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Space: 1999 (1975-77)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Space: 1999 (1975-77)
2 series of 48 episodes total (colour)
Created byGerry Anderson
 Sylvia Anderson
ProducersSylvia Anderson
 Fred Freiberger

Martin Landau (Commander John Koenig); Barbara Bain (Dr Helena Russell); Alan Carter (Nick Tate); Barry Morse (Professor Victor Bergman); Catherine Schell (Maya); Tony Anholt (Tony Verdeschi)

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When the Moon is accidentally blow out of orbit, its human occupants are hurled into deep space, where they encounter strange alien races while searching for a new home.

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At the time of its production, Space: 1999 (ITV, 1975-77 - 48 episodes) was the most expensive British TV series ever made. But the show's development was far from straightforward.

Space: 1999 was originally conceived by producer Gerry Anderson as a direct follow-on from his previous series, UFO (ITV, 1971-72). But a last minute decision to drop the programme by his US distributor left the production hanging in the balance. US audience figures for UFO had slumped and it was felt that the series, about Earth defending itself from aliens harvesting human organs for transplant, had run its course. But with pre-production work on a second run of UFO already well underway, it was agreed that a compromise should be reached - US investment was agreed on one condition: all the action had to be set on the Moon.

The solution devised by Gerry Anderson was a scenario in which the Moon and its human inhabitants are blasted into space with a massive nuclear explosion. Instead of the aliens coming to Earth, as in UFO, now the humans would travel to the aliens, trapped on a barren and inhospitable ball of rock.

The stars of the show were American actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, a husband and wife team that had previously starred in the hit US spy drama Mission: Impossible (US, 1966-73). The casting choice was dictated by the need to sell the show to American broadcasters - there was little hope of bankrolling the production without US sales.

The first season has a cool, sedate atmosphere. The show seems strangely calm, even during the fast-paced sequences in the action-oriented episode 'War Games' (directed by former Ealing stalwart Charles Crichton), which sees the Moon's inhabitants attacked by a race of aliens that judge humanity to be "a contaminating organism, a fatal virus, a plague of fear".

Season two dramatically changed tack under instruction from its US distributor - the order was to dump the first season's philosophical treatise on humanity and replace it with action and humour. Fred Freiberger, producer of the much-criticised final season of the original Star Trek (US, 1966-69), was brought in to oversee the changes, but his influence killed off the show's individuality, once again turning a ground-breaking science fiction show into a trite space opera. Gerry Anderson described much of Freiberger's influence as "awful". Space: 1999 failed to break orbit for a third season.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. Attack on Alpha (2:24)
2. How do we stay alive (2:46)
3 We have survived (3:54)
Production stills
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