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Stars Excited About Space Series

A review and interview from The Palm Beach Post, a newspaper in the Palm Beach county of Florida, USA.

Space: 1999

Stars Excited

by Jerry Renninger, Palm Beach Post, 30 August 1975, pages A9 and A11

Science fiction has always been a poor-relation in the literary world. While a small number of demonstrably gifted writers have been known to exercise themselves in it, "serious" readers surely wouldn't admit to sampling its dubious pleasures.

It fell first to movies, and later TV, to create a broader and presumably more profitable audience for sci-fi. Yet, as often happens with any deliberate attempt at popularization, standards of quality perished at the hands of cost accountants and marketing specialists.

But film and TV producers refuse to give up. They look at Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" and Gene Rodenberry's "Star Trek," and remain firm in their conviction that they too can germinate a long-running, moneymaking, residual-rich package of science-fiction .

Most of their attempts have been too depressing to mention.

Optimism being what it is, a new series is prepared to sally forth in search of the holy grail of success. It's called "Space: 1999" and it will till the 7 pm. non-network hour Wednesdays on Channel 4 beginning Sept. 10.

Judging by the evidence contained in the first episode, this could be The One.

The series is produced in England by the Independent Television Corp. for reasons of economy. Its incredibly lavish sets and special effects are simply too costly to concoct in the U.S. Even so, ITC claims that "Space: 1999" is "... the most spectacular and expensive space science fiction series ever produced for television."

Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, made famous by their continuing appearance on "Mission Impossible" are the series' stars. They play two of 311 scientists and colonists living on the moon, which is being used as a dumping ground for earth's atomic wastes.

When the moon is rocked out of orbit and sent careening through the galaxy by thermonuclear explosions, the scientists are suddenly thrust into the role of survivors. Presumably a few perils will crop each week as they search for a habitable planet.

Clearly, ITC has cut out all the stops as far as pyrotechnics are concerned. The special effects are not only slick and impressive but immensely realistic as well. In the first episode they do intrude somewhat into the fabric of the story, but this kind of muscle-flexing is to be expected initially it's intended to hook new viewers and attract attention to the series.

It doesn't take long for this kind of business to grow old, though, and "Space: 1999" can't possibly survive on the strength of intergalactic explosions and streamlined hardware alone.

If ITC is smart, it will flatter the memory of "Star Trek" by imitating its emphasis on clearness of character. Viewers are loyal to people, not flashing lights and whiz-bangs. What's more, it's imperative that the people be PEOPLE, human and fallible and recognizable beings who relate and Interact with one another. It serves no purpose if they are nothing but machines with flesh-tone casings.

In this day and age you'd think science fiction was a dead issue, now that space travel, electronic wonders and death rays are existing and commonplace entities. Yet, it is this sort of reasoning which has done more harm than all the lousy producers in the world. Science fiction is not a thing of gadgetry but rather a thing of the mind, and attempt to look beyond the universal fear of the unknown and perceive at least the faint outline of things to come.

At the same time, it is an exercise of faith and an act of hope in human nature. in the best science fiction, the human element is not only constant but prevalent. The science fiction writer is asking you to join him in believing that human nature is greater than any and all external changes which may assail it.

This is a tall order for any TV series to tackle, but then, you can't hope for better if you're willing to settle for less.

Stars Excited About Space Series

Jerry Renninger

MIAMI - Without energy, the most talented actor in the world is a bum. Without energy he can't stand up under the strain of reshooting the same scene 11 times in a row. Without energy hell never make it through the madness of promoting himself and his latest product for the benefit of the project.

Martin Landau and Barbara Bain have energy.

After a five-year hiatus, Landau and Bain are returning to television as the stars of "Space: 1999," a weekly science button series produced in England. Locally it will be seen starting Sept, 10 at 7 p.m. on Channel 4.

As they breeze down the hallway at Channel 4, their pace belies the tact that they've barely caught their breath since their arrival in Miami the previous evening. They have spent the day talking about the new venture with writers of all sorts, not to mention taping interviews and house promos for Channel 4. The advancing night promises a party in their honor at Vizcaya [an Italian Renaissance-style estate in Miami, Florida].

But for the next half-hour at least there is more talking to do. Within the cool, panelled confines of the Wometco (Channel 4's parent corporation) conference room, they sip coffee and speak with unfeigned animation about the new project.

"Neither of us has ever done science fiction before," Landau says, "and you could hardly classify us as sci-fi buffs either, but when we were approached with this project two years ago, it just struck both of us that there was something right about it."

"Gerry and Sylvia Anderson (the series' producers) came by the house one evening with a prospectus and a few other things relating to the show," Bain says, "and we talked for hours about the idea. Probably the reason why we're so enthusiastic about it still is that, instead of merely being handed a script for a TV series, we had the opportunity to be part of its inception."

Landau adds, "For some reason I've got a good feeling about the whole thing, and I haven't felt this way since we started the first season of 'Mission: Impossible.' "

"Mission: Impossible" made household words of the names Landau and Bain, and though they left that series over five years ago, they still maintain great fondness for it, both in terms of what it did for them professionally and what it allowed them to do.

"When we first started and Bruce Geller was producing it, we took such pains in getting the tiniest things right," Bain says. "The intonations in the dialogue, the phrasing for each character - everything had to be perfect or none of us were satisfied with it. You can't imagine how great it is for an actor to be a part of a thing like that."

Landau says, "It's fun to watch TV now and see things that 'Mission: Impossible' created, things that had never been done before in television. The show really did establish a style, and I'm proud of it."

In their new series, both actors are adamant about the importance of the human element. The program concept is such that the people must have an almost intimate relationship to their technology -they're stranded on the moon, remember - but everyone insists that it can't be a 'hard-ware' show with nothing but flashing lights and machines.

"Both of us like the idea that the characters we play aren't going forth as a super race. Actually, in several episodes, we're really primitives in comparison to the cultures we meet."

With 24 one hour episodes already completed, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain are anxious and willing to tackle the next season's work already. "It's amazing." Landau says. "There's just no end to the possibilities of developing the stories and characters."

Both actors hope they aren't alone in their amazement. After all "Space: 1999" already has been syndicated in over 100 countries, and TV markets don't come much bigger than that.