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. When that closed, a fan named Phil Rae bought all the remaining exhibits.

Blackpool is a seaside resort on England's north-east coast. By the late 1970s it was in marked decline, as people began to take holidays abroad, 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.

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

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.

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.

Look-In photo spread from 1977

The exhibition was promoted in the weekly children's comic "Look-In" where Gerry Anderson ran a question-and-answer column. Look-In artwork was on display at the exhibition, along with entries to a Look-In "Space City Design competition", where children designed space cities. The winner (judged by Gerry Anderson and Keith Wilson, with Look-In editor Colin Shelbourn) was 13 year old Mark Craig of Holyhead. He won a visit to the exhibition conducted by Gerry Anderson in person.

Mark Craig wrote to this site, remembering the visit in 1977: "Look-In paid for me and my dad to travel by train from Holyhead to Blackpool, where Gerry himself met us on the station concourse. We were taken by limo to the Winter Gardens where we then had lunch in the private boardroom. It turned out that my father (then in his 29th year of the RAF) and Gerry had both started doing their National Service in the RAF, so they had LOTS to talk about that!! As my dad's expertise in the RAF was air-crash investigation - and he knew a lot about aircraft engineering - he and Gerry spent much of the time debating how, in the real world, the Thunderbirds aircraft would have actually been able to fly (or not!)."

Look-In competition winner meets Gerry Anderson

"After lunch with Gerry, the president of the Blackpool Tower Company gave us a guided tour of the Winter Gardens, and then the tower itself. We arrived in the limo outside the exhibition where the Look-In photographer turned up and took several shots of me with Gerry outside the entrance, and then inside the exhibition where my dad and I were taken around and shown everything by Gerry. We were allowed inside the rope barriers, so I got to touch everything and even sat in the Moon Buggy. My dad had his own camera with him, and after Gerry left us to go off somewhere else, we were allowed to continue going around everything where my dad took loads of photos. Unfortunately, when we got home, we found that the camera was faulty and the film had over-exposed..... so we got NONE of the photos he had taken. All I had to remember was the set of printed photos which Look-In sent me (and I still have), and some cards which Gerry autographed for me. Look-In also gave me a Dinky Eagle Transporter, and the Tim Heald book "The Making of Space 1999" (I still have them both)."

Images copyright ITV Studios Global Entertainment
Page copyright Martin Willey