The Catacombs Catacombs Model Gallery
Space City

Exhibition Report

by Lis Therkildsen and Carsten Andresen

Published in fanzine Intercom One, July 1982

In the summer of 1980 we visited Gerry Anderson Production's Space:1999 exhibition World of Space which was opened in the summer of 1977. It was then situated at the Golden Mile Centre in Blackpool, England. Englishmen visit it each year, they come to enjoy its attractions: long stretches of beach, the Beach Promenade, hotels, parks, restaurants, souvenir shops and the 525 feet tall Blackpool Tower containing a mini zoo, restaurant and view platform. The most striking feature, however, is the variety of gambling houses, noisy, flashing, crowded, expensive - and constantly in motion.

Brain The Brain

The Golden Mile Centre is such an amusement complex, on whose front the exhibition was advertised by a row of large signs: 'Space Colour Action Exhibition 1999', 'Space Model Sets Exhibition 1999' and 'Brian the Brain Robot'. After paying the entrance fee, only 35p, an escalator took us into a completely different world. As expectant as children on Christmas Morning, we entered a small room, featuring some of the original wail sections and some flashing computer panels from Command Center. The prominent feature was the robot Brian from the episode Brian The Brain, driving to and fro, its head turning and lights flashing, while welcoming you to the exhibition. Regrettably, it wasn't Bernard Cribbins' amusing voice. To enhance the panel lights, the room was lit by several red, green and yellow spotlights. It was a strange experience to see these original props.

At the end of a small corridor a monster suit was displayed, it was the one-eyed, two-horned creature used only in the episode The Bringers Of Wonder. On the right in the next room was a large glass case displaying the lunar landscape miniature set used for the JIF-commercial and above the open launch silos the 3 10" berry-shaped containers were hovering, lit from below by a pulsating light.

Alongside, another case featured the control room from the JIF commercial, including the puppet cast (not the originals, as these were stolen in 1978), consoles and computer panels and a wall screen. Facing these two cases was a long wall covered with photos from the early puppet shows, mostly in black/white, close-ups of dolls and sets, including some portrait shots from the live action series UFO. It was interesting to see this material from the early puppet days, as it is very rare, but the best was yet to come.

Photo by David Hirsch

When we entered the next display area it was dominated by Commander Koenig's console from the second season. Its TV monitor was showing a view of the base, but as an extra effect, you could step into a nearby booth and see yourself on a small Commlock screen, and at the same time the picture would be relayed to the console monitor. Standing on the console were 3 props: the schematic diagram (an orange perspex triangle) seen in The Taybor, the "space warp locator" (a tall, silver microscope-like instrument) used in Space Warp and an angular, transparent perspex binoculars (an unknown prop).

Behind the console and shielded by a semi-transparent fabric was a full size Moonbuggy with two space-suited figures. Next to the console some of the characteristic, modular boxes were displayed and on either side was a slowly rotating platform with 3 dummies dressed in original costumes. They were:

Photo by G King

One wall consisted of two 2nd season promotion folders mounted differently, one showing back and front, the other the interior. Both were surrounded by various black/white portraits and behind-the-scenes photos. Most of them were well-known to us.

Facing the console were 2 glass cases displaying a variety of design drawings and props. The one on the left contained costume drawings by Emma Porteous and Keith Wilson, they were most informative and even surprising in some cases (e.g. it seems that Barbara Bain was wearing a one-sleeve shirt). If you intend to make your own costume e.g. for a con, there was valuable information to be acquired.

Captions from Emma Porteous costume designs:

CANTAR Leotard in stretch worn with boots.
ZOVA Leotard in stretch fabric - with shirt attached - worn with boots. (The Exiles)

VARDA Mauve silk jersey gown - caught at shoulders with jewel led clasps - long jewelled cuffs - on top of left cuff - thin jewelled weapon case. (The Dorcons)

MALIC Grey jersey robe, collar and sleeves with bronze "leather" design - "over robe" in bronze silk bordered in bronze and gold braids held at shoulder with large bronze ornament. (The Dorcons)

BARBARA BAIN Jacket to be worn over basic costume - blue "weather-proof" - double-stitched in white - padded shoulders - concealed fastening - double pockets with zipped outside pocket.

BARBARA BAIN Veskin and shirt channel seamed - worn over a beige silk sweater, one white sleeve - zipped - can also be worn with trousers.

MARTIN LANDAU jacket to be worn over basic costume. Beetroot orange "weather-proof" Double stitched in white - padded shoulders - Double pockets with zipped out side pocket.

GUARDS Scarlet leotards -- waist and hips tied with black and gold cords and tassels. Gold leather piece and helmet - long "ponytail" - scarlet boots - decorated with gold leather - attached to waist a "communications receiver". (Devil's Planet)

The glass case on the right contained 3 mini posters of set designs by Keith Wilson. Stills of the final results were placed for comparison. The most interesting drawing was the Guardian of Piri set, painted in red and orange tones. The other two drawings were the Grove of Psyche" (The Metamorph) and the modular village in a barren landscape under a dark yellow sky (Another Time, Another Place). Mounted on the side walls in both glass cases were various labels and signs as used on doors, closets, wall panels, consoles etc, Typical wording was e.g. "in the advent of an emergency press red button on side B of your Commlock. The activator in the panel on your left will then open to reveal the emergency red handle which operates the escape hatchway apparatus. Turn the handle to position A in either direction. Secondary level space suits can be found in lockers Bl and C2."

Displayed in the bottom of both showcases was an assortment of hand-held instruments:

as well as some unfamiliar devices. It is very apparent that a lot of inventiveness and painstaking care for detail has gone into the making of these props.

Photo by Phil Rae

The next exhibit area contained a vast number of multicoloured spaceship models, the dominating part of the whole exhibition, and also the most impressive and fascinating part of it. The majority of them were models from Space :1999. Four were from the 1975 TV Special The Day After Tomorrow/Into Infinity. It would be impossible to describe each model, suffice to say that ALL models were incredibly realistic and visually intriguing, clear evidence of the craftsmanship and wide-ranging inventiveness of the SFX team. Particularly impressive were the largest models which were suspended from the ceiling, e.g. the menacing yellow battlecruiser from The Last Enemy. It was a paradise for potential model builders, and we spent several hours (during two visits) admiring the ships. A few of the enlarged photos of the Alpha base were strategically placed among the ships, along with the large model of the Moon (disgracefully painted on craters with red and green phosphorescent paint) and a cut-out of a lunar mountain range, used in most second season episodes.

Facing this exhibit area was another glass case containing a lunar landscape, a few buildings and five Airfix Eagles, some of whom were in flight. On the left side was a showcase presenting one large model from the famous puppet series Thunderbirds, the Rolls Royce FAB 1, more than 8 feet long, complete with chauffeur Parker and Lady Penelope. Also in exhibit were the Future Car and the Future Boat, both 9 feet long, from the unseen NBC pilot film The Investigator from 1973.

The last exhibit was specially aimed at children. It was a "light box", divided into 12 dark quadrangles, and when you pressed a button, one of them lit up, presenting a view of a photo from Space: 1999. Most of the photos were published elsewhere, but there were also a few rare ones, e.g. a scene in the Garden of Vega from One Moment of Humanity. There were also some drawings from the series published in the magazine Look-In and some samples from a drawing competition for children.

Sadly, there were a few disappointing elements: drawings of first season episodes were lacking, model areas were insufficiently lit by red and green spots, the background sound was too monotonous ("Eagle Four to Alpha, come in Alpha." - over and over), and the impressive Delta space-station and some towers from Devil's Planet were barely visible due to a badly placed mock control cabin. But apart from this, the overall impression of the exhibition was one of versatility and tasteful selection of exhibits. It was a spectacular experience and well worth a visit.

The 1980 season was financially less satisfactory - and as the Blackpool Tower Company wanted a more profitable business in The Golden Mile Centre, Gerry Anderson and Keith Shackleton, of Century 21, found a new site for the 1981 season which was about a mile from the GMC along the Pleasure Beach. The enormous task of moving, repairing, rearranging and securing the models was carried out by fans and volunteers under supervision of architectural technician and model maker, Philip Rae. The work began in early January 1981 and was completed in April. The result was a slightly smaller, more compact exhibition but better planning compensated for this as all the items were exhibited to their best.

This year, the exhibition has been moved to a completely new site at Alton Towers, North Staffordshire, near Birmingham. The models and props have received an extensive re-vamp in the leisure park where they are to have their permanent site.

Page copyright Martin Willey