on July 14, 2005
"UFO" was a short-lived sci-fi fantasy TV series created by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson. The premise of the show was that the governments of the nations of the Earth discover that a dying, extraterrestrial civilization has been paying clandestine visits to Earth with the sole purpose of kidnapping & killing humans to harvest their body parts. The United Nations authorizes and funds a highly secretive international organization nicknamed SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organiztion) to combat the alien threat.
Under the command of Colonel Ed Straker (played by Ed Bishop), SHADO creates several different means of protecting Earth from the aliens:
1. A sosphistaced underground computerized headquarters pretending to be a major film studio in the heart of London.
2. A manned base on the moon (called Moonbase) armed with three fighters to attack UFOs before they reach Earth.
3. A sophisticated control & radar tracking satellite called SID (Space Intruder Detector) orbiting the Earth to detect incoming UFOs.
4. A fleet of submarine fighter carriers (called Skydivers) called upon to attack UFOs in Earth's atmosphere should the Moonbase fighters fail to destroy UFOs in space. Each Skydiver is capable of launching a single fighter called Sky One (or using some other numbered designation).
5. A fleet of sophisticated armored personnel carriers called Mobiles to seek out and destroy UFOs that manage to land.
6. Other support craft like moon rovers, the Lunar Module (used to shuttle Moonbase personnel between the Earth & moon), and other support aircraft.
The 26 episodes of the series focus on several recurring themes:
1. SHADO's continual attempts to avert the alien's plans & attacks.
2. The various ways in which the aliens attempt to destroy SHADO or its commander, Colonel Ed Straker.
3. The effect that being a SHADO operative has on one's personal life, often focusing on Straker's personal life, but also Colonel Paul Foster's (played by Michael Billington).
4. SHADO's attempts to obtain more information about the aliens.
5. Security threats to the secrecy of SHADO.
6. Ongoing funding issues for very costly SHADO expenses (usually battles between Straker and General Henderson, played by Grant Taylor).
"UFO" very much has the look, music and feel of the 1960's, since that is when it was filmed: the infamous purple wigs that female Moonbase personnel wear, the occasional hippy party, the exuberant use of bright colors in homes and go-go boots. None of that takes away from the quality of the writing. The dialog may not have always been top notch, but the consistency with the plot as well as the revisiting of previous storylines made for a very engaging, character-driven series. In comparison with the Anderson's later TV series "Space 1999", "UFO" was far more consistent and interesting. "Space 1999", which was originally set to be the second season of "UFO", never achieved the same level of character development or consistency, though its special effects were improved.
The 26 "UFO" episodes are as follows:
2. "Computer Affair".
3. "Flight Path".
7. "The Dalotek Affair".
8. "A Question of Priorities".
10. "The Square Triangle".
11. "Court Martial".
12. "Close Up".
13. "Confetti Check A.O.K.".
14. "The Responsibility Seat".
16. "Kill Straker!".
17. "Sub Smash".
18. "The Sound of Silence".
19. "The Cat With Ten Lives".
21. "The Man Who Came Back".
22. "The Psychobombs".
23. "Reflections in the Water".
26. "The Long Sleep".
People who are more accustomed to expensive, computerized special effects of today may not enjoy "UFO" as much because its special effects are far less sophisticated; but don't let the lack of funds and lack of technology spoil your enjoyment of this well made TV series. Overall, I rate "The Complete UFO Megaset" with 5 out of 5 stars. Other memorable characters in the series include Col. Alex Freeman (George Sewell), Col. Virginia Lake (Wanda Ventham), Lt. Gay Ellis (Gabrielle Drake), Gen. James Henderson (Grant Taylor, 1917-1971), Nina Barry (Dolores Mantez) and SID (voice of Mel Oxley).
on May 13, 2004
"UFO" had one of the most dynamic title sequences in television history. A great theme song, with a jazzy organ and brass group playing the theme and some fantastic editing of the notable Gerry Anderson FX cut with a teletype machine giving you facts about the SHADO organisation (well, it is British!) and the faces of the lead characters, finishing with the interceptors destroying a UFO right on beat!
But beyond that, the show itself was an interesting one. It's funny seeing it now, since we're much farther away from the futuristic year of 1980 than the people who made it were at the time! Cars with gullwing doors, guys (and even doctors!) wearing Nehru suits. And, of course, an established base on the Moon, (complete with girls in Nancy Sinatra white go-go boots, silver lamé jumpsuits and pastel purple wigs!) to prevent evil aliens from invading.
It's clearly a late 60s view of the early 80s, and that makes this series fascinating enough and tacky enough to recommend on its own!
Beyond that, this DVD collection has a lot going for it. In addition to all of the episodes, carefully preserved by A&E, you get some bonus deleted scenes and/or other fx on each one of the eight disc collection. And the stories themselves are intriguing as they are improbable, so that's pretty entertaining!
It may not be Gerry Anderson's most famous work (cult kids classic, "The Thunderbirds" and "Space: 1999" are sure to be better known), but I think it's the best of the bunch!
on March 2, 2006
I was surprised at how well this show has held up over the years. The special effects are often spectacular even by today's standards (I'd much rather see good model work than poor computer animation any day). The scripts are inventive and moody. The drama is occasionally great, but sometimes is cliche and serves as a distraction from the plot unlike, say original trek where the drama was a natural extension of the plot. The outdated view of the future is actually part of the charm, but also, if one considers that the future they were attempting to project was only 12 years off, perhaps it isn't that outdated after all. I found no rascism or sexism in this series however, unlike some overly sensitive viewers here (the freedom for women to bare their bodies was considered part of their "liberation" in the late 60s). In fact, the show sports an attractive female colonel who is taken seriously by her colleagues.
on May 4, 2010
While "UFO" is a bit campy, if you look past the over the top visuals and special effects, you will find that the shows themselves have excellent plots. Plus, you may find that you like the silly 'futuristic' look they created in 1970--their view of 1980 is hilarious but high on the cool factor.
So why, then, did I give this excellent series only a 3? Well, because the folks at A&E Video are apparently quite stupid. All the episodes are completely out of order--with no rhyme or reason for which shows are on particular disks. Occasionally this messes up viewing. For example, Colonel Foster was originally introduced in episode 2, but this is the fourth show on the disks--and so his appearing in the 2nd and 3rd show makes no sense. Sloppy and apparently the DVD producers could care less about the customers. This, by the way, ALSO is what A&E did with their releases of another Gerry Anderson series, "Space: 1999".
on July 31, 2004
When I watched UFO as a small child in the early Seventies, I was always looking for the gadgets. On some of the episodes, none of SHADO Control's vehicles, moon bases, submarines, mobiles, and interceptors would appear and I would be bored and dissapointed by my thwarted expectations. Although I was surprised that I remembered many of the plotlines re-watching the show now, they didn't speak to me at all as a six or seven year old child the way they do to me now as a 39-year-old adult.
There is, of course, the speculative, Science Fiction, facet to UFO. There is also, however, the dramatic, pessimistic, human, emotionally-wretching side. What happens to people who, because of circumstance, or duty or inertia, find themselves alone, as adults, aging, within a small, contained, almost trapped in a particular subcultural milleau? There were three episodes in which Commander Streaker has to give up anything emotional that means anything to him. In one, his wife, in another, his son, and in a third, another girl with whom he forms a real, human, emotional bond. Always it is because of duty, because of his serious, completely-committed devotion to the extreme secrecy of his calling: to investigate the reason and motives of the UFO attacks and to try to defend humanity from it.
That is why, today, I consider UFO to be special, unique in its form, complex and non-ideal-ideological in its content. In spite of the unrealized fashion projections of the show for 1980, the people are recognizable, and real, and like us. The other characters on UFO are also trapped by their jobs, and trapped by their possibilities because of their dedication to the cause. It doesn't come easy, or natural, to them, it only comes to them at a terrible personal cost.
The other subtext to the show is that the SHADO organization intercepts only a few of what is to be assumed to be a far greater number of UFO visits to the Earth. One watches one episode and then can only think: How much more of this is actually going on?
on June 23, 2006
As a child of the 1970s, I grew up watching many television shows, including reruns of Star Trek, Space 1999, Kolchak:The Night Stalker, and UFO. At the time, I was too young to put these shows into perspective. I ordered this show and prepared to sit down and watch all 26 episodes in two weeks. My poor housemates who heard nothing but that wonderful, inventive, and creative opening score. This show is far more consistent in content, writing, acting, and effects than Space 1999 (although, I love those eagles). Skydiver is awesome. Ed Bishop in the lead role as Straker did a wonderful job. It was sad to hear his commentary on one episode because he seemed to have information, but he seemed to struggle to retrieve it. There are long pauses in his commentary. Gerry Anderson's is the most infomative. This show does a wonderful job of showing the impact that protecting the Earth has on its memebers. Viwers see tension, lost relationships, and even the deaths of loved ones. Like any show there are aweosome episodes and horrible episodes; as a whole, the show is very even.
Treat yourself to a show that is fun and relaxing (also pick up Space 1999). Both of these shows added to science fiction of the 1970s.
on January 10, 2006
I remember watching this series regularly when I was in my early teens. Some of the images from it have always stuck in my mind. I enjoyed it a lot, and was particularly intrigued by the hardware used to combat the aliens (Interceptors, etc.). For some reason I was thinking about the show recently and decided to do a search on the Internet. I figured I might find a
footnote or short description of it on a website devoted to British television shows. I was surprised and delighted to find it has a fan club, numerous sites devoted to it, and several available DVD's containing the complete episodes. Apparently others enjoyed the show as much as I did.
on January 22, 2005
I am happy to admit that I used to be so totally nuts about this show that I drove everyone crazy talking about how exceptionally brilliant it was. Now that I own DVDs of just about everything ever made in the SF/Fantasy genre, I can be a bit more objective. Some episodes, like Flightpath, Computer Affair, Dalotek Affair and Close up are a bit slow and boring, despite some strong scenes and great FX work for the period. The introduction of Paul Foster adds some interest because you get a hero, (if a bit of a shallow one!) and his Mulder-like attempts to crack a government cover-up of UFO attacks is intriguing and his offer of a place in an organization where he will be trained to fly jets, command Moonbase and fight aliens is the kind of wish fulfillment fantasy that makes every kid go "I wish that would happen to me, that'd be so cool!" And soon he is flying Sky 1, meeting aliens, getting accused of being a traitor, and generally getting into scrapes and adventures that grab the audience enough for us to learn interesting lessons (Such as the aliens aren't all automatically evil, as in "Survival") from his new-comer's point of view.
The series really hits its stride, however, about mid season, when the writers realise that the most interesting character is Commander Straker, and they focus on his character. Straker infamously loses a marriage and then a son and finally almost goes nuts from claustrophobia in three power-house drama episodes, "Confetti Check AOK", "A Question of Priorities" and "Sub-Smash" and opens up about it all to a lady friend in the interesting "Responsibility Seat", just before the major overhaul the series gets when Virginia Lake replaces Alec Freeman and the series switches to its last eight or nine episodes. This last batch features faster pace, less focus on the hardware and a lot of scripts by writers David Tomblin and Terrance Feely (who wrote for Patrick McGoohan's cult surrealistic series The Prisoner) and a contribution from ex Dr.Who scripter Dennis Spooner. These eps include such great stuff as "Reflections in the Water" about evil alien duplicates of our heroes and a massive UFO attack, "Timelash" which is the fastest and probably best episode where Straker fights a UFO and a human traitor during a time freeze, "Mindbender" which is truly trippy and disturbing, and the haunting "The Long Sleep". There's a lot of drugs, violence, sexiness and controversy in the last half of the series and all of this adds interest to a show which can be seen as getting better and better as it goes along.
Yes, the costumes are over the top, and yes, the music can be weird and too sixties, and yes, some of the early eps are a bit boring and slow and predictable. But overall, UFO grows into, in it's second half, one of the best SF shows ever made. It's worth your patience, and it is rewarding. Space:1999, the sequel series, is also recommended and if you watch this, followed by the two seasons of 1999, it becomes apparent that starchy adherence to realism slowly falls away until, by the last of 1999, it is pure, freewheeling imagination at work, and that is what makes Gerry and Sylvia Andersons three years of live action SF so compelling. Pure imagination and great story telling.
on May 7, 2004
Gerry Anderson's first live-action adventure remains a unique television effort worth at least one viewing by sci-fi buffs. For starters, "UFO" features the funky groove, jazzy music, and moody themes that signified the waning days of the 1960s (even if the show is set in the "distant" future of the 1980s). Beyond that, it's got some of the coolest toys of any show of the period--not very realistic, of course, but certainly enough to get the 12-year-olds in all of us salivating. Predicting the X-Files (but aping the Quatermass films and others of the genre), the show presupposes that Earth is already under attack by alien forces, and it's up to a supersecret government agency (under the guise of a movie studio--brilliant!) to foil the invasion. Ed Bishop plays Commander Straker, the cerebral leader of SHADO, with exactly the correct grounding to make purple-haired moonmaidens, a jet-firing submarine, and wobbly flying saucers believable. What's more, many episodes have a truly creepy edge, especially when we get glimpses of the humanoid aliens, here to steal our organs! Anderson would have slightly more success with this show's sequel, "Space: 1999," but never with the same combination of sheer imagination and atmosphere, even if many of the elements will seem campy to contemporary viewers. (...)
on October 9, 2009
Until I ordered the UFO Complete Megaset, all I could remember about the show was how cool I thought the UFO's, spacecraft, Moon Base, etc., were when I was a kid. I also remembered Commander Straker as a blonde man in charge, but that's about it. As a young boy all I cared about were the cool special effects, props, and spacecraft. Watching it now as an adult I find it more entertaining than ever! Maybe for different reasons than most? For anyone like myself who is tired of today's political correctness being shoved down our throats all the time, watching several episodes of UFO is a breath of fresh air! As corny and low budget as some of it comes across at times, this show was made in a time prior to political correctness. Most of the lead characters are trying so hard to be cool that it's kind of funny! Commander Straker is actually quite an "A" hole, but he pulls it off because in his position and environment, he has to be. He is short with his subordinates and sometimes over bearing, but somehow I still like the character, probably because he is trying to save the world after all. Today everyone is up in arms about someone smoking on tv or in a movie. It's a hoot watching everyone on the show trying to out smoke and out drink each other! There was a scene in S.H.A.D.O.W. control where I swear everyone in this top secret base was lit up! And one scene Straker gets out of his cool futuristic car and just flips his cigar onto the ground like he doesn't give a crap. Ha Ha! Could you imagine the litterbug & anti smoking groups going bonkers over that today? Another concept about the series where I get a great laugh... sexual harassment is alive and well in S.H.A.D.O.W.! The female S.H.A.D.O.W. personnel are all decked out in the smallest of mini skirts or skin tight jump suits, and all the male counterparts are trying to "get some"... especially the high ranking command staff! After being in a government job for 25 years, I laugh my butt off watching some of the male/female interaction scenes knowing that today most would be unemployed, and there would be countless sexual harassment law suits pending! It's fun watching people be themselves, say what they want to say, and do what needs to be done, without all of today's political correctness and rules preventing it! And with all that in mind, the UFO's, Interceptors, Mobiles, Sky 1, Moon Base, etc etc, are all still very cool! So the kid in me still loves the Sci-Fi of "UFO" while the adult in me can appreciate the stories and characters more now. This series is highly recommended!