Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Discuss: UFO

Karen: Picking back up with the sci-fi TV show countdown: What say you about Gerry Anderson's UFO? Groovy or grotty?


david_b said...

UFO was an prime example of a show I never saw initially, yet from an article in Starlog ish 5 four years later, instantly became enamored with. FINALLY watching the episodes just a few years ago, was pleasantly surprised with it's tone and how many features of it eventually became 1999.

Really liked the looks of Straker and Foster, but LOVED the look of the moonbase and tracked SHADO mobiles. The idea of the earth headquarters doubling as a production studio was a nifty idea, great to remove undue interest in it's 'high-tech' items (explained away as props). The episode 'Mindbender' actually took everything a step farther by Straker hallucinating that his colleagues are actually actors and his command centers are 'sets'. Totally surreal.

For a great exposition of show details, check out this UFO page located on the Space:1999 Catacombs site..:

Everyone always asks about the purple wigs on Moonbase. Eh, it was a Sylvia Anderson thing. Just write it off as an unresolved fashion attempt.

Great intro music.

Edo Bosnar said...

I've seen about half of the episodes, and I think it's a pretty good series all in all. It is definitely a relic of its time, what with the groovy fashions and set designs, and there are some rather head-scratchingly silly aspects (e.g. all the women in the moonbase wearing purple wigs or that fighter jet launching from a submarine underwater). Even so, the stories are usually quite good, with good dialogue and intelligently-conceived plots, and they generally hold up quite well today.
One devilishly good episode has the Shado guys, while chasing an alien, run into a house and interfere with a woman and her rather mean lover about to murder her husband. I won't give the ending away, but suffice it say that it is a bit shocking for something produced for general television audiences in the late 1960s.

david_b said...

Sorry, not sure why I wrote 'unresolved'; actually, 'unexplained' would be more descriptive and truthful.

Anonymous said...

Loved it when I was a kid. I think I loved the look of it more than anything. You have to bear in mind that this way pre-dates Star Wars, Close Encounters, Alien, etc, so really when you saw it in the early 70’s you were making comparisons to the B&W sci fi of the 50’s and I guess to Star UFO looked incredible!

I loved the Shadomobiles, the interceptors, etc. The interceptors were bloody ridiculous. A craft that was launched into space but only had one missile. I think that was literally designed purely so they could make toys of it.

I loved the aliens, esp. the noise their craft made and the fact that they breathed liquid. In Star Trek, aliens always seemed to be either basically just human with a papier mache head, or completely alien....or completely alien but conveniently disguised as humans, which was so often the case. The idea of aliens that were humanoid but clearly evolved from a different species was cool.

Particular faves: the one where Foster is turned into an alien, the one where the UFO is under the lake, the one with the ESP guy. I remember this last one because I thought it was a crazy idea until my mum explained to me that Gerry didn’t make it up for UFO and that ESP was a recognised phenomenon which was actually being researched. That blew my little six year old head off.


Unknown said...

I had dim memories of watching this when I was 6 or 7 in syndication. I loved the theme, and always found the rest of the show confusing, and a little scary.

A few years ago, my wife surprised me with the DVD box set for Xmas. My soon to be Brother-in-law suggested it. At first I thought it was overkill, even with my love of 60's-early 70's TV. I had relegated UFO as being hopelessly ridiculous in my memory banks.

Next thing I know, I'm burning through the episodes, and getting hooked. There were a lot of ridiculous aspects to UFO. There were also some really great stories. The show holds up much better than Space:1999 in my opinion. The characters are interesting, the effects are great, and those futuristic 70's fashions are actually pretty cool.

UFO is a completely unique artifact. A European based SF show from the early 70's with excellent production values. UFO never could have happened in America. Can you imagine how generic looking it would've been if Universal had made it back then? It's a real shame there was only one season.

James Chatterton

Lemnoc said...

Exceedingly dark, often intricate plots with emphasis on conspiratorial aspects of the UFO craze. IIRC the aliens were actually humans acting as host bodies for the real alien intelligences, which were in-system, not interplanetary.

Straker almost had a Peter Parker "can't win for losing" thing going. In one ep, he used SHADO assets to aid his dying son. Then had to divert them, to a mission that ultimately failed / was a ruse. Ended with a dead son and an enraged ex-wife. Grim.

Unlike 1999, the "futuristic" fashions and conceits are a bit hard to endure, and do not age well. But it is about as "adult" and dark as a SF ever got... until the Battlestar Galactica reboot.

Steve Does Comics said...

I loved it as a kid - even though you never knew when it was going to be on. The TV stations seemed to show episodes more or less at random and it kept bouncing between the BBC and ITV.

I saw it again in the late 1980s, when ITV showed it on Saturday mornings, and thought it was terrible.

I saw it again in the late 1990s, when BBC2 ran the whole series, and thought it was great.

For me the highlight was what I think was the final episode, when a pair of drugged-up hippies blunder across a couple of aliens planting an atom bomb in the cellar of a deserted farm house. There's a great sequence in it where a dead character visits his girlfriend in hospital while possessed and reanimated by aliens.

Needless to say, I had the die-cast Dinky toys. I had a SHADOmobile and an Interceptor.

If there's one Gerry Anderson show I'd like to see a revival of, it's UFO.

Anonymous said...

I thought the spacecraft and other vehicles were cool when I was twelve. Actually, the special effects hold up well even now. The female technicians' purple hair didn't bother me at the time. That's because my family didn't get a color TV set until about two years later, so I didn't know the difference. They just looked like brunettes. My guess is the hairstyles were an arbitrary way of making it look futuristic and science-fictional.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, the show did lay it on a little too thick with the grimdark and soap opera, but that's just a matter of personal taste. Commander Straker made Peter Parker look like Gladstone Gander. Maybe Gerry Anderson was trying to branch out and appeal to adults. His previous shows, with the marionettes, were usually shown on Saturday mornings, as kids' shows (although Captain Scarlet, one of the later marionation shows, was a lot more grim and violent than its forerunners). That opening title sequence made UFO look like a tongue-in-cheek action adventure series. Some viewers must have been confused.

Karen said...

This was another British show that I caught irregularly. It did seem very futuristic in the 70s; although I do think that a lot of the elements (the female costumes, the sub/jet, etc) were more for show than anything else. But dang if it didn't look great. I also enjoyed the aliens -mysterious just like those ones on the Invaders, but UFO was far more interesting to me. The theme music was also very catchy. This was my favorite British sci-fi show until I saw Blake's 7.


Fantastic Four Fan 4ever said...

Supposedly it's being re-made. I don't know if it's a low budget or a major production. I loved the set designs and Ed Bishop, the actor who portrayed Straker. The whole movie studio covering as a U.F.O. strike complex was genius. I wish that more was revealed about the aliens. Space:199 was supposedly a sequel that never turned out to be. I'd like to get the collection but I have seen them all before and they didn't age too well. Like Star Trek: The Original Series, the effects would have to be updated in a major way.

Dougie said...

As Steve said, the ITV regional network didn't know what to do with UFO: was it a kids show? Or a drama for adults?

I first saw it in the Scottish Television area on Saturday afternoons in '72, when it was up against Jon Pertwee's Dr. Who. But in '75 (I think), Space:1999 went out on Thursday nights originally, in an adult slot.

The hippies story is one of my favourites. I also like Foster's kidnapping (was it all a dream? One of Anderson's favourite devices) and "The Psychobombs".

Rip Jagger said...

UFO is a show I was able to catch up on only a few months ago after many years of charming memories. I saw it way back in the 80's somewhere or other, and had a few specific memories of spacecraft chasing cars down tree-laden lanes and people with really slick hairdos.

When I finally got to see the show again, I was taken by the smart way the show was constructed, with a neat spy-fi edge around a neat core coldish war nugget. The Anderson show obsession with fashion can be distracting at times, but overall the show is pretty compelling and like a lot good popcorn entertainment hard to resist once you start partaking.

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