The Catacombs 2001 To Space 1999

The influence of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey on Space: 1999 is obvious and profound (not least in the title, complete with colon). The film set new standards in special effects and visual design (faithfully emulated in Space: 1999), and made science fiction a serious, adult subject.

Among the many people who worked on 2001's renowned special effects was Brian Johnson, a veteran of several Gerry Anderson productions. Johnson returned to Anderson for Space: 1999, and the designs of the Moonbase and the Eagle show a debt to 2001's Clavius moonbase and Moonbus. Certain shots in Breakaway are direct copies of shots in 2001, including head-on shots of the Eagle showing the pilots inside, and the landing of the Eagle seen through a window. The complex, unaerodynamic spacecraft are influenced by 2001, although the model techniques popularised by the film (using kit parts and realistically "weathered" models) actually date to Anderson's Thunderbirds. Martin Bower's Alpha Child spaceship (seen in several episodes) is a tribute to 2001's Discovery spaceship. Other crew who worked on both 2001 and 1999 are SFX technician Terry Pearce and wardrobe supervisor Eileen Sullivan.

Keith Wilson further emphasised the 2001 influence in his spacesuit design, which superficially look very similar to the multi-coloured designs seen in 2001. The high contrast interior sets, with the latest 1960s/70s Italian design furniture, are also similar, and Wilson even designed voice print security booths like those seen in 2001. Although produced on a television budget, many critics acknowledged the models and sets often reached the standards of those seen in 2001.

Breakaway opens very much like 2001, with a shuttle taking a single passenger to the Moon to investigate a virus infection (although the virus is a cover story in 2001). Black Sun uses elements from the final section of 2001, with the characters entering a mystical dimension and turning into old men (an earlier draft of the story had the computer go mad). Several episodes of Space 1999 also shared the slow pace, wooden characters and pretentious plotting of 2001. Unlike Kubrick's masterpiece, critics and audiences were less impressed by these elements in an episodic television series (Ben Bova's review was titled "Space 1999 Marked Down from 2001").

2001 was reissued to US cinemas in October-November 1974, while the first series of Space: 1999 was still in production, and in some markets it earned more than in its original release. In March 1975, MGM sued in the Los Angeles Superior Court to prevent ITC using the title "Space: 1999" which they asserted was too derivative of "2001: A Space Odyssey" (report in Variety, 31 March 1975). In 2004, the newspaper The Guardian unearthed Kubrick's original telex that began the lawsuit: "It would appear that Space 1999 may very well become a long-running and important television series. There seems nothing left now but to seek the highest possible damages ... The deliberate choice of a date only two years away from 2001 is not accidental and harms us."

2001 is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest films of all time. Special effects may be more visually dazzling and exciting, but few films achieve the scale, awe and realism of 2001. It remains one of the few science fiction films that is not children's adventure.

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Contents copyright Martin Willey
Space: 1999 copyright ITV Studios Global Entertainment
2001 A Space Odyssey copyright MGM