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Cult TV Essentials – Space:1999

Space: 1999 is a British science-fiction television series that ran for two seasons and originally aired from 1975 to 1977. It was significant at the time as it was the last production by the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and was the most expensive series produced for British television up to that time. The first season was co-produced by the British television ITC and the Italian television RAI, while the second season was produced solely by ITC where noticeable changes were made.

In the opening episode, set on 13 September 1999, nuclear waste stored on the Moon’s far side explodes and knocks the Moon out of orbit and sending it, as well as the 311 inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, hurtling uncontrollably into space. When judging the situation Commander John Koenig (Martin Landau) decides that there is no safe way back to Earth so they must continue on their runaway moon.

From Episode 2 the moon is basically their spacecraft where Commander Koenig, Doctor Helen Russell (Barbara Bain), Alan Carter (Nick Tate), and Professor Victor Bergman (Barry Morse) and teh erst of their crew search for a new home. During their interstellar journey, the Alphans encounter an array of alien civilizations, dystopian societies, and mind-bending phenomena previously unseen by humanity.

Several episodes of the first series hinted that the Moon’s journey was influenced (and perhaps initiated) by a “mysterious unknown force”, which was guiding the Alphans toward an ultimate destiny. The second series used more simplified “action-oriented” plots.

Between the first and second series ITC Entertainment President Sir Lew Grade cancelled the series’ production in late 1975, after the series debuted in the United States to low ratings. Gerry Anderson and Fred Freiberger redesigned the show in a number of ways including the addition of an alien character (Maya the Psychon played by Catherine Schell) to Moonbase Alpha to “shake up the dynamic.” Based on this proposal the series was renewed for another year.

Other changes in Season 2 included the removal of Professor Bergman (Barry Morse) which was initially reported as a salary dispute but later Morse confirmed he wanted to leave and “play with grown-ups for a while.” Also removed were Paul Morrow (Prentis Hancock), David Kano (Clifton Jones) and Tanya Alexander (Suzanne Roquette). Furthermore all the characters were made noticeably more likable to make them appeal more to the audience. An extreme example of this is the relationship between Koenig and Russell who went from a barely noticeable courtship to offering to die for each other in the episode “Brian the Brain”. Dr Bob Mathias (Anton Phillips) manages the first two episodes of Season 2 before he too vanishes whilst new crew members were introduced under the guise that they were always there but we just did not notice them. No real on-screen explanations were offered for the cast changes although some have been explored in spin-off books. The other big change took place in the main titles and theme music which aimed to make the show more commercial and action packed. Landau always blamed the American producers for this.

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Founded Cult Faction in 2014; previously crawled out of the Black Lodge in 1976, only to find himself in the Village.

8 thoughts on “Cult TV Essentials – Space:1999

  1. Space:1999 was produced by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson of Thunderbirds fame.
    The series was given a lavish budget by Lord Lew Grade & it looked it.
    From the movie quality sets for Moon Base Alpha to the awesome looking model work ,the special/visual FX were outstanding & remain so to this very day.
    Unfortunately what was not outstanding was the scripting for the show.It was mediocre at best with a general lack of any scientific credibility at all.
    Issac Asimov wrote an article deploring the fact the the series seemed to have an allergy to employing any scientific accuracy at all.
    He noted that the explosion of the nuclear waste site on the moon could not possibly be substantial enough to budge it let alone hurl it out into space.
    Martin Landau & Barbara Bain were wonderful as secret agents on Mission:Impossible. On Space:1999 they lacked the ability to give us intriguing and compelling characters.
    The supporting cast was woefully underutilized.
    A shame as the money spent on the show was indeed impressive.

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