Space: 1999: Review: Destination: Moonbase Alpha

space-1999-cover-v1-full-100-fBy Robert E. Wood

Telos Publishing, out now

A guide to Gerry Anderson’s mid-70s SF series.

Don’t be confused – this isn’t only about the TV movie taken from the two part Space:1999 story The Bringers of Wonder (which has just been released on Blu-ray in preparation for the full series next year), but an unofficial and unauthorised guide to the whole of the show.

Starting with the show’s roots as a second season of UFO, and charting its “moonlit flit” from Elstree to Pinewood (which would have repercussions on production), Wood incorporates interviews with many of the key personnel to tell the behind the scenes story. They don’t pull their punches about the influence that the show’s stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain had on the series, or the effect of the co-production with Italian TV station RAI.

Each episode of the first season is then analysed, with all the key production detail listed, as well as many anecdotes about the creation or themes of the episode – with many little details like the plan to include the TARDIS and the Enterprise in the spaceship graveyard in Dragon’s Domain. That’s followed by an overview of the year, which again is sometimes brutally honest about the show’s failings, and about the relative inputs of those in charge.

The period between the shows then comes under the spotlight – with no huge discussion of the Andersons’ marriage failure, unlike some other histories of the period – including discussion of Johnny Byrne’s dissection of the first year’s strengths and failings. A second year was agreed if an American head writer was brought in, and Gerry Anderson chose Fred Freiberger, who felt the show needed more youth and the character of Maya (which came from his SF background working on Hanna-Barbera cartoons – as Stan Lee would say, ’nuff said?) The cast changes, in particular the lack of Barry Morse’s Victor Bergman, are dissected, with some very interesting quotes from Morse’s diary, which doesn’t paint Gerry Anderson in a good light – it certainly seems from this that he had little control over the second year. Even the one scripted reference to Bergman’s disappearance didn’t make the cut (although it did make the novelisation).

The set-up and episodes of that year are given similar treatment to the first, with the changes delineated – different composer, smaller sets, less metaphysical aspects to the stories, and the reduced input from Gerry Anderson (with none whatsoever from Sylvia). The overview leads into a discussion of the potential third year – and the mooted Maya spin-off – and the compilation movies, as well as the fan-produced material such as Message from Moonbase Alpha (now on YouTube) which provided some closure to the series (as well as leaving the door open for a potential reboot), and The Return of Victor Bergman, about which not enough is said, particularly given that the co-writer/director is the author of the book… Modesty can only go so far. Extra material for this new edition includes material from a 2012 convention, which is fascinating – but really should have been incorporated into the relevant parts of the text – and an update of the merchandise appendix.

Verdict: Without the constraints of a licensed book, Wood is able to draw back the veil on a lot of the areas which made this show both work and fail – recommended for any fan of the Andersons’ work, particularly those whose interest has been piqued by the recent Filmed in Supermarionation. 8/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order Destination: Moonbase Alpha from Amazon.co.uk

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