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Catherine Schell: A View from the Moon

Catherine Schell: A View from the Moon

by Ron Fry
TV Times - July 10-16, 1977
Article Source Provided by: W. Chris Garcia

Flash Gordon started it all with the first blast-off for planet Mongo. The modern space opera- replete with resident aliens, ray guns, and sultry, half-clad heroines- was born.

Unfortunately, science fiction and fantasy were never considered sure-fire box office by television's powers-that-be. Its climb to respectability was tortuously slow.

Finally, in the 1960s the breakthrough sci-fiers had been praying for- a series called Star Trek lit up the screen. Despite its unusual desire to couple entertainment with technical accuracy, the moguls expected the series to be just another curiosity, a mediocre time-slot filler.

Instead, to everyone's surprise, James T. Kirk's forays through our cosmic fantasies became a weekly ritual for millions. Science fiction, done right, was box office. There were, unfortunately, only three Golden Years before the ratings dragged behind Gene Roddenberry's fertile imagination, and the show died.

Attempts to recapture the magic seemed futile for some time.

It was left to Britain, lately a prime supplier of American TV material, to come up with the right combination. They called it Space: 1999.

Space became the most widely sold first-run series in the history of television, creating a new wave that outdistanced anything Star Trek ever managed. Comparisons between the two "first-evers" were inevitable, often to the new guy's detriment. Space: 1999 was bland, some critics charged, too laid back, not human enough. It relied on special effects to make up for weak plotlines. It was trying to hit the same market Star Trek had created without significantly advancing its progenitor's themes.

Yet Space: 1999's second year destroyed the most vocal critics once and for all. Mainly because of a major facelift carried out under former Star Trek producer, Fred Freiberger. One immediately apparent change: the disappearance of Barry Morse, replaced as science officer by actress Catherine Schell.

Catherine, why don't we start by talking about Maya, the character you introduced this year?

Well, Maya is the science officer, mainly because of her computer-like brain. She's not exactly a total egghead, but because of the way her species developed, she uses more of her brain's capacity than we humans do. That's the scientific part of her character. But the other part of her is her incredible knowledge of the molecular make-up of living organisms. Because of this knowledge, she is able to change herself into those organisms. She can be anything: a bird, a dolphin, a space creature she's seen somewhere in her travels. She obviously has little trouble adapting to new planets- she can simply transform herself into whatever creature is most comfortable in that environment. It's a delicious power to have.

Maya is, then, to say the least, an alien.

Well, I haven't made her alien in manner, because that's been done. I've tried to make her terribly human, someone who just happens to be able to do those fantastic things! A lot of times she'll change herself just to have fun, to play jokes on people. And she giggles a lot. I think humour is something the series might have missed, as well.

You're far from new to this business, since you've worked in films with some of the bigger male stars. How about your reactions to them?

GEORGE LAZANBY (James Bond between Sean Connery and Roger Moore): Actually, he's not a terribly pleasant person. The James Bond on "Her Majesty's Secret Service" was his first role anywhere. He died (figuratively) afterwards. He was very difficult to work with. If you're nice people might forgive you your airs. Otherwise the word gets around.

SEAN CONNERY: Sean IS James Bond. He has a wonderful sense of humour that he really gave the part. He was even good with the lines he just threw away. Very elegant and intelligent. And I always thought he had a "cave man" look about him. Terrific. I think he's improving tremendously as an actor in every picture he makes.

ROGER MOORE (Bond's current incarnation): Roger's terribly sweet, not the least bit pretentious and a real gentleman. We did The Persuaders (television series) together. He's made it, a personality. But he's so nice I think everyone wanted him to get the Bond role. I was unhappy when the series stopped because I thought it was a bloody good show. And though Tony Curtis and Roger didn't get along so well on the set, I think the combination worked.

TONY CURTIS: I liked him, but then all we really had to do together was speak Hungarian at each other. We used to curse madly in Hungarian on the set. It's a marvellous cursing language- you can say the most horrendous things!

PETER SELLERS: I worked with Peter on The Return of the Pink Panther. I thought he was remarkably easy to work with, even though I had been warned that he was incredibly difficult- perhaps he wouldn't show up some days, wouldn't work with anyone wearing green or purple, a lot of other advice. I accidentally wore a dress of green and purple in one of the first scenes we did together, but he never said a word. Someone told me later, "Peter must like you; he never works with anyone wearing green or purple!"

Catherine Schell, as Maya, was one of the most beautiful resident aliens on this year's television screens. And one of the most intelligent, too- even if she does adore the colour green.

Space: 1999 copyright ITV Studios Global Entertainment
Thanks to Robert Ruiz