Heathrow, London, UK
19-20 April 2014
The Andercon convention was organised by Anderson Entertainment, a company run by Gerry Anderson's widow, Mary, and their son Jamie. As such, this was the first commercial Anderson convention (as opposed to fan-run events, such as the Fanderson ones). The convention took place in a hotel by Heathrow Airport over the Easter weekend. There were just two simultaneous streams, comprising talks in the main hall and screenings in a smaller room. However, the exhibition side of the convention was larger and much more elaborate than normal.
Brian Johnson and the usual suspects. Picture: Paul Stankevitch
There was a wide range of guests, from actors and crew to comic artists like Space: 1999 Look-In artist Mike Noble. From Space: 1999, we saw Prentis Hancock (Paul Morrow in year 1), Pam Rose (a Command Center extra from Year 2) and Brian Johnson (SFX director). With only one track for talks and a relatively short day, there wasn't much opportunity to hear the guests on stage, and we didn't hear a lot we hadn't heard before (at least from the 1999 guests). But most guests were available for signatures, and face-to-face contact was as good as any fan convention, and in private conversation there were a few more candid stories.
The "Anderson cinema" room for screenings was a normal office room with chairs in front of a projection screen, which meant anyone behind the front row would be trying to peer between shoulders of those in front, and those in the back could only see the top of the screen.
The two highlights of 1999 interest were the "world premieres" of the HD version of Bringers of Wonder (both parts), and a 1976 student documentary about the making of the second series. The HD Bringers episodes proves that the high definition prints of Year 2 now exist. During another screening, of the new "Filmed In Supermarionation" documentary, Network stated that their release schedule was now determined until September 2014. No decision had been made to release Year 2, and they could not make that decision until after that date. If a decision was made, it could take a year before a Blu-ray set hits the shelves. Equally, it could be delayed even more, but he did imply that it would eventually happen. A&E/Lionsgate in the US relies on Blu-ray masters from Network, so it is unlikely to be able to release before Network does.
The student documentary was made by a university film association in 1976. No context was given at the convention, but I suspect it is Warwick University (if not, Warwick's documentary is still to be found!). It was filmed on 16mm, which is a little dirty but not bad, and certainly not HD quality. The film is 30 minutes long, with interviews and footage showing filming on the Pinewood sets as well as on Bray's SFX stages and the model room. The interviews were with Gerry Anderson (chain smoking in his office), Keith Wilson (sitting on a polystyrene rock in a planet set, probably New Adam New Eve), Brian Johnson (in the model room), Martin Landau (standing by his Rolls Royce outside the studio) and Barbara Bain (sitting in the wicker chair in her dressing room, waving her cigarette around as she talks). The questions and answers were professional, but standard celebrity publicity, similar in depth and content to the Clapperboard film and the Year 2 interviews already released on DVDs and BluRay.
Keith Wilson explains that alien worlds can be too "way out" to be accepted. He explains when he created a artistic world with big balloons representing trees (Guardian Of Piri), it was too extreme. "Mums and dads coming home from work" didn't understand it; he had gone "too far". He describes the modular sets and the vinyl flooring which ensured the sets could be easily reconfigured and maintained throughout the series. He describes how the trees on the planet set would have to be replaced every day if it was a feature film, but because a TV screen is only small (his hands show a 12 inch width) the plants should last an entire week's shooting with daily watering.
Landau and Bain are asked if the SFX can overwhelm the other aspects of the show. Barbara says no, she is "glad they are done as beautifully as they are." Martin explains they were offered lots of television after Mission Impossible, but it was all variations of the same thing. "Being a series is like being married. you have to love it." Barbara explains she prefers television because of the "extraordinary audience".
The on-set filming was fascinating. We see a scene from Mark of Archanon with Helena, Alan and Etrec in Medical Centre (Alan says Etrec hasn't had a meal in a thousand years; Nick Tate fluffs his line, while Barbara suggests she walks away then comes back). This must have been filmed in May 1976. Another shot shown is from New Adam, New Eve of Magus meeting the Alphans in Command Center. This would have been filmed in early June, perhaps 2 weeks after the other scene. We also pan over the backdrop from All That Glisters to where set builders are painting some rough grey walls, which may be the cave walls from Mark of Archanon or New Adam, New Eve (or both).
At Bray, there is an long sequence showing Nick Allder directing the SFX shot from The Taybor, where Koenig's moonbuggy is placing the transmitter on Taybor's ship. As the astronaut Koenig is positioned, Allder says "he looks as though he's pissed." Terry Schubert (Allder calls him "Terry Shoes" at one point) moves background lunar mountains (photo cut-outs). Lighting man Dick Lewis is told to put a lamp on the scene ("come round a bit more, cocker ... now flash it, sport"). Behind the camera, Allder discusses with camera operator David Litchfield and another man (old for a student) how the grid system works for multiple exposures. Allder explains how they shot the planet, rewound the film, then shot the Eagle, then repeated it 11 times, and then fitted in stars avoiding patterns or obvious rail tracks around where the Eagles had been. There were 13 exposures in all, so the film had been 26 times through the camera with perfect register. It took most of a day for 30 feet of film, maybe 10 to 30 seconds of screen time.
Dave Watkins fixes on the spine booster and demonstrates the freon gas jets of the 44 inch Eagle. In close up we see 3 scales of Eagle together (with other models seen in the background). The 11 inch Eagle is missing one footpad.
There are a number of close-ups. A noticeboard has the title "Gerry Anderson Productions" with publicity photos from the series. There is a poster set high on an exterior wall with a NASA photo of the Moon and Earth and the text "Space 1999". A panning shot shows the surface of the SFX Moon. We see the SFX storyboards, for The Taybor (closing on the shot we saw being filmed), and the storyboard for the SFX scenes from the Year 2 titles.
The documentary carried a Network 2014 copyright at the end. No further information was given about releasing it. According to the Andercon website, Network has both the film and rushes (unedited footage). "Network are preparing a finished piece with the footage for release later" The 30 minute version we saw may not be the final version released. Presumably it will appear on any future Network Blu-Ray release of Space 1999 Year 2. It may even appear on Network's "Filmed In Supermarionation" this year, although nothing was mentioned about this.
The exhibition was the highlight of the convention, and perhaps the largest seen at any convention before. In one part were recreated SFX and puppet stages from the Supermarionation series, original and replica puppets, and replica models by David Sisson. On the other side, organised by the All Sections Alpha group of modellers, were original and replica models, costumes and props largely from Space: 1999, including the original Moonbase Alpha, the Texas City domes, and numerous Eagles.
Elsewhere, there was even a Lego version of Moonbase Alpha and impressive Lego Thunderbirds craft.
The main hall stage featured the Command Center set
Above: replica 44 inch Eagle 1 by Chris Potter, Product Enterprise Eagles with customized configurations
Above: replica launch pad, original Moonbase Alpha
Original spacesuits (Zienia, Nick Tate). Among the original uniforms and costumes are Zienia's Alpha uniform, Devil's Planet prisoner uniform, Zoran's shoulder pads and The Immunity Syndrome mask. The other costumes are replicas.
Original large scale legs from the Swift (Brian The Brain), original Eagle hangar crane, nuclear waste dome from Bringers Of Wonder, spacesuit backpack, and All That Glisters prop instrument. The spacesuit front pack is a work in progress replica.
Superb replica vehicles by David Sisson including the amazing Zero X. Replica SFX stage, and puppet line up.
The Lego Anderson models.