The Catacombs Catacombs Model Gallery
Space City

In 1977, almost all the models, props, costumes and drawings left from Space 1999 were displayed in an exhibition called Space City, in Blackpool, a seaside resort in the north of England. The exhibition moved in 1981 to a smaller location at the Pleasure Beach for one season. Afterwards, most of the exhibition moved to the Alton Towers theme park from 1982 to 1989. When that closed, fan Phil Rae bought all the remaining exhibits and displayed many at UK conventions through the 1990s.

Blackpool is a seaside resort on England's north-east coast. By the late 1970s people began to take holidays abroad, leaving Blackpool in decline, but it remained Britain's top resort. The centre of the beach strip is the Blackpool Tower, modelled on the Eiffel Tower. A little further down the sea front, a Dr Who exhibition had opened in 1974, and would be very popular until 1985. The Blackpool Tower Company, part of the giant Thorn-EMI group, decided to have a rival exhibition in one of their properties. The Golden Mile Centre was just south of the tower, was one of many amusement arcades along the front. The exhibition would be on the first floor, over the arcade, reached by an escalator. The company reached out to Gerry Anderson and his marketing director Keith Shackleton, and secured many of the original models, props, costumes and production art from Space: 1999. (The Dr Who exhibition would later relocate to the Golden Mile Centre from 2004 to 2009)

Space City opened on Saturday 26th March 1977 with limited hours in April, opening fully every day from 10am to 10pm from 1st May to 31 October (it was closed for winter). Admission was initially 25 pence, then dropped to 20 pence. According to Golden Mile's manager, Joe Bramley, the exhibition had 300,000 viewers per season, but by 1980 with almost no Anderson shows on television numbers were down (SIG #1, 1981).

Photo by Theo de Klerk Photo by Peter Headley Photo by Peter Headley Photo by Theo de Klerk

The front of the building was decorated with large posters pointing down to the entrance. In 1977 it was called "Space City". In the 1978 season the entrance said "World Of Space", although the posters still said "Space City". The "travel tube" entrance was a small ticket booth, which led to the entrance, an escalator. The ticket booth also sold "Space City" stickers and woven badges, the blue and red box stun guns and Space 1999 metal badges. (pictures by Theo de Klerk, Peter Headley).

Photo by Peter Headley Brain The Brain, photo by Simon Rhodes Brian, picture by Phil Rae

At the top of the escalator was a section of the Command Center computer walls, in front of which Brian the Brain greeted visitors (it was not the voice of Bernard Cribbins). Brian rolls up and down, lights flashing, in front of the flashing lights of the computers.

Photo by Peter Headley Taybor's ship, Swift, Hawk, tanks and moonbuggy The Ultra Probe and Superswift, with pilot ship and Dorzak ship to the side Collision Course shuttle, Taybor's Emporium, Superswift and others

Most of the models from Space: 1999 were on display. Behind the models, the large photos of Moonbase Alpha and lunar hills were the original special effects blow-ups, used as foreground or background when filming alien ships or planets over the Moon. These pictures thanks to Peter Headley and Simon Rhodes.

There was less material from other series. The models from Into Infinity and Starcruiser were mixed with the 1999 models. The Jif Alien Attack advert contributed the launch silos and the control room, with puppets. The Professor and Woman puppet figures (from the Jif Alien Attack advert) were stolen, and replicas were made to replace them.

Original model maker Martin Bower restored and, in some cases, repainted many of the models for the exhibition. Some models were damaged and never restored. The Satazius was given to the son of one of the employees, who could only keep it in the garden, falling to pieces. Finally he blew it up with fireworks. Gerry Anderson swapped the small Hawk for some TV21 comics from Phil Rae. A little later he acquired the 22 inch Eagle from Anderson.

Sky 1

A number of models from earlier series were displayed in a glass case. Bower loaned an original Thunderbird 4 and Sky 1 (from UFO), with replica models of Thunderbird 1 and Fireball XL5 (when the exhibition closed, Bower got the latter two models back severely damaged, while the two originals had been lost). Reg Hill loaned the original model of Stingray. Thanks to Shaun Evans for the picture. Also on display were the original Fab 1 car from Thunderbirds and the boat and car from unscreened pilot The Investigator.

Space City models

There was a large display of props, including desks and the moonbuggy, and costumes. On the walls was a large collection of photos, and production art from Keith Wilson and Emma Porteous. Smaller props (commlock, stun guns and hand props) and some puppets (including Captain Scarlet, Parker and Joe 90) were in glass cabinets.

Space City sign

An interesting sign from the exhibition, crediting Keith Wilson, Emma Porteous, Basil Newall and Eddie Knight. "Pioneer space travellers face the unknown. Science fiction has created many strange life forms, and displayed are some of the beings created for the television series Space 1999". Picture thanks to Peter Headley, David Nightingale, and Simon Rhodes.

A sign from the 1979 season, when it was titled "World Of Space".

Deltan battleship and Hawk Spaceships FAB1 and moonbuggy Astronaut Costumes, photo by Phil Rae Thanks to Ted Peltry Thanks to Ted Peltry

Most of the models were in excellent condition at the time. A few that had been damaged were restored or repainted by Martin Bower especially for exhibition. The public could easily reach out and touch many of the models, and consequently at the end of the exhibition many of them were damaged or even stolen.

A short film of clips was shown on a monitor showing the effects in action. The space station Delta (from Into Infinity, originally the Daria in Mission of the Darians) was hidden behind a window, to give the impression of viewing it from a spaceship.

1980 was the last year at the Golden Mile Centre, and Anderson and Shackleton looked for another location. They found one at the Blackpool Pleasure Beach, an amusement park on the Blackpool south shore, 30 minutes away/ 2.5km away. The Pleasure Beach had been opened in 1896. It was one of the parks that inspired Walt Disney when he created Disneyland in the 1950s.

The Pleasure Beach location was much smaller, and with almost no money Anderson asked local fans to help. Phil Rae designed the exhibition (plans can be seen in Fab Express #105, December 2023), and Phil and others physically moved and mounted the models. It was moving the models from the Golden Mile that Rae rescued the buildings of Moonbase Alpha. At the end of the exhibition, in thanks for his unpaid help, Gerry Anderson gave Phil Rae the 22 inch Eagle.

The Pleasure Beach exhibition lasted only one summer, before the remainder of the exhibition was sold to Alton Towers for the 1982 season.

Phil Rae with the Hawk and Moon at the Space City exhibition. A long time fan of Anderson series, Rae lived in Blackpool when the exhibition started, and visited frequently. Via the exhibition, he got in touch with Martin Bower and Gerry Anderson. Anderson gave him the small Hawk in exchange for TV21s which were displayed at the exhibition, and later the 22 inch Eagle for helping with the Pleasure Beach move. Rae also acquired the small Ultra Probe, a small moonbuggy and a spacesuit, which didn't fit in the new location, and recovered the Moonbase buildings. Through connections he had built, he would build his collection until finally buying the entire collection from Alton Towers in 1990. Rae was instrumental in the 1981 Fanderson convention, the creation of the Fanderson fan club, and the model displays of all early Fanderson conventions. Martin Bower asked him to join the model crew on Alien. Later he would build the SpaceHawk model for Anderson's series Terrahawks.

Images copyright ITV Studios Global Entertainment
Page copyright Martin Willey