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'SPACE: 1999' Star Is Trekkie Favorite

'SPACE: 1999' Star Is Trekkie Favorite

By Ernest Leogrande, Pop Scene Service (Sunday 10 July 1977)

This is a news agency report that was was printed in US newspapers in July 1977 (the interview is from Nick Tate's US tour in August 1976 and describes his presence at the August Party convention at the University of Maryland, College Park).

Capt. Alan Carter, that red-haired ready scrapper, coordinator of the flight plan of the Eagles in the science fiction TV series "Space: 1999" may set the television sci-fi skies on fire this year.

Last year the series' first season, his personality was obscured by the show's policy of keeping its characters uninvolved in anything other than their space missions.

This season the decision has been to humanize them, to let them show more of the emotions all human beings share. After all, they're not robots.

The decision will bring Nick Tate who plays Capt. Carter even more to the fore because his dynamic personality already has made him a favourite of the show's fans. At a convention of Trekkies - "Star Trek" fans - Tate was the one member of "Space: 1999" asked to be a guest.

This is significant because Trekkies cherish their series. Some even seem to have memorized the shows. Many actually resent the birth of "Space: 1999" seeing it as an attempt to cash in on the popularity of "Star Trek," a show, they say, which can't be surpassed or even equalled.

Watching Trekkies troop up to Tate to get his autograph, you could see he has something special. Charisma used to be a favourite word for it.

He is Australian and an accomplished stage and screen actor, a singer, a dancer and an athlete capable of doing his own stunts. He is a fourth-generation performer in a family of well known performers, covering a field from vaudevillians to opera singers.

Tate, 34, says he was inspired to start show business by seeing the 1961 movie version of "West Side Story". His career took off, but while he's been known for a long time in both Australia and England it took "Space: 1999" to bring him to the attention of American fans.

His getting the role was a fluke. The original concept had been for the captain to be an Italian, but at the time shooting began the Italian marked for the role couldn't get released from another commitment, so the captain became an Australian, Alan Carter.

"I guess they felt my sort of Australian aggression fit the flamboyant attitude written for the Italian", he said. "But I also made him vulnerable, a sort of bachelor guy who's dedicated himself to his job. Actually I was only marked for the first episode, but after six episodes they kept me."

He was so involved in his role that he sat down and wrote a fictionalized biography of Alan Carter in which he decided Carter had been born in 1966, son of a cattle rancher. His first love always had been flying although he was first-rate in just about everything he undertook, from sports to science. Carter wasn't so fortunate in romantic love, since the Balinese girl he fell for died. He was the third astronaut to go to Mars...

Well, you get the picture. The believability of the Carter "biography" reflects Tate's ability to immerse himself in a role. "I have always had a vivid imagination since I was a kid", he said with a smile.

In real life he is a dedicated sportsman and he was an army commando, a bit of background he attributed to his character, Carter. However, it's obvious that acting is Tate's first love.

He's one of the best promoters the "Space: 1999" series could have.

"If you'd told people 10 years ago that we'd be on Mars," he said, "they'd have said 'Rubbish'. Well, we're on Mars today and that makes the series all the more probable.

"Would you believe the first episode took six weeks to make? That's like making a feature movie. We wanted to make everything right."

Still, he is glad to see that with the new season the changes have been instituted of humanizing the characters. "Only a fool sits back and says 'I have made this. It cannot be improved on'," he said. "I don't want to know people who don't believe in changes."

Then he went on to describe Carter, who sounds a lot like Tate: "He's a man who has a great deal of time for people but doesn't suffer fools easily. He has hidden depths. That's why I did his biography. To help the new writers on the show who may not know Carter."

Tate's confidence in his abilities extends into the field of doing his own stunts, something makers of movies aren't happy to see their stars doing because of the risk of injury.

But Tate hasn't had any injuries. "I play a lot of rugby and swim a lot", he said, "and I work out in a gym with stunt men. I've had no major injury although I once did break my leg playing rugby."

Tate said he is torn between wanting to direct and act but he doesn't intend to mix the two. For now the choice is obvious: definitely, acting.