The Catacombs Catacombs International Guide
Space 1999 In The UK

UNITED KINGDOM

Year One

The UK market was not large or wealthy enough to cover the costs of an expensive series like Space: 1999, but while it was not as vital a market as the U.S., it was an important one. The failure of the series in its home market must have been an important contribution to ITC's decision to cancel the series.

There were fifteen ITV companies in the mid-1970s, covering fourteen regions.

At the time, the British market was composed of two state financed, non-commercial channels run by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC1 and BBC2), and the commercial Independent Television (ITV) network, made up of 15 independent regional stations. Five ITV companies dominated the network: the two London companies Thames and LWT, ATV in the Midlands (which owned ITC), and Granada (north-west England) and Yorkshire. These served the largest population concentrations, earned the largest advertising revenues, and produced most of the network programming, as well as effectively controlling the joint network programming committee which decided ITV programme schedules. In their regions, the station identity was the regional company- ATV in the Midlands, not ITV.

The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) was a statutory body established by the government to regulate the ITV companies. The regional ITV companies had three different, and sometimes conflicting, markets: the local region that they served, the UK ITV network, and international sales. While the London franchises, LWT and Thames, dominated the UK network shows, ATV had the strongest focus on international sales, winning the Queen's Award to Industry for Export Achievement in 1967, 1968 and 1971. The IBA published an assessment of the companies in 1974, prior to contract renewals from 1976, which praised the regional and network programming, but criticised ATV and Granada for not producing more local material. Network programming was agreed by five programme controllers from the big five ITV companies, under strict IBA rules (for news, for instance).

Originally the series was planned to begin in autumn 1974. As production fell behind schedule, this was pushed back to December and finally early 1975. The dates slipped so much that the final episodes would be screened during the dead summer months, so the whole show was finally pushed back to autumn 1975, one year later than planned.

The ITV companies were all assertive of their independence and regional character, and in autumn 1975 they were trying to prove it. Additionally, science fiction was strongly regarded as children's entertainment, as exemplified by the BBC's Dr Who or Anderson's own puppet series. Space: 1999 was lost in the "Big Season" promotion for new autumn programming on ITV. Like the U.S. it did not earn a network scheduling, instead being scattered around the week at different times. Most stations followed ATV in starting at 7pm on September 4th, 1975 (Grampian, Border, Scottish, Tynes-Tees, Yorkshire, UTV). London and Anglia began on Saturday 6th at 5.50, competing against Dr Who, a children's science fiction series on BBC1 which was in its 12th year and at its most popular- a suicidal piece of scheduling. One station, HTV in Wales and the West country, did not even begin the series until Friday, October 17th.

The weekly TV Times, which owned a legally enforced monopoly on publishing ITV schedules, could not feature on the series because of the scattered timings. One Channel Islands edition did feature the series with a photographic cover (the Channel Islands are the smallest and most isolated region of the ITV network, located just off the French coast). The children's film magazine series Clapperboard had a two part special on the Andersons career, which was networked and earned a small article in the TV Times. Merchandising was heavy, including a picture strip in the TV-inspired children's comic Look-In, while the Lyons Maid ice lolly had an animated television advertisement. Press coverage was not extensive and was largely negative. At the National Film Theatre in London on December 10th, 1975, the British Kinematographical Society organised a lecture (Mike Downing, who created the electronics for the series, was the BKS president). Gerry Anderson gave a talk to over a hundred BKS members and over two hundred NFT members, followed by clips from Breakaway, War Games and Dragon's Domain. Gerry Anderson, Brian Johnson, Johnny Byrne, Keith Wilson, Frank Watts and David Lane then answered questions, mostly on the special effects.

Year Two

While the first series had at least been shown, the second was poorly taken up by the regional stations. London and ATV both began on Saturday September 4th, 1976 (LWT at 11.30am, ATV at 5.40pm), but dropped it in December (these final episodes were still in post-production). ATV resumed in August 1977, London on Saturday 10th September 1977. Few others were as quick to take Year 2. Granada, for instance, waited until 15th April, 1977. Two stations, Southern and HTV (Wales and West Country), did not buy Space: 1999 Year 2. Most stations repeated Year 1 and 2 in 1977-1980.

There was little promotion for the second series. On Saturday 29 January 1977, Landau and Bain appeared on the LWT morning show Saturday Scene, running a competition to win original props from the series, a laser rifle and medical case.

1980s repeats

In the early 1980s, LWT bought a number of ITC series including both series of Space: 1999 on behalf of the ITV network, which allowed any of the regional stations to show it between 1982 and 1984. When they reached the end of the contract with 19 episodes still to broadcast, LWT extended the rights to May 1985, but still finished without showing all the episodes. Most of the stations did repeat the show, often as summer holiday filler. Among them was HTV, showing the Year 2 episodes for the first time. Southern, which had skipped Year 2 the first time, ignored it again.

Bravo 1995-1997

Until the early 1990s, most British viewers could only watch 4 broadcast television channels. There was some local cable operators in the mid 1980s, but cable had limited impact until consolidations in the late 1990s. In the early 1990s satellite television made a big impact on the British market, with special sports and movie channels, plus numerous channels recycling old content. Bravo started as a cable channel in 1985 showing black and white movies and TV series. In 1993 it moved to satellite, and based its programming on the ITC series catalogue.

The show was first shown as part of a "Cult TV weekend" on 5th-6th August 1995, with an 8pm Sunday slot (The Infernal Machine, with the end credits cut). On 5 September 1995 it started showing Space: 1999 on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8pm, with repeats on weekends (1pm Saturday and Sunday). The series was launched a well publicised campaign for a minority channel (see press). For the first time, the episodes were broadcast in production order, running directly The Metamorph starting 28 November, ending with The Dorcons on 15 February 1994. Most episodes were transfers from 16mm prints (like the ITC Home Video releases), but 3 episodes were much sharper 35mm transfers (Catacombs of the Moon, The Bringers of Wonder Part 2 and The Seance Spectre). On Saturday 23 December 1993 they showed an edited version of The Space: 1999 Documentary, which was repeated 4 times. A second run began on Saturdays from 8 June 1996 at 8pm, but finished after 13 episodes. From 1 January 1997 Bravo resumed Death's Other Dominion, running episodes six days a week, Monday to Saturday, accelerating to 2 episodes a day beginning 28 January (The Bringers of Wonder Part 1 and Part 2) rushing through to finish on 31 January. Bravo dropped all the ITC series in a radical revamp for February 1997.

BBC 1994, 1998

The first national broadcast of Space: 1999 was a single episode, War Games, shown on BBC 1 at 11.15pm on 30th August 1994, as part of a week-long tribute to Lew Grade and his ITC action series.

In 1996 the BBC bought the rights to show Space: 1999. Digital tape copies of the episodes were imported from the US and converted from NTSC to PAL (no new film copies were struck). The series was to remain on the shelf for over two years before the channel decided to show it. It first appeared on BBC2 (the second, minority BBC channel) on 11 May 1998 in an established and successful cult TV slot. The first three episodes were cut by 5 minutes, until viewer complaints led to an extended time slot. Later the series began to be preempted by sporting events, and the Year Two broadcast suffered the same sort of erratic scheduling, cuts and lack of publicity that it received on the first run. For some regions, it would be the first time some of these episodes were broadcast, 23 years after they were made. See schedule

ITV

The new owners of the series, Carlton Communications, released the series on DVD in 2001 and 2002, using the existing BBC tapes (with sound faults intact on Testament of Arkadia and New Adam New Eve). At the end of 2002, Carlton agreed to a merger (effectively a takeover) by its much larger rival Granada to form a new company, called ITV plc. In 2003, Space: 1999 became part of the library sold by Granada Ventures, the merchandise, licensing and publishing division of ITV plc. In 2005, the Carlton DVDs were discontinued, and the rights were taken up by Network Video, part of the Virgin Group, for a new release at the end of 2005.

At the same time as Network released their DVD set, the new digital channel ITV4 launched, with a wide range of vintage ITC series including Space: 1999, on Sundays at 7pm. (ITV4 schedule, 2005-2010)

During 2006, ITV launched a trial of a new HD television channel, ITV-HD (this was eventually launched in 2008). During the trial, one of the series shown was Space: 1999 Year One, using the 16:9 HD masters that were created at the same time as the new standard masters used for the Network DVDs.

Forces TV and Horror Channel 2019

From 5 March 2019, Space: 1999 was added to Forces TV, a channel for the British military (funded by the UK government and advertising). The channel is available in standard UK satellite and free services. The timeslot, 10pm on weeknights, followed a run of UFO. Episodes are repeated at 2:30am (4 hours later). On the weekend, episodes were repeated from 9pm (2 episodes on Saturday, 3 episodes on Sunday). The episodes were the 2005 high definition remasters (although the channel broadcast in standard definition, the quality is still vastly improved). Year 2 episodes started on 8 April.

The first episode stopped at the end of act 3 (Alan leaves in an Eagle) for an advert break. After the break the episode started with the crew already flattened on the Main Mission floor- a gap of 2 and a half minutes, missing the key sequence of the episode. Forces TV apologised and the episode was re-shown on Saturday at 8pm with the full sequence. According to Forces TV, they were required to correct flashing images of the explosions (for photo-sensitive epilepsy). Other episodes have small but noticeable cuts around explosions, lightning and similar effects. The Immunity Syndrome had cuts when the flashing alien force appears, which removed some of Koenig's dialogue.

Later re-runs were obviously edited for fit the one-hour timeslots. In Black Sun, the entire sequence between Helena and Sandra in the Eagle was cut. The third set of repeats ended in early October 2019.

From Thursday 10 October 2019, immediately after the Forces TV run, the series started on the Horror Channel. This is a free channel on satellite and digital services, owned by America's CBS. Although nominally horror and supernatural themed, it also embraced science fiction, including twice daily Star Trek original series, as well as Star Trek Voyager and SeaQuest DSV. The series was initially scheduled with two episodes on Saturday afternoon (1pm and 2pm), with a regular episode on weekdays at 8pm.

Video-on-demand (VOD) services began to offer the series in subscription packages, or as individual episodes or series "box sets", including Amazzon in 2017, and BritBox in 2020 (on 20 August as part of an ITC "Out of this world" collection).

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Copyright Martin Willey.