HUMAN DECISION REQUIRED
Some personal notes on Space: 1999
by Erkki Rautio
Space: 1999 - or "Spazio: 1999" or "Cosmos: 1999" or "Avaruusasema Alfa" ('Space Station Alfa') as they called it here in Finland - was my favourite TV series (produced between 1974 and 1976), when I was a kid in the 70's. I had missed Star Trek of which they had shown in Finland some episodes a few years earlier, and this was also before the Star Wars boom which was to come only later, so the series made me a sci-fi freak in a big way after my initial enchantment with American cop shows. It could be said my eyes were virtually glued to our black & white TV set every time the show was on. I also had all the Dutch trading cards, Airfix model kits, the View-Master set, and dreamed about the action figures I saw at the local department store... Sadly, most of my Space: 1999 trading cards were eventually stolen from me and the model kits were broken or lost, but later I had a chance to retrieve at least some of those valuable cards to my collection.
What was there in the show that made it such a life-changing experience for an eight-year-old? Lots of things. Visually the show took its cue from (and probably its very title was inspired by) Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Moonbase Alpha derived obviously from 2001's Clavius moonbase, the Eagles had some similarities to Kubrick's film's "Moonbus", and the whole overlook of Space: 1999 would probably have been totally different without this ground-breaking sci-fi epic of 1968.
Furthermore, the series added in the mixture a lot of fantasy and metaphysical / mystical themes with a bit of horror (reminiscing of the British tradition of Quatermass and Hammer Horror films). The First Season episodes of Space: 1999 evoked many times a strong surreal world of hallucinations, feverish dreams, fantasies, trance states and ghost-like apparitions; indicating even altered states of consciousness, which - combined with sleek futuristic sci-fi design - gave the series its distinctive style.
A lot of attention was put to settings, spaceship models (the Eagles must be some of the most beautifully designed spacecrafts in the history of filmed science fiction), special effects, and even the costumes (designed by renowned Rudi Gernreich who was also responsible for introducing the world monokini, the first topless bathing suit for women in the 60's).
The series was British in its origin; with the Americans Martin Landau [who had played in Hitchcock's North By Northwest, and was later to win an Academy Award for his role of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood] and Barbara Bain starring as Commander John Koenig and Dr. Helena Russell; Barry Morse, previously known from The Fugitive, was the third member of this trinity as the jovial Professor Victor Bergman. Landau and Bain were already known for their characters of Rollin Hand and Cinnamon Carter of the popular 60's spy series Mission: Impossible.
Space: 1999 was produced by another married couple, Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson, previously known for such serials as Thunderbirds and other sci-fi puppet shows for children like Joe 90 and Stingray. Their only earlier efforts with living characters so far had been the feature film Doppelgänger (a.k.a. Journey to the Far Side of the Sun) and the TV series U.F.O. which was immediately followed by Space: 1999.