This is a transcript of a review of the "UFO" TV series by F.C Kennedy, which appeared in the Australian "TV Times" on 31 July 1971.

Looking in with the Viewer



Uniform Futuristic Observation

If, after almost 15 years of viewing, you still believe that TV makers, as a class, are more creative than sausage-knotters or grapefruit graders, a close look at the science-fiction series, UFO, should cure you of this delusion.

Because science-fiction is not tied to reality, it offers TV producers, writers and set decorators a unique opportunity to give vent to the creative imagination which (if you believe what they tell reporters) drives them to desert the plough or the haberdashery counter and throw in their lot with show business.

The fact is, however, that TV makers expend no more creative imagination on science-fiction than they do on westerns, cop-operas or war films -- which argues that, maybe, they have no imagination to expend.

The makers of UFO are no exception.

True, the series is based on the most hackneyed of all science-fiction plots -- the imminent invasion of the earth by beings from outer space and the efforts of a group of scientists to counter it.  But because it is set in the 1980s it offers excellent opportunities for intelligent speculation on how people might look, talk, think and behave a decade from now.

If the idea that the changes in human behaviour could be as marked in the next 10 years as they were in the last ever crossed the minds of the producers of UFO, it does not show in the series.

Despite the chirping computers and electronic gimmickry which surrounds them, the heroes and heroines of UFO behave pretty much like those of past decades.

As commander of SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation) Ed Bishop barks his orders and emotes like John Wayne directing a World War II air-strike and his subordinates have a tendency to keep their heels together like nashos conscripted before military discipline was debunked by pacifists.

Off duty, almost everyone knocks back copious draughts of scotch -- which indicates that the writers of UFO do not believe that in the foreseeable future, science will produce a more benign tranquiliser than alcohol.  Or that psychiatrists will lick the problem of convincing supermen that stunning themselves, chemically, when the world is in danger, is an undesirable habit.

It is also worth noting that not a word, or phrase or technical expression uttered in UFO which might indicate that the English language has changed in 10 years.  After all, the 1960s gave us "countdown", "all systems go", and countless other useful, and useless phrases.  Yet the scriptwriters -- as they could so easily have done -- did not toss in a snippet or two of 1980 jargon.

But it is the ladies who, under the leadership of Gabrielle Drake, operated Moonbase and keep watch for marauding spaceships, that furnish the most telling proof of the producer's willingness to stick with what he knows rather than peer into the future.

These lovelies are dressed like nightclub hostesses rather than scientist-soldiers on active service.  Their slinky tights, mini-skirts and deep cleavage all prove that whoever was responsible -- if he ever gave it a thought -- did not foresee the possibility of a change in the status of women which, in the next 10 years, could shift the emphasis from busts to brains.

Nor, apparently, did it strike him that when women have an assured place as working members of the economy, the sex game may not be played under catch-as-catch-can rules and a display of secondary sexual characteristics in the market place will not be necessary.

Even granting that sex will still be big in the 1980s, the focal point of the female anatomy changes constantly.  In the 1880s a swanlike neck turned the young bloods on.  A little later it was a well-turned ankle.  In the Roaring Twenties, the knees had it and busts did not become important until well into the 1940s -- so it is quite possible that the ear or the nose could be the whoo-hoo target in the 1980s.

This being so, an imaginative producer could have infused some desirable kinkiness into UFO by equipping the ladies of Moonbase with diaphanous ear-or-nose veils and teaching them to use them coquettishly.

Failing this, an astute producer by merely following the present trend towards a sex-turnabout to its logical conclusion could easily have earned himself the reputation of being a genius (like Orson Welles) and perhaps TV's first philosopher.

This he could have done by decreeing that the ladies of Moonbase should be crew-cut, hearty, dressed in functional clothing and, for the duration of their tour of duty on the moon, deprived of their false eyelashes.

Still, knowing TV producers think of science-fiction as interplanetary cops and robbers or rocket-propelled cowboys and Indians, science-fiction buffs should be thankful for small mercies.

In UFO, the weekly shoot-out (with disintegrator guns) has been dispensed with and so far the rocket-borne cavalry has not arrived in the nick of time.  Otherwise the mixture is as before.