Michael Billington, Ed Bishop, George Sewell. SHADO defends Earth against aliens in all 26 episodes of the live-action series created by sci-fi geek Gerry Anderson. 8 DVDs. 1969/color/22 hrs., 32 min/NR/fullscreen.
UFO was Gerry Anderson's first live-action TV series after a decade of producing such children's animated classics as Stingray (1963) and Thunderbirds (1964). The premise of UFO, which ran for a single season of 26 episodes in 1970, was like a more serious version of Anderson's Captain Scarlet (1967): in the near future of 1980, a high-tech secret organization, SHADO, waged covert war against mysterious alien attackers. Ed Bishop played the American head of SHADO--he had been previously featured in Captain Scarlet and Anderson's Doppelganger (1969)--though in all other respects this was a thoroughly British production. As with all Anderson series, UFO evidenced remarkable technological inventiveness and groundbreaking production values, coupled with startling lapses in fundamental logic too numerous to list.
Much more adult in story and content than earlier Anderson productions, and surprisingly dark with its pragmatic view of human nature and downbeat endings, the show now seems like a forerunner of The X-Files and the equally short-lived Dark Skies (1996). Barry Gray's memorable theme and atmospheric music greatly enhanced the overall impact. Stylishly made, though terribly sexist by current standards and featuring eye-catching costumes more fitted for a campy dress party than the front line of a futuristic war, this cult classic eventually evolved into Space: 1999 (1975).
The UFO DVDs have been beautifully designed and produced. The mono sound is exceptionally strong, and the restored and remastered picture is almost unbelievably good for a 1970 TV show. With barely a flaw anywhere, the episodes look so clear, colorful, and detailed that they could have been filmed last week. This eight-disc megaset features all 26 episodes. --Gary S. Dalkin