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Cult TV Essentials: UFO

UFO is a 1970 British television science fiction series about an alien invasion of Earth. It was created by Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson and Reg Hill. It was produced by the Andersons and Lew Grade’s Century 21 Productions for Grade’s ITC Entertainment Company. In all, 26 episodes, including the pilot, were filmed over the course of more than a year, with a five-month production break caused by the closure of the MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, where the show was initially made.

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UFO was the Andersons’ first totally live-action TV series. Despite the assumption of many TV station executives, the series was not aimed at children but was intended for an older audience; many episodes featured adult themes such as adultery, divorce, and drug use. Most of the cast were newcomers to Century 21 although star Ed Bishop had previously worked with the Andersons as a voice actor on Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons.

PLOT

In the near future – a fictional version of 1980 (a date indicated in the opening credits) – Earth is being visited and attacked by aliens from a dying planet and humans are being covertly harvested for their organs by the aliens. The show’s main cast of characters are members of a secret, high-technology international agency called SHADO (an acronym for Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) established to defend Earth and humanity against the mysterious aliens and learn more about them, while at the same time keeping the threat of an alien invasion hidden from the public.

The alien race is never actually named, either by themselves or by human beings; they are simply referred to as “the aliens”. They are humanoid in appearance, and the autopsy of the first alien captured reveals that they are harvesting organs from the bodies of abducted humans. Their faces are stained green by the hue of a green oxygenated liquid, which is believed to cushion their lungs against the extreme acceleration of interstellar flight; this liquid is contained in their helmets. To protect their eyes the aliens wear opaque sclera contact lenses with small pinholes for vision. The show’s opening sequence begins by showing the image of one of these contact lenses being removed from an obviously real eye with a small suction cup, even though the lens is not shown in contact with the eye. (The entire lens-removal sequence is shown in the pilot episode.)

At no point in the series are more than two of the aliens seen on screen at any one time. Only two copies of the alien suit were constructed for the series. In the episode “Ordeal,” Paul Foster is carried by two aliens while he is wearing an alien space suit, but one of those two aliens is always off-screen when Foster is on-screen.

The alien spacesuit costumes were made of red spandex.  At the start of production the alien spacesuits were ornamented with brass chain mesh, as seen in the episode “Survival”. Later this was replaced by silvery panels as in the image. In reality, the dark vertical bands on the sides of the helmets were slits meant to allow the actors to breathe.

EPISODE LIST

  1. Identified
  2. Computer Affair
  3. Flight Path
  4. Survived
  5. Exposed
  6. Conflict
  7. The Dalotek Affair
  8. A Question of Priorities
  9. Ordeal
  10. The Responsibility Seat
  11. The Square Triangle
  12. Court Martial
  13. Close Up
  14. Confetti Check A-OK
  15. E.S.P.
  16. Kill Straker
  17. Sub-Smash
  18. The Sound of Silence
  19. The Cat with Ten Lives
  20. Destruction
  21. The Man Who Came Back
  22. The Psychobombs
  23. Reflections In The Water
  24. Timelash
  25. Mindbender
  26. The Long Sleep

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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.

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