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in no SHADO of a doubt, a Universal Fantastic Overseas series
on 11 November 2011
When it comes to 1960's science fiction on television you just can't go past the TV series UFO. This series is my second favourite of all time and even by today's standards it still holds up very well even if you can still notice shades of 1960's style and influence.
UFO's basic premise is that in the near future (filmed in 1969-70) - thus a fictional version of the world starting in 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-equipped international agency known as SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation), established to defend Earth and humanity against the mysterious aliens and learn more about them.
I remember well, back in the early 70's when I use to watch this series-around 1971, how unusual it was for a science fiction show, but being very young I really didn't know the difference. The only thing I liked back then were the girls with purple hair, (very unusual) the SHADO interceptors and mobiles (real cool hardware) hunting down the aliens and destroying their spaceships (a very simple design-but deadly).
Now, after all this time, having the DVD of UFO, I was rediscovering the series all over again-what a pleasure; and I must say UFO has set the standard in my mind for British Sci-Fi, hats off the Gerry Anderson and company for producing an excellent series. My only grip is that the show only lasted one season (I want more).
Initially a second season was planned, but was canned, even though preparations for a second season were on the way, with Ed Bishop returning as Ed Straker, but as history tells-no such luck, but you can see what the second season was going to look like by watching Space: 1999, (the second season of UFO was going to be renamed UFO: 1999), which inherited the UFO pre-production sets, and became a totally different science fiction show within itself.
As an example; Space:1999's Moonbase and the interior of the Moonbase's Command Centre would have been the new Moonbase interior in UFO, and the eagles would have been the new interceptors. I must admit, I like Space: 1999, it was a great show-and still is considering other sci-fi shows of today.
UFO had all the elements in the making that a science fiction show was all about, it even digressed in certain areas, to add variety, which in some instances seemed controversial, the real main strength of UFO of course was the character dynamics and interactions, the actors and actresses were perfectly cast in their roles.
In my mind and it is very easy to see that UFO was filmed in two sections and it shows; in 1969, 17 episodes were made/produced, and in 1970, (There was a five-month production break being caused by the ultimate closure of the MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, where the show was initially made) the remaining 9 episodes were made/produced, without George Sewell & Gabrielle Drake, but the returning character of Col. Lake played by Wanda Ventham was a great addition. In some respects the last 9 episodes had a second season feel to it.
Before I continue lets have a look at the 26 episodes of UFO, but with a slight difference, as I will put them in my order of preference; as basically stated within the DVD notes you can view the episodes in any order, and after watching the series and taking notes-my main focus was on the secondary characters, so here it goes:
Please note: the numbers before the title episode denote the ITV "Recommended Screening Order" on the DVD. I consider ITV did a somewhat sloppy job in not examining the series more closely, to put the episodes in better order, thus-I dare say mine is better. (But you be the judge).
After 10 years of planning, SHADO officially goes into operation and encounters its first UFO. An alien pilot is captured and discovered to have transplanted human organs.
Personal Comment: Col. Lake is reading a newspaper which is dated-you can just read it-24th August 1980, thus SHADO I assume has been operational for a few months before this date, perhaps as early as January-after about 10 years of construction.
When civilian test pilot Paul Foster inadvertently witnesses a SHADO operation, he's given a choice: join SHADO or die.
1) The character Paul Foster played by Michael Billington is introduced in this episode.
2) Besides Ed Bishop, another actor favourite is Vladek Sheybal who plays Dr. Jackson; he has a very strong screen presence.
Foster is stranded on the Moon, where he befriends a similarly stranded alien.
Personal Comment: Paul Foster gives a date of 12/04/81. Thus by this third episode a year or more has past within this series.
After Lunar Module 32 is mysteriously destroyed, Straker campaigns to have space junk removed from Earth's orbit.
14] THE DALOTEK AFFAIR
Communications problems at Moonbase are traced to a non-SHADO mining operation.
5] A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES
Straker faces a terrible decision: attend to an alien defector or deliver life-saving medicine to his critically injured son John.
Personal Comment: This is a powerful episode where Straker has to choose between an alien and the life of his son John. By the end of this series we will see Straker having lost his wife and son in the quest to save Earth from the aliens (A high price in anyone's language). Now all Straker has left is his job-but perhaps one day he can explain to Mary-his ex-wife, why he gave up the only happiness he ever really wanted.
6] THE SQUARE TRIANGLE
SHADO as well as an alien find themselves in the middle of a murderous romantic triangle.
Personal Comment: Secrecy has a price, even more so with SHADO, as the organisation allow a murder to be committed; so as to protect SHADO from exposure. This episode just proves that secret organisations have to turn a blind eye in order to stay undercover.
15] FLIGHT PATH
A blackmailed SHADO operative opens the door for a possible alien attack on Moonbase.
16] COMPUTER AFFAIR
A SHADO investigation reveals that romance may be complicating Moonbase operations.
1) Mark Bradley indicates in a restaurant that the bottle of wine is dated 1984, thus we must assume it is either 1984 or perhaps 1985.
2) This episode marks the last appearance of Skydiver Captain Peter Carlin played by Peter Gordeno.
The aliens abduct Foster.
1) Includes the song "Get Back" by The Beatles at the party in this episode, released in 1969, which is about the same time this episode was filmed originally.
2) This episode also introduces the new Skydiver Captain Lew Waterman played by Gary Myers, who was an Interceptor Pilot in the previous episodes.
A man with ESP knowledge of SHADO is co-opted by the aliens.
9] CLOSE UP
SHADO obtains what may be the first photos of the alien home-world.
10] COURT MARTIAL
Foster is tried and sentenced to death after a security leak is traced to him.
11] CONFETTI CHECK A-OK
A flashback episode focusing on SHADO's formation and Straker's failed marriage.
Personal Comment: With this episode we get to see Straker in the early days before and during SHADO's formation, and how it destroyed his marriage to Mary Nightingale; a sad episode to put it mildly, but a great one nonetheless.
12] KILL STRAKER!
Foster and his lunar module co-pilot are brainwashed by aliens to kill Straker.
Personal Comment: This is the last appearance of Interceptor Leader Mark Bradley played by Harry Baird.
17] THE RESPONSIBILITY SEAT
Straker is attracted to a reporter who poses a possible security leak to SHADO.
1) In this episode we see how Alec Freeman played by George Sewell, handles the hot seat, and thus strengthens his respect and friendship with Straker because of it.
2) This also marks the last appearance of Alec Freeman, Moonbase Commander Gay Ellis played by Gabrielle Drake & SHADO Radio Operator Lt. Keith Ford played by Keith Alexander.
3) This was the last episode to be made in 1969, with the remaining nine episodes being filmed to complete the series in 1970.
4) Gabrielle Drake is the sister of singer Nick Drake.
Straker must face his claustrophobia when Skydiver 1 is damaged and is unable to surface.
Version 1 Order of the next nine episodes:
21] THE MAN WHO CAME BACK
A SHADO pilot believed dead suddenly turns up alive--much to Straker's suspicion.
1) Col. Virginia Lake played by Wanda Ventham returns in this episode; she was first seen in episode 1 `Identified'.
2) Miss Ealand played by Norma Ronald, Straker's secretary takes a two-week break and is replaced in this episode and the next by Miss Holland played by Lois Maxwell.
3) A new SHADO Radio Operator is introduced here, actress Anouska Hempel, taking over from Lt. Keith Ford, but Lt. Ayshea played by Ayshea Brough, who we see in previous episodes, will also share this role.
18] THE CAT WITH TEN LIVES
A SHADO pilot is placed under an hypnotic spell by an alien-influenced Siamese cat.
1) This episode introduces the new Interceptor Leader Steve Phillips played by Steven Berkoff, thus replacing Mark Bradley.
2) Lt. Nina Barry played by Dolores Mantez, becomes the new Moonbase Commander for the rest of the series.
19] THE SOUND OF SILENCE
A showjumper is abducted by the aliens.
The aliens attempt to destroy a naval ship dumping toxic nerve gas into the ocean.
1) Within this episode, Straker gives a time reference of 5-6 years ago, when Moonbase was being built; if Moonbase was completed in early 1980, then this episode maybe dated around 1984. (see below, thus Moonbase was still under construction around 1978-79).
2) Straker is reading a newspaper dated Friday 3rd of February, but the year is hard to make out-even if you freeze frame the scene the year is blurred, but some sources state that the year is 1983-but this is not concrete if you can't see the year clearly.
3) As with the above date (unclear) another date has been made clear (and concrete)-12th of September 1984 was seen on the Admiral's desk on the front of a `Top Secret' folder, pertaining to the secret mission. This of course stuffs up my chronology, but I'm looking for aesthetic listing/viewing of the episodes. (but it does throw a spanner in the works).
4) The episode introduces the new Skydriver 1 Captain, actor David Warbeck.
22] THE PSYCHBOMBS
The aliens transform three humans into walking bombs.
Personal Comment: This episode shows Skydriver 3, which proves that SHADO has more than one Skydiver, thus perhaps a fleet of them.
Time stands still at the film studio for everyone but Straker & Col. Lake and a mysterious enemy.
1) This is one of my personal favourite episodes.
2) Miss Ealand reappears in this episode, replacing Miss Holland, but we assume after a two week holiday she is back at work, and this is the first time we see her again.
24] REFLECTIONS IN THE WATER
Straker and Foster investigate an undersea alien base.
An alien device causes Straker and other SHADO operatives to hallucinate.
1) Ed Straker hallucinates that he is an actor in a television series about UFOs and aliens. He then steps out of the set and onto the real-world sound stage where UFO is filmed, and we can see all the sets that were used to film the series. Also, in Straker's hallucination, all the actors (except Ed Bishop) are called by their real names: Paul Foster is called "Mike" (as in Mike Billington), General Henderson is called "Grant" (as in Grant Taylor), and so on.
2) With actor David Warbeck as the new Skydriver 1 Captain, Lew Waterman makes a 2-3 second appearance as it's Captain, this I believe was a mistake, (using stock footage), as this stuffs up episode/series chronology; because this leads me to create a second version order of nine episodes-see below.
25] THE LONG SLEEP
A woman awakening from a decade-long coma sparks a hunt for an alien bomb.
1) It is often reported that the references to drug use in this episode led to several regional networks dropping it from the original UK run, but this is a fallacy.
2) This is a better episode to finish the series, as we see Straker and Lake walk off into the distance from the hospital at the end sequence, and I believe more fitting, instead of the episode `Timelash' or `Reflections in the Water'.
Version 2 Order of the next nine episodes:
21] THE MAN WHO CAME BACK
18] THE CAT WITH TEN LIVES
19] THE SOUND OF SILENCE
22] THE PSYCHOBOMBS
25] THE LONG SLEEP
24] REFLECTIONS IN THE WATER
As you can see I presented a second version order of the last 9 episodes; but I feel it's really is up to you how you view UFO in the long run, perhaps my listing is slightly better, as it makes sense to me-and hopefully to you too. But no matter how you watch/view the show, I can guarantee you will enjoy one of the best science fiction shows ever made in the 1960s-70s (arguably). After watching the series again I felt that an episode should have been dedicated to the aliens themselves, to at least explain their reasons for coming to Earth (even though we know why), but from their point-of-view. (Production costs may not have allowed this) It would have been a great episode-but one can only dream.
So in closing, the edition of UFO that I have is `Gerry Anderson's UFO, The Complete Shado File', a Collector's Edition, which is an 8 disc set that has been `Digitally Restored' to its former glory. This edition has extras like - Audio & Exclusive Commentaries, Audio Intros, UFO Documentary, Unaired Footage, and the Full-length Feature Version of "Invasion UFO" plus Trailer, and other great extra stuff for you to experience. So I would definitely recommend UFO and Space: 1999 as well for your collection.
Thanks to Wikipedia and the DVD notes of UFO for additional information.