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British Gamble report

SPACE 1999 Is British Gamble of $6.5 Million

This was an agency news report by Robert Musel that was syndicated to local newspapers in the USA in July 1975. This appeared in the Texas newspaper The Bonham Daily Favorite on 23 July 1975 (under the headline "Space 1999 Series" without the Musel byline), the Times Union (Warsaw, Indiana) of 25 July 1975 ("Sir Lew Gambles On 'Space 1999' Series") and the Indiana newspaper News Dispatch on 29 July 1975 (under the headline "Space 1999" Is British Gamble of $6.5 Million").

London July (UPI) - Sir Lew Grade says he never uses market research to test the idea of a new program because years of experience have taught him that when it comes to dealing with the emotions of people you must feel it right here - tapping his tummy.

One of those positive gut reactions hit the British TV tycoon when Gerry Anderson first brought him the outline of a new science fiction series, "Space 1999", and he hastened to give his usual partners, the American networks, a chance to get in on (and help finance) the project.

Nothing, said Sir Lew in one of the 7 am interviews responsible for the baggy eyes of British based journalists, has shaken him more than the fact there was no answering echo from the executive innards of ABC, CBS and NBC. One by one the Americans gently but firmly turned down the offer, leaving Sir Lew with the bleak prospect of dropping the whole idea or of risking $6.5 million on a new show without a network commitment, a gamble no one has ever dared take on that scale before.

In his office at ATV in London Sir Lew and Anderson, executive producer and creator of the show, counted their assets. They had Martin Landau and triple Emmy winner Barbara Bain of "Mission Impossible" and Barry Morse of "The Fugitive" as stars. They had a premise - atomic waste dumped on the moon blows it apart, catapulting the first manned moon base into uncontrollable wandering through space and time - that they considered better than "Star Trek's". Anderson had developed special effects techniques thought to be well in advance of those conceived for that highly respected pioneer.

Sir Lew's steely eyes glinted down the barrel of his eight inch Havana cigar. "On with the show", he said.

A good chunk of the world will be the judge of his instructs in September when "Space 1999" has a simultaneous premiere in 101 countries including some 125 stations to which it has been syndicated in the United States.

Whatever the critical verdict, the series filled two film studios for months with a marvellous assortment of futuristic gadgetry, with uncommon numbers of beautiful girls (very few ugly girls seem to get to go on tv space flights) and with human stars of all degrees of magnitude assembled by Anderson, a tall quiet fellow who score so low in a pilot aptitude test in the Royal Air Force they offered him a broom and pointed to the cookhouse floor.

Aviation's loss was television's gain and has been through some 20 years of dazzling tv puppet shows and a previous science fiction series titled "U.F.O.", with feature films next on his master plan. How the RAF overlooked Anderson's technical wizardry is a mystery. For "Space 1999" he developed what he calls "modular construction", a vast Meccano-set-like affair which can be taken apart and reassembled to simulate any number of backgrounds, to create the illusion of a large city.

"The theme of the series is the survival of Moonbase on its random journeys for unlike Star Trek's Starship it cannot be steered back to earth," Anderson said. "Because most people know the vast expanse of the galaxy and that our people would be 10,000 years old before they got to the stars we use time warps and other devices to move the around. Space, they find, is full of unexpected objects - giant space ships and small space ships, planets where people live for centuries, another where our travellers find themselves living simultaneously in the present and future, planets of evil and planets of good".

"Space 1999" scores one notable TV first. Moonbase discovers a planet where the people aren't smarter than we are.