Back in the late sixties Gerry Anderson was king of the TV puppet show genre and despite his shows being amongst the most sophisticated on the box and made for a general audience, he was disappointed. As good as shows like Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet were they were classed as children’s television, his solution was to appy the same technical skill and top special effects to a live action series – UFO was born.
Ed Bishop, an American based in England, starred as Ed Straker, who uses the cover of a film studio, Harlington-Straker, to run an organisation called SHADO (supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation). An outfit who, like Torchwood today, are responsible for keeping the Earth safe from Alien attack. For what most humans don’t realise is that we are being targeted by an alien race who have an urgent need for human internal organs – nice!
Set in the nearish 1980s future this is a fantastic series full of outrageous and sexy costume design and some top notch special effects, Anderson able to utilise many of the props and vehicles from his earlier “supermarionation” shows.
The show itself falls into two quite distinct parts, the first upto the closing of the Boreham Wood studios belonging to MGM which meant a major halt in the production whilst a new location was found. When Pinewood became available a couple of things had changed, George Sewell who had one of the lead roles as Colonel Alec Freeman was no longer available, his place was taken by Wanda Ventham who had featured only briefly at the start of the series.
When a planned second season of UFO fell through Anderson ended up using many of the ideas and themes for his later series Space:1999 but UFO is a wonderfully camp and retro vision of the future that is must see television.
UK / ITV – ATV – Century 21 / 26×60 minute episodes / Broadcast 16 September 70- 24 July 1971(with two final episodes being broadcast 8-15 March 1973)
Creators: Gerry & Sylvia Anderson / Music: Barry Gray / Script Editor: Tony Barwick / Special Effects: Derek Meddings / Producer: Reg Hill / Executive Producer: Gerry Anderson
ED BISHOP as Cmdr Ed Straker
GEORGE SEWELL as Col Alec Freeman
GABRIELLE DRAKE as Lt Gay Ellis
WANDA VENTHAM as Col Virginia Lake
PETER GORDENO as Capt Peter Karlin
MICHAEL BILLINGTON as Col Paul Foster
GRANT TAYLOR as General Henderson