Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Far-Flung Future of 1980 pt.2

Georgina Moon as Lt. Sylvia Howell
With a CG reboot of Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds on the horizon, I began to wonder what had happened to the update of his live-action show UFO that was in the news a few years ago. Sadly, all seems to have gone quiet on that front, though I can't quite imagine how a reworked version of the show would look anyhow. Having briefly worked on the first cancelled version of the Thunderbirds movie myself, (mentioned here) I know that certain aspects are changed to make them more contemporary, but the things that make them appealing in the first place are the things that would probably be first out of the window. Would anyone in their right mind apply for a job to work on the moon, where purple wigs and silver mini-skirts were compulsory attire? I mean, c'mon! How could a government agency enforce such a strict dress code on their operatives. String vests for our submarine division? White slim-fit catsuits for our ground staff? Makes total sense - not! And yet this was all part of the appeal of the show and what made it look so friggin' cool in the 70's.

Oat Krunchies cereal box from 1970
My first sighting of UFO on the telly was during a childhood trip to Ipswich, where for some reason it was being aired way ahead of London. The fact that packs of Oat Krunchies, my favourite breakfast cereal had begun to feature a guy called Ed Straker on the box suddenly all made sense.

I was chatting to my Marvel UK and 2000AD colleague, John Tomlinson the other day about his favourite recollections of the show, and I'll quote him here... JT: "That was one of the best things about Gerry Anderson's stuff. No matter how outlandish and preposterous the concepts he flung at you, they were executed with such style and slickness, such cool costumes and visuals that it didn't seem to matter. Absolutely nothing in UFO really worked from a practical point of view (three measly interceptors with ONE cumbersome missile each? Gedouddahere! And how come the UFOs weren't constantly blowing that orbital snitch SID out of the sky?), but it looked fantastic."

Ed Bishop as Commander Ed Straker with Ayshea Brough as Lt. Ayshea Johnson.

Dolores Mantez as Space Tracker, Nina Barry and George Sewell as Col. Alec E. Freeman; Straker's right-hand man.
John has pretty much the same childhood recollection that I had as a kid, regarding the Moonbase operatives that I mentioned in an earlier post about my own top secret organisation SPI, operating out of a coal-bunker in my friends back garden (The Far-Flung Future of 1980). Anyway, I digress... John continues... "No memory of UFO could ever eclipse the image of Gabrielle Drake in her bacofoil bikini. But I also liked the grim scenes between Straker and Freeman in which one would say to the other 'Anything?' and the other inevitably replied 'Nothing.' Seemed to happen every week. I still do that with people now!"

Gabrielle Drake as Lieutenant Gay Ellis.

Lt. Gay Ellis was most often seen as Moonbase Commander in the first half of the series.
JT: "Straker was such an old sexist. He never seemed to know what to say to women, except demand that they perform menial tasks or fix him a drink. If he ever did get the helmet off a female UFO pilot he'd just smirk and ask 'how about a nice cup of alien cworfee?'"

Wanda Ventham as Col. Virginia Lake with Commander Ed Straker.
Virginia Lake with Paul Foster's car. Straker's car was discovered rusting away in someone's back garden and is now being renovated (see comments).
Wanda Ventham with THAT Gull-Wing car.
Sylvia Anderson's on-trend Alien fashion.
Identified Flying Object.
Col. Alec E. Freeman and Lt. Gay Ellis. 
The Lunar Module approaching or leaving Moonbase, can't tell which.
Lt. Ellis gets out of her work clothes and into her civvies, which look almost identical.
I stumbled upon some really nice designs by an artist called Arcas on DeviantArt, who'd rendered his own impressive interpretation of the Moonbase operatives. I asked him if I could post a couple of these and he was cool about it, so here they are. You can check out his other work right here.

UFO 2KX: Moonbase Duo by Arcas

Colonel Virginia Lake and Lt. Ellis by Arcas
This menu for the Italian DVD release is a real treat, well worth checking out!

Opening titles for Gerry Anderson's 1970 tv series in high definition with classic music by Barry Gray.

I've just been informed by Jamie Anderson that there's exciting Gerry Anderson news to come real soon. Click this link and sign up to be the first to hear!


  1. Great feature,superbly illustrated,thanks!

  2. Pedant's Note: The car in the photos above belonged to the Paul Foster character - it's Ed Straker's car which is being rebuilt from scratch (the one in the back garden was too far gone and the owner wouldn't take any offer for it). The whole work-in-progress can be followed and seen here

    B Smith

  3. Love your site! Aahh this brings back great memories. What ever happened to shows like these..? You're right, Gerry Anderson new how to make slick sci-fi shows that still look captivating no matter how far-fetched today.

    I often talk about U.F.O. to my daughters when I see the crap they watch on TV. And I questioned why they never modernised a reboot in a similar vein to the Battlestar Galactica series. It would make a terrific movie as well!

    C'mon Gerry Anderson estate, let's get moving! I'm happy to help & have some ideas...

    1. Thanks for the comment! Always nice to hear from people.

  4. I know Gabrielle is the queen of the Moonbase fems but can I briefly make a case for the charms of the lovely Dolores, who's work in Subs Smash imbues that episode with a rare emotional intensity, that dare I say, always brings a lump to my throat.


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