A look at UFO, Gerry Anderson's first live-action TV show in 1970

Originally published at: A look at UFO, Gerry Anderson's first live-action TV show in 1970 | Boing Boing


And it had music from Barry Gray. Yeah baby, yeah!


XCom, the series. Was it fun, or insufferable?

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Men and women in fishnet uniforms. Men with their man nipples- it’s the future!

Source: Image from UFO TV show, c1970-1973; Image found on The Living Moon
Image caption: In the future all submarine walls are padded, and there are corded phones everywhere. There is no waste of space either as objects have more than one purpose. Pictured, the captain uses a periscope that is also an all-in-one gym.

There was some attempt at gender parity, and the show had a wonderful and unique style. That said, men were those thad did daring and deadly things, while the women did data entry, communication or something. The world was small, and all the Supermarionation scenes, awesome costuming and futuristic style, could not save fairly sedate storylines and dialogue delivered as dry as a marionettes tongue. I don’t recall ever seeing the “aliens” or even getting what they really wanted, beyond abducting people and scaring humans.

I recommend watching the show with friends and some drink. There is so much acrylic and vacuum formed plastic, it shouts it’s the future! The humans are 90210 beautiful and dressed so …it’s the future! The hero of the show are not the model vehicles moving across backdrops, but it’s retro anachrofuturistic styling.

Watch it alone for the uniforms. Did I mention that all underwater uniforms use netting, because they are undersea and we must not fear the nipple.


This was my first intro to “space porn”, it’s all down hill from there…

P.S. My dearest apologies for honesty…


That’s Nick Drake’s sister Gabrielle with the purple hair.


It was also an influence on Neon Genesis Evangelion! Character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto has said that Ed Straker and Alec Freeman were inspiration for Gendo and Fuyutsuki, they have a similar general structure of an organization repelling attacks from an outside force each episode, and well… just compare the openings.


Journey to the Far Side of the Sun

Couldn’t they just wait 182.5 days?


I found it. very hard to. listen to the narration. I think it. would be just as well to. have a machine. do the voicing.

I liked the show when it was on, and was interested in this…maybe muting w captions will work?

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Several aliens show up in the course of the series. Most of them are seen in very groovy red space suits with disco belts. Their helmets are full of green liquid, and their skin is colored green because of that liquid. This is conjectured to be needed so they can survive the high speeds needed to get to earth from their mysterious home planet. That planet is either light years away, or Mars, as indicated by the closing credit sequence. Aliens can breathe oxygen, and are seen to do so in at least two episodes.

The aliens are known to kidnap humans and use them as organ farms. One captured alien is found to have an organ taken from a character’s sister who was abducted several years before the series begins (which is the distant future of 1980!).

The aliens seem to be incapable of speaking, so interrogating them goes nowhere. In one episode, a man with telepathy is “possessed” by an alien and says that the aliens come from a dying world and need to come to earth to survive, and mean no harm.

This is belied by their constant abductions and attacks on the earth, its defense systems, and the crew of SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization) like Commander Ed Straker and Moonbase Commander Gaye Ellis. Ed Straker is played by Ed Bishop - the voice of many previous Anderson characters. Lieutenant Ellis is played by Nick Drake’s sister Gabrielle Drake.

This show was super important to me when I was 8 or 9, so I have a soft spot for it and watch it every few years. It’s kind of terrible, yet also is capable of creating some real tension and spooky vibes at times. It tried (and usually failed) to be non-sexist, in that 1969-style sexist way.

Currently I could only find it on the Roku Channel, which means some very intrusive commercial breaks at weird moments, but if you like the British sci fi aesthetic, you can find much worse examples.


Thank you for filling the things I missed or got wrong.

I may cue it up again, but there is so much to catch up on.

Edit to add: I get the soft spot, for me it’s 1970s-80s Dr. Who, and old sci-fi radio dramas from Britain and the U.S. The Golden Age of SciFi starts well before 12.


Here’s some more fun trivia - Michael Billington, who played Paul Foster (the closest that this weirdly inactive action show got to a Kirk analogue), was in the running in the mid 70s to be the third Broccoli James Bond. For better or worse that was of course Roger Moore.


I think this is all I’ve ever seen of the series.


UFO is the one with Sherlock Holmes’s mum in a recurring role.

Of the Anderson & Anderson series I’ve seen, the one that still stands up the best for me is Stingray. (I’ve never seen The Secret Service .) The most morally questionable one was clearly Joe90. WTF were they thinking with that one?


I loved this show as a kid. I had plastic kit of the interceptor (as I recall, it had a spring mechanism to fire its single missile), and I read the book many times: http://ufoseries.com/books/novelUK2.jpg. Ed Straker’s car was very cool and unlike anything I ever saw growing up in England, but eventually real cars caught up. And when blue and purple hair became a mainstream fashion a few decades later, it immediately seemed right to me….


Glad to share my otherwise useless UFO knowledge! One thing is for sure - the world building was really excellent, and the fact that there was no story arc as we know it today (nobody even knows what the correct running order is) doesn’t preclude there from being interesting tidbits that tie together and present what is still to me a compelling story told rather dully.

And the Golden age of Science fiction for me was four or five - I was able to see a few episodes of Star Trek when it was originally on. Definitely Naked Time, Tholian Web, and Gamesters of Triskelion, probably a couple of others. Despite having no real idea what was going on, I was immediately hooked and continue to love it to this day.


This remains my favorite Anderson show, though I grew up on Fireball XL-5 and have enjoyed “Doppelganger” (or “Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun”). The purple hair and silver lame’ on the women was extremely influential on me.

I have the whole single-season series on DVD.

I was never a Space: 1999 fan at all, and I missed Thunderbirds altogether – though it had the best hardware.


Another piece of trivia - Space:1999 grew out of the ashes of a canceled UFO season 2. They had started construction of new moonbase sets, and rather than write off the construction costs, they came up with a new show!


Why is this this video narrated by a voice robot?

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Can you elaborate? I just read the wiki about that one and it does sound like it could be…offbeat, but I’ve never seen it.