Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Invasion: UFO

It was not uncommon for television studios to milk extra profits out of dead series by splicing together unrelated episodes and selling them into syndication as two-hour “movies.” Usually this was done as unobtrusively as possible by mashing together two one-hour episodes. In this case, ITC ripped footage from no fewer than six (!) episodes of the British science fiction series UFO, which doesn’t always make for comprehensible viewing.

UFO was the first series created by husband-and-wife producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson to star live actors. Their previous shows, most notably STINGRAY and THUNDERBIRDS, featured wooden marionettes on highly detailed miniature sets. Ed Bishop (PETS) starred in UFO as U.S. Air Force colonel Ed Straker, the commander of SHADO, a top-secret government agency hidden beneath a British film studio and on the Moon. From SHADO headquarters, Straker and his crew fought back against an alien race that threatened to invade Earth. UFO ran only one season and premiered in the U.K. and the U.S. in 1970.

In 1980, ten years after Straker first pitched SHADO to its financial backers, the organization captures its first alien. Humanoid, but with a green tint to its skin, the alien rapidly ages and dies, due to contact with Earth’s atmosphere, but not before SHADO learns it had undergone a series of human organ transplants. Straker pursues two other alien spacecraft, which look like metal tops: one into the forests of northern Canada and another deep underwater.

INVASION: UFO ignores the darker aspects of the series, which was not aimed principally at adults, in favor of space opera. It was released not just on television, but also on videocassette and laserdisc in America and other countries. Derek Meddings (MOONRAKER) supervised the visual effects, which are typically excellent. By the way, an alien ship is pronounced “you-foe,” not you-eff-oh.

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