Authors: Robert E. Wood
THE UNOFFICIAL AND UNAUTHORISED GUIDE TO
ROBERT E. WOOD
First published in the United Kingdom in 2009 by
Telos Publishing Ltd
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This edition 2014
Destination: Moonbase Alpha
© 2009, 2014 Robert E. Wood
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
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For Barry Morse (1918-2008) and Johnny Byrne (1935-2008).
The heart and soul of
, both on-screen and behind the scenes.
‘To everything that might have been …
To everything that was.’
Introduction and Acknowledgements by Robert E. Wood
Foreword by Zienia Merton
Year One: Introduction
Year One: Production Credits
1.2 Matter of Life and Death
1.3 Black Sun
1.4 Ring Around the Moon
1.6 Another Time, Another Place
1.7 Missing Link
1.8 Guardian of Piri
1.9 Force of Life
1.10 Alpha Child
1.11 The Last Sunset
1.12 Voyager’s Return
1.13 Collision Course
1.14 Death’s Other Dominion
1.15 The Full Circle
1.16 End of Eternity
1.17 War Games
1.18 The Last Enemy
1.19 The Troubled Spirit
1.20 Space Brain
1.21 The Infernal Machine
1.22 Mission of the Darians
1.23 Dragon’s Domain
1.24 The Testament of Arkadia
Year One: Overview
The Metamorphosis of
The Disappearance of Professor Bergman
Year Two: Introduction
Year Two: Production Credits
2.1 The Metamorph
2.2 The Exiles
2.3 One Moment of Humanity
2.4 All That Glisters
2.5 Journey to Where
2.6 The Taybor
2.7 The Rules of Luton
2.8 The Mark of Archanon
2.9 Brian the Brain
2.10 New Adam New Eve
2.11 Catacombs of the Moon
2.12 The AB Chrysalis
2.13 Seed of Destruction
2.14 The Beta Cloud
2.15 Space Warp
2.16 A Matter of Balance
2.17 The Bringers of Wonder Part One
2.18 The Bringers of Wonder Part Two
2.19 The Lambda Factor
2.20 The Séance Spectre
2.22 Devil’s Planet
2.23 The Immunity Syndrome
2.24 The Dorcons
Year Two: Overview
The Abandoned Year Three
Message from Moonbase Alpha
The Return of Victor Bergman
A Return to Moonbase Alpha?
Afterword by Barry Morse
Books and Merchandise
Cast and Crew Index
In late 1973, a television production team came together to create what they intended to be the most spectacular space science fiction series ever. Following an unprecedented shooting schedule of over 15 months,
premiered in 1975 with a spectacular opening episode, ‘Breakaway’. The programme continued through a second season, for a total of 48 episodes of widely varied style, tone and content – concluding in 1977 with an episode called ‘The Dorcons’. Despite
’s relatively short run, the adventures of Moonbase Alpha would continue to capture the hearts and minds of viewers in all the years since.
Regardless of what happened with network schedules, rating shares and critics in the 1970s, it is clear that today – more than 30 years since the series ended –
retains a loyal cult following around the world. Ultimately this is its vindication against whatever the harshest and most biased of critics could hurl at it. This book is presented in the desire to provide that conclusive reckoning owed to
– the crown jewel in Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s television career and, indeed, the crowning achievement in the careers of many of those who worked on it.
Barry Morse once said to me, in relation to another topic, ‘I don’t know if the subject is thoroughly exhausted, but I certainly am!’ Those words echo in my mind as I consider the effort and time involved in writing this book … but it’s been an amazing pleasure.
A note on the number ratings I’ve assigned to the episodes in this book: I have endeavoured to compare each season on its own merits. Therefore, Year One episodes are judged against other Year One episodes, and the same for Year Two. This seemed the fairest way to rate the episodes, given the divergence between the seasons. Many of Year Two’s episodes would have ranked significantly lower if I had judged them against the standards of Year One.
Many people have contributed to the creation of this volume and I am delighted to acknowledge them. First, I want to thank Martin Willey (webmaster of The Catacombs – www.space1999.net/catacombs) for his generous assistance in so many ways, including providing an invaluable edit of this tome. The contributors to The Catacombs whose work has also helped enrich this book must be thanked, including Marcus Lindroos and Shaqui le Vesconte. I am greatly appreciative of all the assistance, advice, permissions, information and encouragement provided to me by the following: Martin Bower (model-maker extraordinaire – visit him online at www.martinbowersmodelworld.co.uk), Kit Bevan, Anthony Wynn, Paul Stankevitch, Hayward Morse, Sandy Byrne, Sandra Sprecker, David Ross, Ken Scott, Terry S Bowers, Tim Mallett and Glenn Pearce (Kindred Productions), Fanderson, Lis Therkildsen and Steen Pederson, Jovan Evermann, Phil Merkel and Chris Bentley (author of
The Complete Gerry Anderson
). I’d also like to thank Telos Publishing Ltd, Stephen James Walker and David J Howe for inviting me to embark on this project, and for making the experience so enjoyable.
A special thank you to Prentis Hancock for being the ever-observant and supportive core of Main Mission – to this day. I am enormously grateful to Zienia Merton for her foreword, and all her valuable and caring encouragement. I am also deeply honoured to thank the late Barry Morse posthumously for his afterword, and his endless kindness.
Finally, my eternal thanks to all of the actors, writers and production team quoted within these pages – it is through your words that this book is able to deliver a truly comprehensive account of
, Moonbase Alpha, and those who sailed on her …
Robert E Wood
I remember that whilst having lunch at Pinewood during the first few months of Year One of
an actor (I had worked with him previously) promptly proposed to me on learning of the length of my contract. Well, why not – I could have taken care of the rent for a good wee while. I was always aware that while most of my fellow actors rather envied the long term run of the job, they were rather disdainful of the subject matter – a ‘sci-fi’ series – oh, the poor soul. Much more kudos on your CV to be ‘third attendant from the left’ in an out-of-town production of
Much Ado About Nothing
. Well, they may have been right – I have no way of knowing.
has certainly reached a greater audience, and as a young actress, Year One was my university. Working on a daily basis with an incredibly professional, helpful and warm group of people enabled me to learn (and, as important, relax) my craft. Invaluable and a gift from the gods.
This book is a tribute to all who worked on and enjoyed the series, and Robert E Wood is to be praised for his dedication in the hours he spent editing and transcribing the myriad of tapes and interviews from the various conventions over the years. I know from speaking to a few folk that they have found it an invaluable record of the show from various aspects.
There has always been some discussion as to a preference for either Year One or Year Two. I am definitely a Year One kinda gal. (The departure of Sylvia Anderson made it a very simple choice for me!) Well, no doubt the debate will continue. What I do want to say is that from conversations with fans across the globe, I know that they did love the series, and because of that common ground, amazing and lasting friendships have been formed, traversing all boundaries, and I feel honored to have been part of a team that brought that about. If these friendships were Moonbase Alpha’s legacy then we can all feel proud of it.
arrived on the television scene in the autumn of 1975 amid a blast of promotion and hype. It was, as the show’s production company ITC Entertainment stated in promotional material, ‘The Most Spectacular and Expensive Space Science Fiction Series Ever Produced for Television.’
ITC was a British production and distribution company formed in 1954 by television mogul Lew Grade. It specialised in action-adventure television series (such as
), children’s programming (
The Muppet Show
) and films (
On Golden Pond
), produced for worldwide markets. Many ITC productions featured American leading stars specifically to appeal to the US market. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson ran one company that frequently produced shows for ITC. The Andersons had spent many years developing their careers in television, and were the creative force behind a number of popular programmes starring puppets, including
Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons
. They moved on to live action projects with their 1969 film
Journey to the Far Side of the Sun
), a valiant effort to break into the adult drama market while maintaining the quality special effects with which Anderson projects were already strongly associated. From there they created and produced 26 episodes of the adult-orientated live-action science fiction series
, starring Ed Bishop, which debuted in the UK in 1970.
In 1972, Gerry Anderson produced and directed a one-off science fiction pilot (again featuring puppets), called
, which was never screened on television. Then, in 1973, Anderson completed production on the second season of his next series,
, an action-adventure show starring Robert Vaughn, Nyree Dawn Porter and Tony Anholt.
had by this point proved an initial success in syndication in the United States, and ITC chairman Lew Grade commissioned the Andersons to bring it back for a second series.
was set in 1980 and had been based around the idea of aliens invading Earth. The concept was moved forward 19 years and became known as
, and considerable effort was put into pre-production design work. However, as ratings for
dropped in the key US markets of New York and Los Angeles, Grade informed Anderson that he was no longer interested in financing a second series. This left the Andersons with a choice – abandon all the work they (and others, such as production designer Keith Wilson) had put into the second series of
, or rework the material into something entirely new. Anderson proposed to Grade that he and Sylvia would revamp the already-completed design work into a new science fiction series that would incorporate spectacular special effects with human-interest stories, and Grade agreed.
As Gerry Anderson recalled: ‘The first 17 episodes of
led the ratings in New York and Los Angeles, which are the two key markets in America. So it was hugely successful. The American office [of ITC] phoned through and said, “Gerry, quick – we want a second series.” We started to get ready for a second series and then for some reason or other the ratings dipped a little, which they always do on shows. They panicked and told Lew Grade to cancel the series. I was very upset, so I went to see Lew and I said, “Look, I’ve done a lot of work and I reckon I could twist this around and make it into another science fiction show.”’
The new programme was to be the latest model off the ITC/Anderson production line, and was assigned a greatly expanded budget. As such, its international marketability became a prime concern, leading to input from Abe Mandell, President of ITC in
New York. Mandell expressed the desire that this new series not be set on Earth (as
had been) at all. Gerry Anderson’s response was to suggest blowing up the Earth, thus ensuring the series would have to take place in outer space. However, it was discussed and concluded that blowing up the Earth might make viewers at home a little uncomfortable. So the concept of blowing up the Moon was developed, and the new series initially became known as
Menace in Space
. Through the autumn of 1973, as plans continued to progress, the working title was changed to
and then to
Space Journey: 1999
. Among other titles considered for the series were
The Space Ark
Journey Into Space
Gerry Anderson relates: ‘I was told that American audiences liked to see shows where Earth people are constantly meeting aliens and going from planet to planet. I didn’t want to copy
. At the time, I had been toying with the idea of doing a series about a Moon base, which looking to the near future is very feasible. And so I presented a format that initially dealt with life on the Moon. And the criticism I received from the States was this: if we proceeded with the show, it wouldn’t be long before the writers started taking us back to Earth … which isn’t what the States wanted. Abe Mandell, the president of Lew’s company in New York, phoned and said, “I want you to do something that will make it impossible for you to shoot a show on Earth.” So I had to find a way of making that impossible. So we blew the Moon out of orbit. Taking into account the current problems of disposing of nuclear waste, it seemed to me that the Moon might be a good place to store the stuff. And, if there was an accident and if the velocity was to be increased as the result of such an explosion, the Moon would go off on a rampant trajectory, which would mean that unlike the crew of the
, our people would never know where they were going to go next. It would not be a controlled flight. In fact, it would be a decidedly
of control flight. Very adventuresome, that.’
Production designer Keith Wilson has given his own account of the origins of
: ‘I’m probably the [longest-standing] member of the team in relation to working with Gerry Anderson. I actually started in the film industry working for Gerry Anderson 40 years ago, so I worked on everything Gerry did up until
. Not that I was the designer of the early shows, but during that period I began to design more and more. We came to do
and I got involved designing almost everything: costumes, sets, all that stuff. Then we went off to do
, and during that time a friend (who again was someone who had worked for Gerry Anderson for a long time) and I decided that we would like to write a television series. Not many people know this. And we did – we wrote a television series. We did it in our spare time. We did the format for the show, named the characters, and basically it was about the end of the Earth. A team of people, unbeknown to governments, has built a base on the Moon. And the Earth is destroyed, and they travel through space on the Moon. We went to Gerry Anderson with this series and said, “Might be quite interesting. Lew Grade might be interested in a new series.” Gerry took it and said, “Yes, very good. Very good.” Months went by and I said to this friend, “No word from Gerry? Has he said anything? Has he read it?” He said, “I don’t know.” So, we went to see him. We said, “Gerry, can we have the format back for the show?” He looked at us like we were stupid. “What? Oh, I don’t know where it is. It’s in a drawer somewhere.” A couple years later, guess what comes along? So, you could say the original idea for
Writer’s Guide was compiled by George Bellak and Christopher Penfold and was dated 3 September 1973. The Guide laid out the essential tenets of the series. It established the basic physical layout of Moonbase Alpha, the approximate size of its crew (300 – although ‘Breakaway’ would state the exact number as 311), and the various sections that comprise the base (Main Mission, Medical and Psychological, Technical and Engineering, Reconnaissance, Security, and the Service Unit). Aspects of life on Alpha such as relaxation and feeding were considered carefully and, after detailing how people could bring a certain amount of their own personal possessions to Alpha from Earth for their tour of duty, the Guide stated, “A weird collection of idiosyncrasies would be reflected … This is one way in which we hope to populate Moonbase Alpha with credible human beings with whom we can readily identify.”
In October of 1973, Lew Grade officially announced that
was about to enter production. The first season of
was billed as ‘A Group Three Production’. Group Three was a company formed by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, in partnership with Reg Hill (who served as Production Executive for
). The first series produced by Group Three was
. Following its success, Group Three then produced Year One of
. At the end of Year One, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson would separate, with Sylvia removing herself from her business arrangements with Gerry. Thus, Group Three was dissolved.
Gerry and Sylvia Anderson initially contributed the first script, a half-hour entry entitled
. The plot concerned a civilisation of aliens who reduce lunar gravity to zero, thus hurling the Moon and Moon City (which would later become Moonbase Alpha) into deep space. American writer George Bellak rewrote this first script as a 60-minute episode entitled ‘The Void Ahead’. Bellak was instrumental in the development of the characters and premise of the evolving series, but his time with the project was short. Bellak found himself at odds with Gerry Anderson and left the writing team to return to the United States. Bellak had no particular experience with science fiction television, but he had been a contributing writer to many popular American programmes, such as
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
East Side/West Side
The Streets of San Francisco
Script consultant Christopher Penfold recalls how Bellak joined the production, and the impact he made on
: ‘Someone who was principally responsible for the philosophy of
was George Bellak. In the run up of preparation for the series, as a story consultant my name didn’t carry very much weight for people on the US side of the Atlantic. It was thought that it would be prudent to hire an American writer of note to front the series. Gerry and Sylvia went off in search of this person and came back saying to me that they had found somebody they thought I would like. I did. They were absolutely right. And George Bellak has been a lifelong friend from that point onwards for me. He wrote the first episode, [which eventually became retitled] “Breakaway”. Not many of George’s actual words survived, but in that first episode I think the basic lines were drawn up. They were philosophically derived, I think, from that immense humanism that resulted really from the conflagration that Western Europe experienced … through the sickness of Nazism and the Holocaust, and the migration across the Atlantic. I think that George Bellak’s huge contribution to the series was its inherent respect for humanity. Its regard for the processes of consensus and democratic decision-making, and so on – although the need of course was to have a very strong and determined and decision-making leader. I think that in the way Moonbase Alpha was set up, the hierarchy, the structure, the philosophy of the first series, although the actual words of George Bellak got quite substantially changed in the writing, it is his stamp that remains pretty firmly fixed on [“Breakaway”], and on many of the ideas and stories that ensued thereafter.’
‘The Void Ahead’ was re-written by Penfold
and became known as ‘Turning Point’ and then finally as ‘Breakaway’.
It was the desire of the producers that there be as many big names – and spectacular explosions (another hallmark of Gerry Anderson productions) – associated with the series as possible. Nothing was spared in either time or money. In all manners the intention was that
would be the best, most incredible science fiction series ever seen on television.
The series was initially set to film at Elstree, as actor Prentis Hancock explains: ‘We were originally in Elstree Studios. They couldn’t, or wouldn’t, get the set ready in time, so Gerry got everybody in from the design department one weekend – this was before I joined – and said, “This weekend we go to Pinewood.” So they pulled out of one studio, into another, where they did build the set on time. The look of it was slightly different, obviously.’ Keith Wilson recalls the same move: ‘We were actually setting up at Elstree Studios and we did a moonlight flit. It was, it certainly was. We picked our cars up and we were leaving. Literally the next day we were setting up at Pinewood.’ As a result of this ‘moonlight flit’ the production was blacklisted by the unions.