In the 1970’s, Star Trek boldly went into syndication, where a dedicated fan base of ‘Trekkies’ (or ‘Trekkers,’ depending on whom you ask) turned it into a full-blown phenomenon. This surprise success inspired other television producers to develop new science-fiction shows to win over this audience. One of the most notable attempts was Space: 1999, an expensive British program that supplied viewers with a weekly helping of science-fiction television at its most high-tech. Although it wasn’t the smash success its creators had hoped for, it has continued to live on through the years as a cult favorite.
Space: 1999 was the brainchild of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the British producers who created the ‘Supermarionation’ puppeteering process with shows like Thunderbirds and Fireball XL-5 in the 1960’s. Unlike those kiddie-sci-fi favorites, Space: 1999 was a live-action program, a sort of follow-up to the Anderson’s early 70’s alien invasion drama UFO. Space: 1999 told the story of Moonbase Alpha, a lunar space station that was blown into outer space when radioactive wastes stored on the dark side of the moon triggered an explosion. The blast was so great that it knocked the moon out of its orbit, sending it hurtling through outer space with Moonbase Alpha attached.
Not only was Moonbase Alpha unable to return to earth, the explosion had triggered space warps that kept the moon moving through the galaxy. As a result, the crew was forced to deal with the fact their once-stable base had been transformed into an exploratory ship. The crew included the recently appointed Commander John Koenig, who had been sent there to investigate radiation-triggered deaths. There was also Dr. Helena Russell, the ship’s medical officer, and Professor Victor Bergman, the man who founded the Moonbase. In the second season, two new characters were added: wisecracking First Officer Tony Verdeschi and Maya, an alien who could transform into any other creature by ‘rearranging molecules.’
Each week, this crew dealt with exciting new situations as they explored new planets and met other cultures. In true sci-fi tradition, these aliens were often hostile specimens, including a giant octopus, a large blob of ‘living foam,’ and a cyborg named Gwent. In a very 1970’s twist, they also had to deal with sexy robots from a ‘paradise world’ named Piri. To face this onslaught, the crew used a dazzling array of high-tech hardware that included ‘Commlock Locator Beams’ and ‘Queller Drive’ engines. These futuristic marvels were brought to life with state-of-the-art special effects that lifted the cost of each episode into the stratosphere, making Space: 1999 the most expensive television series of its time.
Space: 1999 ended in 1978 after 48 episodes. Like many sci-fi shows of the time, the hour-long TV adventures were often re-edited into two-hour television films. These reconstituted films often included extra scenes and had titles like Alien Attack or Journey Into The Black Sun. No attempts have been made to revive Space: 1999 to date, but the show remains popular through syndication and videotape and DVD reissues. There are also several international fan sites dedicated to the show, proving that the interstellar journeys of Space: 1999 can still fire the imaginations of sci-fi fanatics all over the world.
UK / ITV – ITC – RAI – GA / 48×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 4 September 1975 – 1 May 1978
Creators: Gerry & Sylvia Anderson / Producers: Sylvia Anderson (Season 1), Fred Freiberger (Season 2) / Special Effects: Brian Johnson / Costume: Rudi Gernreich / Music: Barry Gray (Season 1), Derek Wadsworth (Season 2)
Martin Landau as Commander John Koenig
Barbara Bain as Dr. Helena Russell
Barry Morse as Professor Victor Bergman (1975)
Catherine Schell as Maya (1976-77)
Nick Tate as Captain Alan Carter
Zienia Merton as Sandra Benes
Tony Anholt as Tony Verdeschi (1976-77)
Prentis Hancock as Paul Morrow (1975)
Clifton Jones as David Kano (1975)
Anton Phillips as Dr. Bob Mathias (1975-76)
Sarah Bullen as Operative Kate
John Hug as Bill Fraser (1976)
Barbara Kelly as Moonbase Alpha Computer (1975-76)
Jeffery Kissoon as Dr Ben Vincent (1976)
Yasuko Nagazami as Yasko (1976)
Suzanne Roquette as Tanya Alexandria (1975)