The following is the complete text of an article which originally appeared in issue#66 (October 1994) of the SHADO-USECC UFO fan club COMMUNIQUE newsletter.
The UFO & Space: 1999 Book
by Marc MartinIn the past few years, Boxtree has published books on three of Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation series, namely "Stingray", "Thunderbirds Are Go!", and "Captain Scarlet". These books contain a lot of nice color photos, character & vehicle descriptions, episode guides, and behind the scenes information. They are not definitive works packed with details for hard-core fans, but they are nicely made and good for people who like the shows and would like to know a little more about them.
In the spring of 1994, Boxtree released yet another Anderson book, this time devoted to UFO and Space: 1999. Written by longtime fan Chris Drake, the "UFO and Space: 1999" book is similar to the previous books in both production quality and content. The book measures 8 3/4" wide and 11" high, and is 96 pages long. The front and back covers are colorfully designed and feature photos from both series on glossy thin cardboard. Inside, the book is nicely organized and designed, and features lots of color and black and white photos on high quality matte paper.
The book is divided into two sections, the first devoted to UFO and the second to Space: 1999. The UFO section features chapters on (1) behind the scenes information, (2) conjecture about the Aliens, (3) descriptions of SHADO's main hardware and personnel, (4) a UFO episode guide, and (5) a discussion of UFO's cancellation and final comments. The Space: 1999 section features chapters on (1) behind the scenes information, (2) a description of Moonbase Alpha's main hardware and personnel, (3) a season one episode guide, (4) season two changes and episode guide, and (5) series comments and cancellation.
After I received my copy of this book, the first thing I noticed was the superb quality of the photographs. This level of quality is obviously due to the use of excellent quality negatives and a great printing facility. There are only a handful of shots in this book that I have seen better reproductions of in the past, and these are definitely the exception and not the rule.
And quality is not the only thing -- this book also features an impressive quantity of photos. The UFO section alone contains 28 color and 28 black and white photos. The vast majority of these are publicity stills from the series, with the remainder being behind the scenes shots of the actors or the crew on the sets (4 of these), and pre-production drawings (2 of these, of SID and a SHADO mobile). Although I've seen many of these shots before, there are still several that are new to me.
Another thing I immediately noticed about the book is its design and layout, which on the whole is very nice. Almost every page contains one or more photographs, and these are integrated with the text in a variety of interesting ways. The only weak part of the design is a rather tacky "spirograph" pattern, which is used on the front cover and several of the inside pages.
So now that we've gotten the first impressions out of the way, let's take a closer look at the book's contents. Starting off is a foreword (page 7) by author Chris Drake, who tells us that he is a longtime fan of both UFO and Space: 1999, with UFO being his all-time favorite series. He briefly talks about the two series in the context of the time of their first broadcast, and then dedicates the book to all of the fans who have studied these two series so closely over the years. Not a bad start. This is followed by a prologue (p 8), which is a brief fictionalized version of the opening scenes of the first UFO episode, when Peter Carlin and his sister discover a UFO and are attacked by Aliens. This is rather a nice touch to begin the UFO section, although somewhat unexpected for this type of book.
Next is Chapter 1 (p 10-17), which gives an overview of the production of UFO. This begins with a discussion of the earlier Gerry and Sylvia Anderson productions, and goes all the way to UFO's eventual cancellation. This chapter briefly touches on a number of things, like the initial concepts for the show, the production team, the main actors, and changes made along the way with the introduction of the Paul Foster character and the changes made after the move from MGM to Pinewood studios.
Having collected a number of different magazine and fan club articles about UFO in the past, I can say that this chapter offers nothing that I didn't know already. In fact, quite a lot of published information has been ignored here for the sake of brevity, which is disappointing. However, for someone who only has a casual interest in the series and has never sought out such information in the past, this might be an adequate overview.
Another problem with this chapter is the writing quality. It appears that very little time was taken to proofread, revise, edit, and organize the text much beyond a first draft. As a result, the writing seems sloppy and immature, and contains run-on sentences and awkward jumps from topic to topic. Unfortunately, further reading reveals that the whole book has this problem.
In Chapter 2 (p 18-23), the author offers some conjecture about the Aliens in UFO. This is done by analyzing and interpreting information from the different episodes. Unfortunately, some of the author's conjecture is a bit ridiculous, as it doesn't seem to have much of a point or is based on things that simply aren't true.
Like what, for example? Well, originally I was going to list some statements here, but unfortunately, as I continued reading on, I soon discovered that there were a lot of statements in this book which I find to be either ridiculous, questionable, or just plain wrong. So rather than listing them all here, I have merely chosen some examples and put them at the end of this article. If you find that you don't have much of a problem with these statements, then just ignore this criticism I have for the book.
So anyway, onto Chapter 3 (p 24-35), which features descriptions and photos of SHADO's main bases, vehicles, and personnel. While covering all of the major topics, it should come as no surprise that I'm disappointed in the descriptions. There is a huge amount of information here that appears to have been fabricated by the author -- things like background information on the characters and details about the vehicles. And if in fact this information is based on legitimate sources, the author should have referenced them. One thing's for sure -- a lot of this stuff didn't come from the episodes!
In Chapter 4 (p 36-46), the author gives us his version of a UFO episode guide. For each episode, he gives a short plot description (around 6 sentences) and lists the writer, director, and guest cast. There are also photos from about half of the episodes spread throughout the text. The episodes are presented in a slightly modified production order, which although may not be the best order for viewing, is certainly better than some of the orders I've seen in the past. Unfortunately, the guide is missing one very important thing -- a list of UFO's regular cast and production staff!
The final UFO chapter (Chapter 5, p 48-51) describes the show's cancellation, and offers a final analysis of the series and its fans. The cancellation story has been told several times and better in the past. And the brief mention of fandom is nothing more than an advertisement for FANDERSON, which of course is a shame, as it ignores all of the fandom and merchandise all around the world, including the longest running and only remaining UFO fan club -- SHADO-USECC!
As for the Space: 1999 section, my negative comments about the writing quality and conjecture still apply. Oddly enough, even though there were many more episodes of Space: 1999 than UFO, this book gives both series the same amount of pages. As a result, more of the Space: 1999 section is devoted to the episode guide and less to the descriptions of the hardware and characters. Of course, given my opinion of those parts of the UFO section, less is a good thing!
So, what's the bottom line -- should you buy this book or not? Well, as you can probably guess, I'm rather torn on this question. The photographic content of the book is truly impressive, and may alone justify the price. The episode guides are adequate, but certainly nothing special. However, if you primarily want to learn more about the two series, be warned that there's simply too much information here that's either questionable or wrong for it to be considered a reliable source.
So if this book sounds like something you want to buy, I know of three science fiction mail order places selling it:
I've listed the postage charges for delivery to the United States, so if you live somewhere else, those charges will probably be different.
- Engale Marketing, 332 Lytham Road, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY4 1DW, England. Price: #9.95 plus #3.75 postage = #13.70 (~ US$21.40)
- Comet Miniatures, 48 Lavender Hill, London, SW8 5RH, England. Price: #10.00 plus #8.60 postage = £18.60 (~US$29.00)
- Star Tech, PO Box 456, Dunlap TN 37327, USA. Price: $19.95 plus $6 postage = US$25.95.
All three of these places accept credit card orders, which is a convenient way of ordering something from another country (no money exchange hassles or fees) or without a catalog (just send them a letter telling them what you want and what your card information is). If you don't have access to a credit card or don't want to order without a catalog, please write first for more information. And don't forget to send a SASE or two International Reply Coupons (the international equivalent of a SASE, available from your local post office) if you want a reply!
Also, you might be able to buy this book through the publisher or your local book store. If so, here are some more details that you'll need:Title: UFO and Space: 1999And now, here are those examples of statements in the book which I find to be ridiculous, questionable, or just plain wrong -- each followed by my comments...
Author: Chris Drake
Publisher: Boxtree Ltd, Broadwall House, 21 Broadwall, London SE1 9PL
(c) 1994 ITC Entertainment Group Ltd.
ISBN: 1 85283 393 9
Discussion of the effect of the Earth's atmosphere on UFO's aliens (p 19):
"After just a few hours' exposure, the Alien died from what appeared to be acute dehydration. It must be safe to assume, therefore, that whatever may or may not be true, the Alien planet has an atmosphere which contains a far greater percentage of water than does our own."
Incorrect -- the Alien died of rapid aging, not dehydration, so we can't assume anything about the water content of the Alien planet.
Discussion of the UFO's main weapon (p 20):
"Whenever such a ray is fired, it always seems to emanate from a point on, or just off, the actual surface of the craft. It is more than likely, therefore, that this ray is in fact a fierce extension of the UFO's force-field which, having been supercharged, can be projected with great accuracy in any chosen direction."
Or perhaps the special effects people thought it looked cool that way?
Discussion of Moonbase (p 25): "During the late 1970s, whilst the base was being set up, it was discovered that women adapted better to the unchanging, rather sterile environment that the Moon offered and, as a result, it was decided that they should make up the majority of the installation's personnel."
I never got the impression that the majority of Moonbase's personnel were women. Just in the Command Sphere...
Discussion of the purple wigs (p 26):
"One of the most intriguing features of Lieutenant Ellis and the other Moonbase girls has to be their bobs of metallic mauve hair. Far from being purely decorative, the wigs serve to protect the wearers from the migraine-inducing electromagnetic fields which, unfortunately, are produced by the powerful Control sphere equipment."
Does anyone really believe this? And what do electromagnetic fields have to do with the wigs being purple?
Details on the construction of Skydiver (p 27):
"Clearly a formidable weapon, an unspecified number of these amazing craft are known to exist and extensive research suggests that they were built by the Electric Boat Division of the General Dynamics Corporation. Between 1971 and 1976, a mysterious gap appears in the building programme of the Los Angeles Class submarine and, as General Dynamics are also responsible for designing and constructing the F111 and F16 fighter aircraft, the conclusion is inevitable, although impossible to prove."
Is he just making this up as he's going along? Sure sounds like it.
Explanation of Capt. Carlin's disappearance (p 28):
"the vessel's first captain, Peter Carlin...is known to have been killed in action during a particularly dangerous UFO incident."
There's certainly nothing in the series to support this statement!
Listing details of Straker's life before SHADO: (p 30):
"Born in Boston on 10 July 1940, Straker excelled at school, particularly in science-based subjects and with dreams of becoming an astronaut, he graduated from Yale with a degree in astrophysics, before doing two years lunar research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Joining the United States Airforce in the early 1960s, Straker test-flew a number of experimental jet aircraft before being accepted on to NASA's astronaut training programme in 1964. Heavily involved in the Gemini programme, he was held in reserve for the Gemini 12 mission of November 1966 and only active service in Vietnam prevented him from being aboard Apollo 7 when it orbited the Earth 163 times in October 1968."
Whoa! This really sounds like he's making this up as he's going along! And the run-on sentences here are a good examples of the poor writing throughout the book.
Explanation of Col. Freeman's disappearance (p 31):
"No on-screen reason is ever given for Freeman's disappearance after 17 episodes, but it is safe to assume that, possibly under Straker's personal recommendation, he accepted further promotion and went on to command a smaller SHADO base in some other part of the world."
Is it safe to assume this? Perhaps Captain Carlin accepted promotion and Freeman dies during a particularly dangerous UFO incident!
Comments about Lt. Gay Ellis (p 32):
"she projects a definite aura of unapproachability which even Paul Foster is unable to penetrate...Naturally outranked by Colonel Foster, Gay seems slightly put out when he is given temporary command of Moonbase during the early days of SHADO and she appears to be happier when he is not around."
Oh come on now...you've gotta be kidding...
Description of UFO's broadcast in America (p 49):
"During the 1971/72 season, UFO led the ratings for over four months on PBS channels in Los Angeles and New York. PBS (or Public Broadcasting Service) stations, it should be pointed out, exist in huge numbers throughout the United States and broadcast independently to the nation until the big networks (ABS, NBC, and CBS) take over at 8 pm."
Boy, is this wrong! First, UFO was broadcast in the US during the 1972/73 season, and it was syndicated over the CBS syndication network, not PBS, and PBS stations are not "taken over" by the networks during the evenings, as they are separate channels entirely.
And finally, here is my favorite statement in the Space: 1999 part of the book, describing a supposed name change for Sandra (p 65):
"Following the death of Paul Morrow in an Eagle crash, Sandra turned to Buddhism in the hope of finding spiritual peace and enlightenment and, in an effort to forget the past, she cast out all personal possessions and changed her name to Sahn - a decision which was both supported and respected by every one of her friends and closest colleagues."
Yikes! First off, it is never established that Paul actually dies, let alone in an Eagle crash. Also, a more reasonable explanation for Sandra being called "San" in the second season is that this is a popular nickname for "Sandra". Buddhism?!? Gimme a break!
This article is 6 pages long and has the following 5 photos:
- full page B&W photo of the front cover -- "The front cover of the UFO and Space: 1999 book".
- 1/2 page B&W photo of two pages of the book -- "Behind the scenes chapter, featuring photos of Straker, Lake and Foster".
- 1/2 page B&W photo of two pages of the book -- "Beginning of the SHADO chapter, with photos of Moonbase and Lt. Harrington."
- 1/2 page B&W photo of two pages of the book -- "Character profile pages, featuring Col. Lake and Lts. Ellis and Barry".
- 1/2 page B&W photo of two pages of the book -- "Episode Guide page, featuring photos from A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES and ORDEAL".