The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Nick Tate

From "Alphan From Oz", an interview with Steve Eramo in Dreamwatch #12. August 1995

One of the shows I had done in Australia was a thing called The Chaser in which I played a private investigator. A man who was involved with that show suggested to Gerry and Sylvia Anderson that I was the right kind of person for one of the astronauts in Space: 1999. I went through the general screening process and eventually got the part, but it wasn't the part of Alan Carter - it was his co-pilot. Alan Carter was to have been played by an Italian and the character was to be named Alphonse Catani. Just before shooting started, the Italian couldn't get himself released from a film he was doing in Italy and a last minute juggle took place.

They tried to find somebody to replace him and I was the man on the spot. They had interviewed several people, but the director, Lee Katzin, liked me and felt that my sort of Australian aggression was what they wanted for the series. Sylvia jumped in and said "No, Australians sound too much like Cockneys and we've already got a Cockney in the show," At that point I saw red and, for the first time, I really spoke up for myself.

At first, I was only supposed to be in the premiere episode, but then they offered me another five because things were looking interesting. At the end of the sixth episode they said, "We'd like to sign you up for the series." I didn't have to dig too deeply the character of Carter. He was pretty much all the things I was as a young man - friendly, happy go-lucky and someone who loved adventure and accepted a challenge.

Generally speaking, it was a very happy time on the series. Martin Landau and I became very close friends while working on the show, I liked Barbara Bain as well, a very bright, friendly woman. Both of them are fabulous spellers with great vocabularies and between scenes we used to play lots of word games together. I had a great rapport with the rest of the cast as well - Prentis Hancock, Clifton Jones and Zienia Merton.

One episode I particularly remember was Dragon's Domain. I know it was originally written for me because Christopher Penfold invited me to his house and showed me the first draft of the script. The original story was very much like Alien - this creature kills everybody aboard a space station and Alan Carter is sent there to discover what happened. Because they had Italian money in the series, the Italians wanted one of their lead actors to play a large role in this particular episode, so I didn't get to play the part. Up to that point, the only large roles we'd had were visiting alien villains. We didn't have any visiting nice guys and in their wisdom the producers decided to rewrite the script and replace me with an Italian actor, which was ironic after the way I got the part of Carter in the first place,

I must say that I missed Sylvia greatly because she was a wonderful woman and really understood the show. It was clear to me that when I met Fred he had no love of the original show at all. He invited me back to his house to meet his family, and while we were there told me that his kids were great fans of my character, Alan Carter, which was why he brought me back. I guess I've got them to thank for getting me back into the show!

The show's original concept had been conceived by both Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. When they broke up it really destroyed much of what had been established during its first series. It seemed as if Gerry was prepared to allow somebody else to come in and totally change the humanity Sylvia had brought to the programme.

One of the reasons why I feel Space: 1999 eventually folded was because the second series didn't have the same sense of truth and honesty about it as the first did. That's not to say that I didn't like doing the second series - some of the episodes we did were very good - but overall I think our best shows were those first twenty-four.

Nick Tate club - on his favourite episodes

I don't have any favourites in life. Equally there's no one episode of Space 1999 which is favourite. There are several episodes that I liked. One of them was Another Time, Another Place, another was Journey To Where, Full Circle, and Mission The Darians, There isn't one that stands out as favourite, There are some that I liked, I felt that they were good episodes and I guess I enjoyed making those episodes most of all, also, because of my involvement in them, The first series was all new and adventurous and we were all pioneering. We were all discovering our strengths our limitations, and writers started to write for us and directors started to get excited about what we were doing and it was all marvellous!

And so when the second series came along, and they changed everything, some things were developed for the better and the series I think was enhanced by that. But other things took a backwards step and I think the series suffered for that. So you can't win everything!

What I enjoyed most of all was actually working with other actors, not just sitting in the seat of Eagle One and having to fight off aliens, and dodge meteorites and super-novas, and laser beams, but when I can actually get on the set, working with Martin, who I respect and enjoy working with at all times, and with Barbara, Catherine, Clifton, Tony, Anton, Barry and any of our guest stars. When I got the opportunity to work with the guests, which wasn't often enough for my liking, but when I did, I sparked so much and felt so good.

Which do I think was the best scene in any episode of Space 1999, regardless of opinion of that episode as a whole? Well that's a good question, I really like this question, it's never been asked of me before. No one specifically, but I can certainly name a few moments in various episodes that I enjoyed. I thought the scene where the tentacled monster, the dragon, (Dragon's Domain), kills Tony Cellini, when he goes back to avenge his friends. When he watches people being chewed up by the thing and spat out as burned, smouldering hulks, and Martin finally fights it too. I thought that all the scenes involving that monster were real science fiction, real horror stiff. I thought it was wonderful. I really enjoyed that.

I liked, too, a sequence in an episode where Martin was having hallucinations and going mad, and they put cobwebs over his head. It was this bizarre dream sequence that he was going through that was really chilling too.

I liked, I think it was War Games, when Moonbase Alpha was practically blown to pieces and some of the explosions inside the set, with it falling down around us, people being killed, and guys being sucked out of broken windows and things. I loved all that stuff. We thought the special effects did marvellous work.

I liked the snow sequences in Death's Other Dominion. I thought the snow sequences were convincing. I liked Matter Of Life Death, where we were given an indication of what would happen to us if we stayed on the planet. We were all killed and everyone thought that we were dead, and Helena's husband came back to her and said if you stay here this is what will happen because the whole planet is anti-matter. The making of that episode was horrific, because. we had go through all those hurricanes. They pointed the most extraordinarily powerful wind machines at us, and threw tons of Fullers Earth, and bricks, and polystyrene and tree stumps, and dust and everything at us. It was awful. At one stage Zienia nearly choked to death. Martin and Barbara had to take a lot of the screen time with that dust going full in their faces, and it's a credit to them because they did it and once the sequences were shot everybody had to go outside in the fresh and cough and spit all the stuff that had got down into their lungs, for about twenty minutes. It was really horrible, and very dangerous, but golly does it look effective! I think I know a little bit what it's like to be a coal-miner now.

There's one other moment that I liked. It actually does involve me, particularly me. It was when I was searching for Zienia. I think it was Full Circle. Those cave-men fight me, and I fall down into a pit with a guy, and I have to fight him. I think that was exciting, It's a good moment in the episode, It's a good fight and it was pretty scary, I think it worked nicely.

Nick Tate club - on funny stories

Well I've often quoted the classic example of Charlie Crichton, while directing Space Brain, racing into the middle of the set, during the time we had all of Moonbaae Alpha 15 feet under soap bubbles. We had these great machines churning out the foam, and making so much noise none of us in our space helmets could hear anything. Charlie had screamed out "cut" about 5 times and nobody could hear, so he raced onto the set, waving his arms around, slipped on the slimy soap, skidded under 15 feet of soap suds and wasn't seen for the next three minutes. When he emerged he looked like the abominable snowman. It wasn't very funny to Charlie, but it was hysterically funny to all of us.

There were rather silly little incidents like, often when we were walking around on the moon surface with our apace suits on, we'd invariably have some of the zippers undone down our legs, because more often than not the shot was from the waist up. It was very funny to see a spaceman walking slowly, with his helmet on, the lights blinking on and off, yet underneath his suit you could see all the zippers open, with coloured socks on and hairy legs!

It was so hot in those suits when we filmed one of the heaviest episodes for Martin and myself in spacesuits. It was during the monstrously hot summer we had here (1976) and the temperatures were up in the century mark and at the studios the air-conditioning broke down. It must have been 118 to 120 on the set, so therefore you can imagine what it was in those spacesuits for Martin and myself. We were exhausted beyond belief, we were totally dehydrated, perspiration rolling off us, it was like being in a Turkish-bath for 8 hours a day. Not nice! It wasn't funny, but a lot of other people laughed!

We sometimes pulled gags on each other. Like if you had to hand someone a sheet of paper or computer data, sometimes we'd write rude jokes on the cards and the other actor would have to deliver his lines, or carry on whatever emotion he was supposed to be carrying on, seeing this rather strange remark written on the read-out. Can't tell you what we wrote, of course...

Other people got up to silly tricks. After a while when you're doing the same things day in and day out, about episode 19 or 20 things get to be much the same. Some people got rather bored and started doing things that other people might say were rather unprofessional, One girl, who shall remain nameless, went to one of the trick shops in London and bought all those silly things that itch and squeak and twinkle and make rude noises, and did all those sort of things, putting them under people's chairs. They got a laugh out of it, not everybody laughed, but they did.

Nick Tate club - on the sets

When I first started on the series, I was knocked out by everything. I thought wow! Isn't this fantastic. I mean I grew up in the 40s and 50s when the big heroes were cowboys. I always wanted to be a cowboy and I guess to a certain extent an astronaut is a modern day cowboy in a way. There's a parallel there, isn't there? So I was fanciful enough to think, when I got into the studios and saw all those sets, how miraculous they all were, how exciting it was. A lot of the real magic of it all as you see it in the series doesn't exactly exist on the floor because most of the buttons that we had to push, most of the lights and all of the noises are put on afterwards. Most of the buttons were not practical, it was only when you came in for real close-ups that they swapped the fake buttons and lights for the real ones. I mean after all, you could look in Main Mission and see upwards of a thousand little buttons and lights flashing on and off. It just wasn't possible for all of them to have a practical effect. If they ever wanted anything for a close-up on those things, then there was an electrician there who would insert the working one. Yes, I used to love it, In fact I probably got as much of a kick out of those things as you did sitting at home. When I got the real kick, was not when I actually worked on any given episode, but when I saw the episode on film because then, for the first time, I would see how those buttons worked. I would sit there with incredible fascination saying "Gee, did I really do that?", because it had had nothing to do with me at all! All the magic of filming: I loved the original set with the great gallery upstairs where we could look out over the moon, but when we did the second series, to cut down studio space, we went from 3 studios down to 1 1/2 and half the set had to be taken away, isn't that sad? Well that's the economics of the thing.

Nick Tate club - on Alan's biography

When we were half way in to the second series I was asked to go to the Star Trek Convention in America [Details here]. A part of the invitation was, would I please send a biography on myself and one on Alan Carter, and there wasn't a biography on Alan Carter. Gerry Anderson had never written one and nobody else had ever written one, and I went to Freddie Freiberger, the producer of the second series, and I said was there a biography of Alan Carter, and he said no there wasn't, and if I wanted one he'd give me one. And I said yes please, and he proceeded to tell me things about the character that had nothing to do with Alan Carter at all. Nothing to do with what he'd done in 30 odd episodes. When I pointed this out to him, he said well you seem to know more about Alan Carter than anybody else, after all you play him, surely you'd be the best one to do his biography. So I said well I'll have a go at it. Keeping in mind all the things that Alan has done and trying to relate it to his age and experiences and I wrote the biography and took it back to him and he accepted it and it became the official biography of Alan Carter.

I figured that he had to have had something to do with aeronautics since he was a space pilot and he is approximately 22 years after my time, which would make him 14 now. When I made the series I was 33 years old, so I counted back 33 years from 1999 which makes Alan's birth date 1966. Considering all those factors, we have to say that in the very early 80s what sort of chance would there be for a young man like that to be involved in aircraft and stuff like that, and since he had to be Australian I thought it was a good thing to combine both outdoor sport and close to nature. An Australian cattle station seemed a really good place to base him, since they are vast places a lot of those owners use aeroplanes to get about them. Young boys of 7 and 8 years of age are driving cars and tractors around those properties, of course they 're not licensed. to go out on the road. A kid of 8, as long as he could reach the pedals, could drive out to the back paddock to take lunch to some of the workers or something. So these kids become pretty proficient at driving around the farm, and it's not impossible to see, on rare occasions, a crop-duster dropping seed and pesticides taking up a young boy with him and pretty soon these boys are unofficially flying those aeroplanes well before they ere the proper age to take a license.

So with this background it's obvious that Alan's interest in flying could have started in his early teens and that he could have been very proficient at flying and go on to take all sorts of special courses and as a natural course went into the Australian Air Force and through promotion and things, got stationed in Bali, and excelled in everything he was doing and finally given the kind of promotion and recognition that brought him to the top of the Australian Air Force. And the Americans noticed him and he was seconded to the early 1990s space programmes. I made a lot of it up by drawing on my own experiences, but I didn't want to make him sound just like Nick Tate, I didn't grow up on a cattle station and I can't fly an aeroplane.

Nick Tate club- on the moon surface set

They would hang a great big black curtain all round the studio, vast studio, and hang little stars all over it, of course, so that they twinkled in the night. Then they'd build great big mountains and stuff, out of papier mache and polystyrene, wood and twine. You can imagine, it was just like any stage scenery. Strong enough to hold your weight, but sometimes not always strong enough so your foot went through the moon's surface, it happened! And then all the flat ground stuff we walked over was originally made out of coal, coke and ashes, but as we did lots of stunts, falling around on it and so on, it used to wreck the suits, rip them apart and make everything filthy. So they started changing it for black sawdusty-type stiff mixed with Fuller's Earth, so that it would swirl as you walked through it, If you might remember the moondust swirled, in shots from the real moon when we saw the boys walking around up there, "One small step for Man, one giant step for Mankind", Ah! Yes I remember it well