The debate over whether the Year One or Two of Space: 1999 is one that will probably rank relatively low among the questions that plague mankind by their elusiveness.
Unless you happen to be a person that prefers one or the other, in which case the answer is fairly obvious and the question somewhat pointless.
Space: 1999 is the story of Moonbase Alpha, which due to an explosion of its nuclear waste dumps–a hungry Earth, wanting the benefits of nuclear power and minimal risk stored waste products from its production there–is torn from the embrace of Earth’s gravitational field and sent hurling through the cosmos.
The first year of the Alphans exodus was a somber affair, as if in space no one could see you smile. The show was quite well-written, but somewhat joyless. And while I understood that there probably isn’t all that much to be happy about being trapped on a runaway moon, there were moments that I got the feeling that these people were either in shock or chronically depressed.
This must have been troubling to the creator and executive producer of the series, Gerry Anderson. I suspect that he was proud of his show, which he worked created with his former wife, Sylvia. It was his second series to use people of flesh and blood as opposed to plastic and wire, but I imagine that he was vexed by how stagnant the show felt.
I don’t know what was going through his mind when Sir Lew Grade, head of ITC Entertainment, asked for another season, but his actions were telling.
Anderson hired Fred Freiberger, who prior worked on the third and last year of Gene Roddenberry‘s “Star Trek,” to produce. He came in and cleaned house, changing virtually everything that came before. Barry Grey’s somewhat contemplative and sombre opening theme was replaced with one that had more immediacy and a tangible sense of adventure by Derek Wadsworth.
Barry Gray’s Space:1999 Year One Opening
Yeah, I get tired when I watch Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” too.
This is going to sound like sacrilege, but I have to say it: I never liked Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby.” There, my secret is out. It’s treated like some sort of classic of slow-burn horror by most people who have seen it, but from what I could tell, it’s just slow. In some ways the hype that surrounds it is like that that typically accompanies Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which is a gorgeous movie, with some great practical special effects by Brian Johnson–the movie, in a visually sense, led directly to Gerry Anderson’s “Space: 1999″–but my God, is it boring!
And long, Oh, so long.
And I understand that there’s very little in the way of atmosphere in space, which is why all that noise those fighters were making in the ‘Star Wars’ films, among others, is utter nonsense, but Kubrick’s film aimed for realism, and it found it, making space travel seem ordinary and mundane.
“Rosemary’s Baby” did the same thing for Satanic cults and Satan: Made them both sort of dull and uninteresting. In fact, I like to think that William Friedkin’s 1973 film, “The Exorcist,” was as bizarre as it was as a counterweight to the mundane nature of Polanski’s 1968 film.
And as much vitriol is felt for Sam O’Steen‘s “Look What Happened To Rosemary’s Baby” (Admittedly, it’s pretty bad), it’s at least an visually interesting and somewhat engaging film, unlike Polanski’s.
Do You Want To Know More?
Gerry Anderson, the creator of “Thunderbirds,” “Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons,” “Space: 1999” among many others popular series died last year, though the profile producer was working on numerous projects for as long as he was capable.
The first of those projects, “Gemini Force 1,” is being released via Kickstarter as a series of books. If they reach their goals, it will become a television series though I am not sure if it would be puppets, live-action or CGI.
“A Very Entertaining, Though (Seemingly) Unoriginal, Voyage Of The Starship Enterprise”
Let me say for the record I am not a Trekkie. While more people are probably into the work of Gene Roddenberry I preferred Gerry Anderson and shows like “Space: 1999,” “UFO.” and “Space Precinct.” That ’s not to say that I didn’t respect the multi-cultural future Roddenberry portrayed, though it struck me as a bit Stepford-like.
Everyone dressed essentially the same, even non-Federation people, though this may have been due more to budget limitations than anything else. The inhabitants of Rodenberry’s universe even seemed to think the same and if “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and ’Deep Space Nine’ were any indicator, spent way too much time on holodecks imagining some swashbuckling event from the past, as if the future were so bankrupt it stopped generating stories and ideas of its own.
When Gerry Anderson died in 2013 I assumed that also meant that not only would there be no more series like “UFO,” “Space: 1999″ or “Space Precinct” but without his leadership there wouldn’t even be an Anderson Entertainment.
It seems that I am wrong because the company’s web site not only went live recently and hints that there are not only future projects in the pipeline, but that one of those projects will be revealed very soon.
What’s also interesting is that, while the Anderson Entertainment website is run by his son, Jamie, I have no idea who’s currently running the company itself.
The point is that whomever is behind the company will hopefully have the clout (and financial backing, because Anderson’s past series aren’t known for being inexpensive) to continue Anderson’s history of innovation.
And speaking of which, what are they producing? Will this upcoming project be a new series based upon their existing catalog? An entirely new series? Movies?
The possibilities are almost endless, and while the following trailers – which are homages to past Anderson productions – don’t answer any of those questions, they are pretty cool in their own right.
“Space Precinct,” arguably one of Gerry Anderson’s more controversial series, mainly due to the $1.5 million per episode cost, which made it the most expensive show in Britain at the time. Yet, despite all the money spent, the ratings were only average, which I suspect had more than a little to do with the terrible time slots the show was stuck in, as opposed to the series itself.
I witnessed this personally. It was one of my favorite shows growing up, and I recall trying to force myself to stay up till it aired, which was usually around 12:30 on Friday morning.
Besides the issue of times slots, the show’s greatest problem is that it didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be, which gave it an oddly schizophrenic tone. For instance, an episode would sometimes start off with hardcore scifi, then somehow end as a family drama.
When Gerry Anderson died last September, I not only was saddened, but felt somehow betrayed. I am not arrogant to believe that his health is any of my business, but knowing would have clarified for me why it is that he left the Pinewood Studios lot, and the selling of the memorabilia that he had accrued over the years.
I assumed that it was just because he was no longer as productive as he once was, which, in a roundabout way, was true.
Though the truth was deeper, sadder, than I would have guessed.
The last thing that I was aware he was working on was “Eternity,” with Steve Begg, who also worked with him on “Space Precinct.” Begg, like other special effects people who have cut their teeth on Gerry Anderson productions, eventually went on to bigger things, such as the effects work on “Skyfall,” among others.