The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Keith Wilson

From an interview with John Fleming in Starburst

Doing Space: 1999 was a problem because I wanted this clinical science-fiction look. Now production design is not just a matter of designing a room where you're going to shoot scenes with certain people in it. The idea is to design something that you can believe that person would live in - it doesn't matter whether it's science-fiction or Genesis, you've got believe in it and that's the whole point of my job. Any room that has been lived in for a while will accumulate touches of the personality of the people that are living in it, but to put a group of people on the Moon in a clinical atmosphere and then to give that atmosphere a personality was very, very difficult.

I had to be able to re-construct sets very quickly and we virtually had an alien planet or an alien spaceship to create every two weeks so I couldn't spend a lot of time on the Moonbase sets. I designed a modular system so that, within hours, I could build another set or I could just open the whole thing up and make it into a series of corridors because everything fitted together like a jigsaw. I spent a lot time and a lot of money at the beginning of the series designing that system, knowing that once it was built I could virtually forget about it and concentrate all my efforts on the alien planets. It was the only way to do it.

On the first series of Space, we had a 'name' to design the costumes - Rudi Gernreich, known as 'Mr. Topless' because he designed the topless dress. I didn't feel it was necessary to have a name of that calibre connected with the series because the type of people who'd be watching the series couldn't care less if he's 'Mr. Topless' or not. We ended up with a situation with not only clinical sets but clinical clothes, All he designed, in fact, was the uniform on the first series. I designed all the alien costumes, alien make-up, everything alien. On the second series we didn't have to stick to Mr. Gernreich's design for the uniform so I brought in Emma Porteous and between us we created the new uniform based on the old one, giving it personality but not changing it so much that nobody would recognise it, We were able to put on skirts and badges and bits and pieces to give it personality.

I used to have lunch every day with the scriptwriters. Because of the nature of the series, I had to have a lot of say. It was no good the scriptwriters writing some incredible thing because I would get a copy of the script and I'd walk into Gerry's office and say, "This is impossible. I cannot do it. I've got ten days and I I m already in the middle of a film that's very difficult and you expect me to do this." And he used to say, "Well, what can you do? How: can we alter it to make it work?" So I would spend a lot of time with the scriptwriters -Chris Penfold and Johnny Byrne in particular - and a 'lot of ideas for scripts would spring from our conversations. I was always very keen on doing monsters because that's what I felt the public wanted. Whether I was right or wrong is another matter.

I think the biggest mistake in the second series was concentrating everything. We'd achieved a scale in the first series that was big. On the second series they decided it was too big and everything was concentrated, scaled down, and I wasn't allowed to make the sets as big as they had been on the first series. I think it was a mistake because it made the show 'small'.

The way the series was handled by the television companies here in Britain was an absolute disaster. It was being shown on Saturday morning at eleven o'clock. I never ever understood it. You had Star Trek being shown year after year and here we had a brand new show and it was being thrown away. Why, I will never know. I think that Space: 1999 was the best quality science-fiction show that had ever been made for television.