The Catacombs These Episodes
War Games

From the These Episodes documentary originally on the 2005 Network DVD boxset.

War Games

Christopher Penfold

The vulnerable humanity of John Koenig and of Helena Russell was really written into the series from the start by George Bellak. I think to a very considerable extent that was what attracted Martin Landau to the part. I hope it was, because subsequently when we came to be working very closely together, those were the aspects of John Koenig's character that he was most keen and interested to pursue and develop and I think we remained pretty true to that throughout the first series.

I think there are particular moments when that humanism from John Koenig is challenged. It was his cultural inheritance that led him to the decision: do we or do we not attack. And so John Koenig gave the order to fire. Then there was the celebratory moment when the first Hawk was blown to smithereens, and then, of course, war came in their place.

David Lane

Brian Johnson, prior to Space: 1999, was working with Kubrick on 2001. He brought with him a lot of the techniques that they'd managed on that. A lot of the effects were done in camera. So you would shoot one layer, wind the camera back, shoot the next layer, wind the camera back, shoot the next layer. Because of the nature of the beast, it being space which is black, you could do this.

Gerry Anderson

I look upon myself as the composer and conductor of an orchestra. And inevitably, either there ia a lead violinist, or the piano leads the orchestra. And in the case of Space: 1999 the piano was Brian Johnson. He invented the Eagles. And there were other things that Brian did, for example, if there was an explosion in space. If you detonate an explosive in a movie studio. The debris fly outwards and gravity pulls the debris down. The way Brian overcame this was to build a black screen in the roof of the studio, below which we hung the explosive material which was detonated by remote control. And then he had the cine camera pointing upwards. So the main debris came down towards the camera.

Zienia Merton

Again, the lovely Charlie Crichton. And of course more Fuller's Earth. When we had what I call disaster shots, they put three or four cameras on, only one take, because by the time we cleared up it would be next week. So we could only do one shot with four cameras going. And they said "well do something naturally, if something's going to land, crashing over head, what you going to do?" I thought "well, what am I going to do I'm going to get under the desk, aren't I, I'm going to keep out of the line of fire. So that's what I did when it came in. I dived under and who did I see? Clifton Jones, Barry Morse. They weren't daft.

I absolutely loved War Games. I think it had a really nice feel. The beginning sequences whereby we're in jeopardy, you see everybody pulling together, and we're all in different parts of Alpha. The boys are meant to go out. I think it's quite extraordinary that Sandra is dutifully just pushing monitors, suddenly is left in charge of Main Mission. Wow, were they desperate.

Christopher Penfold

The violence with which John Koenig responds to the appearance of the Hawks was something I wanted to teach the Alphans a lesson about. And of course the idea behind this series is that the Hawks, and the big bomber of course, are just simply figments of Koenig's imagination. They say more about the condition of his mind of course than they say about the condition of the aliens in the form of Anthony Valentine and Isla Blair, I think.

It seemed like a neat philosophical solution to present the aliens in a form which would be readily comprehensible to humans. The form in which they were perceived actually came from the human imagination rather than from the aliens themselves.

As far as a highly developed, highly civilized, highly sophisticated alien civilization was concerned, these people from planet Earth, who had only just escaped from the cocoon of Earth's atmosphere, were actually quite primitive and that in some ways as far as the great civilizations of space were concerned, they were a contaminant.

This theme that I was interested in and I returned to in another episode which was Space Brain. I suppose the way in which one might characterise the difference between the two episodes is that in War Games what the aliens were seeking was a psychological solution to the problem of these barbaric Earthlings. And in the Space Brain they were seeking a biological solution.

Johnny Byrne

John Koenig was an instinctive man, he acted in instinctive ways. Humanity was instinctive, his response was instinctive, although he was obviously a technocratic man running a place like that. Whereas Helena had the ability to stand well back, and to put ... pose problems and situations and solutions which were not always in keeping with her instinct.

Christopher Penfold

The lesson that the aliens subsequently seek to teach the Alphans is they have nothing greater to fear than fear itself.

Contents copyright Martin Willey