Here is Marcus Berkmann's column from issue #27 (December 1996) of the UK magazine "DreamWatch", which reports on the great response to BBC2's 1996 UFO broadcasts. Ironically, BBC2 dropped UFO from their schedule in January 1997 before all the episodes were shown.
Crazy for U.F.O.
By Marcus Berkman
Say what you like about cable and satellite -- and each month when I receive my bill, I say plenty -- but it's only when programmes pop up on terrestrial TV that the wider world really pays any attention. Take UFO. For most of this year episodes of Gerry Anderson's first live action series have been appearing virtually daily on Bravo, the cable channel where old shows go to die. Morning, noon, and night, Interceptors have been taking off from Moonbase, firing their big red rockets (keep those strings steady back there!) and returning sadly to Moonbase as the unharmed UFO trundled happily towards Earth in search of a few more internal organs to harvest. And yet, despite this blanket coverage, no-one seems to have noticed. Oh, you and I noticed, because we're like that, but non-DREAMWATCH readers have remained entirely oblivious. Then, a few short weeks ago, BBC2 started repeating the show in their early evening SF-for-kiddies slot, and since then the whole of Britain has gone UFO-crazy.
Well, I exaggerate. Models of Skydiver and dolls of Ed Straker are yet to adorn the nation's toyshops, let alone be grabbed by the wild crowds of sobbing parents desparate to buy the latest craze for their unforgiving offspring. But loads of my friends (thirtysomething, married, responsible, suits) seem to have got into the habit of setting the timer every Monday morning before they go out to work, and then shouting at their wives when they put on 101 DALMATIONS for the kids and forgot to reset it later. I have heard it discussed in pubs - a long discussion last week about the architectural triumph that is Alec Freeman's hair -- and even in that bastion of embarrased silence, the London Underground (someone had forgot to set the timer and was rushing home to watch it). Somehow there hasn't been quite the same buzz about SLIDERS.
For most of us, of course, it's simple nostalgia. Say what you like about 1970, but things were different then. Most specifically, the future was different then. Ed Straker, for instance, drove around in a futuristic brown car that now looks remarkably like a DeLorean (is this where he got the idea?). Curiously enough Alec Freeman drove around in an identical model. In fact everyone in the show did, because they could only afford to get one made. No less intriguing are the purple wigs worn by all the nubile you women on Moonbase. As I remember it, these were there to obvert freak electrical discharges, or some such nonsense. But whatever the threat, it's curious that men's hair remained unaffected, and that it never prevented women from wearing incredibly short skirts at all times.
Undoubtably the best costumes, though, were the Skydiver kits. Even as a more-than-averagely innocent 10-year-old, I was transfixed by these. Daddy, Daddy, I can see that woman's bosoms, look Daddy, look. He looked. So did I last Monday. Of course we know that it's merely skin-tight skin-coloured lycra, or some futuristic 1970 equivalent, but as the nearest we got to sexual debauchment on TV in those days was MAGPIE'S Susan Stranks, this was no small beer. No sub-marine movie ever seemed the same again.
The real surprise in 1996 is how much they all smoke. Have a cigarette, Alec. No thanks, I've still got two on the go. Even on Moonbase, Paul Foster cheerfully lights up -- and that's with sideburns so bushy that any health and safety officer would unstintingly pronounce them a fire risk.
And yet we keep watching, and taping, and watching. A while ago I would have been mystified by this, but recent experience of BABYLON 5 addiction has taught me that when you really love a series you are quite happy to overlook even its most blatent silliness. These old shows creak and groan in the script department, and continuity is shot to hell -- in episode two Paul Foster is introduced to SHADO; in episode three he is already Moonbase Commander. But the UFOs, wheeling inexorably through space, have genuine menace, and the show's strongest storylines have surprising power. The cast, considered rather anonymous at the time, fit into Andersons' vision remarkably comfortably. Watching now, you wonder why Ed Bishop has languished in small roles for so much of his career. He's not the most charismatic leader of a top-secret organisation by any means, but he has unmistakable authority. He's a leader, not a nice guy. This was grown-up stuff for Gerry Anderson, and he never approached this level of subtlety again.
So we ignore the purple hair and the iffy dialogue and the asbestos walls and the hopeless locations (all characters, major or minor, seem to live in the same block of flats outside Borehamwood). Twenty-odd episodes to go. Can't wait.
His column in issue #28 (January 1997) added the following comments:
Watching UFO all these weeks -- and I have to admit that my initial enthusiasm has waned slightly, weighed down by the sheer gargantuan slowness of the plots -- I continue to get a buzz of anticipation every time Barry Gray's magnificently cheesy music kicks in. (Did you see the episode the other week in which someone drove a car that wasn't Ed Straker's brown DeLorean thingy? Does that mean that in futuristic 1980 there were actually two cars?)