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Sci Fi Fans Await New Series, 'Space 1999'

This was an agency news report by Dick Kleiner that was syndicated to local newspapers in the USA in September 1975. It appeared under the titles "Sci Fi Fans Await New Series, 'Space 1999'" (22 Sept), "New Sci Fi Saga Beams In On The Tube" (23 Sept) and "TV Space Fans Have New Hope" (29 Sept)

By Dick Kleiner

HOLLYWOOD - (NEA) - Ever since Star Trek beamed away into oblivion, there has been no place for TV science fiction fans to go. They have had to satisfy themselves with an occasional movie, otherwise it's been a time for merely reminiscing about what used to be.

But now, there may be hope on the space horizon. A new series called Space 1999 is zapping our way, and it seems to be the stuff for old Star Trekkers. There's a lot of Star Trek in it, as well as a touch of Lost in Space and some other sci fi attempts.

Space 1999 is not a network entry for the new season, but it will be syndicated and the sales are going well. They expect a line-up of 150 stations, which is more than some networks can deliver. In all but four of those cities (the four are Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Cleveland) the show will be aired in prime time on a network outlet. Thus, it will be pre-empting a network show in around 145 or so cities.

Space 1999 is an English made series. It co-stars two Americans, however - Barbara Bain and Martin Landau, the husband-and-wife-team who were once part of the Mission: Impossible unit.

The story involves an advance base on the Moon in 1999. There are some 300 people working there. Then, one Moony day, there is a nuclear accident and the whole base - it's called Moonbase Alpha - is inadvertently blasted off into space.

They wander through space (remember Lost In Space?) with only the most rudimentary ability to control where they go. The base is like a big space ship, full of men and women, good and bad, and each week they have an adventure (remember Star Trek?) Landau is the man in charge, Miss Bain the chief medical officer.

Is there a romance between the man in charge and the chief medical officer?

"Why not?" shrugs Barbara Bain.

The Landaus say they were amazed at some things about shooting a TV series in England. The most amazing was the cost. The production team didn't spare the farthings on this one. It took them 20 months to make 24 episodes.

"It could never have been made here," Landau says. "Each episode cost around $275,000. We shot 11 days for each show, then there was the post-production to add the special effects."

He estimates that the $275,000 would equal about $400,000 here. And the average American-made hour show comes in for somewhere around $250,000.

Some of the things that helped bring up the costs:

A daily tea break.

A rigidly adhered to quitting time of 5:20.

A special effects department, which, Landau says, was kept going full-blast throughout the entire shooting schedule.

The tea break and the 5:20 quitting time helped make the entire experience a very pleasant one for the Landaus.

For the more than a year and a half they were there, they had their two children (Suzy, 13 at the time, and Julie, 8) with them. They rented a home on a canal and it was a good life for all concerned.

The two girls attended an American school in London but, even so, came home with a few Britishisms.

"Even now," Barbara says, "if Julie has something go wrong, she says, 'Gor, blimey!'"

It may sound like a cliché, but they say the only thing they missed about America during those 20 months in England was hot dogs.

"You just can't get them there," Martin says.

"The ones they call hot dogs are grey and terrible." Barbara says.

They also spent a few summer months missing watermelons. One day they were out driving and they saw a watermelon in a garden and stopped and bought it - for $10.

"But it tasted like a cucumber," Barbara says.

When they were in England, they rented their Los Angeles home to Bill Cosby. They highly recommend him as a tenant. Both say they came home to find their home as immaculate as it was when they left.

And the Landau's may be going back. It is still too early to tell just how successful Space 1999 will be, of course, but if it's a hit they will be faced with a big decision.

"If it works," Martin says, "then sometime this coming November, Sir Lew Grade (the English wizard who put the whole package together) will decide If he wants to make another 24 episodes.

"If he says he wants to shoot more, then it will be our turn to decide if we want to do the next group."

Their present inclination, they both say, is that they will do it, when and if they have to come to a decision.

There was only one thing wrong with their timing about going to England for Space 1999. They had just finished furnishing their L.A. home, with English antiques or replicas of English antiques.

Barbara says she had spent a year or so scouting West Coast stores looking for what she wanted. And then they went to England where there are hundreds of cozy little shops, stuffed with just what they had wanted.

That frustration, however, is a small price to pay if the show is a hit. And it should be - there are millions of science fiction fans just waiting for something like this.