The Catacombs The Production Guide
Set visit


Robin Hill at Pinewood

There were a number of visits to the set by fans during the filming of Space: 1999 (a student film in February 1976 and a school trip in October 1976).

In early October 1976, Nick Tate was invited to attend the Terracon Star Trek convention in Leeds, along with ITC publicist Chris Nixon. At the convention they invited some of the organisers and fans to visit Pinewood Studios where they were still filming Space: 1999. More details of the convention

There were six fans who were invited to Pinewood. Dorothy ("Dot") Owens had run the Terracon convention. Her daughter Cathy Owens (later Cathy Perkins), ran the Empathy Star Trek fan club. Also present was Cathy's boyfriend Jerome Perkins. The other fans were Robin Hill, Carole L Abbs and Pat Jenkins. Abbs founded the Nick Tate club, Jenkins was vice president, and Hill contributed art (often with tribbles). All were active figures in Star Trek and science fiction fan activity.

The set visit was on Wednesday 20 October 1976, the third day of filming The Seance Spectre. They would later visit on Thursday 9 December 1976, during filming of The Dorcons.

Eagles Rule OK?

by Robin Hill

This account, by Robin Hill, was written for the Nick Tate club yearbook "Breakaway" in 1978. This covers the first October trip only, and seems to have been written before the second December trip, which is covered in another article. In 2012 he wrote an article for the Alpha: 2012 convention booklet about the same trip, merging some events with the second trip. Hill died in 2012.

The author of this piece wishes to apologise before hand if any indication of ego tripping is suggested by what follows, because, quite frankly, that's exactly what it is...

Nell Armstrong made it. So did Buzz Aldrin. Jim Lovell very nearly made it and, sadly, the crew of Apollo 504 never will.

On the 20th October, 1976, yours truly joined the hallowed ranks by walking, for a few precious hours on the surface of the Moon ...

So what if it was a soundstage behind Gerry Anderson's offices at Pinewood Studioa, less than an hour's drive from the heart of London? I was there. Moonbase Alpha, with its Command Centre, Travel Tube, Medical Section and (*sigh*) Eagles. I, a few other fans of Space, and Cathy Owens (sorry Cathy), had been invited to visit Space's set and talk with Gerry about plans for getting the media this side of the Atlantic to at least take notice of the series.

The story that follows is true. Only the names, places, dates, events and underwear have been changed to protect the innocent.

Time 7610.20, 0912:30 hours.
Location: Platform One, Doncaster Station.

Train arrives. Creature apparently possessed by half the demons of the nether-kingdom leans from carriage window, screaming "This way to Pinewood Studios". Train zooms past at high subsonic velocity and slithers to a halt several kilometres nearer London than I am at the time. Grapple with two briefcases and giant hardboard box endowed with a life of its own and hurtle in lukewarm pursuit (it is not a very warm day) after said piece of BR machinery.

Carole Abbs and Dot Owens welcome me aboard with open arms, for example, "Hello, Eagle Six, Hello Alan Carter model, Where are those slides you took at the Con?" Great. I have been up since seven o'clock that morning nursing a bent thruster assembly (sarcastic comments from CLA will not be tolerated) and have had both arms stretched beyond tolerable limits by aforementioned box-with-a-life-of-own and briefcases.

Slump into seat as train accelerates for Parts Unknown. Perch Eagle Six on table between us. Spend rest of journey communicating via smoke signals and messenger pigeon. Show slides.

Play "Alpha", a piece of original electronic music. Carole goes all gooey-kneed, because she thinks it sounds beautiful. She spends rest of journey playing "Alpha" and having erotic phantasies (more explicit than mere fantasies) about a certain blonde, hairy-chested individual of colonial extraction.

Show Carole a selection of the slides taken at the Con. Carole makes Ooh, Anh, Squeak noises as first photo of Nick Tate appears. Photo seventeen arrives with Nick and CLA in what may be termed (in polite circles, at least) a "passionate embrace". I prod it towards her, then stand back, removing asbestos gloves and flash visor as she looks at it.

Ooh Aaah Squeek!!

Horrible crunching noises emanate from ITT, my cassette recorder, as CLA rewinds "Alpha" and listens to it while staring at photo. Empathic waves of lust straightening the creases of my suit, I tear the slide from her nerveless fingers and press the next photo into her hands.

And we haven't even been through Sheffield yet!

Ho hum.

Utter calamity occurs. Train is over half an hour late getting into King's Cross. All and sundry mutter all kinds of Dire Oaths to the effect that BR will be unlikely to be an extant organisation if we are delayed much longer. Sudden thought. Maybe we'll be so late they'll have finished filming Space at Pinewood and we'll arrive just in time to see the sets being torn down to make way for another 'Carry On' film.

Exit from station, after having met up with Cathy, Jerome and Pat. Interesting for Relativity nuts. I observe that Eagle Six appears to absorb the potential energy I put into it picking it up and converts it directly to mass, thus increasing the payload every passing second. Decide to weigh Eagle Six when I got back home, if it doesn't pull my out at the shoulder first.

Another calamity. Can't find the required studio car. Wander about the environs of King's Cross with visions of us becoming twentieth century Ancient Mariners, until Jerome reminds us we are going to a Rank studio not a 20th Century Fox studio. Resist temptation to wrap Eagle Six round Jerome's head and press on.

Notice Big Black Limousine on other side of the road. Number plate is something something something 999. Is this an omen, I ask myself?

As it happens, it is. Studio car, size of the Bismark, apparently suffering similar sort of engine-room troubles. (We spend a good quarter of an hour shuffling backwards and forwards in the parking space, stalling at every change of direction. Only hope Alan Carter has better luck with his Eagles...)

Success! Car negotiates London Streets with the ease of Thunderbird Two with half its lift motors out landing on Tracy island. Jerome and I spend journey discussing relative gore values of Rollerball and Dr Who. Carole sits in back whispering.

Pinewood Studios!

Big impressive place, like Brian Johnson's back garden must look, with studio blocks, pipework and tankage lying about in sparsely organised chaos. Car deposits six fans and Eagle Six outside the studio block inhabited by Gerry Anderson Productions. Group thanks driver, who beats a hasty retreat as we all troop into the foyer. Carole and Cathy go to find the loos. Dot hunts out representative of the Studio. Jerome and I make oooh, aah, squeak noises at the fantastic collection of still photos in the foyer. Eagle Six sits in corner and makes growling noises to itself.

Rustle of movement. Group of busy people wander past us and out to a big Rolls-Royce. Smile courteously at them as they go past and resume my examination of a group shot of the cast of Space.

Wait a minute. Getting into a big Rolls-Royce? A big Rolls-Royce parked in front of a sign that says "Martin Landau" and "Barbara Bain"?

Ag..ag..ag..ag.. Thet was Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, Brian!

We've made it, folks. Superstars are among us!

Somebody says it's lunch. Nick and Chris are in the commissary. Have we had anything to eat? Would we like lunch? Why is Carole such a funny colour?

All troop across to commissary. Chris welcomes us with open arms. Well, not exactly open arms, but you should have seen the greeting Nick gave to Carole. Eagle Six is clubbed senseless and pushed into a corner as we renew old friendships (that is, we renew old friendships. I'm not exactly sure what Carole and Nick were renewing, but I reckon you could turn it into a great science-fiction story.)

Food. Wine, booze, steak and kidney pie. Nick is in costume. Gives Carole another look at his sexy belt buckle. As before, Carole is not looking at the buckle itself. We apologise for not being able to get Nick any Foster's Lager. He says it doesn't matter and asks if I brought my Eagle. Grin through veil of tears caused by dislocated shoulder and nod to the affirmative.

Nick points out various other stars (small "s" intentional. We came to Pinewood to see the real thing, not a load of Oscar-winning riffraff).

Nick excuses himself, saying he has to be on the set at two o'clock. Says finish our meals and follow across in about half an hour. Carole has a certain indefinable nuance, a glow in her eye, a catch in her throat as he leaves. Rose petals fall, mist swirls pinkly about her in a cascade of emotion.

I think it's called lust.

Then, the fateful moment. Hefting the Eagle between us, Jerome and I stagger after the others as they home unerringly on the Anderson complex. Collapse in an emotion-drained heap in foyer again and examine Eagle Six for in-transit damage. Every thruster intact (and fully functional, sunshine). Proud of you, Eagle Six. Eagle Six purrs. Remove Commlock to scrabble about in bottom of box for Jonathen E's rollerball.

"Oh! It's a giant commlock!"

Vaguely familiar voice sounds behind me. I turn, a shiningly witty remark upon my lips, when I see who spoke.

Ag..ag..ag..ag..it's Barbara Bain!

Resist (admirably, considering the circumstances) the urge to collapse in dead faint at her feet, I smile a devil-may-care smile and point my device unerringly at her (the commlock, I mean, Martin, honest).

Press silver button in side. Commlock goes "bleedeep". Assembled observers appear impressed.

"Oh, that's fantastic! It really is fantastic. Look at this, it's fantastic."

Oh my, my modesty. You're only saying that because it's true.

Foyer breaks up in utter mayhem as more people arrive to look at the commlock. Like a fool, somebody says "Show Barbara your Eagle."

Open Eagle Six with a flourish.

"Oh, isn't that fantastic!"

True, all true. I told you this was going to be an Egoboo trip. Is it my fault I can only report the truth? Ask Jerome...

Jerome?

Dirty rotten lousy traitor. It is true, every word of it.

What? Oh yeah. Well, anyway, Barbara has to rush off to do some looping (no, that's not a method of tying dogs to trees, it's a term to describe dubbing voice-overs onto otherwise scrappy sounding film. Ok? End of technical note) but she promises she'll be back.

Chris leads us through a pair of very big, very thick doors. Utter hush descends. First impression is of a mass of hardboard and two-by-fours wrapped in cables and cluttered with bits of paper and miscellaneous electrical equipment. Follow Chris round a sheet of hardboard and...

Goggle. Moonglbprangle Alpha!

Main Mission, corridor from travel tube, typical intersection, medical centre!

Ag...ag..ag..ag.. we made it! Moonbase Alpha, in the plastic! It's real, it lives. It makes your knees dusty when you kneel down!?

Erm, well. Control, over control. though I must admit it is a little difficult to bear in mind our esteemed First Officer when confronted by a living, breathing Alpha.

Carole points through a door. I glance. Heart palpates, sweat appears on forehead and palms, lung rate plummets to zero, blood pressure falls faster than a flying saucer hit by Sky One.

Is it a coronary, I ask myself?

Negatory, commander. Through yonder door is the cockpit of Eagle Four, and beyond it the passenger module interior.

I hear a voice calling me. "Release interlock. Pad clear. Pod locked. Go on ten second count. Nav green, internal power on, igniters in circuit. Start intercoolers. Throttles to five percent and I think we can go through onto the set now..."

Eh? Chris again. Utter hush cancelled for a moment as the crew set up for another shot. Bells ring, messages go out on a very loud P.A. system. A pair of double doors opens and ...

Main Mission - that is, Command Centre. Zienia and Nick and Tony Anholt and extras and camera (hello camera, hello lights, hello prop cupboard).

Wander onto set. Nick beams in our direction as I try and photograph everything in sight. Unit photographer sidles over to me and asks what film I'm using and can he give me a black and white film more suited to the lights they're using? This is a very friendly set. Tony Anholt and Nick Tate are rehearsing a scene where Nick is having a gravitational pulse (they can't touch you for it) but, fortunately for all concerned, it clears up and Koenig and co. in an Eagle can save the universe from whatever beasty they've got in this episode.

Note for Amateur Dramatics buffs. They are reading from their scripts, which are propped on the equipment consoles in front of them.

Carter is still getting a gravitational pulse. So much so that it is bringing tears to his eyes. Slight blooper moment when he says "I'm still getting this bloody gravitational pulse." while Tony Anholt pulls faces at him. Carole, meanwhile is going an interesting shade of pink. Methinks that's not gravitation Mr Tate. List, maybe, but never gravitation.

Tall, dignified figures appears through one of the doors on the other side of the set. Pat Jenkins begins to utter plaintive mewing sounds as he strides towards us. Martin Landau shakes hands all round and says hello. Short pause while we revive Pat, hog-tie and gag her so they can resume filming in silence.

These shots were for scenes 44 and 48 of The Seance Spectre. Alan, Tony and Sandra monitor Koenig's flight to Tora, not realising that Sanderson has sabotaged the computer. Martin Landau was supposed to be in the Eagle, but he is present on the Command Center set, in costume, because the screen conversation with the Eagle is filmed in real time, on a television camera on the side of the set.

Martin excuses himself and vanishes from the set. Tony, Nick and a handful of extras and technicians come and drool over my models. Everybody tells me that commlock is too bug. Autographs get signed and photos taken. Carole shows off her hairy-chested Alan Carter model and scrapbooks. I retrieve my John Koenig figure from the depths of Eagle Six's box, muttering something about being able to make a more accurate model now when somebody behind me speaks.

"Hey, that's me..."

Oops!

Martin Landau stares closely at John Koenig. I wish these actors would stop sneaking up on me...

More photos. More autographs. Nick Tate and Martin Landau seem to be autographing everything in sight. Martin produces a load of signed photos for us. Everybody is being so kind it's unbelievable.

Robin Hill at Pinewood

Nick Tate, Robin Hill, Tony Anholt and Martin Landau admire Robin's 44 inch replica "Eagle 6" at Pinewood Studios, October 20, 1976. Robin is holding the Alan Carter doll with the hairy chest.

Prop man shows us a stack of props, passing a few favourable comments about my commlock, despite the fact that he says it's too bug. Yes, yes, yes. I admit it. It is too big. Won't happen next time. Sorry. Beat my head against Eagle set in retribution. Prop man borrows my commlock to show Zienia. Tells her it's a special one-off for her.

Nick and Tony are called back onto the set. We watch them film a very complicated (camera-angle wise) sequence. A piece of Space has been made before our very eyes!

Chris treats us to a cup of tea each (no expense spared on this trip!). Nick says he loves my quaint accent. Eh up load. Less uh thi remarks about thuh way ah speaks orral set Carole onto yer.

"Yes, please" shouts Carole. Jerome and I bludgeon her into silence.

Martin and Pat have vanished from the set. Chris and I debate whether or not to despatch tracker dogs when they appear talking like there was no tomorrow.

Chris utters a magic word. Bray. We are about to be taken to Bray Studios, home of Brian Johnson, Eagles and the biggest collection of Airfix girder bridge kits this side of Douglas Trumbull.

Stagger from the set in a state of euphoric stupor, almost felling Barbara Bain in the rush. More autographs and promises to meet us again at the showing of the episode that evening. Sigh. Bid fond farewell to Space set.

Bray Studios.

Tatty, ramshackle place, looking like a ghost town that never quite made it. Bits of exterior lying about in sad heaps behind massive, square Zeppelin sheds. Pass a couple of these sheds. Both have "Superman" painted across them - one a model stage, the other an opticals stage. Interesting, captain.

Cars shudder to a halt before a large portakabin. First model we see is a 1/6th replica of... is it an Eagle? Is it Thunderbirds Three? Is it Skydiver? What manner of fantastic, out-of-this-world machinery do we set our amazed gaze upon?

How about a 1940 vintage Submarine Spitfire, complete with Battle of Britain markings?

Wow, dead futuristic, Brian.

Dot vanishes into the portakabin. I follow, somewhat apprehensively. Somebody whispers "It's Brian Johnson, designer, inventor and builder of Eagles. The man who's going to take one look at my puny effort, burst out laughing and take a sledgehammer to it.

"Get the Eagle, Robin."

Brave men run in my family. I am no exception. Bowing to popular demand, I lug Eagle Six from the back of the car, deposit it beside Brian's desk and unfasten the straps. Eagle six emerges from box, blinking in the harsh lights. Go on, Mr Johnson. You can tell me. It's terrible isn't it? I can take it...

"Very interesting."

Eh? What? Well, at least he didn't say "Fantastic".

"Come and see my Eagles. Bring yours with you."

Finders trembling, Eagle Six wearing a morose expression, we exit from the Portakabin and enter the Holy of Holies- the workshop. Model builders cluster round Six and start asking awkward questions - how did you get it so accurate? Is it a kit? Are we missing an Eagle from out stores? Erm, well!

Brian pulls a store room door open. There, in a pool of light, sits a real Eagle. I can smell the lox boiling off from here. Sigh.

Eagles rules, OK!

Beautiful model. I'm beginning to feel very embarrassed- these models are covered in detail. You can't possibly hope to see them properly in a close-up photo, let alone on a television screen. In fact, they're not models at all. They're replicas, living breathing machines. Incredible. Note, mental processes churn. Eagle Six went into concentrated rebuild mode the minute I returned home. She's till nowhere near Brian's standard, but she's a lot closer than she was. Next time I'll know better...

Spend a few minutes ogling the shelves of models. Stills photographer has trailed us from Pinewood. Can he have a photo of us holding the Eagle?

What? Brian's Eagle?

No. Your Eagle.

My...?

Me, and Brian Johnson. Holding my Eagle?

I don't believe it. Even with the photo in front of me I still don't believe it. Eagle Six begins to purr.

Robin Hill in model store room

The model store room at Bray Studios, during a visit by fans on October 20, 1976. Left to right: Brian Johnson, Robin Hill, Pat Jenkins, Jerome Perkins, Cathy Owens, Dot Owens. Brian is holding Robin's Eagle Six, which is purring. A studio Eagle and the Superswift are at their feet. On the left, Alpha's laser gun and the large remote control moonbuggy, plus some buildings from The Exiles. On the shelves behind, the Collision Course shuttle, Ultra Probe, Altares and Psychon ship. On the right, the Eagle viewscreen, the "barrel moon" (on top of the shelves), and the Main Mission tower (on its side on the floor).

We walk through into a section of the set. They're filming starfields. British ingenuity at work- they want a moving starfield so they fasten the field to the wall and move the camera. Spend several minutes studying the pornographic magazine photos decorating the walls of the studio. Hmm. Caustic comments about them being not very good special effects abound. ("About what not being special effects?" wonders Cathy. Jerome promises to explain everything when they get home.)

Brian says it might be a good idea to leave while they film the segment. The floor is wooden boards, and the slightest movement bounces the camera up and down like the Wreck of the Hesperus. Might make an interesting effect...

One thing has been puzzling me. On one of the model shelves is a 1/24th model of a Fokker Dr.I triplane (the Red Baron's, as a matter of fact). Has Special Effects had a budget cut and they're having to economise on rocket fuel, I wonder? Or is it that Alan Carter objected to them not calling the Eagles "Condor" transporters and is being made to fly the triplane as punishment? Perhaps we'll never know. One thing I do know the answer to is why there's a model of the USS Enterprise residing amongst the bits of Alpha Moonbase, but that's another story.

We are shown a hush-hush prototype of something that we've been asked not to talk about, so I won't. Brian also showed us the model of the starship they built for the NASA-sponsored film about Einstein's Theory of Relativity, starring Nick Tate and Brian Blessed. Let's hope they do a better job than I did on Pebble Mill...

We don't know what the hush hush prototype was, but a possibility is StarCruiser. The Tate/Blessed film was The Day After Tomorrow- Into Infinity

More autographs. Brian asks how he should dedicate the autograph to me. I say "Oh, nothing special. How about something like 'To the best Eagle Model Builder in the world' Get book back only to find he has. Erm, well, yes...

Jerome gets Brian to autograph the upside-down Eagle in Space Annual Two. Actually, it's the same photo from the first annual, but to make it look different they've just printed it upside-down. Brian puts something like "Eagles always die with their feet up" - he also signs another photo he's modified with a biro; "If you look carefully you can see the wires."

Great time had by all. We even see a couple of skips of moondust outside one studio!

Bid tearful farewell to Bray. Eagle Six returned, whimpering, to its box. Back to Pinewood and Gerry Anderson. We're shown into his sumptuous office. Eagle Six dragged once more from its box. Gerry says some very kind things about it and asks if can borrow it for an exhibition he'll be staging next April. I mutter "Looks like we hit the big time, sweetheart" in my best Humphrey Bogart accent. Six looks as though it could make a Trans-Lunar Coast on its own.

The exhibition was Space City in Blackpool, which opened in 1977.

Next hour is a whirl. We talk about Thunderbirds, Stingray, Four Feather Falls and Space. Gerry is enthusiastic about our ideas for getting British TV to take notice of Space and contributes a few ideas of his own. (Serious note for a minute. The campaign isn't a studio-inspired publicity stunt. Fans started it. That the studio is backing us with its enthusiasm is an added bonus. End serious note.)

Chris round the booze. Gerry asks what time is it? Five past seven. The episode is being shown at seven. Chris tells Gerry surely they'll wait for the Executive Producer. Gerry tells him not to count on it. Gerry drives me over to the projection theatre in his Rolls-Royce. I ask him if they save the bloopers. No, they don't. Pity.

See the episode. Barbara, Martin, Nick, Tony, Zienia wander down after it's finished to talk about the first season and the new series. Great bunch of people. Reminds me very much of the descriptions of the family atmosphere on the Star Trek set. Maybe Happiness really is Alpha shared...

Gerry drives me back his office. Nick, Chris and the others troop in to hear Gerry say from now on they save the bloopers. There is going to be a Space blooper reel, and from the description of some of the gaffes that happened over the previous few days it's going to be a lulu.

Suddenly it's nine o'clock, and we have trains to catch. Limousine is waiting to transport us back to King's Cross. I don't know how she managed it, but there isn't enough room in one car for Carole, so Nick volunteers to drive her in his sports car. Carole spends 45 minutes, alone, with Nick Tate in his car on the journey to the station. I am laying in a stock of sodium pentathol to extract the true story of the journey to use as a basis for the Space novel I'm going to write.

Tearful farewells at the station. Visions of Carole dragging Nick halfway to Yorkshire as the train pulls out in mid-clinch. We find a couple of seats. Carole switches on ITT and listens to Alpha again. I tell you, the day they discover how to tap into the power generated by erotic fantasies, Carole Abbs is going to solve Britain's energy crisis in one go.

Didn't mean it, Carole, honest. What're you doing with that tape recorder? Ow! This is RH signing off from Ouch! Pinewood Studios...

Written by Robin Hill