The Catacombs The Production Guide
The Movies
by Martin Willey

Destination Moonbase Alpha poster

There are two ways that television shows can be transformed into films for theatrical release (to be distinguished from television shows that are "inspired" by films, such as Planet Of The Apes and Starman). The slow and expensive way is to earn enough popularity on television, then make a motion picture for the cinema: some have had critical and box office success (the Quatermass films, The Untouchables, the later Star Trek films), others have been bombs (the first Star Trek film, The Twilight Zone).

The quick and cheap method is to take a number of episodes from the original television series, edit them together, and announce them as a film. Generally the home market will see the television series, while the film is released to cinemas overseas and sold as a television movie when the shelf life of the original series has expired. This was first done in the 1960s, with movies from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. crossing the Atlantic one way as films from The Saint travelled the other. In 1979 Battlestar Galactica was released as a film in Europe, while America watched the series. In the late 1970s television was expanding rapidly all over the world, with cable and satellite systems soon competing with conventional broadcasting networks. The biggest impact, however, was to be home videos, a ready market to absorb films and television movies.

ITC UK Films

In 1978 ITC decided that Space: 1999 could be launched into cinema and television markets as a film compiled from television episodes. The logical choice of episodes were the two parts of "Bringers Of Wonder", which were to become Destination Moonbase Alpha. Edited by David Withers at ITC in Pinewood, this was released in late 1978. It was sold as a package of ITC films, including Capricorn One and Boys From Brazil. It first appeared on American television in September 1979, and was released onto home video in Britain in September 1980. This film was followed by the ambitious Alien Attack, composed of the episode "Breakaway" and "War Games", and featuring new scenes filmed at Pinewood by director Bill Lenny. This film was released in 1979. Both films were supported by posters, front-of-house photos and trailers, but neither of the films were widely released to cinema. The only territory that seems to have had a cinema release (of Destination Moonbase Alpha) was Denmark, around 1979 or 1980. The primary market for the compilation films was cable, satellite and video channels.

ITC New York Films

SST brochure front cover

Meanwhile, at ITC New York, Robert Mandell was planning to edit together films from other ITC television series, including many Anderson series, so that they could be sold to American cable television as "family programming", suitable for transmission at early times. They called their package of films Super Space Theater. ITC printed new 35mm film prints of all the required episodes, and these were transferred to NTSC videotape for editing. The 35mm prints were cut into individual frames to make publicity photos.

There are 12 compilation movies made for Super Space Theater (plus the first two Space: 1999 movies, making 14 sold under the package name). Only the last is based on a non-Gerry Anderson title (ITC's The Champions). In each, two or more episodes are edited together to make a 95 minute feature, with sometimes very heavy editing changing the story. In Captain Scarlet vs The Mysterons, a "dream" episode of Captain Scarlet has a new ending when the aliens claim it was a warning of human aggression, and rewind time, clearly based on War Games. There are new titles made with computer animation, sometimes with in-jokes (Thunderbirds In Outer Space has animated still photos of an Eagle, Hawk and alien ships from Space 1999 passing camera during the opening). Additional Barry Gray music is added throughout, and in the Stingray films the missiles are replaced with animated "lasers" and additional underwater effects.

The package was promoted with various brochures and A4 fliers under the abbreviation SST and the slogan "Super Heroes. Super Powers. Super Fun!"

ITC New York decided to create two more Space: 1999 movies in addition to the two made in London. These two later films, Cosmic Princess and Journey Through The Black Sun, were released in 1982. They are readily distinguishable from the earlier British edited films by severe cuts, and the inferior picture quality. Editing on NTSC 525 line videotape resulted in washed out colours and indistinct lines, a problem compounded when they were transferred to PAL 625 line video for UK and Europe release.

When these films were made, the episodes which they were edited from were withdrawn from the series package. Television stations could then buy only 40 episodes of Space: 1999, instead of 48. The initial (1992-5) UK video release of the series, for instance, was prevented from including the 8 movie episodes (they were eventually released in 1996). "Bringers Of Wonder" in particular was sold to separate distribution companies (mostly CBS-Fox), and because of this it has never been seen in Japan (the 2001 DVD release was only 46 episodes).

All except the Champions movie were released to VHS (although that was eventually released on DVD). The American comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 picked two of the films to start their first series (Invaders from the Deep and Revenge of the Mysterons from Mars, on 24 November 1988); Cosmic Princess was the 10th film in the first series (on 22 January 1989).

In the 2000s, Carlton made new edits of the compilations, using better quality images from the original episodes. The additional music and animated lasers were toned down or removed at this point. DVD releases since then have used the new versions, rather than the original 1980s.

The Heritage Collection

In 1989, ITC launched a promotional package called The Heritage Collection, which included the Super Space Theater films plus several 1960s and 1970s series.

Further reading:


Destination Moonbase Alpha

Destination Moonbase Alpha

(1978, running time 96 minutes)

Compiled from "The Bringers Of Wonder" parts 1 and 2.

The film poster, painted by British artist Tom Chantrell, features the title as the tops of huge technological skyscrapers. A Hawk, top right, is firing at the title, causing a huge explosion over it. As large are the main characters, featured in portraits from the waist up, standing over the title. Koenig holds his arms round Maya, while behind him Helena fires a laser. Down the left hand side are various small scenes from the film, with the Moonbase bottom left and an Eagle bottom right.

Additions:

A narration and scrolling text opens the film, explaining the year is 2100 and showing Moonbase Alpha, a space station sustained by a support system fed by Earth's nuclear waste. The narration explains how the nuclear plant exploded and blasted them into space; "the date-time is now well into the twenty first century." The introduction is well edited, using footage from "Breakaway" plus odd scenes of the characters in "The Metamorph" and "The Exiles", but the text of the narration is at times nonsensical ("Far out into the galaxy of the universe..." it begins). The new music is also good (by Mike Vickers). The end credits are scrolled over various space scenes, ending with shots of the "space brain". This is accompanied by an awful song (composed by Guido and Maurizio de Angelis, sung by the Angelis brothers performing as "Oliver Onions").

Cuts

The only significant cuts are the introduction to part 2 (Helena's recap of part 1), and the epilogue to part 2 in Command Centre, as Koenig finds all his staff still sleeping.


Alien Attack

Alien Attack card (293k)

(1979, running time 105 minutes)

Compiled from "Breakaway" and "War Games".

The film poster, again by Chantrell, features various scenes and characters arranged round the title. Top are two Eagles firing at the bomber and causing a large explosion. Left is Helena in her "War Games" robe. Koenig and Alan appear bottom right in head and shoulder portraits, wearing space suits. The faces of the male and female alien watch from top right.

Additions:

Again there is a narration which lapses into nonsense as it describes how the Command Centre, Moonbase Alpha, uses a support system fed by nuclear waste from Earth, how a ship stands ready to travel to Meta, and that the year is 2100. The narration is shown over clips from later in the episode. There follows a fast paced title sequence, well edited from the original series titles to "Breakaway" and "War Games" (plus odd clips from "Black Sun" and "Missing Link", and the series end titles), with exciting music (Giant's Causeway by Nick Ingman).

The newly filmed segments feature reactions to the events by Patrick Allen, playing the Chairman, at the International Lunar Commission on Earth. The set is a boardroom, with a few instrument panels (from the UFO series), a model of the Moon, and some unpainted Airfix model spacecraft (two space shuttles, a Saturn V rocket, an Eagle, and a Starcruiser). The film opens with the first segment, showing Allen announcing he has appointed Koenig commander and Simmonds as "Chief Of Liaison". Then we see (in footage of Koenig's crash from later in the episode, reversed back to front) the crash of Warren and Sparkman's training flight. We then begin the episode.

The next interruption is at the end of Act 2 of "Breakaway", after Koenig's crash. The Chairman and his deputy debate the risk to the Meta probe and agree that the Meta probe must be launched, but the decision is up to Koenig.

The third and final segment appears near the end of "Breakaway", just after the Alphans have watched the news cast and just before they pick up the Meta signals. The Chairman announces Simmonds has died, and that they must devote their resources to the catastrophes that have hit the Earth, with melting polar caps, earthquakes and new tides. He believes the Alphans will survive, and they are on "the greatest probe into space that man has ever known." We then rejoin the episode as Alpha hears the Meta signals.

The final credits are shown with disco music (a track called "Disco Dynamite" by Keith Mansfield) over the same space scenes used for the Destination Moonbase Alpha end titles.

Cuts

Cuts are minimal. "Breakaway" opens on the second scene, showing Nuclear Disposal Area 2 (with the caption). The news cast is edited strangely, cutting references to the new chairman of the Commission and inserting reaction shots of Alphans taken from elsewhere in the episode (including one of Koenig and Victor looking dishevelled through the door of the waste depot monitoring station). "War Games" is uncut.


Cosmic Princess

Cosmic Princess

(1982, running time 91 minutes)

Compiled from "The Metamorph" and "Space Warp".

The film poster art does not feature the film title. Maya is featured centrally, her arms held up to display her wings. Behind her are two monsters (the Kreno animal and Maya's Beta Cloud creature). Below her are Koenig (his uniform with a red sleeve) firing a laser, with Helena cowering behind him. In most versions of this picture, the film title is placed in a big black circle which completely hides Koenig and Helena. On the left two astronauts fight, while on the right is an Eagle, seen from head on to show the astronauts in the windows, over Moonbase Alpha.

Additions:

The title sequence begins with footage of the Breakaway used in the television titles of both series, then shows the Moon in the space warp effect. Computer animation (by Dolphin productions) shows more images of the Moon elongated as in the space warp, then shows clouds in space. The animated credits zoom onto the screen, then into the distance with an audible "whoosh"; first series incidental music accompanies the pictures.

Oddly, first series incidental music is inserted at every quiet moment, and even sometimes at the same time as the original soundtrack.

The speech by the grasshopper alien in "Space Warp" is replaced by new dialogue, sounding very strange and warning other space travellers of how his crew were captured by Mentor on the nearby planet Psychon. His name is now "Vader, commander of the Whills interplanetary star fleet" (a Star Wars joke).

The film ends as Koenig's Eagle leaves the refuelling ship. We then see the space scenes from the series end titles, before the film end titles begin. The end titles uses the Year 2 theme music, and the same animated pink captions, zooming into the foreground with a "whoosh".

Cuts

Numerous, both minor and significant. Early scenes featuring Maya are removed, until her appearance before Koenig as a lion. The epilogues of both episodes are lost, with Helena's status report introduction to "Space Warp". This, plus minor trimming of many other scenes, adds up to about 5 1/2 minutes of material cut.


Journey Through The Black Sun

Journey Through the Black Sun

(1982, running time 89 minutes)

Compiled from "Collision Course" and "Black Sun".

The film poster again does not feature the film title. Bottom is a rather stylised Moonbase Alpha; on the lunar horizon is the Black Sun, and above it the ghostly face of Arra. An Eagle flies over the base on the right (in the original art, it is on the left). A grid pattern is superimposed over this, following the perspective to the focus in the black sun, but distorted at the edges of it.

Additions:

The title music consists mostly of electronic bleepings, with odd faint snatches of incidental music from other Anderson series. The crude computer animation shows first a yellow sun approaching, which turns black and eats the title logo. A grid pattern is shown at the bottom of the screen, with wispy clouds beyond, and Atheria moving behind. The animated "black hole" then moves up by the planet, and Moonbase Alpha appears in the foreground, as Helena's status report from "New Adam, New Eve" is heard ("It is as though a strange presence is among us, taking control"). The planet and black hole disappear, replaced by a blue planet top right (from the original shot of the base).

As in "Cosmic Princess", incidental music is added, now often from UFO, Joe 90 and other Anderson series.

Koenig's words concluding "Collision Course" are shown over space scenes taken from the series end credits. Arra's "I go to shape the future of eternity. And I need your help." is repeated. Arra's explanation to Koenig about the destiny of man ("Your odyssey shall know no end...") is moved into "Black Sun", being heard by Koenig and Victor as the Moon emerges from the heart of the Black Sun.

The end credits use the Year 1 theme music (played twice, with a rather awkward junction). The credits are shown (again appearing with a "whoosh") over the main part of the opening titles, showing the grid pattern, wispy red clouds, and Atheria moving up beyond. Again, the black hole approaches and stops near the planet. Barry Morse apparently plays "Dr Victor Bergman".

Cuts

Some severe and inexplicable cutting affects both episodes, particularly the more human scenes that give depth to the characters (Koenig's conversation with Arra is edited and shortened, so that he seems to accept her word more quickly; he appears more dictatorial trying to persuade the command conference about Arra because that scene is also shortened; Victor talking to Kano in the computer room is gone, as are Mathias and Kano playing chess, and Paul playing the guitar). "Collision Course" loses about 6 minutes, while "Black Sun" misses nearly 7 minutes.


Copyright Martin Willey