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UFO - The Series * Part 1 *
As Marc Martin (link to his pages) and quite a few other people on the Net have quite extensive UFO pages that include pictures, sounds, reviews and episode guides, it would be useless to repeat such information on these pages.
My reason for putting this page on the Net is to try to explain why UFO still has so many fans, why the aliens came to Earth, and how the SHADO operatives (in particular Commander Straker) reacted to working for SHADO.
I have added the backgound story and a list of the main characters primarly in case people who are not familiar with the UFO series happen to find this page. (Hey, how did YOU find it? Mail me and tell me!)
This page might also help to generate more interest in UFO - who knows, one day someone might consider making a follow up ...
Every once in a while, a UFO '2' project has been in the making (cfr. Marc Martin's pages) but so far nothing has come of it. Whether a 'UFO 2' can capture the imagination of the viewer the way the original series did is another story ... Can it be done? One day we'll find out I'm sure.
Commander Ed Straker, played by Ed Bishop, an American actor who moved to England in the early sixties;
Colonel Alec Freeman, second in command, played by George Sewell;
Colonel Paul Foster, played by Michael Billington
Col. Virginia Lake, played by Wanda Ventham
General James Henderson, played by Grant Taylor
Dr. Doug Jackson, played by Vladek Sheybal
Lt. Gay Ellis, played by Gabrielle Drake
Lt. Nina Barry, played by Dolores Mantez
SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation) was a secret military organization conceived on an international basis and with international funding. It was founded around 1970 to defend Earth against UFO attacks - it took about 10 years to build.
By 1980 SHADO is fully operational and is being run from its main headquarters, situated beneath a London (England) film studio.
The SHADO outer defence system consists out of a base located on the moon (Moonbase), where 3 interceptors counter the UFOs as they come to Earth. The alien craft are detected by the satellite SID (Space Intruder Detector) who proceeds to warn SHADO about the incoming UFOs verbally.
Any UFOs that aren't destroyed by the Moonbase interceptors are taken care of by the Earth defences. The main Earth defence consists out of a fleet of submarines (Skydiver) who roam the oceans. If and when a UFO enters Earth atmosphere a fighter plane (such as Sky 1) is launched from Skydiver to attempt to destroy the UFO.
If a UFO manages to land it is tracked down and taken care of by the Mobiles.
All the hardware mentioned above can be viewed by clicking the image underneath.
|Take a look at the cool 'hardware'
||Or have a look at this Moonbase drawing
SHADO is run by the extremely dedicated Commander Ed Straker. He is assisted by Colonels Alec Freeman, Paul Foster and Virginia Lake and by Lieutenant Gay Ellis who is in charge of Moonbase.
SHADO is a branch of the International Astrophysical Commission and has to justify its expenditure to this Commission and its President, General Henderson.
The series UFO was created in 1969-70 by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson for British Television. There were 26 episodes.
A UFO deprivation story
When I watched UFO in the early seventies, I liked the program as I liked many others, one of them being Star Trek.
Star Trek however was shown on channels all over the world, over and over again .. its makers also gave us several Star Trek films and several 'follow up' series, like f.i. 'The Next Generation'. Star Trek became so widely available that I stopped watching it altogether. (I still have the movies and a part of the original series on tape though, just in case one day I do feel like watching it again!).
As to UFO, it was shown in the UK and the US in the early to mid- seventies, before most people (including me) had a videorecorder. Over the years those people that had liked and did remember UFO and wanted to see it again, came up with zilch ... no UFO re-runs anywhere.
When British ITV finally decided to show some (or all?) of the episodes some years back, I managed to get hold of someone to tape a few episodes for me.
Then, in October 1996, the British BBC 2 started showing UFO - which is when I discovered (while searching the Net for references to UFO) that I wasn't the only person who had been hoping for years to have a look at the series again. The American Sci Fi channel has also shown UFO, so a part of its American fans (those who get this channel) were happy too.
There are still a lot of UFO fans out there, in spite of its not having been widely shown at any time. Even back in the early seventies, UFO was at one time moved to a very late slot, after 11 p.m.
So why do we all remember UFO? I found, by reading the discussions on the FAB-UFO Digest Archive list, that many people remembered some part of UFO episodes vividly, even when they hadn't seen it for more than twenty years.
What kept UFO alive in our minds? What did this series have that others haven't?
UFO - the concept
What did people like about UFO?
Was it the hardware? The makers of UFO came up with quite a few intesting ideas, like Sky One detaching itself from Skydiver and popping up out of the water, looking like a regular fighter plane.
Then there was SID, the Space Intruder Detector, who actually spoke. Inanimate objects like computers or satellites that talk are definitely more inclined to be popular amongst us humans - because it makes them seem more accessible.
Did the SHADO costumes contribute to the popularity of UFO? Sylvia Anderson certainly did a good job in creating a 'SHADO look', and the purple wigs worn by the female Moonbase operatives were the subject of much speculation.
Was the atmosphere of the series its main attraction? The balance between being an efficient organisation and the fact that the existence of SHADO had to be kept secret in order to avoid a worldwide panic provided some interesting story lines.
The filmcompany business which Ed Straker was running, as well as SHADO, did provide an interesting sideline at times as well.
Then there is the music of the series ... definitely compelling.
Or were the characters the main attraction of UFO?
All those factors probably contributed to UFO being what it was and having the appeal that it did.
Personally I think UFO was kept alive in our minds by the mystery - the story they never told us.
So many things were never said, so much was never explained - and the viewer was kept guessing. Maybe Gerry and Sylvia Anderson intended to rectify this in UFO's second season - but 'UFO 2' was abandoned in favor of Space 1999.
Therefore people with active imaginations could and can fantasize about UFO, make up their own stories, find explanations for what the series left unclear, for why the characters were the way they were, behaved as they did.
To me there are two major mysteries in UFO. The first one is the aliens : what was their motive for coming to Earth?
The second one concerns the humans involved : What made them tick? What did this eternal secrecy do to their lives?
Especially the enigmatic Ed Straker is up for a psychological study.
UFO - The Series * Part 2 *
Why did our aliens choose Earth as their target, what exactly did they want and what were they capable of?
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE ALIENS ?
1/ Upon examining an alien body in the episode Identified, it is found that this alien had a human heart. So maybe they came to steal human organs in order to keep their race either healthy or alive.
In the episode The Sound of Silence the aliens attempt to take a human body with them.
2/ In the episode Destruction, a UFO vises a lethal cargo (highly toxic nerve gas) which is being dumped into the ocean. If the UFO had damaged this cargo's containers, releasing this dangerous gas before it was dumped, life on Earth might have become extinct, or at least partly distinct.
In the episode The Long Sleep the aliens try to plant a bomb that would have destroyed a large chunk of Earth, had a vital part of this bomb not disappeared (stolen by a human actually)
3/ In the episode E.S.P. a human whose mind was taken over by the aliens says 'Our planet is dying. Our natural resources are exhausted. We must come to Earth. We must come to Earth to survive. We mean no harm to peoples of Earth. Why do you attack us ? We're fighting for existence. You must understand.'
4/ Sometimes one particular person (Commander Straker actually) was the subject of an alien attack, f.i. the episodes Kill Straker and The Man Who Came Back.
5/ The aliens tried to destroy SHADO HQ in the episode Conflict and at another time Moonbase (episode Survival).
6/ In the episode Kill Straker, Straker was nearly killed by 2 SHADO operatives, whose minds had been brainwashed by the aliens.
This aliens also used this tactic in 'The Man Who Came Back'.
7/ In another episode (Cat With Ten Lives) the aliens had the power to control the human mind via a cat whose mind they had taken over. When the cat was killed, the man's mind was released, making this a different kind of tactic than point 6.
In the episode 'Psychobombs' 3 humans were under alien control. Here again this hold on the human's mind was released upon destruction of the 'controller', a UFO this time.
8/ The aliens invariably wore red spacesuits which were filled with a green liquid. Upon draining this liquid, the alien in question rapidly reverts to his own age. So no problem if the alien in question was young, but rather rough on the older ones. The (younger) aliens can survive on Earth without the help of this liquid, or at least for a while, as in some instances an alien walks around without his helmet.
9/ The alien vessels have a short life on Earth, they deteriorate, often they explode. This explains why few alien craft were ever found intact, but what causes the deterioration ? Safety device so that the humans can never get hold of their craft ? A reaction to something in our atmosphere ?
If a UFO stays under water it won't deteriorate, or at least not quite as fast as if it stays above water. Apparently it made no difference whether this water is salty or not.
10/ A UFO enters our solar system at well beyond the speed of light. It slows down before coming near Moonbase or Earth atmosphere. Its maximum speed is mentioned as 'SOL 8', SOL being the speed of light. In our atmosphere the UFOs seem to travel at SOL 0.8.
11/ Sometimes the UFOs block Earth radars, sometimes they do not.
Sometimes the UFOs or aliens use advanced weapons, sometimes they use machine guns or other weapons that were already used on Earth. The latter might be explained by saying they did not want their advanced technology to fall into the hands of Earth scientists.
12/ In Reflections In The Water there was an attack by 25 UFOs which arrived at the same time.
Most UFOs traveled either alone, in pairs or in threes though. This simultaneous attack by 25 UFOs was the exception rather than the rule.
13/ Some UFO-attacks were organized on forehand, like the one where they planted an underwater dome (Reflections in the water) and copied SHADO HQ and its operatives.
They knew enough about SHADO and its operatives to know who to contact to get information from (cfr. Episode Flight Path).
Some attacks appeared more haphazard, but that might only look that way because SHADO got to them before they could do any damage and show their intent.
14/ In one episode the aliens manage to freeze time. All objects and people in movement at the time of the 'freeze' are frozen, stationary objects were not. Luckily both Commander Straker and Colonel Lake had sat completely still at that precise moment (trying to avoid detection by the UFO) and saved the day. (Straker destroyed part of the SHADO computers to 'unfreeze' the time)
15/ In the episode Mindbender the aliens plant a rock on Moonbase - when a human touches this rock he starts seeing very convincing hallucinations. Pretty dangerous if the hallucinations in question are of a violent nature.
16/ In the episode The Long Sleep, the aliens are able to bring a human who died back to life, by using somebody else's remaining years.
17/ In the episode A Question Of Priorities an alien attempts to contact SHADO but is shot down by a UFO. The UFO he had been traveling in had been damaged before he got to Earth, probably by the UFO that later killed him.
18/ On one occasion (episode Survival) an alien actually helps a human (Paul Foster) to survive
WHERE DID THEY COME FROM ?
In the episode 'Close Up', a UFO was followed by a probe, in order for SHADO to obtain close ups of the alien planet. It was mentioned that SHADO expected to have to wait for those pictures for at least four months. Once the probe transmitted the pictures (which turned out to be useless due to a fault in the device) there was no mention of the time that had elapsed since the probe started on its journey. Even if there had been, it might not have been any help to determine where the UFOs came from because
* The UFOs might conceivably have a base somewhere near (in our Solar System), and the probe might have photographed that planet rather than their homeplanet.
* The aliens probably noticed they were being followed, and could have decided to stop off at a planet on their way home to mislead the probe and its makers.
* The aliens may even have decided to stop somewhere else rather than at their homeplanet anyway. Earth defence had thwarted the UFO's plan for coming to Earth. If they were on a 'organ finding mission' they may have continued to another 'source of organs'-planet.
They obviously did NOT come from another Galaxy, in view of the time it would take to reach Earth from there
They may have come from another planet in our Solar System.
Earth astrologers and military installations and organisations would probably notice comings and goings at the planets which are closest to us. So Mars and Venus are probably out.
They may come from one of the planets further away.
Another possibility is that the UFOs came from a nearby Star System. The 'Centauri' group is about 4.3 lightyears away, and is the Star System closest to us. At SOL 1 it would therefore take the aliens around 4.3 years to get here. At SOL 8 it would take them just over six months.
If the UFOs develop even higher speeds once they leave a planetary system, it would cut down their travel time even more of course.
It might have been possible for SHADO to work out where the aliens came from. SHADO should have gotten its computers to calculate the course of each UFO using the direction it came from when it was first detected. Using a Star chart and entering the general direction the UFO came from, together with the time and date of the UFO sighting, it might have given them some indication. They should have used variable speeds and variable lengths of journeys, and make their computer calculate which planets or star systems were on the UFO's paths.
Sooner or later they would hit upon some possibilities - and they could at least have eliminated some.
SHADO probably never tried all that hard, seeing that Earth technology wasn't advanced enough to go and visit the alien planet anyway.
WHAT DID THE ALIENS WANT? WHY DID THEY COME HERE?
As mentioned in the various points above, the aliens often attacked or tried to attack SHADO HQ, Moonbase, and Commander Straker. They probably figured that SHADO without Straker at the helm would be a lot easier to fight.
In some cases they came here to eradicate all or a part of the lifeforms on this planet.
In some instances they had taken organs from humans and transplanted them in bodies of their fellow aliens.
These last two points may seem contradictory, but they needn't be. It can be explained in three fashions.
* 1 * The UFOs that showed up here didn't all come from the same planet. That could be substantiated by the different shapes of the UFOs. If one group came from a planet that was short on natural resources, they may have sent scouts to test Earth's resistance, in preparation of a full scale attack intended to annihilate all people on Earth. A group of UFOs from another planet altogether may have come here looking for 'spare parts' (human organs).
An argument against this could be that all aliens were wearing similar space suits, which makes them coming from different planets unlikely, but not impossible. After all most of the aliens were shot to bits before reaching Earth, and we never got to see their attire.
* 2 * Maybe there were two superpowers on the alien planet, and this planet was in difficulties because it was running short of natural resources. The one superpower sent people here to eradicate all life prior to an invasion and take-over. The other 'kinder' Government kept working on solutions to keep the people on their planet alive, and just raided Earth for a few humans to supply organs, kind of a 'minor convenience' for the Earthlings (or so their leader tells all who want to hear).
* 3 * If all UFOs originated from the same planet, the inconsistencies might be explained in another way. Just look at our history, and at the way the people of this planet set about to 'conquer' another country. These days it's armed forces and loads of firepower.
Hundred of years ago things happened differently. Smaller groups of people went to the regions which they wanted to take over. Some groups were armies and they rewarded any resistance to their efforts with certain death. But others went to the 'newly discovered' countries as friends (f.i. missionaries), for their own personal gain (remember the goldrush ?), or just because they were adventurers.
Why should we think it odd that not all UFOs behaved in the same manner? Any of those those explanations, or a combination thereof may account for their differences in behavior.
Different purposes for coming to Earth.
* Research * One lot of aliens were perhaps on a voyage of bioligical discovery. Their purpose may have been scientific. Their mission ? 'Let's go and study those Earth lifeforms and see whether they are compatible with our people.' The alien planet may have its own version of Nobel Prizes. They may have come here seeing us very much in the same way our medical researchers see the rats and mice they still use to test new medication on. These researchers may have been responsible for quite a few human abductions.
* Medical * In Identified, Commander Straker theorized that the aliens might be a dying humanoid race becoming sterile, and they are coming to Earth to extend their own life spans by using human organs for transplants. If Straker is right, the alien 'Medical Team' would therefore come here to collect 'spare parts', organs. The most simple way to keep the organs intact until the aliens got back to their own planet would of course be to abduct humans. This would have had to be an organized effort, initiated by their government or some medical group to find ways to keep their own people alive.
* Food * If the alien planet was short on resources, it was of course possible that some of the abductions were instigated by their need for food. It seems highly unlikely that they would use humans for this purpose though, since the abductions drew attention to the aliens. They could have stolen hundreds of animals without any government ever realising who was at the bottom of these thefts.
* Armed Forces * The alien Government probably sent troops who came here to test whether our atmosphere was suitable for them, and trying to find out whether Earth would put up a lot of resistance. That may have happened to prepare a full scale attack, eradicating all life on Earth to make place for them, if and when their planet's resources ran out.
* Safari * Maybe another lot came here 'on safari'. The alien Travel Agencies may have made quite a lot of money off us Earthlings. And their life insurance companies may have lost a lot of money in the process.
* Adventurers * Back at the alien planet, maybe not everybody was 'in the know' about the trips of some UFOs to come and collect human supplies of organs, or of the intention of their Government to 'test the waters' in order to prepare an invasion. After all SHADO was kept secret, maybe the alien Government wasn't upfront about their actions either.
So the aliens saw their friends leave for a 'holiday to Earth' or an 'Earth Safari' ... and their friends never came back. This may have made some of the aliens see red and they may have decided to come here and get even.
Alternatively the Master Group Of Life Insurance Companies may have decided to come and wipe out the one group they knew took out the UFOs : SHADO.
The alien(s) that took over the mind of the 'E.S.P.' guy may have belonged to this group. They did not wish the human race any harm, that may have been a sincere statement, but they still wanted to take out Commander Straker and the other SHADO top men. After all Straker and SHADO shot down their friendly craft (along with the hostile ones they may not have known about).
The alien that went to Moonbase to try to destroy it (episode Survival) tried to help Colonel Paul Foster to survive. Here again we see that a 'military structure' was their target, not an individual.
* Friends * Another group may have come here as friends. Some of the UFOs were blasted out of the skies without any knowledge on our part as to the purpose of their visit. Those that didn't come as enemies wouldn't have tried to shoot us - which might explain why the Interceptors and Sky 1 sometimes had very little difficulty in destroying a UFO.
Different groups and individuals coming here for different reasons. A likely explanation? I think so.
WHAT POWERS AND TECHNOLOGIES DID THE ALIENS MASTER?
Some aliens must have understood enough English to work out who did what in SHADO.
Don't forget that the aliens built that underwater dome and made replicas of the important people at SHADO HQ. They also knew enough about the SHADO set up to try to kill Commander Straker or try to take out SHADO HQ. Moonbase of course was an obvious target.
Yet some aliens that came here were unable to communicate with the humans. (cfr. The alien in Survival and the one in A Question Of Priorities).
There is even some evidence of conflict between the aliens themselves : in A Question Of Priorities an alien craft arrives here and crashes. Earth defence had not hit this alien's craft at any time, and yet it was established that the UFO had been hit. The alien had escaped the craft prior to the crash landing and tries to make contact with the people from Earth, but is killed by another UFO before he is able to do so.
His method of contacting SHADO is by setting up a communications device. The alien is in the house of an old blind lady, whose voice is heard on this communicator. The alien obviously knows which channel to use to attract the attention of SHADO, but doesn't say a word. Maybe he can't ? Maybe the aliens use no language at all ? Maybe they communicate via telepathy ? If only we could ask the SHADO medics whether the aliens seemed to have speech organs, we might be a lot further on.
In some UFO episodes, the aliens seemed more capable than in others, have more abilities than in others. If the aliens had been able to freeze time in all episodes, as they did in Timelash, most of their ploys would not have been necessary, they would have had no difficluties with Earth defences. Was Timelash the result of the aliens trying out a new technique ? Or was the ability to freeze time something only a few aliens could do, and were those aliens not willing to disclose their knowledge to the others ?
In some episodes the aliens either brainwash or hypnotize humans to do their bidding. Again, this can not be a technique mastered by all aliens, or every episode would have seen the aliens winning rather than SHADO.
Sometimes SHADO detects the UFOs coming to Earth, sometimes it doesn't. This again is an indication that either all UFOs who came here didn't come from the same planet (or the same 'alien superpower' country) or that some came here with better, probably 'government issue' UFOs, and other aliens arrived here in their own private craft.
The alien 'Government Issue' or Military Craft employed some kind of 'Stealth' technology; the other commercial or private craft did not have such an advanced type of spacecraft. These commercial and private craft probably did have some device to make them invisible from the ordinary radar employed by normal aircraft and normal airports, but the SHADO radar could detect them.
The UFOs were all visible though, they obviously hadn't discovered a 'cloaking' method to make them invisible to the naked eye.
On the matter of the UFOs deteriorating in Earth atmosphere, one has to wonder if that situation wasn't contrived by the aliens themselves. Some of the UFOs exploded, which may have been caused by some sort of self destruct mechanism. After all, some UFOs came here to abduct humans and fully expected to make it back home. If Earth atmosphere had affected the metal of their craft in any way, surely their craft would not be able to withstand the journey back. Maybe apart from the self destuct device, there had found another way to make their craft safe from being examined by humans. Deterioration causing an explosion seems rather suspect to me. Maybe the UFO needed a continuous signal from the captain of the craft - once the signal died, the UFO blew itself up.
Any thoughts on the subject are welcome. Mail me with your ideas on the subject - please ...
The Final Conclusion (which we do NOT accept)
We could also say that the writers didn't particularly care about the consistency of the story, that there were usually only three UFOs because there were only three interceptors with one missile each. The variety of their motives for coming to Earth might also be explained by saying that more than one person either wrote or thought up the various stories - there were indeed different scriptwriters for different episodes - but that would rather be unfair to the spirit of the series, and absolutely a lot less fun too.