, because he was producer during that show’s third and final season. Here’s my take on Freiberger: rather than see him as a man who killed TV shows, I see him instead as a guy who managed to squeeze one more season out of a series destined for the chopping block. Star Trek was doomed to fail because Gene Roddenberry had largely given up and NBC both put the show in a deadly time slot and slashed its budget. And Space: 1999 wouldn’t have gotten a second season at all if Gerry Anderson and Freiberger hadn’t pitched some drastic changes.

So here’s how things were different in the second season: Barry Morse, who played Professor Bergman, was gone, although why is not exactly known. It looks like it may have been over salary issues, or it could have been he was dissatisfied with the series. Likewise, they got rid of Prentiss Hancock, who played Paul Morrow, and Clifton Jones, who played computer expert David Kano. But to be brutally honest, nothing was being done with those characters anyway. Two actors were brought in to replace the three who left. The first was Tony Anholt, who had worked with Gerry on The Protectors. Tony was hired to play Chief of Security Tony Verdeschi, basically the Major West to Landau’s Doctor Robinson.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

The other new cast member was…

…Okay, growing up, I had four TV crushes. Star Trek’s Uhura…

Space: 1999: A Series Review

Ultraman’s Fuji…

Space: 1999: A Series Review

Joy from The Bugaloos

Space: 1999: A Series Review

(Don’t laugh, goddammit! If grown men can have crushes on cartoon ponies, then a five year old can have a thing for a live girl with fake wings!)

…And my fourth crush was Catherine Schell as Maya.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

Maya filled in the roles of computer expert and all-around science nerd quite nicely, as well as possessing the added bonus of the comic book-like power of shape-shifting. And based on the will-they-or-won’t-they relationship between Maya and Tony, these two characters were obviously brought on to add an element of sex appeal to the show. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, if handled properly. Catherine Schell doesn’t appear to be exploited; Maya is smart and tough, in arguments she gives as well as she gets, and she rescues the men as much as she herself needs rescuing. And frankly, when they sexed her up, the result was a lot classier than sticking her in a skintight jumpsuit.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

Maya was brought aboard Moonbase Alpha in the first episode of the second season, but where Tony had been all this time, and where the departing characters went is never explained.

The next changes to the show were the sets. Gone was the massive, brightly-lit Main Mission with its second level and adjoining ready room.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

It was replaced by the more intimate Command Center. Likely it was much easier and cheaper to take care of, but on the show, the reason for moving to the Command Center is also never explained.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

Costumes were changed as well, with the inclusion of field jackets and sweaters, and everyone getting turtlenecks now, instead of just Commander Koenig.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

The fabric of the costumes changed as well, seeming to be thicker, so we didn’t have to see Martin Landau’s nipples anymore. There were also other costumes, like brightly-colored utility jumpsuits and nurses’ uniforms. The women also had a skirt variant. But where the new uniforms came from is (say it with me) never explained.

Finally, the biggest change came in the scripts. One of the big problems with season one was the high body count. At the rate people died, Moonbase Alpha would have been depopulated in a matter of a couple of years. And then there were the loss of so many Eagles. I’m not saying people didn’t die during season two, or that they didn’t wreck any spacecraft. It just seemed that Freiberger felt the loss of life was not always necessary to sell drama. You can see this attitude in the third season of Star Trek, in which you had 26 deaths in season one, 20 in season two, and only ten in Freiberger’s season three.

Freiberger also decided it was time that Koenig and Russell’s relationship became less of a tease. I think Barbara Bain must have liked this because she’s actually, you know, acting in season two, whereas in season one she’s sleepwalking through most of her scenes.

Finally, the show became just a bit more lighthearted and action-oriented, with less of an emphasis on scripts that left you scratching your head and wondering what the hell you just watched. Or worse, wondering why you had watched it in the first place.

So with new cast members, new sets, new costumes, new scripts, and a new attitude, was the show any better? Well, yeah, a little bit. I think Space: 1999 could have been so much more, had the producers shown a bit more foresight and daring. For example, there are only 311 people on Moonbase Alpha, and a whole lot less by the time season two begins. They should have started off with a thousand, so they could handle the high body count more easily. Or at the very least, suggest that with every death, that meant more food and air for everyone else.

The depletion of resources should have always been an issue, from medical supplies to fuel for their Eagles to life support to food, but these problems were hardly ever seriously addressed. In the final episode of season one, “The Testament of Arkadia” (a ridiculous episode where we discover Moonbase Alpha has a specialist in dead languages. Why would the moon need a dead language specialist?), Koenig is forced to leave behind a huge chunk of Alpha’s supplies with two people on a dead world. But when season two begins, rather than the Alphans being reduced to cannibalism, they…

Wait a minute… Maybe that’s what happened to the three missing characters. Mystery solved!

In the second season episode “Catacombs of the Moon” (one of the show’s head-scratchers) , there’s a plot thread involving a woman in need of an artificial heart. Dr. Russell requires a rare element to build it, but Koenig—off-base through most of the story—says they don’t have enough of it because it’s critical for their life support. When they lose communications, Tony tells Helena to go ahead and use it. Is Tony punished for disobeying Koenig’s wishes? Is Koenig angry? Are their life support systems in any way threatened? Naaaww. It’s all good.

You know what would have made this a powerful episode? Koenig saying “no”, the woman dying, and the point being driven home about the precariousness of the Alphans’ existence. Make this a real issue regarding the needs of the many versus the needs of the few, and whether or not the value of the few is worth it. Or, what if an impromptu ballot is taken, and overwhelmingly the Alphans decide they would rather give up the element than stand by and watch a woman die so they can breathe for a few extra months? Instead, it’s an episode about the husband having visions of his wife in bed, surrounded by a ring of fire.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

I think the producers (and probably Martin Landau himself) were afraid of making Koenig out as a bad guy. But hey, at least we got to see Catherine Schell all hot and sweaty, hair deliciously mussed.

Space: 1999: A Series Review

Sorry, got distracted there for a bit.

It wasn’t until more than two decades later that you saw shows that addressed these issues with more daring. Series like the re-envisioned Battlestar Galactica, Stargate: Universe, and even Farscape all had desperate characters making hard choices. Space: 1999 was trying to be Star Trek, The Original Series, and wound up looking more like a blueprint for Star Trek: Voyager, with predictably shitty results.

Next month, I’ll be back with a recap of one of the better season two episodes. Stay tuned!

TV Show: Space: 1999

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  • Muthsarah

    “I think the producers (and probably Martin Landau himself) were afraid of making Koenig out as a bad guy.”

    Given Picard’s original characterization and reception, this was probably a reasonable concern.

    Did you watch a lot of these shows in reruns or syndication? I’m looking up their airdates, and you don’t look old enough to have grown up with them new.

    “Chief of Security Tony Verdeschi,”

    That picture of him is eerie. I look at his expression, and I see Italian Nathan Fillion.

    It sounds like the second season would be the better one to start with. I imagine I can probably find some episodes somewhere. And, FWIW, no, I hadn’t heard of this show until I first read about it here.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I’m 45 and vaguely remember being totally confused catching this stuff during first runs. But as long as Catherine Schell was on the screen everything was okay. She could have been reading the nutrition information off the sides of cereal boxes and I would have watched.

      Italian Nathan Fillion. :) Tony did bring an element of much needed humor to the show; there was a running gag about him trying to brew beer and he and Maya would tease and snipe at each other all the time.

      If you are going to watch the show there are first season episodes worth watching. I would watch Breakaway (Or skip it and just read the recap here; it’s pretty damn funny. I didn’t write it, by the way.), Earthbound, Voyager’s Return, Death’s Other Dominion, End of Eternity, The Last Enemy, The Infernal Machine, Mission of The Darians, and Dragon’s Domain. So, eight or nine episodes out of twenty four.

      • anotherhuman

        As an adult, I re-found Dragon’s Domain (which scared the **** out of me as a kid) and think this and End of Eternity may have been the best of the episodes. Then again, I am still totally agog over Sp:99, so any episode is a good episode as far as I am concerned. Now, back to my blu-ray set…. let’s see….OOOOOOhhhhh, Collision Course – yep, another favorite for sure (except for the bad sound editing as Russell attempts to detonate the nukes in MM toward the end of the episode. I always wondered why this was never cleaned up before airing or at least before everything was released on VHS and later DVDs).

    • Space1999lives

      Honestly, the 2nd season of 1999 hasn’t aged well at all and while many like elements of it, it doesn’t feel at the same level from stories, to acting or the quality of effects. The 1st one is often dripping with mood, mystery and danger, and while emotions are subdued they are evident everywhere – a smile, touch on the hand, slap on the back. While some may find it slow, many who ‘got’ the show were in the 5-12 year old group back in 1975-77 which runs completely counter to the slow and boring argument… kids are notoriously fickle and impatient and wouldn’t have bothered tuning in if it was that bad. No, Space 1999 didn’t wrap up its mysteries with a bow, instead it made you think and wonder, even if it was how they managed to come up with a Commander’s outfit for little Jackie Crawford. If you dismiss the show out-of-hand sure it’ll disappoint, but almost every one of the writer’s criticisms has a perfectly valid answer, or the info was there but perhaps missed or ignored or so obvious that maybe the writer’s thought you’d get it. May sound odd, but try watching 1999 after midnight… somehow it seems to really enhance the viewing experience as you just watch and stop thinking about the little groan moments. For example, just think “two brain wave patterns” instead of “two brains” and that scene will work just fine and you won’t miss a beat! :))

  • danbreunig

    Thanks for going through with this, Tom! This made a neat little packaged intro to Gerry Anderson altogether. I’m already aware of most of his history, but this is a great way for newcomers to know. Plus it’s just a nice throwback to the recaps of yore.

    I had clear and unclear memories of this show when they ran reruns on PBS in the early/mid 80s, so for a long time I just remembered that one sci-fi where the Moon is flying through space after a mass explosion. When my local bookstore sold the DVD sets brand new and cheap I stocked up on them and spent much of 2005 in mass rediscovery. And…

    I may be the only regular at this site who really does give a rat’s ass for this show. Okay, that’s a bit harsh. But I really had a blast of going through all of them and remembering and, more so, actually understanding the names/roles/events/plots/images…and I could appreciate everything that I couldn’t as a kid. What you say and describe makes perfect sense–this is a hard show for most to get into–so I must be a rare exception. Certainly fan enough that years ago I tried to make an Eagle out of an old Lego set–back when Lego sets weren’t limited to the one item pictured on the box–and it still sits on my bookcase today.

    Actually I did something odd and watched all of season 2 before going to season 1, and the experience was all the more fulfilling. So I went through the action-humor-romance aspect of the show before going back to the original drama-philosophy-science aspect–going from the Mya fluff to the Bergman deep (and yes, I can’t think of a cuter extra-terrestrial female character–especially with the advantage of being a Metamorph.)

    Sometimes the stuck plot points and holes were unnerving, although they also led to some long theoretic discussions with my brothers after rewatching the eps. So I didn’t think of the unexplained material as nonsense (which means there really is nothing there) but ambiguity (where even if you don’t know exactly what it’s about, you still know that it’s definitely about something). And they also led fans to create some decent theories–one explanation for all the easily replaceable Eagles was that they already had a factory where they cranked them out and quarry for raw material, plus they occasionally gathered material and supplies from whatever planets they visited (“well, we can’t make this our next Earth, but we’ll be stocked up to continue our journey…”). As for the slow drag of the first season…rather than get bored, I got intrigued enough to stay focused on how the drama and theory of the plots would ultimately pay off in the end.

    It’s that kind of thinking that let me really enjoy S99. I’ll even take a risk and admit that I found more fulfillment watching this than the now-overplayed TOS Star Trek. “Kirk, Spock? Yeah, okay. So what’s Paul freaking about, or why is Sonja having a relapse, and why are these people hunting after Tony, and what’s Koenig gonna do about it?…” Yeah.

    Hm, excuse me for the defensive rant–I guess what I’m ultimately getting at is that 1999 isn’t wasted on me at all. But I also don’t deny the validity of your points, Tom–I’m not sure if I could actually recommend it to others myself because of its flaws, or just the fact that it’s actually an old show where those flaws can be fairly inherent. I’m just proof that even a botched vintage classic can spread its influence somewhere.

    I quite enjoyed this recap, and also await for whichever season 2 episode you have in mind.

    And just a little sidenote about TV pioneers lost within a year’s time:
    We lost Gerry Anderson in December 2012, and just now in October 2013 we lost Lou Scheimer. I just thought I’d pass that along to another Filmation fan.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Hey, no need to apologize for loving something other people don’t get. And you aren’t alone; there are a lot of Space 1999 web sites out there put together by fans of the show. I used one, The Catacombs, for background information.

      Of course, they probably wouldn’t have been too happy with what I did with it had they known.

      Fact is, there are a ton of shows that strike a chord with people that leave others scratching their heads. My Little Pony? I…the love of this show by adult males escapes me utterly. Lost? Never got the appeal (And judging by the disappointment of fans everywhere in regards to the finale, I was vindicated.). The Walking Dead? I don’t get people’s fascination with zombies. Many of us have that thing we dig that puts us in the minority. With me it’s Kate Bush, with your it’s S99.

      Yeah, I read about Lou’s passing. That was pretty sad. :(

      • danbreunig

        Thanks for the site info! I’ll have to go back and check it out much more thoroughly when I get a chance.

        I know all too well about obscure and unusual fandoms. A lot of my favorite fandoms (and performing artists too) are things that no one on AB would’ve heard about, much less care to discuss–not only because they’re obscure but also because many of them were created before 1990.

        Yeah, Lou S. I really wish I can imitate his many character voices and narrations.
        “It’s not a bird! It’s not a bee! It’s Chapter 5 of Jason of Star Command!”

  • Zee Panda

    Space:1999 was my late brother’s favorite show – we had an Eagle model at his funeral service. He and I grew up watching it as kids. I liked it well enough – as a young girl I tended to like anything that was at all sci fi and/or fantasy themed – but it was never really my favorite. My brother insisted on talking about it all the time, though, so in order to keep from being bored to tears I had to start thinking about the show critically early on, just to come up with more things to talk about. Over the years I’ve thought about it a bit more on and off.

    While clearly it’s meant to be a sci fi story, it’s not necessarily the sci fi story it seems to be on the surface. The important part isn’t that they’re on the moon or that the moon is rocketing through space. As you mention, they never do really use any of that. I don’t know why they’re not just on a some big spaceship but perhaps Anderson felt that would be too derivative or that the moon would make a better gimmick. I think the whole point of Space:1999 is to set up all the What If? questions that the show asks. Mostly they don’t really do a good job of it. It’s not a particularly well written or acted show, although it’s likable enough anyway. Every now and then, though, I think that they did do a good job posing one philosophical question or another. The mad robot who tricks Koenig and Russell into admitting their love for each other – I thought that was clever. There was an episode that asks whether ignorance of the law is justification for breaking it and, sure, it was a bit heavy handed but it did inspire at least one little girl to start thinking about stuff like that.

    I’m actually looking forward to more recaps.

    • david f white

      I hope rifftrax Does some space:1999!! I was temped to buy the box set a few years ago!!
      The eagle ship was so cool!! I had the eagle ship toy in the late 1970’s!!! The eagle head detached and i could connect the rear engine to make a kind of shuttle!! I played with that toy all the time!! Jason of star command was really cool too!!!

      • Thomas Stockel

        Was that Eagle toy huge, could seat Star Wars or GI Joe scale action figures? I think I had that.

        You could detach the cockpit and stick the engines onto it? I had no idea. :(

        • danbreunig

          I just made do with (and actually made) the next best thing.

          • Spocksbro

            Is that a recent photo or is it from the archives? Either way, I love that Eagle, and it reminds me of the many, many hours of space-themed fun I had with my Lego sets (sigh).

            I owned the giant Eagle with the detachable cockpit. Then there was the Moonbase Alpha model kit that hosted any number of non-S99 inhabitants in my imagination.

            I also seem to remember owning a S99 laser gun. Does anyone recall those?

            And I had one of those Thunderbird 2 spaceships. How I wish I could remember what happened to it.

          • danbreunig

            The picture’s recent, just this last week really; the Lego ships themselves I’ve built years ago and just left intact since. My bros and I have a collective pipe dream of actually finding a decent Eagle somewhere someday.

            The other ship is the Phoenix.

          • Thomas Stockel

            Is that the Battle of The Planets Phoenix? Or is that one of the bad guy fighters from Buck Rogers?

          • danbreunig

            Battle Of The Planets. Buck Rogers had the character Hawk–kinda like their own Mya.

          • Thomas Stockel

            Ah. Reason I was wondering is in the first season of Buck Rogers you had the hatchet fighters (see pic).

            If you are a fan of Battle of The Planets, you can watch Gatchaman now on Hulu, btw.

          • danbreunig

            Hey, neato. Funny how I don’t quite remember those. But then again I was way too little to take notice of all the details and I don’t think I saw every episode anyway (it was more my brothers’ show so they filled me in about it). Good thing for retro DVD sets and online shows. Also neat to see who influenced who. I have both the complete Gatchaman and BOTP already, but thanks for the tip.

          • I believe you are right as it is exactly my first thought when I saw that red and blue Lego model.

      • danbreunig

        Rifftrax would be great for this show. I actually want Rifftrax treatments for many of my favorite shows and movies, because even the best ones have something worth riffing about…which just means twice the fun.

        Cool you had an original Eagle! One of the most unique and hence greatest sci-fi ships. If you love the show and can trace down an affordable copy, then yeah, I recommend getting the DVD series.

    • Thomas Stockel

      I think the Andersons certainly were trying to create a more cerebral sci-fi show and I give them credit for that. I think after years of children’s half hour sci-fi programming they were probably very tired of the action genre and wanted to move on. Even the live action UFO had more in common with Thunderbirds than Space 1999.

      I guess, had it been a space ship, there would have been the inevitable comparisons to Star Trek. And by using the moon and space warps you give this sense of helplessness the Alphans must feel in regards to their fate, something people in a fully functioning space craft would not have. One of the themes that was lightly touched on a time or two was the moon was being guided by some higher power. And this was pretty much dropped in season two. I don’t have a problem with the concept; Quantum Leap used it, after all. The problem with it was Koenig and Bergman actually met what probably was the higher power in the third episode, Black Sun (I needed three shots of Five Hour Energy to get through that one. That’s fifteen hours to endure fifty two minutes.) and then they never reference the incident ever again. The show could have benefited from just a touch of continuity.

      • Spocksbro

        “One of the themes that was lightly touched on a time or two was the moon was being guided by some higher power.”

        This sounds like a good place to start with a reboot. The hard-SF side of my brain always had problems with the Moon’s motive power but if the Alphans are being manipulated toward a goal that could provide a nice 3-5 season story arc a la Battlestar Galactica.

        • Thomas Stockel

          I don’t have a problem with this, provided the writers and producers actually had some sort of framework in mind. JMS’ Babylon 5 was good, in my opinion, in large part because the producer had a five year story in mind and everything was geared towards telling that story. It worked well. Oh sure, the first season was slow and season five was uneven because he didn’t know he was getting one, but in the end you really felt like this was where it was leading up to. This is an epic space opera.

          But you look at shows like Lost or BSG and you sort of realize that the writers had no idea how it was going to end, or they had some ending in mind but had no idea how to get there, and by the time the end was nigh they had to do a lot of stupid things to achieve that result. I never liked the new BSG both because I hated Starbuck (I love Katie Sackhoff; she is awesome on Longmire. I just hated how Starbuck could be as cruel and selfish as she wanted and everyone still loved her, and how she was great at EVERYTHING. She was a true Mary Sue character. She even died and got better.) and because that finale was utter shit.

          • Monophylos

            I felt the need to correct a passage from above:

            JMS’ Babylon 5 was bad, in my opinion, in large part because the producer was so enamored of his concept of a complete five-year story that he eventually started writing all the episodes himself when formerly he had permitted other, often better writers to work on the show. It was kind of a mess. Oh sure, the first season was promising because it could hint at deep dark secrets and season five doesn’t really count anyway, but in the end you realized that the big secrets Straczynski was promising were unbelievably lame and banal once revealed and you really felt like you’d been led up the garden path.

            There you go.

          • Thomas Stockel

            I might be reading too much into this, but I…get the feeling you weren’t the world’s biggest B5 fan.

            As for the big reveal, personally I liked it. Two ancient races manipulating younger species in an ages long philosophical conflict by forcing them to kill one another? It was worlds better than the crap Deep Space Nine was trying to sell me.

          • Monophylos

            I wouldn’t know about DS9; I stopped watching after its first season. I suppose that’s why B5 pissed me off more, because I’d actually bothered trying to follow it only to wind up with Bruce Boxleitner saying “Get the hell out of my galaxy” or whatever the hell it was. Ugh.

          • Muthsarah

            Try Season 2’s “Necessary Evil”, or “The Wire”, if you have the inclination. Like most shows, DS9 started off a lil’ slow. It’s worth another look. It’s on Netflix streaming if you have it.

          • Gary

            Agreed. Babylon 5 was epic. Sure it was flawed, but wow… the stories and ideas were great. The early CGI was kind of stupid looking, but once you got past that the show was very enjoyable. I also appreciated the premise of these ancient races with superior power manipulating the goings on of other lesser races. The only real difficulty was that the sequential nature of the intertwined stories really demanded following it without breaks. It would be easy to miss key factors if you didn’t watch it regularly.

        • danbreunig

          With all the reboots (good and bad) going around there’s been talk in some circles of actually relaunching S99, tentatively called Space 2099. I’m still not sure of anything official about it.

      • Gary

        I think SPACE:1999 could have benefited tremendously with a different concept — an ENORMOUS space colony on the moon, housed in a self-contained superstructure. Something massive, much like the Darians ship (see “The Mission of the Darians”). The atomic blasts on the moon would have broken away that superstructure, hurling it into space. Without any kind of built-in propulsion units, it would drift away, aimlessly.

        And just think of it… in time, they’d pass near planets where they could obtain metals and other resources, then BUILD some passive guidance system on board Alpha. They’d have some episodes where they’d be pulled off course by the gravitational fields of large bodies, but then be able to change course and avoid collisions. It would have made SO MUCH MORE SENSE than the huge moon being torn from Earth orbit. And it would have opened up many other story possibilities. It also would have avoided a few stupid ones, like introducing an atmosphere to the moon by a cluster of probes, where Alphans “pull down the windows” on Alpha like they were in an Earth bound apartment building (I cringed so much at the sight of such stupidity–windows on a space station designed to OPEN???).

        There were some good story ideas, but almost all of them were poorly developed. And the dialog mixed with the acting was mostly atrocious. I watched it back then because there wasn’t much else. I’d grown tired of Star Trek, having watched and rewatched each episode so many times. Battlestar Galactica was a much needed infusion of change, and I enjoyed it more than Space:1999 despite its many flaws as well.

  • Gallen_Dugall

    I vaguely remember trying to make sense of this show as a youth. IMO the problem with the series is simply that it’s depressing. Most science fiction falls into this type where things happen, people attempt to react, but ultimately their actions amount to nothing or make things worse, and some mysterious outside force must intercede on their behalf – Doctor Who has been doing this for 50 years. You mention that everyone in the show is like Spock, where that character originally existed as part of the Spock, McCoy Kirk decision making process, take away the other two and you’re left with the cold hard truth that the universe is vast and uncaring and you’re going to die after a short futile meaningless existence. No matter how well written or acted this sort of sci-fi is always deeply depressing. Mind you that this sort of thing appeals to the world’s well off yet guilt ridden elites – why worry about the horrors you’ve inflicted upon the world when it’s all meaningless anyway, and the same with the mystic mumbo jumbo, when answers are incomprehensible how can you be at fault for your bad decisions?
    Of course this isn’t the only kind of science fiction, there’s also good sci-fi of the sort used to address real problems in abstract ways and speculate about things in a productive manner, but this is a lot rarer.

    • Thomas Stockel

      It’s a good point; shows like this, BSG and Stargate: Universe do always run the risk of being very depressing shows because there does not seem to be any way for the heroes to win. I suppose the point is to win a moral victory, or to come away with your sense of self worth intact.

      • Gallen_Dugall

        Yeah, and I unfairly vented above because it has been a hard week. Actually your review inspired me to rewatch the show on youtube last night and… it’s not as horrible as I remember. Dumb but not nearly as dumb as a lot of stuff that gets made these days. Plus that theme song is funky!

        • Thomas Stockel

          Don’t sweat it, man. I wasn’t offended or anything.

  • slabross

    I’m guilty of being a fan of this show and even produced a short animation film inspired by season 2:!__mainpage/fan-film :-)

    • Thomas Stockel

      That was actually a lot of fun to watch. I think you did a great job on the animation and use of music and sound. Oddly enough, I watched The Beta Cloud last night, which your short film reminded me of a bit.

  • Paul Stankevitch.

    For someone with so much BAD to say about the series, why have you got any interest in it some 40 years after it was produced?
    A Moonbase and world peace 25 years into the future was highly probably in 1975 – our history had shown us it took only 50 years from learning to fly to landing on the Moon.
    Serious characters in a frightening hostile universe, completely out of their depth is acceptable.
    One of the strong things about S:1999 was the fact the stories weren’t explained (how could something be explained that wasn’t understood) – the episode are still discussed to this day.
    It’s not a show for everyone but no show is. If you don’t like it, move along and discuss something that makes you happy. This review after all these years reads like you’re psychologically scarred by the show and need to get it of your chest.

    • Thomas Stockel

      First of all, poking fun at television shows and movies is what people like us do. Second, if you look at the series according to the Andersons we get a moon base, a unified world government, artificial gravity and laser guns with stun settings. And our fashion sense loops back to bell bottoms and porn star mustaches.

      Now perhaps you are a fan of the series, if so more power to you. A great many people are fans of one thing or another that are incomprehensible to others. I’m a huge Kate Bush fan and there are a great many people who don’t get her music. But you claiming the show’s incomprehensibility is a strength simply doesn’t fly with me. To me it comes across as lazy story telling, using mysticism in the place of a coherent narrative.

      I actually liked Earthbound, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t have fun poking fun at it. Likewise I enjoyed the season two episode I’ve chosen next. After that it is unlikely I will be touching on the series for a while, as I have several other properties I want to tackle.

    • Daniel Edwards

      I think what happened to the whole world peace thing and one world government went right out the window with the election of Ronald Reagan. The military industrial complex has never looked back. There was a moment there, but the CIA knew they could throw a monkey wrench in the whole thing by screwing around with Iran, which led to Reagan, which led to the Republican Party of today. They only care about their own existence, nothing else matters. Kinda like the BORG……. lol!

  • Bobby Shaddoe

    its true that this series can easily be mocked, but there are some that would rather give a true critical eye to a series like Space to point out the things that worked as well as the things that didn’t. You do bring up some good points though. its interesting reading someone actually find something positive to say about Fred Freiberger, cuz I’m of the opinion that Freiberger wouldn’t know good storytelling if it came up to him and gave him a lapdance. I read somewhere that the reason he didn’t explain any of the changes or the disappearance of crew members was because ‘the viewers won’t notice’. That’s just infuriating.

    • Thomas Stockel

      It’s too bad he would feel that way. I guess I am always willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt. Unless your name is Rick Berman or Brannon Braga. Those guys could go screw themselves. They pissed away any good will I had towards them with Enterprise. And you can throw Jeri Taylor into the mix with her contributions regarding Voyager. Yes, I am still bitter about the way these people pissed away the franchise.

      • photoglyph

        Strangely, I find I like Enterprise most of all -after that rock star, the original series. I find too many NexGen episodes too difficult to watch and Voyager became painful. I really liked DS9 and think it has some of the best writing of the spin-offs. I remember my brother saying that Rick Berman did not like the original show. No surprise. I remember Melinda Snodgrass’ excellent piece on NexGen from Odyssey magazine in ’91. I agreed with her.

  • anotherhuman

    38 years later and Alan Carter still holds the same place in my hit parade that he did when I was 10 years old. Mmmmmgoood!

  • Thomas Stockel

    Important note! This week Hulu has begun airing episodes of Space: 1999 and UFO.

    • I believe they are (at least the space 1999 eps) in HD on Hulu

    • KryptoTSD

      I have just got to get me UFO!

  • Adam Bomb 1701

    There has been a rumor going around for years that “Space:1999” was dropped so British producer Sir Lew Grade could put all of ITC’s resources into the movie “Raise The Titanic”. Which would flop big time in the summer of 1980. I don’t know if that’s true or not, particularly since ITC produced two relatively big-budget films in-between the end of “1999” and the start of “Raise the Titanic”- “The Boys from Brazil” and “Capricorn One”. (That ITC logo was so cool, with its great theme music; I still remember them to this day.)
    Another thing I read was that Fred Freiberger was almost hired as “Star Trek”‘s producer during that series’ first season. Roddenberry wanted Freiberger to come to work right away, but Fred opted to take a vacation he had already planned. So, Fred was out, Gene Coon was in, and the rest is history.

    • Gary

      Thankfully Fred Freiberger didn’t get to meddle too much with Star Trek. As it was, the 3rd season was the weakest (with some exceptional episodes in it), partly because everyone knew it was the last. Fred could have FIXED Space:1999, but instead he ruined it… made it worse than it already was.

  • Gary

    Back in the early 1970’s, there wasn’t much in the way of sci-fi programs for TV. Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation shows (Stingray, Mysterions, Fireball XL-5, etc) were fun for little kids, but for teens? Meh. UFO was a GOOD start for Gerry and Sylvia trying their hand at full size productions with human actors. It had a lot of potential, but alas… they had a number of production and script problems. I really thought __SPACE:1999__ would be a step up. It certainly was in the models and SFX department but everything else was just… AWFUL. The whole premise of the moon being blasted out of Earth orbit (at such a speed that they’d encounter planets and aliens without needing decades to pass), their endless supplies despite being marooned without Earth assistance, and… well, the DIALOG. Mindless, predictable and silly most of the time.

    There were a few entertaining episodes, but you could count them on one hand. Even still, they were so flawed. There are some forums out there dedicated to the series. And if you try debating any of these flaws with members there, they will conjure up all sorts of ridiculous explanations for why certain things were possible (like Eagle spaceships flying in an atmosphere with PERPENDICULAR SURFACES facing forward travel–just plain nuts). It’s amazing how firm belief in something can override logic and sensibility (kind of like religion). I am SO GLAD I didn’t bother to buy any media sets of this series. At least you can dabble in watching scenes of interest on YouTube, without having to endure an entire episode.

    There was an earnest effort afoot to remake the UFO series. They even had Joshua Jackson earmarked for the role of Paul Foster. But the production has been unable to secure funding. I just hope they don’t try to remake SPACE: 1999… the base premise is just so flawed, it wouldn’t be worthwhile.

  • Wiseguy

    1. The pilot was filmed in late 1973 not 1975.
    2. “Earth has united into one world government.” Never heard this before at least not in the first season. And much info given in the second season contradicts that given in the first, e.g., the number of days since leaving orbit.
    3. “Why would the moon need a dead language specialist?” No none said they needed one. No one said that was the reason she was on the base. Try to come up with real reasons instead of making things up to support your theories.
    4. “Koenig is forced to leave behind a huge chunk of Alpha’s supplies with two people on a dead world. But when season two begins, rather than the Alphans being reduced to cannibalism, they…” It was explained in the episode that because they got their power back, they didn’t need those supplies. In other words, they could regenerate those supplies themsleves now. Try watching the episode before making things up.
    5. “…And my fourth crush was Catherine Schell as Maya.” Catherine Schell was much more attractive in the first season without all that nonsense makeup.
    6. “I’ll be back with a recap of one of the better season two episodes.” You don’t have many choices there.

  • David Robbins

    I have just watched 3 episodes of Space 1999 from series 1: They were all a load of rubbish, how it got past the pilot stage I don’t know.

  • Felix

    Personally I loved series 1 and hated series 2. Despite the anachronisms throughout both series and the poor effects the 2 biggest issues I took with this were the resources, which you’ve already touched on; the constant loss of the Eagles, the excessive use of power for makeshift forcefields or the structural damage inflicted whenever the base was attacked such as in The Infernal Machine. Having the amount of repair material needed on hand at all times conflicts with Alpha being a research facility or launch pad to elsewhere.
    My 2nd issue was the sheer amount of surveyable plants they came across in almost every episode. If we can somehow forget that being blasted out of orbit would actually shatter the moon and kill everybody in the process, hurtling through space in a single line, regardless of the “course changes” they’ve had, would put years, if not decades of dead empty space from one planet to the next. But then we wouldn’t have a show I guess. The Enterprise at least had warp speed to get from planet to planet.
    I don’t think following a Star Trek model is essentially a bad thing, it was a popular series due to an eclectic cast, so copying that in hope of similar success makes sense.
    Too many unexplained changes, both in cast and sets killed the show for many fans. Between series 1 & 2, Victor was supposed to die of heart failure and Paul & Kano were killed in an Eagle crash, but the reasons were written out. What happened to Matthias, is anyones guess. I liked him better than Bain, but she had more fans. I disagree that series one cast members never emoted. Koenig & Carter were always arguing passionately about issues and the morality of a given situation. Much the same as Kirk & McCoy, so calling them all “Spocks” is a little unfair.
    Like any old show, it can be picked to pieces for the amount of scientific implausibility and lack of continuity episode to episode but it was still a fun ride while it lasted.

  • Haruki Chou

    Overall, quite a bad series, with a few good episodes here and there.

  • Scott Eaton

    Season 1 was conceptually far superior to season 2, and true sci fi purists get this.
    When one watches season 1 pay attention to the meticulous camera work, editing and art direction. I’ve never seen a sci fi series employ such elaborate cinematography and dimensional lighting as this one during season 1. Ive watched some episodes where the camera is never placed in the sameication twice. Too bad the writer of this article didn’t quite get it.

  • RPM

    I barely remembered this show. I was about 5 when it came on originally. I was able to see the first two episodes recently and became very intrigued. I think what hooked me was the great funky 70’s music and quick flash montage used at the beginning of each episode, like Mission:Impossible used to do. I think I was expecting Space:1999 to be closer to Buck Rogers or the original Battlestar, but was pleasantly surprised. I’ll take serious but misdirected over cheesy and stupid any day.

  • William Hatcher

    “why the Andersons felt a need to place this show so close to the present day […] Was it just because they liked the name?”

    It’s because they were trying to rip off/borrow from 2001:A Space Oddysey, so they got the setting and show title as close as they could without being sued. How many show titles have “Space”, an approaching year and even a colon in their title?

    And Kubrick actually DID sue:

  • Daniel Edwards

    This show is only slightly better than Plan 9 From Outerspace. Just barely. Lol!

  • mitch Bronston

    Dumbest sci-fi show of all time. Sorry fans…but I’m a, if nothing else, a scientific realist. And this whole premise is BS. Nuclear critical mass explosion might…just might… fling the moon out of orbit, but no way accelerate it super light speeds needed to visit some alien planet every week. Even if that were the case, they would blow by it so fast…well…you get the picture. As for the aliens…wow…right out of comic book hilarity. Oh…and they all speak English and are human. OK there were a few outright monsters that resembled melted Hershey Bars…but..OMG! One final word about other reviews. WHY OH WHY do people keep saying ‘they went to another galaxy’??????? THAT NEVER HAPPENED! And can’t happen…even in Star Trek. OMG!!!!