Friday, November 7, 2014

Classic TV: Space: 1999 (1975)

In some respects, Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's Space: 1999 marked the end of an era. The Andersons ended their professional and personal partnership after the 1st season, ultimately divorcing, and when the series ended after 2 seasons, it would be the last live-action project Gerry Anderson would undertake.

Space: 1999 would be what amounts to the British answer to Star Trek, but in reality, it's basic concept has more in common with another American franchise that bowed after it ended---Battlestar Galactica. Space: 1999 begins on Moonbase Alpha, which explodes in the first episode. The remains spiral out of orbit, but not in such a manner that those on the base are in any real mortal peril. Like Trek, the survivors on the base meet beings from other worlds. Like the later Galactica, they would begin searching for a new home.

Lord Lew Grade, ITC's head man, personally selected the husband and wife duo of Martin Landau & Barbara Bain (ex-Mission: Impossible) to star as Commander John Koenig and Dr. Helena Russell. Another 60's icon, Barry Morse (ex-The Fugitive) joined them only for the first season. Morse had worked for ITC before, acting alongside Gene Barry in the short-lived The Adventurer a few years before Space: 1999. Grade made the casting decisions over the objections of Sylvia Anderson. When she & Morse left after the first season, Grade brought in veteran writer-producer Fred Freiberger, whose resume was as diverse as you could possibly imagine. Freiberger had worked on Trek, as well as The Wild, Wild West, and spent some time at Hanna-Barbera, where he developed Korg: 70,000 B. C., and before that, tried his hand at writing cartoons, particularly, Josie & the Pussycats in Outer Space, which, in effect, was a Trek parody.

Also piping aboard in season 2 was Catherine Schell as the shape-shifting Maya. Schell had guest-starred as a different character in season 1, but with Freiberger putting more emphasis on action and adventure, Schell took center stage, and I could swear at least one of the crew had fallen for Maya during the season.

There was also a comic book tie-in, as Charlton published a black & white magazine based on the series. You'd be hard pressed to find mint condition issues today.

Right now, let's take a look back at the series opener, "Breakaway":

We previously documented that Space: 1999 rose from the ashes of an earlier Anderson entry, UFO, and it certainly established its own legacy. The series marks its 40th anniversary, officially, anyway, next year, but consider that it took two years to get the series on the air in the first place!

Rating: B+.

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