The Catacombs Catacombs Credits Guide
Nick Tate

Comments from the SpaceCon convention, Columbus, Ohio, July 1978.

Clifton Jones and Nick Tate

When you work on a television series like Space, we started November of 1973. Now that's four and a half years ago. That's a long while. Things have changed; we have all changed. Another difficult thing about doing a television series of that nature at that time was that throughout the rest of 1973 and all of 1974, We were working without any knowledge of how an audience might respond to what we were doing. We didn't know if any of the characters in the series were working successfully or if some of us were going to be booed off the screen, There was no fan mail. I don't think the series was seen enough to have something the audience could tell us until very late 1975. A test episode was shown somewhere in late 1974 to a test audience.

Eighteen months later, the response started to roll in, good or bad. The people start saying Star Trek was popular for so long. The people who loved science fiction and loved Star Trek felt Space: 1999 just wasn't their kind of show. It takes a long while for people to get used to change. Then when they run and say 'why didn't you do this and why didn't you do that?' obviously it was far too late because we had virtually finished the series. We didn't know whether we were going to do a second series or not. The most amazing thing about it is that when you finally get to meet the people like you, that's what's most important to an actor, because get no response at all when working with television. All the crews are very blasť and professional men. They don't get excited. A director, of course, is supposed to be there to help you and things like that. Thank God for them. But more often than not, when working on a series, it's got to be done in nine days, in ten days. It's not that kind of time where you can relax or just have moments to yourself.

So when I come here, I meet you people and you say "Gee! It's really nice to meet you!' and you ask me about my Eagle and say "Gee! You are a lot smaller than I thought you were!' You are a lot bigger than I thought you were! It's really nice for me. When I was working on the series, believe it or not, actors do sometimes get very low about things. I can remember sometimes, particularly on the second series when, I don't know, maybe boredom started to set in or things were off a great deal and I didn't feel too good about it. I would get really low and [ felt like I wanted to punch somebody out. It would be the worst day of all, just a psychological low, when I was about to bust, and somebody would come up to me with the mail and put it in my hand. I don't know whether they planned this. And I would open all the envelopes and say 'who is this from?' There was a letter from somebody that told me about the frustrations of their life, how things were going very bad for them and said Space: 1999 made life much better for them. I have got to tell you that was the best tonic for me. Even if there is only one person whose life is made that much better with what I was doing and what we were doing in the show made it all seem worthwhile.

When finished Space, the first time, it was 1975 and I went to Australia to do a film called Devil's Playground. It's been bought finally by an American. I believe it is going to open in New York in October. That sounds good! It's been bought by a fairly small company and it's not going to be like a Jaws coverage, all over the country at the same time. You're going to have to look for it, try and find where it is. it has been bought by the studios and does open in New York maybe even September or October. It will be going around the country.

Q: What's the embarrassing thing that happened to you on Space: 1999?

I can't think of the most embarrassing thing that's happened. If I did I wouldn't tell it... I am too embarrassed to talk about it! I do all my own stunts. I did something one day... I actually hit somebody. I think everybody knows about this. I hit Anton Phillips; it was a mistake. I have got nothing against black guys! We'd done the sequence with stuntmen, you see. I always fight with stuntmen; that's the best way to do it. They are professionals; they know all their movements to the inch. They choreograph punch by punch, kick by kick, and I have done plenty of all that jazz. I know who I'm dealing with. We'd done it 45 times through rehearsals to make it dead right, so when we came on the screen, we showed it. I was doing it with a guy made up to look like Anton and it looked great.

It was about 15 minutes past five and we always used to break at 5:21. Ray Austin said to me 'Quick! We have just got six minutes! We'll just do a quick rehearsal on Anton. A quick close-up, just throw a punch past the shoulder'. I said 'Wait a minute! Anton's never done it before! That's not the way it's done!' He says 'It doesn't matter; it's just a close-up.' So he says 'Quick, Anton!' and Anton says 'Where do I go?' and I say 'As I come to you, you snap your head back.' Yeah, well he didn't!

Q: In the second series of Space, was there supposed to be something between Alan Carter and Sandra Benes?

No. I think that, as you know, in the first series, Paul Morrow was supposed to have a scene with Sandra, and Alan Carter used to like ribbing him about that. I think that under any circumstances, that when I went down to the planet with Sandra, it was only obvious. For example, if you've got a mate, and he goes away for a month somewhere and you are very close friends with him, you see to it to look after his wife. He would protect her if she got involved in any problems. So people say to me 'But you're so protective of Sandra'. I think anybody would be in a close friendship. You can love people without having that kind of love relationship.

No, I don't think there was any intention in the second series either. They told me they were saving me for somebody! She really didn't ever materialize, I don't know why. (Someone yells out 'Sahala') Oh, yeah, well that sort of happened.

Q: When you started your career, did you have a deep Australian accent?

No. I never had a deeply Australian accent, because I was a child actor. My parents were actors and my mother spent so much time in England that she was always telling me how to speak properly, you see. I suppose up until the time I was about ten, I spoke immaculately. I sounded like a little Englishman. Then I started going to some pretty tough schools in Australia where I'd get my head punched in if I talked like that. I was talking like the Australians. Then I went to England and I became more English than the English.

By the time I left England in 1969, I think there was no trace of an Australian accent at all. When I went back to Australia, I had to totally re-Australianise myself. I got into a television series called Dynasty. During the first week of rehearsal, I had to become Australian. So my life was chopped and changed a lot. I played quite a lot of Americans too. went back to England in 1973 by which time I was moderately Australian again, although, perhaps more Mid-Atlantic than anything. When I got into Space: 1999, I wanted to play what I call a totally neutral accent, pretty much like the way I talk now. At least, I think it's neutral. You probably think it sounds English. Sylvia Anderson insisted that I play an Australian. She felt that the way I sound now, the way I was talking, might sound cockney. It should be more Australian. Then Abe Mandell said that I had to go if I didn't start talking with a more understandable accent. Nobody could understand what the hell I was talking about! Then they let me start using my Mid-Atlantic accent that I really wanted to anyway.

Then Freddie Frieberger came on the series. He wanted me to be deeply Australian again. So it was very schizoid and confusing! I do apologize for it, but you have to do what you're told for certain!

Q: Which of the Space: 1999 episodes that you've done do you like the most?

That's very difficult. I think there were moments in different episodes that I liked. I've always liked Another Time, Another Place. It said a great deal more about the Alan Carter character than any of the other episodes ever did. Obviously, talking from a personal point of view. There were episodes that were probably far better, but I was asked which one did I like the best. I think that probably is the one, because it did show me loving somebody and Alan Carter seldom really got the chance to do that properly. But not understanding why or being loved by somebody and not understanding why, and then recognizing that he, in another life, had loved the person. It was a nice break to do something like that apart from just being a hot-head.

I like Full Circle very much also because again, it was a chance to show the caring. I liked doing Journey To Where very much, coming back to Scotland. There are others that I can't think of.

Generally speaking, I liked the first series more. I think some of the characters were building a relationship in that series. It went from scratch and that really was what Space: 1999 was all about. We were people brought together by destiny. We were lost in space. Wash my mouth out... You see, Space: 1999 wasn't like Star Trek. In the original concept, it was never meant to be like Star Trek. I think it was a mistake to make it anything like it. It's not to say that it wouldn't have been better had it been like it. But the concept wasn't devised that way. We were a group of people working on the moon who, through misfortune, were sent helplessly into space. We were desperately trying at all times, at the mercy of all the aliens or other forces that came upon us, to survive! The people in Star Trek were in charge of their destiny. They could do what they wanted and go where they liked.

You have the difference of one people who are vulnerable and another people who are not. When you tried later in the second series to take something of the magic of Star Trek and weld it into Space: 1999, I personally think that's where the mistake was made.

Q: What were your feelings at your first contact with convention people?

I think we're talking about August Party and the Leeds Convention? This perhaps is one of the reasons and one of the results of all that happening at that tine. Sure if that hadn't happened back in August of 1976, this wouldn't be happening today. I'm positive of that. Other people say "You don't know anything about Trekkies or other people who love science fiction. You know, they're all weirdos with aerials sticking out of the top of their heads!" They just don't know you; they don't know us. You're all normal, nice, lovely people and... well... most of you are... and you know, Clifton last night was so knocked, I mean, everybody was knocked out; but afterwards, he was out there and we walked down the corridor. He said 'I can't believe it. it's fantastic! They are wonderful, they're...' and he was so knocked out. Now, I knew you were wonderful. I was knocked out too. But it was great because I was seeing in him exactly the things I felt two years ago.

Q: Concerning Nick wasn't in some of the year 2 episodes.

It's a pretty hard one for me to explain. I've never really understood the reasons for that myself. When the second series was set up, I think it's fair to say, that there would not have been a second series if it weren't for the fact that certain people over here said that if Space: 1999 was ever to go again, that it would have to be altered. Now, we all knew that it had to be altered. We all knew that there were certain changes that had to be made, but I think those changes should have been progressions rather than alterations. They felt that if they went more towards Star Trek, did things that people had written in about or suggested, or in their own wisdom, made the kind of alterations they wanted, that it was going to be a better series. I can't tell you why they made the changes they made. They thought they were doing the right thing, but the series would not have been made if it weren't for the fact that a new kind of show was produced.

I don't think Alan Carter figured in the plan, quite frankly. I know the show was cast and they were due to start. They only got Martin and Barbara. They were the only two people who were going to be in the series. They re-cast the show entirely. Gerry rang me six days before they were about to go and said we want you back in the series. I came back, but as you know, I didn't get to come back with the same kind of hold as I had in the first series. I didn't like it and I know that you know I didn't like it. There was nothing I could do about it.

Q: Concerning how Nick would have liked year 2 to progress.

By the time people started saying 'why don't you do this and why haven't you got that and we'd like to see more of that' the show was already over. There was no time to change the first series. so all the criticism levelled at the show. You can understand and appreciate it, it was unfair! Not to say that it's unfair to criticize a show. It is unfair to say that people aren't t doing anything about it, You can't do anything about it if you're up to episode 18. So when you start the new series, take notice of the criticisms that had been made and progress with the people that I don't think it was wrong to add certain you got people and to perhaps lose some people, or you can bring in new ones. It happens in all kinds of series. I just think that we changed the motivation of the show, and that's the point that I'm making. They went somewhere toward a kind of phantom fantasy, with all sorts of there's nothing wrong with monsters either, but sometimes the monsters monsters that... just weren't good enough, and monsters for monsters sake is not necessarily going to make the show work.

People kept on saying we should humanize the characters more. I believe that too. I'm all for the foibles of people. I think that we're all like that and that why television is such a good thing for escapism. I would have liked to have seen the vulnerability of the people and not always winning. Perhaps I was lucky in one way. Alan Carter couldn't always win because he wasn't the top guy and so you did see him get knocked down quite a lot. I guess a lot of people identified with him because we all know what it's like to get a knock and he had to take most of it.

Where do you go after the two series we've had? What would the third series be like? I think it would be better to try a similar approach actually. It would be wrong to go back to series one for a series three if you see what I mean. I don't suggest we do that. I think we've all marched on...

Star Wars and Encounters have made a great deal of difference to the opinions of the mass with science fiction and everybody seems to like it now. There are so many television shows jumping on the band-wagon, we'd have to try something a little bit different.

Q: I'd like to know how you got along with Barbara on the set. Were you good friends?

Yes, so much so. I mean Marty and I are great mates. We've always been very good friends. If you could have seen us falling into each other's arms upstairs, you'd have thought we were a couple of old queens! Because a series doesn't always go the way individual actors might want it to go, it doesn't mean that they don't like each other very much. Martin and I are great mates and I like Barbara very much too.