Why Space: 1999 is Awesome
Just imagine Star Trek on uppers.
Another week, another mind bender for all you guys and gals out there existing on this planet. In my never ending pursuit to bring you some certified grooves, I come bringing this week’s starship awesomeness – Space: 1999. Now, this British-made TV show hails directly from the ’70s, thus it comes with a disclaimer – either you love it, or you don’t.
Sort of like Dr. Who, for example. You know, about the guy with the little police box that is actually an enormous, ancient starship take any shape possible in the known universe, but is just stuck as a police box? That one.
Now, even though Space: 1999 is not to be loved by everybody, it is a fantastic show to be inspired by. Just imagine Star Trek on uppers. Made by Sylvia and Gerry Anderson, the show was the most expensive TV series produced by the Brits up to that time.
Why I Stopped Worrying and Love Space: 1999
Our story begins in the orbit around planet Earth, actually on the Moon, more precisely in Moonbase Alpha, a science facility made to study Moon stuff. Given that the humans, being their usual selves, dropped an enormous amount of nuclear waste on the dark side of the moon, it just so happens that a strange electromagnetic signal is detected exactly from there very shortly before a huge thermonuclear explosion propels the moon outside Earth’s orbit and into deep space. Yes, they went there.
Now, I know that you might ask yourself “wat”, but bear with me, it gets even better.
The Andersons were coming from a long line of sci-fi series productions, and this was to be one of the jewels in their careers. After the cancellation of their previous TV show named UFO, a lot of the pre-production materials were up for grabs in the development of Space: 1999. Taking a large chunk of the feel popularized by Stanley Kubrick in 2001: Space Odyssey, the British TV show created a world that had one of the coolest looks ever seen on TV. I mean, there is an entire website dedicated to the design of the show.
That also speaks of the fan base of the show. There is actually a guy who custom made a 52.25 inch Eagle Transporter, the most famous Alphan vehicle. Talk about dedication! That also brings me back to the story of the design of the series – the Eagles represent the primary spacecraft of the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, who use it to explore alien planets, kick alien ass and take stuff from one place to another. The ship quickly became an icon of ‘70s spaceship design, and of course, sold a bunch of merch.
Let me tell you, if they still made merchandise this good these days, I’d be buying it.
The entirety of all space scenes in the series was shot in studios much resembling those we remember from Star Wars, but what is interesting is that these miniatures, which are done masterfully, actually look like miniatures. Such aspects of the series might throw off the average viewer, but if you take a look at the effort put into the smallest details and the effect it gives, you are instantaneously taken.
Another tiny piece of trivia that might be interesting to you guys is the look of the dropped UFO interceptor prototype that was supposed to be a part of the story of the series. Remind you of something?
The Space: 1999 Story
Given that all this happened, you guessed it, in 1999, the show opens with our two stars – the young and handsome commander Koenig, played by Martin Landau and the discreetly attractive doctor Russell, played by Landau’s real-life wife (that rhymes) Barbara Bain. Their mission – figuring out what the hell happened, saving lives of 311 personnel on board Moonbase Alpha and also, is that a black hole?
Joking aside, the series actually takes a path of serious metaphysical speculation. The storylines of all episodes in the first series deal with, in one or the other, mystical futurism, which was all the rage back then. Grappling with big ideas, the writers took out the pseudo-science out and just played with the concepts that often echoed with interesting philosophical tenets. One example of this can be the answer to the question – if the Moon is travelling through space, wouldn’t it hit something on the way? The answer is a mix of quantum physics, metaphysics and a dash of Schrodinger’s paradox just to mess with you a bit more. Hell, they even throw in a God-entity just for kicks.
On the other hand, what the series more than makes up in really awesome writing (at least in season one) and beautiful concepts and scenery, it loses on the side of the acting. Damn, that is some crappy acting. Barbara Bain attempting to make absolutely no motion in her face, in which she succeeds most of the time, the crew who pretty much look as if they were dragged in on the set from the street and Landau who looks always like he owns the set. At least we get to see the likes of young Christopher Lee appear in ridiculous costumes.
If you have spare time this weekend, and enjoy watching trashy old-school cinema, will this be a treat for you. If not for anything, then for the really great, although really weird space vibe.
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