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Mona Delitsky in London

Mona Delitsky was a cofounder of the National Save: 1999 Alliance (later the International Space: 1999 Alliance) and edited the fanzine Cosmoconnection. This article is edited from the fanzine and a letter to Chuck Raue's ComLock fanzine.

Hello. I would like to relate some of the details of my trip to England, which I took for two weeks in August of 1977.

While in England I contacted the agents of many of the actors who were in Space: 1999, and to my delight, many of the actors themselves did respond by calling me at my hotel. They are all delightful people and I learned a great deal from all of them about Space: 1999.

The first person to call me back after I'd spent days trying to track down people was Tony Anholt. He called me late one night because he'd been busy all day, and we talked for about an hour. He is the epitome of the British, very articulate and somewhat reserved, and I was also very touched by his openness and realism about Space. He told me about what it was like on the set (pretty fun though Freiberger was very tough), what he thought of the love relationship between himself and Maya (all in a day's work; that is, it was okay), and even things that I was quite unaware of (like the fact that the second series of Space: 1999 was virtually ignored by the British press.

He said there were two very small articles in the back of some trade journal about it, and that was it. He mentioned to his friends about this series he was in that was being distributed worldwide, and they'd say they'd never seen it. Space: 1999 was and is being played in Britain in kiddies time: 11am Saturday mornings. There is very little on British TV at that time anyway, so no one tunes in before noon. He had no idea of the huge popularity of Space: 1999 in the States because he and the others were basically kept in the dark about it. Most of the mail that was sent to them in care of the ATV company never reached them. It was all tabulated on a computer, and stored away, some possibly destroyed.

The only mail received by the actors were those letters actually sent to the studio, that is, Pinewood. I had to tell him what a vast amount of publicity for Year Two there was here, and how many fans there are. Incredible.

Tony gets many letters from fans and he does not answer them, not because he doesn't want to but because it is extremely expensive as well as time-consuming and he doesn't have a secretary. In fact, he told me to apologise for him to any fans I knew who had written him and didn't get an answer. He does appreciate the letters, he said.

Anyway, Tony was very nice, and we spoke for an hour (which I have most of on tape). I did not get to meet him as he was pretty busy that week.

I got in touch with five others who were on Space: 1999 and actually got to meet four of them. I spoke to Anton Phillips (Dr. Mathias) on the phone but he's pretty busy doing a series. Phillips is a mild mannered type, currently doing a British series called "General Hospital". He told me that working on Space: 1999 had been his first actual television-acting job. He's a rather soft-spoken type who said he did enjoy working on Space: 1999. He was supposed to be in all the Year Two episodes but other things came up for him at that time and since the job on Space was no longer a contract (that is, like Zienia Merton, he was hired per episode) he decided to take other opportunities at the time.

I did actually meet Clifton Jones. He called and invited me to have lunch with him, and since I had already spoken to Prentis Hancock. I called Prentis back and asked him if he would come as well so I could meet both of them at the same time. The three of us met at a nice little restaurant of the theatre district of London. I walked in and there in front of me was the two of them: I barely recognised Prentis as he now has a beard, but Clifton looked virtually the same as he did on Space. They are both very nice, Prentis being very smooth and suave, Clifton being very warm and friendly, and quite disarming. We had a very nice lunch (they bought me a lamb dinner) and I asked them millions of questions about Space: 1999. Prentis said that in retrospect, he probably should have tried out for the role of the pilot (Alan Carter) rather than that of Paul Morrow because he felt that it would have been a more meaty role. He and his agent had assumed that the role of second in commend would entail more than it actually did. He and Clifton both said that "Black Sun" was their favourite episode and was a favourite with everyone else on the set. "There was something for everyone to do in that episode" said Prentis. "Breakaway" took 6 weeks to shoot whereas most of the others took 2 weeks. They liked the realism of the uniforms and the sets, but they said that the uniforms and particularly the spacesuits were very hot to work in. Did you know that those colour- coded uniforms were made out of wool, not cotton? They said that the first season adaptation books were taken from the scripts before they were modified during shooting by Martin, Barbara and Gerry Anderson. "So you can see now we really improved some of them!" said Prentis Hancock.

They both said that they were led to believe right up to the start of the filming of Space: 1999 Year Two, that they were going to be in it. Prentis also told me about some other shows he'd been in, for example, "Colditz" which was distributed all over, even in the U.S. He's also guest starred on many British series. Clifton has also and I think he is also doing some theatre as well.

They were both really nice to me, and after we finished eating we went outside the restaurant and they let me take a number of pictures of them.

I also got in touch with Suzanne Roquette who played Tanya in Year One. She was part of the Main Mission crew; she was the lady with the German accent who said "Commander, we are being invaded' in "The Last Sunset" when those capsules descended on the moon's surface. She had a few lines in many episodes and was in just about all of Year One. Suzanne came to my hotel to pick me up and we went and sat in a little Italian restaurant for about 5 hours talking about lots of things as well as Space: 1999. She is really a terrific person, very warm and great to be with. She described the cast for me: she said that Barry Morse is really wonderful, very very nice with a nice sense of humour, Martin also was very pleasant to be around. She is great friends with Zienia Merton and they get together often even now. She wasn't exactly thrilled with Nick Tate; she thought he was too concerned with his fame (he once stopped right in the middle of the shooting to hang around with some fans, which was pretty inconvenient for the company). But basically she liked everybody and she said that they all got along pretty well together.

Suzanne is from Germany and she did much theatre and television work there but now she lives in England ("where it is much freer") with her English husband. She does English TV and presently she is writing a script for the BBC (she showed them an outline and they are very interested) about a drama that happens on a radio talk show.

When Suzanne and I finished our long chat, she then accompanied me on one of London's myriad subways (there called the "Underground") and took me to Zienia Merton's house as I was scheduled to go to that evening. Zienia lives in a very nice little apartment in London and welcomed me in where we talked for four hours. Zienia has an extraordinary sense of humor. She can keep me laughing for ages. She's got a sense of the sarcastic that is hilarious. She told me much about Space: 1999 and the most interesting thing she mentioned was the difference between Year One and Year Two. She has always liked Year One better, since the atmosphere was much nicer and her position in it much more secure (she was under contract for the full 24 episodes).

In Year One, most of the actors were signed by the time shooting was about to start, but some were not. Zienia's agent had called her on a Thursday that auditions for a new series called Space: 1999 were being given the next day. but Zienia couldn't make it that Friday and so decided to forget about it. Well, they were still looking for someone to play the part of Sandra Sabatini" on the following Monday. So Zienia went down and read for the part (she actually read someone else's part, I think it was Paul's, and they liked her reading so they signed her). Interestingly. Zienia told them (Sylvia, I guess) that having an Italian data analyst probably wasn't a very good idea because "Italian is such a long flowing language that by the time I would say something like "Commander, missiles are approaching the base" the whole episode would be over:" So they asked her to try other accents, and when they found one they liked they figured that a new name for the character was in order too. As anyone who's read The Making of Space: 1999 knows, the producer mentioned that there was a delicatessen in San Francisco called "Bene's" that he liked very much and told Zienia "O.K., that's your name, Sandra Benes".

I should mention that the accent used by Zienia Merton in Space: 1999 is totally phony. Zienia really speaks with a very nice, well-enunciated British accent, and it's a tribute to her talent that she fooled us all so well with that pseudo-European accent.

Also, Year One was a very free, very creative time for the cast of Space: 1999. Everyone was working hard to make it come out the very best. "Breakaway" alone took 6 weeks to make. Often, Martin and Barbara and Gerry Anderson would stay up all night to rewrite the scripts to make them "internally consistent" with the rest of the show. Lines were often changed by the actors on the set if it was felt that the change was for the better. There's one example Zienia told me about. In the episode "The Last Sunset", there is a scene where Paul and Sandra are sitting on a rock talking about how nice it was to be outside Alpha. Then Sandra says "Do you know what Earth sound I miss the most?" and Paul said "Bird-song?". And Sandra's next line was supposed to be "The sound of children." But Zienia fought that line tooth and nail. She thought it was a very loaded line. "I mean, this is supposedly my first "date" with the guy (which is pretty silly to assume that when the moon gets an atmosphere, suddenly we're all going to start thinking about love and not before). Anyway, it's my first date with Paul and what do I do but bring up the idea of children? That's moving pretty fast, don't you think? A great way to scare the guy off!" And so Zienia told them that she simply wasn't going to say that line, no matter what. And she didn't. She said that the general flavour of Year One was quite creative. That is, Martin and Barbara and others worked on the scripts as they came in with Gerry Anderson, staying up all night sometimes to rewrite them so that the characters and atmosphere of the show came out looking consistent from episode to episode. If an actor didn't like a line, very often it was changed right there during shooting; in other words, the actors contributed to the creative process more than just acting in Year One. They were able to work it so that it came out the best. In Year Two, Freiberger ruled with an iron hand; if one word of script was to be changed, the crew had to get his permission. (One director held up shooting for three hours for this, because Freddie was "in conference" and they were going to wait to change it.) The situation was much less free than in Year One.

Another story she told me, which I thought was really neat, was from the filming of "War Games". They were doing the scene where most of Main Mission gets destroyed, throwing dust around, dropping beams and equipment. It being a rather complicated, expensive scene to produce, they only wanted to do it once, and so they told the actors that when all the destruction is happening, that they should all just act spontaneously to it all. So when the first blast hits Alpha, "Barry and I jumped under one of the tables, and were giggling hysterically, while everyone else was trying to act heroic. We were the smartest ones on the Moonbase:" This was corroborated later when I told this story to Jeff Jones. He had been looking in his copy of the Space: 1999 book Lunar Attack and noticed there in the picture section a photo from that very scene. And what do you know, but there are two rear ends sticking out from below one of the consoles in Main Mission! (Check your copy!)

Year Two was another matter. There, Freiberger ruled like a tyrant, got everyone's ire, and was uncooperative, and strictly opposed to any kind of change. Therefore, as the scripts came down, no matter how stupid they were and inconsistent, they were not to be changed. The unfortunate thing was that Freiberger had written most of the scripts in Year Two under different names (or rewrote them). And since it is widely known that he doesn't have the foggiest notion as to what science fiction is and must think of the American public as an enormous class of morons, most of the scripts were lousy. And they simply couldn't be changed without Freddie's consent. So you can imagine what sort of attitude towards him that policy generated. He did not treat the actors with respect at all, and also thought of the British as being ignorant and not half as capable as doing things as Americans. His attitude, in short, was one of disrespect to just about everyone, even creator Gerry Anderson, and it's too bad such an ass was put in charge of such a talented bunch of people. Luckily, all the actors and crew got along very well, and so unless Freddie was on the set, things managed to run quite smoothly.

The actors themselves did enjoy working with each other; they had a good relationship (which seems obvious the way they meshed so well together). The crew had a sense of humour, and the cast was very professional about their jobs. When they were doing 'close-ups', Martin would feed his lines to whatever actors were doing the close-ups, not simply walk away as other actors do.

I tried to get in contact with Gerry Anderson a number of times while in England but the man was enormously busy and so I only got as far as his secretary. I did speak with someone over at ATV Licensing the people who deal directly with those who want to make Space: 1999 toys, books, etc. He was very nice (so different from those uncooperative people down there at ITC here in the US) and was very positive about the fact that our organisation is putting on a Space: 1999 convention this summer. I also met (quite by accident in a bookstore) two Space: 1999 fans from Surrey, a county just south of London who were able to direct me to all the stores in London that carried Space: 1999 material. Quite nice.

Anyway, Britain as a country is great all by itself, and I enjoyed its scenery and its places of interest, but it was unquestionably an even more marvellous trip because of the fascinating meetings I had with the actors of Space: 1999. I thank them all so very much for what they have given us, that marvellous thing called Space: 1999.

Contents copyright Martin Willey