The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Gerry Anderson

Comments from the SpaceCon convention, Columbus, Ohio, July 1978, with David Hirsch of Starlog magazine.

GA: It was some five years ago when Space: 1999 first started, and I don't know how many of you here have heard the name Lew Grade. He was the man who started it all. It's as well to the fact now. We have to remember that when this particular series started, science fiction was not at its height. We have had Star Trek and conventions like this, but to make a series like Space: 1999, there's all the problems of making a television series plus a lot more, because of the special effects. Rather than tell you the entire story, I'll let you ask me questions about aspects of the series production that are technical or the scripts or whatever.

Q: Why did you choose Freddie Frieberger?

GA: I'm British. I found out Hollywood has 3000 writers when I was there for two weeks, and that's quite a few writers to see each day. At that particular time, the talent was very busy; most of the writers were working, and some writers wanted to come along but, we felt that they weren't right for the show. Some writers we felt were right for the show didn't want to come along. Early one day, one writer I spoke to said that he was free and would like to come to Europe for a year. I asked, "What makes you want to come to England for a year?" He said, "Well, my father is collecting wine labels" Now, I can't think of a better reason for a writer to come on a science fiction show other than the fact that he likes to collect wine labels. Anyway, finally we met with Freddie. He was available. He had worked on Star Trek and, for better or for worse, we thought he was right.

Q: In your opinion, why was the show short-lived?

GA: I should be asking you that question! It's something I find difficult to understand because, in fact, the show had good ratings in England, New York and Los Angeles for 17 consecutive weeks. But for some reason or the other...

Question concerning a story idea a fan/writer feels is revolutionary enough to return Space: 1999 to production.

GA: Well, I can't give you a very simple answer. With all kinds of filming, in tele or cinema, somebody has to eventually decide whether they're going to put somebody's money into production; and of course, productions, as you know, cost a lot of money. If someone comes along with a fantastic script for Space: 1999, who is to say it's fantastic? You have to take the script along to the distributors and these distributors have to agree and to get the distributors to agree on any script is fantastic because it extremely difficult.

David Hirsch: You also have to know what you're up against, and you have to know that the show is not owned by Gerry, but by ITC. Now, not Only do you go to Lew Grade in charge of ATV, and the whole company itself, but you have Abe Mandell in charge of ITC and you have people in Charge Of every subsidiary who become involved with it. So all these people are in the United States. Believe it or not, they do want to see another show, and if someone said Abe Mandell didn't like it, then you wouldn’t see the show. Or he could say, I don't want anything to do with it; I don’t think you should do it. Lew Grade would have to turn around and agree with him. So no matter how good the script is, they might just decide they don't want to do the show. So you see the difficulty there is in production. They might not want to be involved with that type of project.

Q: Can you explain some of the reasons for the changes from year 1 to year 2?

GA: Well, I think I can best explain the reasons that the changes were made, I think you have to realize rather than the reason for each change that was made, that film-making is really an American industry. There are many more films in this country than in any country in the world. This country is the biggest market in the world for them. Therefore, in Britain, when we're making a television series like Space: 1999, we know that we have to please audiences that are here because, unless we do, there's no chance of success at all. When we made the first year of the show, it sold extremely well in syndication, was very well publicized. Initially it was very well received. Then we started to get reports, feedback. It wasn't too accurate. We were told some of the shows were a little slow, some of the artists spoke too slowly and some of the accents weren't understood. By the time we had completed the first 24, the advice that we received from the United States was that the show needed several revisions and the revisions were made, basically from feedback that came from this country. The show would not be changed had it been a British decision.

Q: How did idea of Maya and her molecular transformation come about?

GA: That idea came from Freddie Frieberger. He was delighted to join the show. From our information, audiences over here felt the show would be improved by adding an alien. Fred suggested a metamorph. That's how it came on. I can tell you that the make-up Maya was to use really was hard on her. That again brought a lot of discussion. Some people liked it and some people hated it. I'd be interested to know who liked Maya's make-up? (Applause) I don't know how we were misled because from all the information we had, Maya's make-up was terrible!

David Hirsch: I had been getting most of the ITC fan mail we've received over the last few years. The majority of the fan mail is personally addressed. It's addressed to Catherine Schell and it is people who are simply mad about the character. So, apparently people have indeed taken a liking to Maya as opposed to hating her as far as ITC's point.

Q: Do you have any future plans?

GA: I have future plans. I want to become a millionaire! I would like to be a lira millionaire! I would really like to make films for the cinema as opposed to television. Now that's an odd thing to say here tonight because this is about the revival of 1999. Let me say, straight away, that if the campaign grew and if the popularity of the program grew, I think if there's a demand for another series, I would without question make another series, and if necessary, continue making the show for another ten years. If the show is not repeated, I would like to move into the cinema. I have a cinema production in preparation now, but I can't say too much about it simply because it's not at an advanced enough stage to make any specific announcements. But I hope it will be a nice picture.

Q: Brian Johnson designed the Eagles for Space: 1999. Who designed the craft for Supermarionatton, Supercar, Fireball XL5?

GA: The first guy to do all our special effects was Derek Meddings. Derek is now on the Bond pictures. I'm so sorry, I've just been reminded that there is an exception. That is Reg Hill, who designed Supercar, the original craft used for the television series.

Q: On the show, there must have been at least six or seven different size models. Who has the models now?

GA: If you're talking about the Supermarionation shows, unfortunately all those models have disappeared in one way or another. You know, it's a terrible thing, but looking back, it was like having an enormous family. Other sets were being made and we needed the space. Some of them went to families, some of them were stored and fell to pieces, and some of them were me.

Q: In the Beta Cloud episode, was that originally designed to see how well secondary characters could work their way through trouble without the help of Martin Landau or Barbara Bain?

GA: I'd love to say that was the case. The truth was that Martin and Barbara were on holiday!

Q: Is Starlog's policy to contain Space: 1999 in every issue?

David Hirsch: Starlog started out as a Star Trek magazine. The man who had wanted to produce the magazine bowed out and we had this entire magazine ready to go and they decided, instead Of wasting the money, we'll add in some other features and produce the magazine under another title. It went over very, very well. In fact, it went into a second printing on the first issue, while it was still on the news-stand, and we eventually ended up doing the second issue on Space: 1999 to help move in with the second season wait. Now what happened, sort of around our sixth issue, we were begging for material. We were brand new; nobody was coming to us. We had to go out to the people and we had this Space episode guide running along each issue to follow the episodes that were produced. The problem was, when we got the sixth issue, the show was officially cancelled, We suddenly realized that we had no material, brand new material, to put in the magazine. We didn't want to write old hat material to keep on covering the same old base which you could read anywhere else. What we did was, when we had the chance, added new pieces on Space that would be fresh and new, such as the interview with Gerry with the feature in issue ten about the early version, which was originally conceived as the second season of U.F.O. Now we are running Gerry's column which started in issue fifteen. The goal of the column is not just to cover Space, but all of his shows.

Q: Whenever Moonbase Alpha was attacked, there were a lot of fires explosions. Were any of the sets actually destroyed by the fire?

GA: We tried to fake these fires and a lot of buildings got destroyed by fire.

Q: On the cover of Starlog it said 'Space: 1999 Cancelled'. Does that mean it wasn't renewed?

David Hirsch: Cancelled simply means stopped, without a doubt. I received a report a few weeks ago from Hanna-Barbera. Now, Hanna-Barbera are among the merchandising division and they are the comparative representatives of the ATV license. Every so often, they send out reports to the licensees. They wrote to us and said that this fall, Space: 1999 has been renewed on nine out of the top ten market stations. Now, renewed means simply that the syndication package of 48 episodes has been bought again. The station will buy one first run and two reruns. That finished, they have the option to buy the package again or reject it, meaning another local station could pick it up. Now, cancellation is correct because the show was indeed cancelled; but it was renewed because Channel 11 in New York is obviously still running it. It's still in various parts of the country.

Q: The question concerned a television commercial that Gerry had made recently using Supermarionation.

GA: It took six weeks to prepare for shooting. It was, in fact, entered for an award. It didn't get an award; at least it was nominated.

David Hirsch: I thought we also should announce that as of about two weeks ago, ITC had started to put together a promotional for salesmen to take to stations. They now have all the episodes of Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, and Joe 90 back in the warehouses in the States and are trying to move them back on television.

Q: When will the first supplement of Alpha Tech Notebook be out?

David Hirsch: We are considering the idea of doing a supplement, finally. We had a lot of difficulty getting this book off the ground. We had three months from conception to handing it over to the printers to put the book together. The book did not do very well. The reason is that the show is no longer on a first run basis. Merchandisers don't want to invest the money and it might not sell. The show is definitely regional. It won't be clear across the country. You can't spread a product out to sell. We've printed up a large quantity of this book. We have not sold more than possibly a quarter of it. What we hope is to print up a number of the supplements and when it sells out completely, then we may consider doing more supplements, as long as those supplements may not be a loss for us and we can possibly make some money off of it, which was the objective.

Q: Tell us how you became a producer.

GA: It's a long story, but believe it or not I started off in life and was going to become an architect. As a result I went to building school and managed all the practical businesses, plumbing and brick-laying. The walls I did were all cock-eyed, the plumbing was terrible and the carpentry was all wrong. But one thing I was very good at was fibrous plastering. Of course, one of the few places a fibrous plasterer could work was a film studio. That's why I was so game to come into a film studio. The thing that happened was that the plaster wore the skin off my arms. The butler said no way could you be a plasterer, so I became a film producer instead!

Q: The episode Black Sun, the enlarged version prior to the one eventually shown. 1 Wanted to know if you could tell us something about that?

GA: We were talking about Black Sun today and it's again a long story. I think you should know about Black Sun. Black Sun was not a period show when shooting on the first year. It was written by a British writer, but it was masterminded by American director Lee Katzin. He shot the episode. Everybody in the studio was absolutely delighted with the show. The cast was delighted, I myself was delighted, in fact, I was so delighted that I took it along to ATV to show, to hear them say, “That a marvellous show you're producing." They nearly shut the whole show down as a result of seeing it! The worst of it was from an American whom I let see the show and he said, "My God, we might as well close down the show; it's an impossible story for people to understand!" As a result of that, the show was tightened up. The show became short and, as a result, we had to shoot new sequences. We did a lot of major surgery on the picture. Also, lots of scripts that were in the process of writing, we found we had to take back to the States and that picture caused a lot of trouble again.

Q: Maya, as you all know, has the power of molecular transformations, the ability to change her form at will. Her father, however, did not have this power. Does this mean that the power is not inherited? If it is an acquired power, did Mentor not use the power himself?

GA: I think that any answer I can give wouldn't be without science fiction. If these questions could be answered, we'd be dealing with science fact. I think it’s worth spending a little while on this question because I believe science fiction is an important element in entertainment for this very reason. But there are people around, like myself, who can imagine something happening and many who can perceive what Is happening, which is very exciting. They find a way to make it appear or happen on the screen and make it seem quite possible. To explain, people see these things happen; it triggers the brain matter, and later people will make these things possible.

Q: What's the real story about Victor Bergman? Why did he really leave?

GA: He certainly wasn't fired. In fact, he was only hired in the first place for the first season. So there was no question about him being fired. The second season was reshaped and we brought in Catherine Schell and Tony Anholt. We already had a pretty heavy crew aboard Alpha because when the show first started, we knew it would be advisable to have American artists in the lead. We ended up with two American artists, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. Because of the actors union, we had to have a large amount of regular British actors to compensate for the fact that we brought in two American actors. We started off the first season already overloaded. When we reached the second shows, we would simply have too many characters to handle.

Q: What about Victor Bergman? He was the father figure of Moonbase Alpha.

GA: I think now you're asking another question. I would say "should we have replaced him?' or 'should we replace Victor?', I would say: No we shouldn't because he was very popular and I think it was a mistake!