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Blast off, target Britain

Blast off, target Britain

Space 1999 new mission - to attract our attention

Blast off, target Britain

Daily Express, 8th March 1976, p10. There was a follow-up interview with Gerry Anderson in September 1977

SIR LEW GRADE is having another go at wooing over the British to his version of life in Outer Space.

Despite the lush budgets, the starry list of big-name performers, and the big-drum promotion, we remained doggedly unmoved by the first 24 episodes of his "Space 1999."

Yet this science fiction series has massive audiences in 120 countries. When the three United States networks placed his £3 million investment in jeopardy by turning down the package, Sir Lew sent out his salesmen and they sold the show to more than 150 individual stations,

Almost immediately "Space 1999" began grabbing prime time audiences, to the chagrin of the networks who were already experiencing a disastrous season.

But in Britain the show was never fully networked. Says Martin Landau, imported from Hollywood as the show's star "The craziest decisions were taken. In the London area they even put us up against the B.B.C.'s 'Dr. Who, a series with a 10-year track record of success."

His wife and co-star Barbara Bain adds: "It is a funny thing to leave the states where 'Space 1999' is a phenomenal hit, and find that it is not honoured nearly so much in its own country.

"It is wildly successful in Japan, and in France where they have a weekly request programme called 'A la Carte' it is the most requested repeat programme."

Year's work

Despite the stoic Britons, the series is a money-maker abroad. and the cast and production unit, have been re-assembled at Pinewood Studios to make a further 24 episodes.

Landau and Bain have rented an Upstairs-Downstairs house in Belgravia, put their two daughters into school, and settled down for a year's work on Moon Base Alpha which is still tumbling through the icy reaches of the universe.

Executive producer Gerry Anderson, acknowledges: "There's a natural resistance in this country to anything new.

"'Star Trek' did not take off for a long time. But then it became hugely successful. I think most scientists accept that there is life in the universe: and I think American minds accept more readily our television version of the form that this life might take.

"But the British continue to think that all sci-fi is about green-faced monsters and therefore a programme only for the kids.

"I hate to say that people over here lack imagination, but I think to a certain extent this is true.

"Our programme was aimed at adults and will continue to be aimed at adults."

But there will be changes. Barry Morse, the intellectual scientist, has gone. He had other acting commitments.


And this time Martin Landau and Barbara Bain will try to counter the criticism that they lack humour. "We now have a better fix on the relationship," says Barbara.

There'll be more romance on Alpha, although, as this is a family show. the sex takes place behind closed air-locks.

The glamorous Catherine Schell has been imported as a creature from outer space named Maya. She has a computer brain and can transform herself into any form of organic matter. So far, these forms have included a gorilla, a lion and a tree.

A cage has been constructed for the camera crew, leaving the animals free to wander the set. The other day the lion got loose in the foyer of the "Space 1999" sound-stage.

"If you want to know how many nervous film technicians can get on top of a tea trolley, I can tell you. I counted about 40," says Gerry Anderson.

... and James Murray's verdict

THE FIRST series of "Space 1999" was well conceived and stylishly mounted with imaginative interplanetary special effects.

Inevitably. in a very long series the stories occasionally became repetitive but it was surprisingly cerebral, too, as the survivors on the stricken Moon base drifted through space seeking a role for mankind somewhere. anywhere.

It was not so successful, though, in the husband and wife acting team. Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, who managed to convey a poker-faced solemnity in the face of all the alarms and excursions that befell them.

Even a raised eyebrow would have helped now and again.