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Friday, 22 February 2008 08:19


Aliens have landed on Earth - and we're all potential unwilling donors for spare part surgery ...


UK - 1970-71 - 26 episodes (60 mins) - colour

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's first foray into full live-action for TV, UFO used the same basic premise as Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, with the Earth threatened by aliens. This time however, their presence was physical and the tone of the show more adult than anyone expected: an autopsy of the green-skinned, liquid breathing aliens revealed they were coming to Earth to harvest human internal organs.

While the familiar Anderson inconography were very much in evidence - the UFOs were beaten back by the forces of the secret organisation S.H.A.D.O. (Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) using sophisticated gadgetry that included Moonbase Interceptors as the first line of defence, with Sky Diver aerial fighters, launched from a conjoined submarine, and S.H.A.D.O. Mobiles ready to engage UFOs that made it through to Earth - although most episodes had their fair share of action and special effects, many stories concentrated on the pressures S.H.A.D.O. operatives were put under and the sacrifices they had to make in the line of duty.

For all its high production values, UFO was not networked in the UK, which meant ITV channels showed it at different times in a very haphazard way. Concerns over content meant some episodes were screened late at night. In the USA, it was syndicated to local TV stations, which meant it didn't get exposure on one of the three main networks - but ratings for early episodes in the major US markets were good.

As one of the most spectacular science fiction series produced at the time, it was also one of the most expensive. The positive reaction to the first few episodes looked like a further season would gain a newtork sale. Pre-production began on new episodes, which envisioned S.H.A.D.O. moving its operation to an enlarged moonbase to combat the continued threat. Unfortunately, when the American ratings tumbled financial backing was withdrawn and the revised format was recycled to create Space: 1999.

Ed Bishop as Commander Ed Straker
Michael Billington as Colonel Paul Foster
George Sewell as Colonel Alec Freeman
Wanda Ventham as Colonel Virginia Lake
Gabrielle Drake as Lt Gay Ellis
Grant Taylor as General Henderson
Vladek Sheybal as Doctor Jackson
Peter Gordeno as Captain Peter Carlin
Antonia Ellis as Joan Harrington


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