Catacombs The Conventions
Breakaway 1999

Breakaway

Breakaway logo Culver City, Los Angeles
10-13th September 1999

Message From Moonbase Alpha Feature

In 1975 we watched with awe a new television series portraying the distant future of September 13th 1999. It was an eerie feeling to be gathered together watching Breakaway on the dates it depicted, while remembering the impression it made a quarter century ago- the sort of mind twisting events that the Alphans experienced themselves.

The Breakaway convention lasted an exceptional 4 days. It had the largest attendance of any convention since the 1970s - over 300 people, mostly from the US, Canada and the UK but with delegations from France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand. It also had the largest guest list of any convention. Johnny Byrne, Nick Tate and Zienia Merton were usually surrounded by crowds of fans as they frankly and enthusiastically talked about Space: 1999 and their careers. Prentis Hancock, Anton Phillips and Barry Morse gave popular talks and were appreciative of the interest of the fans. Barbara Bain appeared briefly and performed the play Love Letters with fellow guest Barry Morse. Morse stirred controversy in condemning series creator Gerry Anderson for not coming (a bad back meant Anderson had to insist on first class seats, while 82 year old Morse insisted standard seats contained a more interesting class of people). Finally, on Monday 13th, surprise guest Fred Freiberger appeared to a warm reception. Space: 1999 fans have been split for over the merits of the two seasons of the show for decades, and Freiberger's honest recollections and opinions won over many fans who had condemned the Year 2 changes. Freiberger pointed out the series had been cancelled after Year One, and it was only by proposing radical changes that another series came to be made. If Year One had been sold to a US television network there would have been no need for any changes.

Another guest was fan and writer John Muir, author of the essential book Exploring Space: 1999, who gave some informative talks about the series. The first talk analysed the formalistic film styles of several sequences from episodes, including Force Of Life, End Of Eternity and Ring Around The Moon, showing how the innovative camerawork enhanced the narrative of the story.

The backdrop in the main hall was stunning itself: a huge, striking recreation of the Main Mission Big Screen and the Command Centre doors, over 30 feet wide and 16 feet tall. The set was made by Chuck Conner (hence all the scaffolding we had seen earlier!) The exhibition room had some original costumes and Keith Wilson art, as well as a small collection of vintage toys and books and some stunning examples of fan art (the paintings by Jon Stadler and Mark Shaw's Bringers Of Wonder candles were exceptional and won convention awards). Also of note but not on display, convention attendee Don Hayunga brought along two of his AMT Eagle conversions and his wonderful Meta Probe.

There were several video films shown which were impressive. The UFO: 1999 film was a spoof cross-over of UFO, Space: 1999 and Austin Powers, complete with joke commercials (Tony Cellini's taxi service). But the highlight of the convention was Message From Moonbase Alpha, written by Johnny Byrne, performed by Zienia Merton and filmed by Tim Mallett- so good, many people thought at first it was lost original footage. The short 7 minute film brought the journey of Moonbase Alpha to a close, as the Alphans abandon the Moon for the planet Terra Alpha, while also setting up intriguing possibilities for a future series.

Over $20,000 was raised for charity, including $1999 for Prentis Hancock's original comlock and $2500 for the script to "Message From Moonbase Alpha".

A Convention Diary
Thursday 9th Registration in the hotel foyer. Among those I met, Mark Shaw, Don Hayunga, Jerry Scott and Catherine Bujold, Brian Dowling and Robert Ruiz. Some people were carrying scaffolding up to the main hall- what could it mean?
Picked up the convention book (Roberto's wonderful graphic in colour on the cover, bios of the stars inside, history of the previous 13 US conventions, an hilarious "99 ways to tell if you're a really dedicated Space 1999 fan" by Terry Bowers and Robert Wood- sample "Every time you see fog you can hear Alan Carter saying 'Don't go into the mist' followed by Kano's 'I hate backseat drivers")
Friday 10th

Most of the morning people kept telling me "Johnny Byrne's looking for you". I tried to remember what harsh criticism I might have said about one of his episodes... He eventually caught me while I was chatting to Tim Mallett; a warm and very friendly gentleman, genuinely enthusiatic about Space: 1999. It was an honour to meet him.
The dealers room opened in the morning. A small room, with relatively few 1999 collectibles. However, there was a large number of script copies and several original costumes for sale.
Also in the morning, John Muir gave a fascinating talk analysing sequences from the series from the perspective of formalist film making.

In the afternoon, the opening ceremony. We got to see the magnificent Command Center set (that's what the scaffolding was for!) In front of the set Prentis, Anton, Nick, Johnny, Zienia and Barry answered questions. Animated performances from Nick (on how he got the part of Alan) and Barry (condemning Gerry Anderson for not coming).
In the evening, the reception, interrupted at one point by a kendo demonstration.

Saturday 11th Question and answer sessions all day, and the Barry Morse/Barbara Bain play Love Letters in the evening.
Unfortunately I missed most of the activities, as I took my wife (a "space widow") to Santa Monica (we had a wonderful time!).
Sunday 12th A day to relax after yesterday's busy schedule. I got to see the art and collectibles room at last. Fantastic art by Jon Stadler in particular, as well as Keith Wilson's original preproduction art and Corey Le Chat's original costumes. It was nice to meet Keith Young and Jovan Evermann again. I saw some of the UFO: 1999 spoof which was incredibly well done and often very funny indeed.
In the afternoon, Tony Wynn and Bob Wood gave readings from Barry Morse's amusing memoirs which they are compiling into a book. The art and collectibles auction occured afterwards, raising some very high prices.
In the evening, the Breakaway disco. I was only there briefly (I don't dance, and I hate 70s music, sorry; the only thing I liked was the dance version of the 1999 theme and that cleared the floor...) There were some wonderful costumes (Judy Moore in her Metamorph dress replica especially). Congratulations to Jerry and Catherine on their engagement.
Monday 13th Breakaway day. First thing in the morning Prentis Hancock auctioned off his original comlock. "I've got a figure in mind" he declared. And he got it too: $1,999.
The Brunch in the morning had us all waiting (and waiting and waiting and then queuing) for breakfast. In the afternoon surprise guest Fred Freiberger arrived and impressed everyone with his honest opinions.
The closing ceremonies saw Nick Tate return to deliver a well deserved tribute to Eileen and Phyll who run his fan club. As the evening drew to a close, the lights flickered: was it Margaret/Arra, who's guiding spirit has been with so many Space: 1999 conventions? A signal appeared on the screen: it was Sandra, sending a message from Moonbase Alpha. A wonderful moment, and a fitting climax to the convention. Finally, the script for the film was auctioned off: Paul Bens and Chuck Raue paid $2500.

Thanks Johnny, Zienia, Nick, Barry, Prentis, Anton, Barbara, Tim, Mateo, Jovan, Mark, Catherine and Jerry, Brian, Keith, Roberto, Mary Lou, Katerina, Mick, Nadine, Don, Jasper, John, Barry, Robert, Corey, Mona, Chuck, Lew, Raja, Kit, Andy, Terry, Rosie, Karen, Joyce, Becky, Chris, Sandra, Bob, Tony, Erwin, John and Kathy and everyone else.

Like the film, the Breakaway convention brings one era to an end, as the venerable Space: 1999 Alliance who have sponsored 14 US conventions shuts up shop. But the possibility for a new series of Space: 1999 has never been greater, and Message From Moonbase Alpha shows the way. Similarly, it was announced there will be another convention next year, on the Florida Gulf Coast (since relocated to the heart of Manhattan, New York City, New York, on September 1-3, 2000 - click here for report).

Space: 1999 still has a long life ahead of it.

Links

Convention book
Convention fanzine and book

Main Mission Big Screen
The Command Center/Main Mission set

Byrne, Latosa
Johnny Byrne and Mateo Latosa

Tate
Nick Tate with Australian fans

Phillips
Anton Phillips with fan

Freiberger, Byrne
Fred Freiberger with Johnny Byrne

Alphan costumes
Corey Le Chat's costumes (click for larger view)

Keith Wilson preproduction art
Keith Wilson art (click for larger view)

Fan artwork
Just some of the art on display (click for larger view)

Monster candles
Mark Shaw's Bringers Of Wonder candles

Morse, Scott, Bujold
Barry Morse with Jerry Scott and Catherine Bujold who got engaged at the convention: congratulations!

Commlock
$1,999 comlock (click for larger views)

Commlock
Commlock

Piri tree
Piri tree

Asleep by the Piri domes Convention organiser Chris Paulsen in a busy moment

Contents copyright Martin Willey