The Catacombs The Merchandise Guide
Books
Compiled by Martin Willey

"UFO SPACE: 1999" by Chris Drake

UFO Space 1999 by Chris Drake

Published by Boxtree, April 1994 (softcover, 96 pages)
Reviewed by Martin Willey

Just what you always wanted- yet another episode guide!

This was the latest in a number of glossy books published by Boxtree covering classic 1960s and 1970s television programmes. The titles were all impressively illustrated, but the quality of the text has varied. Chris Drake co-authored one of the better ones, "Captain Scarlet", but he failed to put much life into "UFO Space: 1999".

The first section of the book covers UFO, the second Space: 1999. With each, we get a short chapter on the origin of the series, followed by a guide to the machinery and characters. Then we're into an episode guide, and we conclude with a brief chapter on the series production. There's a prologue and epilogue narrating dramatic scenes from the shows: the prologue from UFO's Identified (Carlin's sister is killed), the epilogue from 1999's War Games (Bergman saying goodbye to Alpha). Every page features well reproduced glossy black and white and colour photos from the series.

The UFO section is the better of the two, perhaps because, as Drake admits, it's his favourite series. The pieces on the aliens and UFO characters contain some inventive speculation based on hints in the series. The background information on UFO does contain some interesting production facts, although regurgitated from much more detailed and well researched articles in the Fanderson newsletter and Century 21 magazine.

The Space:1999 section is more disappointing. The few production stories and sketchy technical and character profiles are lifted from Tim Heald's "Making Of Space: 1999" and from Chris Bentley's guide in the magazine "Century 21" (in turn taken from Starlog's "Moonbase Alpha Technical Notebook"). His original contributions amount to locating the Moonbase in the crater Copernicus (there is some evidence of this in Space Warp), and explaining that Sandra changed her name to Sahn when she converted to Buddhism, following Paul Morrow's death.

The episode lists contain numerous minor inaccuracies and lack the depth needed by either the fan (who wants a detailed reference guide) or the casual reader (who wants to get a flavour of stories they may remember dimly or not at all). An idea Drake used in "Captain Scarlet", but sadly not here, was adding production comments and short reviews of each story in the episode guide. In this book there is little evaluation of the series apart from some remarks that the series "perfectly captured the sense of wonder and excitement that will surely be felt by Earth's future pioneers".

The photographic content is the one feature of the book that impresses. Although there are a number of standard publicity shots, some care seems to have been given to selecting different, sometimes unusual, photos. Two photos are truly shocking. One features the bloodied Koenig after Balor's attack, from "End Of Eternity". The other, even more frightful, is a behind the scenes shot of Brian Johnson with some school children watching a special effects scene. It shows an Eagle wearing a cloth, hovering by a "Bringers Of Wonder" waste dome (number 3, my favourite!). It's not the models that are so appalling; it's the group of children with Brian Johnson who stand by them. The shirts, the jackets, the flared trousers, the hairstyles- this is 1970s fashion at its worst. One boy has a white tie that's almost as big as he is.

"UFO Space: 1999" is a disappointment for fans and of little interest to average readers. The text is superficial and rather dull; the photos good but not enough to justify the book on their own.

In 2000, the Thermal Lance website (url now disappeared) presented an expanded article by Chris Drake, with a critical opinion and rating for every Year 1 episode (year 2 is quickly dismissed). "This is how I would have liked the episode guide in the book to have turned out." he states, and if it had, "UFO Space 1999" would have been essential reading.


Copyright Martin Willey