The Catacombs Catacombs Reference Library
Complete Guide / Crisis on Moonbase Alpha

Two articles in UK-based science fiction media magazines, from 2016 and 2017. Both were inspired by the Network Blu-ray releases (the ITV publicity photos are also on the Blu-ray photo galleries). They emphasise the production problems during the making of the show. There is a surprising lack of mention of the effects and visual design. Back issues are available from their websites: SciFiNow, Infinity

The Complete Guide to Space: 1999 by Steve O'Brien

Sci-Fi Now #124 (UK, September 2016) p94-101

In many ways this was Gerry Anderson's greatest dream realised. But this would be the first show he didn't have total creative control over, with a whip-cracking New York office micro-managing the series from across the pond. It was a show that could have been one of the TV greats, had he kept his nerve and not tried to be, in his own words, "Mr Nice Guy"

Not exactly a "complete guide", this is a broad account of the making of the show, drawing heavily on the Simon Archer/Marcus Hearn biography of Gerry Anderson. A few quotes from Martin Landau's scripts come from the Catacombs website. There are quotes from Christopher Penfold and Johnny Byrne, which may come from the same source. Remarkably, there is no mention of special effects at all, or the design, apart from a dismissive mention of Rudi Gernreich. It doesn't explain the 1970s context of the show (see the Infinity magazine article below for better coverage). The emphasis that ITC New York dictated and interfered in the show is simplistic, and undermined by inconsistent typos of the name of Abe Mandell (Mantel, Mandel and Mandell here).

There is a short and superficial interview with Gerry Anderson's son Jamie, and a list of 5 best episodes: Breakaway, Black Sun, Troubled Spirit, Dragon's Domain and The Metamorph. The description of Black Sun states it is "a thoughtful exploration of quantum physics and Schrodinger's paradox", which it really isn't.

Crisis on Moonbase Alpha, by Mark Phillips

Infinity #3 (UK, July 2017) cover and p46-52

Connor enjoys reminiscing about the series. "It's great fun to be reminded of that period when Gerry Anderson was making such an advanced series. He was a very good producer and a kind man. The crew was the best and most cooperative. Space: 1999 was ahead of its time. Its strength were the innovations created every week on a very tight budget. With more money, just imagine what we could have accomplished!"

Infinity is newly established UK science fiction media magazine, which has a focus on classic cult TV from the 1960s and 1970s. It's a little brave, but welcome, to put Space: 1999 on the cover of a magazine in 2017. The cover art is the Chantrell poster for Destination Moonbase Alpha. The article's illustrations include cover art for the UK Annuals and the Round 2 Eagle.

Although writing for a UK publication, Phillips is a Canadian writer. The American perspective, and lack of UK insight, is noticeable. There are quotes from recent interviews with Peter Medak and Kevin Connor, plus a selection of contemporary press quotes which show thorough research in the newspaper archives. The discussion of US ratings and TV market is unusually detailed, accurate and insightful, but ignores the UK TV environment, a slight weakness for UK readers.

There is at least mention of the effects and design, and credit to the Gray and Wadsworth themes, but no exploration of these aspects of the show. Details of the production are limited, instead leaning heavily on press quotes and vintage critic comments.

Images copyright ITV Studios Global Entertainment
Page copyright Martin Willey