Destination Moonbase Alpha
Pinewood Studios, UK
4 September, 2005
Space: 1999 was first broadcast in 1975; to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2005, Tim Mallett and Fanderson created an extra special convention: in the studios where the series was made. Unlike Universal Studios, Pinewood is not open to the public (and certainly no theme park rides!). This convention was a unique opportunity to see inside a real film studio.
It was also an opportunity to see three new 35mm prints of the episodes. These were shown in Theatre 7, the same cinema that the episodes were shown when they were first completed back in 1974 and 1976. Gerry Anderson gave an introduction to the series in the theatre, explaining how it was revamped from a second series of UFO. The prints were excellent- apart from one projection problem when the sound was lost as the Moon started to go out of orbit in Breakaway (this was a projection problem, not a print problem). These prints were not the same as the new DVDs from Network; the DVD prints were taken from the same interpositives but have been digitally restored.
This is Heatherden Hall, the Victorian estate on which Pinewood Studios was built. The house and formal gardens have appeared numerous times in the films that were shot there. The convention enjoyed a hot sunny day (thunder, lightning and torrential rain arrived at night just as we left!)
A wide variety of guests were present, including Gerry Anderson, Barry Morse, Zienia Merton, Keith Wilson, Johnny Byrne, Derek Wadsworth, Anton Phillips and Shane Rimmer. There were no formal guest talks or interviews; fans and guests mingled together in the bar and patio.
There were two tours, both conducted by Chris Bentley, accompanied by Keith Wilson for the first and Zienia Merton for the second. Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed on the tour itself. Unlike the Universal Studios theme park, a working studio such as Pinewood resembles an industrial estate: large warehouses with offices attached. But vaguely recognisable- because you've seen them as industrial estates in films like Goldfinger. A few episodes of Gerry Anderson's UFO made extensive use of the studio exteriors. Space: 1999 was filmed at L and M stages, which the location tour revealed are alongside the fence bordering Black Park, a public park. During the hot summer of 1976, there was a fire in the park which threatened to approach the studio... Barbara didn't trust Freddie's assurances, so she posted her own lookout to watch the flames, ready to evacuate everyone.
Space: 1999's location filming used the woods and small lake at the end of the Heatherden Hall gardens. Chris was able to point out the pond where Koenig had fired a laser in Full Circle, the pond where the Alphans were captured by clansmen in Journey To Where (yep, it was the same pond!), and the tree round which Alan drives the buggy to avoid the dream hijacker in Bringers Of Wonder part 2. It required a bit more imagination to visualise the Sunim temple or the Retha fields that were in an area called the Cherry Orchard, adjoining the Paddock- these were covered with gravel and huts made of rubbish (for a new science fiction film Children Of Men).
This was the "gala evening dinner" in the ballroom of Heatherden Hall. The table settings, by Ian Nelmes, were inspired and like many people I rushed round to grab photos after the meal had ended.
Finally, Roberto Baldassari's cover for the convention programme:
Contents copyright Martin Willey
Space: 1999 copyright ITV Studios Global Entertainment