Passing the time with U.F.O.

chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

I've been watching this 1970 show in the mornings or early evenings on the Horror Channel.

U.F.O.

Episode 1

Intruder

U.F.O. was master puppeteer Gerry Anderson’s first foray into adult television, following on the heels of the movie Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, which was not wholly successful, as well as the relative failure of the children’s series The Secret Service. U.F.O. too is not entirely successful, at least from this opening episode.

The hallmarks of Century 21 Productions are all in place: Barry Gary’s music, Derek Meddings effects, Sylvia Anderson’s fashions, a zippy credit sequence, decent model work effects, lots of close-ups and a smattering of action. There’s even a mysterious alien nemesis – not named – who sends emissaries millions of miles across the universe to try to invade Earth. Well, we think that’s what it’s about, but come the final reel we learn the aliens are in fact harvesting organs from their human captives.

The show neatly delves into the late sixties / early seventies irrational fascination with unidentified flying objects. Where do they come from? Why are they here? Are they dangerous? Are we ready? All these questions are posed and partly answered in this opening episode, so I can’t help wonder where the show can go from here. 

The episode kicks off with an alien sighting: three teenagers are brutally murdered, one of whom appears to have been subjected to a rape, her clothes all torn and her knicker line flashing. She is the sister of Capt. Carlin, a character we’ll learn more of later. Meanwhile Commander Straker [Ed Bishop] has gathered evidence of the alien landings, but on his way to the United Nations, his car is blown up. We move forward a few years [to 1980, in fact] and find ourselves at Harlington – Straker Film Studios, a front for the underground base of SHADO, the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation. SHADO has a whole roster of secret installations: a Moonbase, Sky Diver, Sky 1, and SID, the Space Intruder Detector, which is basically a computer in space.

At this point, we follow actress Ayshea Brough’s swaying hips, encased in the shortest of short pink cashmere mini-skirts, braless, gorgeous, which is quite an arresting sight at 10am in the morning. I suddenly thought I was going to be in for some cheeky fun.



Unfortunately, the SHADO operatives are a glum bunch. Straker looks permanently on edge. His number two, a sort of James Bond type played by George Sewell, is supposed to be the ladies’ man, but he already looks too old and his chat up lines are terrible. When he compares cloud cover to a stripper’s G-string, I was gawping in amazement. James Bond never said anything so crass.

The uneasy overriding sexual tone doesn’t help matters. Sylvia Anderson’s costumes are borderline soft-porn, all see-through shirts and ultra-tight bodices, which is fine when the gorgeous Gabriella Drake or the aforementioned Ayshea or any other of the striking young fillies on site are filling out the space suits, but they really don’t seem very practical. There’s no explanation for the Moonbase female operatives’ mauve wigs either. When Miss Drake began stripping for her reveille I wondered where the show was heading, but thankfully [or not] the scene plays with some wit and ends quite harmless. [I think I should be disappointed, but I wasn’t.] The men spend most of their time encased in similarly impractical jumpsuits where the stitching looks set to burst in inappropriate places. Curiously, the costumes owe much to Doctor Who and even the SHADO equipment resembles some of the tech we witnessed in the Pat Troughton era of the show, particularly the costumes and the Moonbase. But Doctor Who never had moments like George Sewell getting hot under the collar when introduced to Wanda Ventham’s sexy boffin Virginia Lake. “This is one time I wish I was travelling at sub-supersonic speed… I get more time to spend with you,” he muses. Blimey, George, do the ladies really go for this kind of talk? Obviously, as later, when his aircraft is under alien attack he quips: “Trust me. I’ve got a dinner date with you and I’m going to keep it.”

Writers Gerry & Sylvia Anderson and Tony Barwick do perfunctory work; so does Gerry behind the camera. They seem not to know if this is a kids show or an adult one. The tone fluctuates. The dialogue and themes are adult; the action, after the initial taut opening scenes, rather flat and childish. 

There is a plot, but it isn’t enough to sustain fifty minutes of action. This is your stereotypical pilot episode. The characters are introduced, the hardware, the basic set up, the interpersonal relationships. Everything is a tiny snapshot of things to come. In the last third, a U.F.O. is shot down and the humanoid creature inside dies because it can’t breathe our air. There are elements of Area 51 in the SHADO base, which I enjoyed, but this wasn’t really exploited enough. It was quite chilling when Cpt Carlin learnt his sister’s heart was transplanted inside the alien’s body. Unable to explain her death, we witness him grieving at the funeral: there’s no body, just an empty coffin. The episode ends on a moment of vast, galactic reflection.

Overall, not a bad start to a cult television show, but I do hope it gets more focussed.

Comments

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 2

    Exposed

    Tony Barwick’s Exposed introduces Paul Foster, a test pilot convinced he’s seen a U.F.O. Determined to investigate, he follows up the air crash, the death of his co-pilot and a missing reel of film. He’s interrogated by shifty psychiatrist Vladek Sheybal, enthused by Jean Marsh’s bereaved Janna, warned off by his superior, Kofax, played with some skill by Robin Bailey. Eventually, Foster meets Commander Straker on the film set of the latest Harlington- Straker epic and the secretive operative decides to reveal the purposes of SHADO to the young airman in return for his cooperation in hunting down U.F.O.s

    Foster is interpreted by Michael Billington, who played Sergei Brasov, Anya Amasova’s ill-fated lover in The Spy Who Loved Me. He tested for the role of James Bond as early as 1968 and was constantly in the frame for the part without ever touching the canvas. On this showing, he might have made a decent job of it too. Billington is focussed, tough, inquisitive. It appears everyone around Foster is doing their best to distract him, but Billington gives a fine performance of a questioning, impulsive individual. As the psychiatrist Dr Jackson says: “an enquiring mind, a little headstrong.” Sounds much like our own James. The scene on a private jet where Jackson [Sheybal still in full on Kronsteen mode] explains how when tossing a golf ball, our brain only interprets the visual image, not necessarily what is physically occurring, was genius and disturbing all at once. The reveal of the hostess as a jujitsu expert was fun and unexpected. When Foster returns to his flat, he knows someone is inside and, like Connery in Dr No, he bundles into the living room to find a beautiful woman waiting for him. Jean Marsh doesn’t quite do the same number on Billington as Eunice Gayson did on Connery, but these little nods to the OO7 franchise make you smile and aren’t obvious enough to spoil anything.   

    The story’s very ordinary, ties itself up neatly and has a smattering of action. I notice the Interceptor space craft are only armed with one missile, which seems unwise. This time one out of three U.F.O.s makes it to Earth because the Interceptors run out of ammunition. The show repeats the launch sequences of the Interceptors and Sky 1 in the same manner we had to sit through the Thunderbird launches a few years earlier. Every time one of the tightly clad female SHADO operatives shimmies into view, Barry Gray’s incidental music suddenly recalls the soundtracks to seventies porn films. The show’s window dressing is quite distracting. George Sewell looks bored already.  

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent
    edited November 25

    U.F.O.

    Episode 3

    The Cat with Ten Lives

    David Tomblin both wrote and directed this daft little number about an alien controlled cat which does the dirty on SHADO. Yes, you read that right, a cat. Alexis Kanner plays Interceptor Pilot Jim Regan, on shore leave from Moonbase, who encounters a U.F.O. His wife is abducted while he is used for a more deadly purpose: an attack on Moonbase itself.

    The early sections jog along quite nicely. We see some of the forced domesticity of life on the Moon, neatly juxtaposed with the equal tedium of awkward dinner parties back on Earth. There’s a few interesting visuals – I particularly liked the dead-straight overhead shot of a Ouija board, which anticipates the hypnotic heat pulses that confuse Regan. Geraldine Moffat is his pretty, but conventional wife.

    Vladek Shyebal’s Dr Jackson has suddenly ceased psychiatry and become a scientist. He believes that abducted humans are not only being harvested for organs and limbs, but are being processed whole, their brains programmed and controlled by an outside force. He calls them living computers. Both Regan and the Cat appear to have suffered this fate, although what the Ouija board has to do with it, I’ll never know. The story passes along quite well, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The other burning question of course is, if the aliens can control a Cat at such distance, why do they need the Cat to control Regan? The piece is quite well performed and has a couple of nifty action sequences.

    Guest stars for this one are Windsor Davies as a gate keeper, Steven Berkoff as an unnamed Interceptor Pilot and Lois Maxwell as a temp secretary, basically performing Miss Moneypenny in a cheap T.V. show. So we get three Bond associations in one episode and a foretaste of It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum. Not bad.

    The credits copyright this episode to 1970, whereas the first couple were filmed in 1969. This is due to the series being filmed in two batches of thirteen episodes and explains the missing George Sewell and Gabriella Drake, who must have found better projects to occupy their time between sessions. 


  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 4

    Conflict

    Back to 1969 and the Ruric Powell written Conflict. An alien sabotage pod is hiding among the ‘space junk’ which orbits the Earth and attacking Moonbase transporter craft. Straker wants to carry out a complete clearance of redundant and defunct satellites, which seems perfectly reasonable, but he’s defied by the Command Council’s chief, Anderson. While the alien menace does it’s damage, and is thwarted by a Michael Billington and George Sewell, Ed Bishop and Grant Taylor [as Anderson] spend most of the episode verbally knocking bells out of each other. That’s a genuine, identifiable conflict and I enjoyed the political infighting far more than the bland space adventure, the resolution of which isn’t even shown on screen. Not much happens. This is a thirty minute adventure stretched to breaking point – like Straker and Anderson – when expanded to fifty. Billington sports a quite horrendous bright purple two-piece suit.

    The credit for Production Supervisor is Norman Foster and I initially got very excited thinking the famous British architect had lent a hand on this by-the-numbers T.V. show creating the futuristic industrial loom of SHADO H.Q. and the Moonbase. Alas, he hadn’t. It’s the same Norman Foster who did design work on The Wild Geese and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, but I’d like to applaud Mr Foster anyway, whoever he is / was, as the look of thing is rather good.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 5

    A Question of Priorities

    Straker has a life! Straker has a son! Straker smiles! For a few minutes, the commanding officer of SHADO looks almost human. Then he meets his ex-wife, Mary Rutland, and reverts to the uncommunicative stone-faced hero we’ve become familiar with already.

    Clearly still in love with his estranged ex, unable to explain his role within Earth’s interstellar security army, Ed Straker is caught between all sorts of rocks and hard places. Before the titles roll, his son is knocked down in a life threatening car accident and suffers serious internal injuries. There is medication, but it is only available from America. Straker pulls the strings to ensure a supply is couriered quickly to the U.K. Then things start to go awry: a rogue alien U.F.O. crash lands in Ireland, takes up residence in a blind lady’s cottage and appears to be attempting to contact SHADO and defect. An unknowing Alex Freeman diverts the SHADO courier to Ireland – but will Straker’s son get the drugs he needs before it’s too late?

    An unusually tense and provocative episode, the acting’s really class in this one. Ed Bishop in particular shines as the secretive, wary Straker, unable to communicate to his family about his work or to work colleagues about his family woes; the former is a guarded international secret, the latter is a gross personal misuse of authority. Straker knows it too, which is why he allows the SHADO operation to continue even after promising Mary his son will receive the medication.

    It’s the age old story of Country Vs Kin and Tony Barwick’s spare screen treatment emphasises Straker’s loneliness as he wrestles with his conscience. He looks worn out, stretched tight to breaking point, the mistakes of his domestic life suddenly haunting him. A suggestion he takes time out, chills, goes home, is met with a terse: “What home?” The scene where he attempts to explain to his ex-wife that the courier has been delayed is brilliant in its spartan dialogue; Straker simply can’t – or won’t – explain what is happening. The wider implications of an alien menace mean as much to him as his son, you can see the lives of millions weighing on his shoulders as his eyelids droop and the words fail him; his unrepentant wife – her own selfishness prevaricated the boy’s accident – screams tears down the phone line. Great performances all round from Ed Bishop, Suzanne Neve and Philip Madoc, as Mary’s new, supportive and ever-present husband Steven.

    Breaking his own code of conduct is unheard of for Straker, but his capitulation to SHADO is entirely in keeping with his character: we witnessed it only two stories back when he sent a grieving Jim Regan back to the front line a day after the abduction of his wife. Why would Straker treat his family any differently to his own colleagues? The tragedy is doubled, for the desperate alien is killed before SHADO can contact it, the antibiotics do not arrive on time. Chastised by his tearful wife, the episode finishes in silence for Straker, abandoned in a deserted hospital lounge, contemplating what might have been.

    An excellent episode which would have been even better had the alien story had been a bit more tangible.    

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 6

    E.S.P.

    Alan Fennel wrote lots of episodes for Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation productions, so it’s no surprise to see him pop up here. E.S.P. concerns John Croxley, a man whose irrational behaviour is putting strain on his marriage and causing friction with his psychiatrist, who believes his patient displays the symptoms of cognitive prescience. His wife is killed when a U.F.O. crashes into his house, which brings him into conflict with SHADO. As Straker and Freeman investigate, it becomes clear there is more than one side to John Croxley.

    A good story with plenty of narrative twists. The aliens are almost an afterthought. I notice the Croxley’s own a cat, which I assumed is controlling him, although this connection isn’t made entirely clear. The aliens deliberately crash into Croxley’s house so he can meet the SHADO team and subsequently read Straker’s, Freeman’s and Paul Foster’s minds, thus transferring the information he learns to his overlords. This isn’t really extra-sensory perception, but I suppose it passes as alien in nature. We can attribute it to the Cat, or whatever.

    John Stratton is watchable as Croxley. Initially we believe, as do his psychiatrist and his wife, that the poor man’s simply going mad, but in fact he’s inhabiting several different characters, as becomes clear in the final scenes when his madness fully takes hold and his human half mentally battles the alien.

    An enjoyable episode.

    I noticed, not for the first time, that whenever a U.F.O. approaches Earth, a whole gamut of gobbledegook is inserted into the dialogue. Examples from E.S.P. are: missile timing 1-4-7-5, range 7 million, speed 0 decimal 85, speed 1 decimal 4, trajectory termination areas 17 to 23, speed 1 decimal 8, speed 2 decimal 4, course 0-1-7-4-2-2, map reference 4-0-5-green, speed decreasing 12000 knots [what happened to decimals?]. This is absolute garbage and while a semblance of consistency is provided across the series, it never makes any sense. I have to ask as well, why the aliens keep landing in the U.K. and how this international SHADO set-up patrols the whole world and constantly blows up extra-terrestrial space craft without so much as a flicker of interest from the general public. Gobbledegook is one word for it.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 7

    Kill Straker

    The lunar transport module is attacked by a U.F.O., its pilot, Paul Foster, and co-pilot become mesmerised, but managed to avoid a disastrous re-entry. On his return to Moonbase, Foster blames Straker for his almost suicidal orders, turning belligerent and beginning a campaign o oust his superior, which sits well with General Anderson.

    Lots of politicking, but a very ordinary episode enlivened by a couple of swift action sequences. Straker eventually confronts Foster, the two of them locked in the base control room, and a tense stand-off ensues. It’s repeated to lesser effect later on. Straker manages to break Foster’s mesmerism and everything ends well. I had a feeling I’d seen a similar storyline used on Star Trek, but I can’t remember the episode in question.

    The beds on Moonbase appear to be made of blow up clear canvas. I was beginning to wonder if the mauve wigs the female operators wear on Moonbase contained headsets or something, but as the men don’t ever wear them, this surely can’t be so.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 8

    Sub-Smash

    A 1970 episode which features George Sewell, so perhaps I’m a wrong about the non-sequential filming. Anyhow, this is written by Alan Fennell and directed with some tautness by David Lane. The container ship Atlantica has been sunk by an underwater U.F.O.. Straker joins the Skydiver crew in the South Atlantic [hooray – an episode not set in the U.K.] for a search and destroy mission, despite Freeman’s warnings about the commander’s claustrophobia. Unfortunately, the U.F.O. attacks and damages Skydiver which begins to sink to the ocean floor. As a rescue mission swings into action, Straker’s phobia manifests itself. Unknown to him, Lt Nina Barry [Dolores Montez] who is usually on Moonbase, has become trapped in the escape pod. As the air runs out, Freeman battles to float the stranded seacraft.

    There’s some decent drama if you can forgive and forget the liberties taken with undersea air pressures during the rescue scenes. There’s hints Straker and the young Lieutenant may have a romantic future, but Ed Bishop acts very grim at the prospect. His Straker is married to SHADO, no doubt about it; even the panicky flashbacks to his recent family trauma only reinforce this. An enjoyable episode which, rather like A Question of Priorities, is more to do with people than aliens and a little better because of it.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 4,138MI6 Agent

    I finished the UFO series a few weeks ago, it’s on the BritBox streaming service along with a host of other brilliant series including The Avengers, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), The Prisoner and all the Gerry Anderson series amongst a lot more.

    I loved episode 1, it was so non-pc 😁, and it certainly wouldn’t be made today. Like all series there are excellent, good, average and poor episodes and UFO is no different. But well worth seeing and of course lead star Ed Bishop was in a couple of Bond movies. There are also many guest stars with Bond connections including Vladek Shybal and Michael Billington. I had a huge crush on Gabrielle Drake as a teenager and she’s just as beautiful in my pensioner eyes of now!

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 9

    Destruction

    A naval destroyer is on a secret mission to safely dispose of a deadly nerve gas, but the aliens seem to as interested in the operation as Ed Straker. When a U.F.O. is destroyed, SHADO attempts to recover wreckage, but is warned away by General Anderson. Straker puts in motion an undercover operation which results in the reveal of an unwitting mole at the right hand of the naval command.

    Less of an extravagant sci-fi than a low-fi espionage tale – the U.F.O. could just easily be a Cold War enemy – Dennis Spooner’s story is workman-like and benefits greatly from some stock footage of Royal Navy armament exercises. The design team comes up trumps too; the warship’s bridge is so realistic it looks as if it might have been on a real battleship. Spooner was very experienced in T.V. writing, having worked on The Avengers, Thunderbirds, Doctor Who, The Baron, Man in a Suitcase, Dept S and Jason King, among others. His main concern is always to keep the plot moving forward through a series of incidents which increase our interest in the characters. Destruction is no exception.

    [as @caractacus potts has consumed a lot of Dept S recently, I wonder if he feels the same way?]

    Another episode from the 1970 vintage, Gabriella Drake is missing, but Wanda Ventham keeps us occupied, although there’s no George Sewel to romance her. Strangely, her hair colour changes from cobalt grey to buttercup blonde midway through the story. Michael Billington gets to practice some of his own romantic moves seducing Stephanie Beacham’s divine looking secretary Sarah Bosanquet, who as an arresting penchant for miniskirts. She offers plenty of encouragement: “I’m an independent girl,” she says as they share a kiss beside her long-range telescope. A Freudian scene if ever there was one. It turns out there’s something distinctly dodgy about that telescope. An unfussy episode, well directed by Ken Turner, but he is flattered by all that M.O.D. film footage.


    Beacham and Billington and telescope.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 10

    The Square Triangle

    Patrick Mower, Adrienne Cori and Alan Cuthbertson gust star as a philanderer, his married lover and her husband, the deadly love triangle of the title. Mower and Cori plan to murder her spouse, but she’s having second thoughts. No wonder: Mower may have the stylish wardrobe and be the pizzazz in bed, but he’s coarse and tough and not about to do any killing himself. We are introduced to him as his hand squeezes Cori’s knee, then her shoulder. He says nothing, Nor does she. The attraction is a physical one; communication is carried out staccato-style. He’s trying to develop her alibi, but losing his patience as she loses her nerve.

    Meanwhile a U.F.O. lands nearby her countryside cottage. SHADO set out to capture it and its pilot intact. Things don’t go according to plan. The U.F.O. is destroyed and the alien is shot dead in a case of mistaken identity. Straker must take the ‘usual’ measures to ensure all trace of the U.F.O. and the alien are eradicated. He delivers an amnesia drug to the two lovers, but afterwards Paul Foster explains that after he talked to the husband, he is convinced the lovers planned to murder him.

    For Straker the choice is clear. He’s buried all evidence of the U.F.O. Whatever scheme the adulterous couple has dreamed up, SHADO can’t be seen to interfere. The moral dilemma is ignored, because to act on it would mean admitting SHADO and its own underhand tactics existed. In an unusually bleak end, the final shot is of Adrienne Cori’s character, Liz, standing in front of her husband’s grave.

    A neat little episode which intrigues and remains watchable. I’m not sure Mower’s character is generous enough or Cori’s put upon enough to gain the audience’s sympathy; Alan Cuthbertson always seems such a nice guy. The need for the murder is never explained, unless there’s a large inheritance, but that’s not mentioned. I enjoyed the scenes where the SHADO operatives begin the unofficial cover-up operation, the abruptness of their calling and precise manner of dealing with victims was a cut above the usual ‘police’ fare. Unable to explain anything effectively, they don’t. Straker’s surreptitious spiking of his guests’ coffee was neatly inserted.

    All round a good episode, slightly skewed by the unsympathetic people.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 11

    Close Up

    Straker wants to launch a billion pound space probe which he believes will track an U.F.O. at a safe distance allowing the sophisticated onboard camera equipment to photograph the alien’s planet.

    Naturally he gets his outer-space project approved, while his science boffin pal Dr Kelly can’t even get his inner-space $50,000 project on the agenda. Over a period of six months the probe is launched, kitted out, chases a U.F.O. and transmits data, only for Kelly to realise the camera was faulty. A disaster of Straker, who looks to have some egg on his face. Not for the first time in the episode either: on Moonbase he realises Lt Gay Ellis has been overworking and gives her an awkward mini-pep talk. Gabriella Drake [as Lt Ellis] assumes the position of dolly bird; Paul Foster finds it all mildly amusing. Back on Earth Lt Ellis – out of uniform, into a mini-skirt and minus the bizarre purple wig – has her thighs examined under a x10,000 magnification, just to prove Kelly’s point about inner-space being as fascinating as outer.


    If there is a philosophical point to be made, Close Up doesn’t make it very well. Other than the divine Miss Drake, there isn’t a lot more of interest, except perhaps Barry Gray’s music score, which is more than his usual token effort. He gives the incidental cues a sexed up, snazzy, wispy feel, all James Bond and Thunderbirds. During a spacewalk scene he uses violins as accompaniment, giving the scene the feel of a zero-gravity ballet. Not much else happens. A very ordinary episode.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    Time to catch up on some U.F.O.

    U.F.O.

    Episode 12

    The Psychobombs

    A bizarre entry into the annals of U.F.O. come courtesy of the pen of Tony Barwick, The Psychobombs concerns three alien mesmerised innocents whose life-pulse is boosted from a series of tiny electronic inter-reactions to a superhuman level, granting them enormous physical powers. The still-unnamed aliens send Ed Straker an ultimatum letter: close down SHADO or the Fairfield monitoring centre, Skydive 3 submarine and SHADO H.Q. will be destroyed. Straker attempts to call their bluff and the three psychobombs go about killing and destroying with some spectacular explosive results.

    A sci-fi episode for sure, this one grips despite being completely idiotic. I remember a Season Five episode of The Avengers called The Positive Negative Man which proposed a similar scenario. Because The Avengers always had one foot in reality, I considered that was one of their less successful adventures. Because U.F.O. is sci-fi, and has both foot pretty much stepping constantly in unreality, even if it’s apparently set in 1980 [yikes!], it handles the subject matter far better. It’s still a tall order, mind.

    Wanda Ventham’s Colonel Lake gets a more prominent role, chasing the psychos around the leafy London suburbs, uncovering death after death, while Michael Billington’s Col Foster seduces the prime suspect, secretary and murderess Linda Simmons.  Adorably winsome Deborah Grant’s legs go on forever and we see plenty of them as she’s kitted out in short mini-skirt after short mini-skirt; so short she keeps flashing her underwear. Grant impersonates Linda Simmons with some aplomb. She would later achieve more regular fame as John Nettles’ ex in Bergerac.


    During Paul and Linda’s briefer than brief affair – I suppose even for Gerry Anderson it was a step too far to send them to bed after only four hours of romance – we all believe she’s going to kill him. Grant’s intense facial expression certainly suggests it. It doesn’t happen, because this intensity is not one of breakdown – as specified by genius Dr Jackson [Vladek Sheybal] – but by happiness. It is only when challenged by Col Lake that the alien’s influence reasserts itself.

    Good effects and some tense scenes – the second psycho infiltrating Skydiver 3 was particularly clever – plus we get to see the Skydiver cave dockyard which is the kind of model work that harks back appreciatively to Gerry Anderson’s best Thunderbirds and Stingray work. The action is certainly propelling the narrative even if we know not a single moment of it makes sense. Director Jeremy Summers should be praised. Ayshea Brough’s sexy SHADO Operative has been promoted to a Lieutenant, but her uniform’s still the same even if her dialogue has improved.

    One moment of trivia, this episode has no title sequence, I assume because the finished film is a minute too long; an occurrence almost as strange as this adventure. Almost, but not quite. 

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent
    edited November 18

    U.F.O.

    Episode 13

    Survival

    Tony Barwick wrote this slight adventure and Alan Perry directs with an unsteady hand. You can spot where this story is heading at each turn.

    A U.F.O. is hiding on the lunar surface and an alien attack on Moonbase has resulted in the death of an Interceptor pilot. Paul Foster has revenge in mind, but when the aliens fight back and the U.F.O. is destroyed he’s left stranded and injured and running out of air on the moon. The only surviving alien helps him to safety, but tragedy comes to Paul Foster and his Samaritan.

    If you can forgive the idiocy of Foster surviving almost 24 hours in his space suit, injured and on the dark, cold side of the moon, you can forgive anything. There’s no attempt to understand how the zero atmosphere on the moon conflicts with basic human functions. Attempting to entwine this story of prejudice resolved with another regarding the Afro-Caribbean [Harry Braid’s Lt Bradley] who cites racism as a reason for disaffection with SHADO, seems a step too far. Neither story has impact, nor are they resolved satisfactorily. It’s very slow and lacks tension throughout. Barry Gray’s incidental music recalls The Island Speaks from Dr No and keeps drifting into James Bond Theme territory. 

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 14

    Mindbenders

    An insane episode about people going insane.

    Agents of SHADO are experiencing hallucinations under alien influence. The root cause turns out to be a piece of space rock which Straker accidentally smashes, thus freeing himself from its weird mind bending effects. The scenes where Straker realises he’s hallucinating are well structured, and provide an insight onto the U.F.O. studio sets as he has visions of SHADO being part of his film studio enterprise. Straker’s illusions are so radically different to those experienced by his colleagues that they don’t make any narrative sense. Even the explanation is tagged on, almost as an after-thought, despite the audience figuring out where the problem lies. No one, not even Straker, makes the connections at SHADO H.Q.

    Terrible stuff.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 15

    Flight Path

    George Cole guest stars as Paul Roper, SHADO operative and experienced astronaut. Under duress from an unnamed alien agent, who is threatening his young wife, Carol, Roper betrays the organisation and puts Moonbase at risk.

    A neat little spy yarn with solid performances all-round, especially from Cole and Sonia Fox, who plays his wife. Their scenes together are fraught with tension. A mismatched couple, you sense her isolation, living in a large thatched cottage in the middle of nowhere, waiting in her heavenly pink boudoir in her classy pink robes, and wondering when her husband will return from his latest secret mission. Ed Bishop and George Sewell don’t seem very comfortable either; not in their respective roles or the dreadful outfits they are crammed into. Sylvia Anderson’s fashions got better as the performances did. This episode has the hallmarks of an early recording, as the show finds its feet and direction; Peter Gordeno’s Captain Carlin makes an appearance and we haven’t seen him for a long while.

    Some good touches abound. None better than when Carol confronts an intruder into her house, a moment of tension and bloody action, heightened by a superb cliff-hanger ending leading to an ad-break. Very impressive. Not so the goings on at SHADO H.Q. which seem to be done by convenience. It’s odd Straker conducts an interrogation of Roper over a video-link when he’s in the same building. Even odder that the resident psychiatrist, Vladek Shyebal’s Dr Jackson, isn’t present either. The piecemeal non-linear construction of the series’ episodes makes me wonder if some of this one was filmed out of sync with the rest.

    There’s a satisfying redemptive climax and the a brilliant ending shot as the camera pans upwards from Roper’s lifeless body until it merges into the moonscape. All told, a good episode enlivened by the guest stars. 

    Ed Bishop as Ed Straker

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    Time for a catch up...

    U.F.O.

    Episode 16

    The Man Who Came Back

    Ed Straker’s pal, Craig Collins, disappears for eight weeks after a U.F.O. attacks his Moonbase space module. He’s discovered on a desert island, but no one can find any wreckage of his module. His old beau Colonel Virginia Lake [Wanda Ventham] has already moved on. She’s an independent lass and tells him straight out she’s nobody’s property. Collins doesn’t like that and his affronted kisses virtually suffocate her. She, like the officious Colonel Grey – Gary Raymond, all officious – believes Collins has changed, and not for the better.

    When the Space Intruder Detector [S.I.D.] is damaged in an alien attack, only Collins is qualified to repair it. S.I.D. always looked a bit like a stranded wasp, now the poor satellite really is immobile. “I am hit,” it wails. Nice to see writer Terence Feeley give it a personality. Derrin Nesbitt plays Collins as a nasty piece of work, both sly and ingratiating at the same time. We’re never sure what’s happening inside his mind and whether he’s trustworthy. There is doubt, finally confirmed at a moment when he attempts to murder a sleeping Colonel Grey. Both Nesbitt and Raymond are superb as two rivals who share animosity which boils over at every opportunity. You sense Raymond’s attempts to retain control, both of himself and Collins, while Nesbitt allows his character to become steadily more devious and vicious. Some excellent verbal interplay abounds. There’s a great shock moment when Collins confronts the suspicious Dr Jackson. Vladek Sheybal good as always. 

    The alien’s plan is to kill Ed Straker. It’s a very long winded way to go about it. Collins insists Straker helps him repair S.I.D. as he’s casually disabled every other candidate by foul means. On the space walk, the two share a tense hand-to-hand combat which ends with a suitably grim ending for Mr Nesbitt. The spacewalk scenes are a ton better than those we witnessed in Conflict.

    Ronald Culver and Lois Maxwell make guest appearances. Blink and you’ll miss the gorgeous Anoushka Hempel as a SHADO operative; she of course was one of Blofeld’s Angels of Death in OHMSS. She really deserves a bigger role than this walk on. 

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 17

    The Dalotek Affair

    The Dalotek Affair starts with documentary footage of a 1969 interview given by Dr Frank Stranges to Lt Keith Ford, in his previous incarnation as a journalist, before he joined SHADO. Stranges is a real person and is listed in the credits as playing himself. He was the spokesperson for the National Investigation Committee on Unidentified Flying Objects. He sounds genuine. He’s remarkably serious. Keith Alexander, who has a recurring role as Radio Control Operator Lt Ford, never lets the series down even if he’s mostly primed to his desk station with a set of oblong earphones on his scalp. His interview is fundamental to Straker uncovering the aliens’ attack plans, using a fireball – a meteorite – as disguise to plant communication wrecking devices.

    Meanwhile Paul Foster has got more on his plate than aliens and loss of radio coms. He’s got a private enterprise company digging up moon rocks only a few craters away from Moonbase. He thinks their gyroscope is responsible for the coms trouble, but not before he engages in a flirtatious relationship with Tracey Reed’s scientist Jane Carson. Reed was a well-connected actress [director Carol Reed’s step-daughter] who never quite made it big despite an eye catching role in Dr Strangelove – she was George C. Scott’s girl and spent all her scenes wearing a tiny bikini. She’s more than capable here and the sparks seem to fly between her and Billington. Not even Ruric Powell’s lazy dialogue can stop the fizzing. Alan Perry directs with some urgency.

    This is quite a talky piece, but it does have flashes of action and it’s good to have a story which doesn’t need violence to create interest. The major moments of tension come from Foster’s confrontations with the Dalotek research team. The episode is framed as a flashback: Foster is relating the tale to Alec Freeman over a bottle of Provencal Rose and a steak in a swanky restaurant where the waitresses wear silver bikinis. Seated a couple of tables away is Jane Carson. Unfortunately, before leaving Moonbase, she was administered the amnesia drug, which we last saw in The Square Triangle. She has no memory of Foster and he has to start his conquest all over again. The poor devil… 

    The eagle-eyed will spot Michael Caine’s wife Shakira as one of the waitresses.

    George Sewell and Michael Billington

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent
    edited November 25

    U.F.O.

    Episode 18

    Timelash

    Almost all action, Timelash begins with Ed Straker going violently berserk at SHADO H.Q. Once sedated, Straker mumbles mumbo-jumbo which leads Dr Jackson to believe he is experiencing some form of amnesia. “They murdered time!” he screams. Jackson administers an experimental drug which helps the Commander to remember what has occurred since 18.00 that night.

    Some good visuals aid the sense of disorientation as Straker and Colonel Lake evade alien lasers and U.F.O.s during the early evening dusk, yet arrive at Harlington-Straker Studios in clear daylight. Here they find everything frozen, even the crows catching worms are fixed in mid-air. This is a wholly unsettling sequence and the astonishment and fear registered by Ed Bishop and Wanda Ventham is palpable. As they wander this grotesque nightmare, one of the statues comes alive.

    Turner , a double agent, has been given the power to manipulate time by the aliens and has trapped Straker and Lake in a millionth of a second. His intention is to kill them. Meanwhile the aliens plan to attack SHADO H.Q. at the precise moment Turner has frozen time. Patrick Allen plays the double agent with an over-the-top Irish lilt and a gay laugh which gets steadily more annoying as the episode progresses. Wasn’t there a Star Trek episode where Kirk fought a similarly annoying Irishman? I was reminded of it.

    Plenty of running, chasing, shooting and fighting. Wanda Ventham looks as if she’s about to pop out of her blouse at any moment. She’d have made a great Mary Goodnight. The end is resolved quite cleverly, but you do wonder why neither Straker or Lake noticed the radio control engineer [Turner] had disappeared from his control desk. Something of an inconsequential hoot for the latter half, but the early mysterious scenes are excellent.


    Wanda Ventham as Col Lake

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 19

    Ordeal

    Paul Foster’s on furlough which means a trip to SHADO’s version of Shrublands and a series of athletic tests to straighten himself out. He needs it after partying at his girl Sylvia’s apartment until the early hours at a groovy shindig populated by the latest fashions and accompanied by Get Back by the Beatles. Michael Billington looks quite at home amongst this sixties hangover, medallion fully in place, and girls flattering themselves for attention. I had visions of George Lazenby’s ideas for James Bond, how he should become a more hip, modern swinger. God forbid it should ever happen.

    Tony Barwick writes the best stories for U.F.O. He has a good sense of narrative and delivers some juicy scenarios. He doesn’t mess with dialogue. If a nod or a wink will do, that’s what we get. Director Ken Turner follows his lead. He loves close ups and quick cuts to promote tension and allow the story to flow.

    An U.F.O. escapes interception and lands near the health centre. Paul Foster is kidnapped and taken on board the space ship, where he’s dressed in an alien space suit filled with green liquid, the same kind which we saw way back in Intruder. He’s being prepared for a deep space flight. Meanwhile SHADO attempts to destroy the U.F.O. before Foster can succumb to interrogation. Fatally damaged, the space craft crashes on the moon. Gabriella Drake’s Lt Ellis rescues him and, under Dr Jackson’s supervision, removes the space suit. Foster goes into cardiac arrest…

    Lots of neat touches, a good build up of tension and moments of fun. Foster suffers a hangover, the doctors are sarcastic b’tards, all the SHADO ops whose names begin with ‘F’ are being assessed – except for Alec Freeman. George Sewell smokes heavily and looks redundant. There’s a cop-out ending which I saw coming but not in the manner it occurred. Overall, a cheerful little number. I wish I could have gone to parties like Sylvia’s when I was younger… 


  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 20

    Court Martial

    Another Tony Barwick episode, but this one is a routine courtroom affair which never really gets going. The military legal scenes are rather dull. Vladek Sheybel’s Dr Jackson has suddenly graduated from psychiatrist to prosecutor and appears to be working for General Anderson, not SHADO. This look suspiciously like a cost saving piece of casting. He’s rather good acting the conceited authority figure, as you’d expect once he’s given a role of standing to occupy. As George Sewell’s Alec Freeman puts it: “I would shake hands, but you know how it is: I can’t bear to touch anything slippery.”

    Paul Foster is accused of espionage and the penalty is death. The evidence appears irrefutable until Straker hears a complaint about industrial espionage at his film studio. Could the two cases be linked? The investigation is more interesting than the court martial of the title. We all know it’ll end up okay. Foster makes an exciting run for it, but as SHADO operatives can’t shoot for toffee, he’s not in any danger.

    It passed an hour.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    Spent this morning propped up by the T.V. watching more U.F.O.

    U.F.O.

    Episode 21

    Computer Affair

    Tony Barwick’s pen must have been supercharged. This is another of his teleplays, sturdily directed by David Lane. There’s an accident during a U.F.O. incident and an interceptor is lost. Straker calls Lt Ellis, Lt Bradley and Lt Woodson down to SHADO H.Q. to explain the failure. Meanwhile Alec Freeman conducts a search for the damaged U.F.O.

    There’s a lot of smoking in this one. A lot of anxious hanging about in control rooms, recreation areas, Straker’s office, etc. Interracial relationships are non-specifically touched on, which is kind of cool. The psychiatrist – not Dr Jackson this time – and his computer draw conclusions which are only half right because they’ve only been given half the data. Very medically irresponsible. Gabriella Drake is suitably stone-faced about the affair; Harry Braid’s Bradley isn’t anyway near as bothered by any perceived racial slur as he was when Straker tried to promote him a few stories back. It’s never entirely clear whether the two are involved or not. I defer to the former, but Barwick’s left the door deliberately open.

    A tense stand-off in the forest with the aliens is the highlight. SHADO has its hands on another live extra-terrestrial, but this one dies also, and Freeman blames Straker for his over heavy handed interrogation techniques. George Sewell is tremendously wooden. He doesn’t look to be enjoying himself and I don’t blame him. After the debut episode where he was clearly the action man, his Alec Freeman has turned into a the audience’s diligent barometer, assessing Straker’s or anyone’s intentions. He’s become the auditor, the message boy, the dinner companion, the sounding board, but rarely has he been involved at the nub end of things. He’s a bit more active in this one, but frankly it’s no wonder he chooses to resign.

    Freeman’s fed up with Straker’s computer analyses ruling every decision his superior makes and wants to get back to some human deduction, the same deductions Gay Ellis makes every time she sends out the Interceptors. He’s proved right; Straker lets him have his gloating moment; Freeman takes it with bad grace; Ellis and Bradley share a bottle of 1984 cabernet in a romantic restaurant – very odd considering the show is set in 1980 – so did it all end satisfactorily? I’ve no idea because the whole “affair” section of the story ceased to grab me from the moment Bradley winked at Ellis. Too telegraphed and, for an audience in 2021, not very interesting. Nice to get Gabriella Drake out of her Moonbase uniform again.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 22

    Confetti Check A-OK

    An episode which looks as if it might just have been the very first ever filmed, concerning as it does the formation of SHADO and the building of their underground H.Q. You get the impression they did film some scenes on the still to be completed set. Tony Barwick again is the writer and he’s doing a grand job sustaining waning interest in the series.

    This one, like The Psychobombers, does not feature the usual title theme. It’s set back in 1969 and is told in flashback. One of SHADO’s crew has just become a father and Straker reminisces about his own family life and how it went all so terribly wrong thanks to SHADO. As a lightweight analysis of the disintegration of a marriage, Confetti works reasonably well. The formula is all in place: newlyweds, interrupted honeymoon, a husband barely at home and unable to explain to his wife what he’s been doing and where he’s been, pregnancy, jealousy, suspicion and finally rage. The episode is well-constructed and succeeds in making us empathise with both Straker and his lonely wife, Mary, a returning Susanne Neve. At this point in his life Straker seems very acquiescent. There isn’t a single thing he won’t do or moment he won’t take to appease his nominal boss General Henderson and ensure SHADO gets off the drawing board: he meets the U.N. committee, he interviews and trains the recruits, he supervises the work details, he’s never home and he never tells his wife a single iota of information about his real job role. No wonder the poor lass thinks he’s having an affair.

    I get the secrecy of the organisation, and Alec Freeman reiterates it, but I can’t buy it and I wonder why Straker never considered bringing his wife into the SHADO fold, as it would enable her to learn his secrets. On a second point, I find it unbelievable that a man so well structured in his life like Straker can’t telephone his wife, take shore leave, insist on downtime; even in the military they insist on some reveille. I get the impression Straker’s problems are very much of his making, of his inability to say “no” to his superiors and his colleagues. Henderson tells him “There’ll be no turning back later,” but Straker’s attitude goes way beyond any reasonable call of duty. You’d think he’d show some antipathy towards Henderson, who hands him the SHADO Commander’s role and promptly takes a cushy desk job (Henderson was meant to be the first SHADO Commander), but he doesn’t. He stores up that resentment for later, obviously, and it gives some credence to their ensuing verbal ding-dongs.

    Overall, a good episode, filling in a few gaps in the cast’s past lives. It might have been nice to see a few more of the Operatives being recruited, although we do see Nina Barry [Dolores Montez] brought into the fold. Lts Ford, Maxwell and Grey all make appearances as technicians in the set up of the H.Q. and their experience must have been enough to land them work in SHADO. The Spy Who Loved Me’s Shane Rimmer has a tiny role as a CIA agent. 

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,505MI6 Agent

    U.F.O.

    Episode 23

    The Sound of Silence

    No, not U.F.O. does Simon & Garfunkel, rather two siblings Russ and Anne Stone, played by Micheal Jayston and Susan Jameson, are having trouble with a local vagrant hippie and his scruffy dog. Meanwhile an U.F.O. has landed near the Stonewell estate and is frightening the horses.

    Not a lot happens in this episode, although it occasionally wraps up as a keen exercise in suspense. There are one or two surprises and some blood spilling which come as an unexpected treat. The most notable moments are when Anne pauses by the estate’s lake and remarks how quiet everything is. Silence isn’t so much golden as alien. Paul Foster is instantly intrigued. Later, there’s a great juxtaposition of his wanderings by the lake, searching for clues, while Anne drives back to the house, two mundane enterprises yet both reaching for a sudden interruption – we know it’s coming but will it be Paul or Anne who suffers it?

    The headstrong Russ disappears and Foster believes it’s the work of the aliens, but he can’t tell the gorgeously vacant Anne. The story works itself to a tidy conclusion. The amnesia drug gives Paul Foster another excuse to seduce a woman he’s already clandestinely met. I think he’d be prosecuted for that sort of behaviour these days. Michael Jayston would go on to great acclaim opposite Janet Suzman in Franklin J. Shaffer’s Nicholas and Alexandra. Susan Jameson would find fame later in life as Alun Armstrong’s beleaguered wife in the retired cops show New Tricks. She wears the same dress Deborah Grant filled out in The Psychobombers. Strange indeed.


     

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