During late 1975 "Space 1999" presented what were arguably the most spectacular visual
effects ever produced for a television series. This is, of course, the 'stock-in-trade' of
producer Gerry Anderson who, with such shows as "Supercar", "Thunderbirds" and "UFO", has
brought us stunning visual effects unequalled in their field for over 20 years. Good special
effects are the result of many ingredients, not least of which being the use of believable
and 'authentic' miniatures. "Space: 1999", as with all Anderson shows, had these in plenty.
The models used in "1999" saw a departure from the generally smooth lines of the craft from
earlier shows (which were made under the guidance of recent 'Oscar' winner Derek Meddings)
giving us basically angular and highly-detailed craft which were more in keeping with the
current vogue in SF Cinema spacecraft design and appearance - originated - by Kubrick's "2001"
(which, in turn, I believe, had much to thank Anderson for). "1999" brought us the talents of
a new generation of model-makers, notable Martin Bower (whose recent work includes "Alien",
"Flash Gordon" and "Outland") who was responsible for the building of most of the spacecraft
used in both season, whilst playing a major role in their design which is, after all, a major
contribution to the show and is essentially an important and integral part of miniature film
work. Whilst I accept that even such things as a paint can COULD look good if filmed correctly
a comparison between the general quality of miniatures used in "1999" and, say, "The Martian
Chronicles", shows that good design and finish certainly goes a long way towards the actual
believablity of miniature effects.
I've often heard the remark - "Well, many of the models used in "1999" have a similar kind of
appearance!" It is perhaps, appropriate to make comment on this statement. Certainly all the
Earth-Technology hardware DOES have a similar look to it, i.e. the Eagle, Swift, Utra-Probe
and Laser Tank models etc., but this is obviously intentional. It is more than reasonable to
assume that, in reality, they would all be built by the same company, thus adopting similar
design characteristics. It should be noted, however, just how different the many 'alien'
ships of "1999" are.
To be original in design is undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of the profession. There is
always someone who will comment - "That craft looks like such-and-such a thing!" This remark
is often quite valid, despite the best efforts of the model-maker to be original, however
recognisable design features might be.
Generally, the models used in "1999" achieve their originality admirably, whilst still
keeping within the bounds of believability, which is especially creditable when separate
episodes of the series were filmed, SFX included, often only 10 days apart!
The size of the "1999" models, and the materials used in their construction, varied quite
considerable. For example, the smallest complete Eagle was around 5.5 inches long, the largest
one around 4 feet long! Often several models of the same craft were built to various scales
to suit the requirements of filmwork, such as longshots, close-ups etc. On average the size
of the 'guest' models, i.e. the Superswift ("Bringers of Wonder") and the Sidon ship (from
"Voyager's Return") varied between around 2 and 6 feet - typical of the size required for
general use. The 'city' from "Mission of the Darians" was about 15 feet long.