The Catacombs Catacombs Model Gallery
StarCruiser

Starcruiser

Alien Attack

Comments by Marcus Lindroos

Seen in: Alien Attack

The Starcruiser only appears as a desktop model in the additional scenes of the Alien Attack compilation, filmed in 1979. One might surmise that the model depicts a proposed future spacecraft design that had not necessarily been approved by the International Lunar Finance Commission at that point.

Photo by James Murphy at Fanderson 2005

In reality, Starcruiser was proposed by Gerry Anderson and Fred Freiberger to the American CBS network as a semi educational follow-on to Space:1999 for the 1976 season. The initial format was apparently geared towards children and quite similar to that of Into Infinity, i.e. a family travelling through interstellar space. When CBS declined the offer, Anderson managed to persuade British model kit manufacturer Airfix to produce a 1/48 scale commercial model kit (an unpainted version of which appears in Alien Attack). The original "fallback plan" was apparently to have Dinky Toys manufacture a die cast version for the toy market, but the design proved unsuitable for that purpose. Anderson and his business partner Keith Shackleton also tried to promote Starcruiser through a comic strip which appeared in Look-In magazine.

The Look-In strip eventually ran for over 75 issues in 1977-79 and was written and illustrated by David Jefferis. Jefferis worked as an editor producing educational books such as The Usborne Book Of The Future with Kenneth Gatland, and the Starcruiser strip was intended to explain science and astronomy as much as tell a story. Look-In was edited by Colin Shelbourne, who was also working as an art director for Usborne Publishing.

click for larger image

The Starcruiser model was developed by Space:1999 modelmaker Martin Bower. The original design concept called for a small modular craft capable of faster-than-light interstellar travel. All the modules are capable of independent operation in space as well as in planetary atmospheres.

Airfix Starcruiser logo
  1. The ski-equipped Main Unit acts as the hub for the entire craft. It provides power and propulsion for the other units and it can also be piloted from a 1-crew cockpit above the front docking port. The main propulsion system consists of seven nuclear fusion engines in the rear using small frozen deuterium pellets as fuel (Anderson apparently picked up the concept from the British Interplanetary Society's contemporary "Daedalus" study, which investigated a similar system capable of accelerating a 500-tonne unmanned payload to 10% of the speed of light). The fusion reaction would be ignited by bombarding the pellets by laser beams, powered by the Starcruiser's "Cryten reactor". In addition, the Cryten reactor acts as a faster-than-light "jumpdrive" to enable superluminal space travel across interstellar distances. Wingtip rocket pods are carried for self-defence.
  2. The Command Module is a small detachable nose-cone along the lines of Bower's "Swift" design from Brian the Brain. There is a small cabin for a crew of two astronauts although the Command Module also can be be operated telerobotically from the Main Unit. The Command Module is capable of short trips in space (it is equipped with two auxiliary rocket engines plus two landing rockets for this purpose).
  3. The Command Base is basically a mobile laboratory/cargo module mounted below the Main Unit. Its caterpillar tracks allow it to cross most types of terrain, and the Command Base also carries a small one-man skycar and survey buggy for quick reconnaissance missions. The overall concept is quite similar to that of the Eagle Transporter laboratory module.
  4. The Interceptor Module was added by Airfix in 1977 (it was not part of the original concept). It is a small one-man space fighter capable of short trips in space using monatomic hydrogen engines. Its main purpose is to defend the other modules against attacks using four disposable "neutropedo" rocket pods. The Interceptor Module is docked to the top of the Main Unit when not in use.
Airfix box

The Airfix kit (model number 07170-9), as first released in 1978. The US version of the box (issued from 1982) featured a photo of the model. From 1983 the box dropped the crude cartoon strip at the bottom. It was issued until 1984. Airfix also released a larger scale Starcruiser interceptor (model number 05174-5) in 1982, again as a "snap-fix" kit.

The Airfix instruction leaflet.

The proposed TV series concept changed somewhat. As originally presented in Starlog#21, the Starcruiser 1 craft was to be operated in the year 2051 by "Interstellar Command" - a quasi military organisation simultaneously acting as a police and exploration group (along the lines of Star Trek's Starfleet). Starcruiser 1 would have been based in the "Capricorn-Antilles Space Habitat" reporting to commander Edward Damion. The original Starcruiser 1 crew consisted of four astronauts: captain Christopher Stevens, navigator/astrophysicist lt. Andrea Dehner, medical officer Dr.Brian Moore and technical officer prof. Melita Alterra (who also designed the ship itself).

A 34 page script titled Run Robot Run was written featuring a different cast: former athlete John Wilson, his wife Millie and their 2 children, Sandy and Jamie. Both children has special powers, although their origin and limits are unclear. The daughter Jamie can move at "continuum" speed, while son Sandy can run across the ceiling. There is also a parrot named Oscar who squawks phrases like "Red Alert". In the story they find another Starcruiser crew on a planet, the paranoid Harry Cartwright who designed the original craft, his daughter Jenny and a robot. Cartwright sends the robot to destroy Starcruiser. They cannot destroy the robot, but Sandy sets holograms of the Starcruiser around it, which it attacks until it flies over a cliff and shatters on rocks below. The planet is destroyed by colliding moons, but Starcruiser and the prototype Cartwright Starcruiser escape.

The David Jefferis comic strip from 1977 modified the concept slightly; the ship was now operated as an "Interstellar Survey Unit" and the crew consisted of pilot David Starr and systems controller Venus Brown.

Above: Martin Bower built several prototype models. The earliest one had a diamond shaped pod and wheels. The second version added skids, and the top spine could have a radar array or laser gun attached. The third version added the interceptor module.

Bower also built a model buggy.

The original Bower design allowed the rear boosters and command module to be joined, just like the Mattel Eagle toy.

The "3rd revised command module", showing the attachment to the spine.

Bower also designed this "Starcruiser 2" concept, when Airfix wanted to create a second kit in 1979. This was has escape pods and aquatic pod.

1979 Gerry Anderson marketing leaflet, promoting the Airfix Starcruiser kit and the Space City exhibition. Note the kits were sold from an address in Pinewood Studios.

Thomas Salter Toys "Supa-Posters" from 1978. The art was by David Jefferis, who also did the Look-In strip. Thomas Salter Toys also produced a "Starcruiser Mission Kit" in 1979, which had a gun, radio and charts, with a bit of the same Starcruiser art by Jefferis as this poster. In 1980, it was repackaged as a Buck Rogers "Galactic Mission Control Centre".

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Copyright Martin Willey