It’s been a little while, but let’s get back to UFO for the second third of the series. Once again its a mix of really good episodes, including more Straker family drama, and episodes that are just flat-out boring. Thankfully there are far more of the former than the latter, and some episodes were really ahead of their time. Let’s take a deeper look.
Earth is being visited by aliens who are abducting humans and harvesting their organs for their own bodies. The alien incursions may also be a prelude to a possible full-scale invasion, leading to the formation of high-technology international military agency SHADO (Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defence Organisation) established to defend Earth and humanity against the mysterious aliens and learn more about them, while at the same time keeping the threat of an alien invasion hidden from the public…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
“One thing I need to know before I die, Straker… How come you didn’t have to put on this stupid string shirt thing like I did?”
Col. Edward Straker (Ed Bishop) – Straker is the Commander-in-Chief of SHADO, and the man who helped in its creation after he survived a UFO attack in the 1970s while serving as an Air Force Colonel. He’s cold-hearted and logical when behind his desk, always putting Earth and its safety ahead of his own life.
Col. Alec Freeman (George Sewell) – Second in command of SHADO, Col. Freeman is a bit more impulsive in his commanding, often having to be reeled back in by Col. Straker.
Col. Paul Foster (Michael Billington) – Paul Foster was a test pilot for new prototype jets, that was until he got caught up in a UFO encounter and ended up impressing Col. Straker. Foster was made a member of SHADO, and has since become an invaluable member of the team, able to work in a variety of different locations whenever needed (by the writers…)
Lt. Gay Ellis (Gabrielle Drake) – Lt. Ellis is in charge of the Moonbase, and as such is often the one giving the orders to take out the UFOs before they get a chance to even get to Earth. It also means she has to wear a purple wig, like all women on the moon, apparently…
Lt. Nina Barry (Dolores Mantez) – Nina is a member of the Moonbase crew, and is also willing to work in other areas of SHADO if needed (especially if it means she doesn’t have to wear the Moonbase-standard purple wig!)
Capt. Lew Waterman (Gary Myers) – Captain Waterman was an interceptor pilot for Moonbase until Captain Carlin left the organisation, putting Waterman (rather appropriately!) in charge of the Skydiver submarine, as well as the pilot of Sky One.
Lt. Keith Ford (Keith Alexander) – Formally a TV Interviewer, Lt. Ford is now SHADO’s top communications officer, often relaying messages from Moonbase to SHADO HQ.
The Alien Threat (Various) – Aliens from a dying world, forced to harvest human organs to replace their own in order to survive. In order to fully migrate to Earth however, they must learn more, and overcome the Earth defences…
Straker with slicked back hair, which only happens during brief moments of happiness…
For someone who comes across as a pretty straightforward character, probably the highlight episodes of this batch focus once again on Col. Straker. Episode 14, “Confetti Check A-O.K.”, is an episode entirely consisting of a series of flashbacks showing Straker going on his honeymoon with his wife, but getting called back in to pitch the SHADO organisation to the UN higher-ups instead, and then follows Straker as he climbs the ranks and establishes the anti-UFO organisation, and as his marriage falls apart piece by piece. The final few scenes sees Straker accidentally knock his pregnant wife down a flight of stairs and wait in the hospital waiting room to find out that she was okay, and he’s now a father to a boy. As his wife comes to she finds out Straker had already left on important business, which makes her cry, meanwhile Straker and Col. Freeman light a cigar in the back of a car to celebrate his becoming a father. Very odd, but definitely makes Straker an interesting, and very flawed, character, especially since we know what happens to his son…
Speaking of which, Episode 17, “Sub-Smash”, sees Straker and Col. Foster (among others) trapped on SkyDiver as it sinks to a ledge under the sea, with some crew going crazy, others successfully escaping, and poor old Lt. Nina Barry gets stuck in a torpedo tube trying to escape. During the last moments Straker sees his life flash before his eyes, which is mainly the site of his son being hit by a car and eventually dying from “A Question of Priorities”, which at least shows somewhere deep inside it really affected him, even if he doesn’t show it. It’s generally a good, claustrophobic episode.
Another standout edition is Episode 11, “The Square Triangle”, which sees a woman and her lover plan to kill the woman’s husband so they can be together, but accidentally shoot and kill one of the aliens from a crashed UFO. They’re taken in by SHADO and given a mind wipe, even though Foster points out that by doing so they can’t interfere or stop their criminal plans without compromising SHADO’s security. Straker says it’s a shame, but does it (of course!) and the final scene of the episode is the lady standing in front of her husband’s grave before leaving with her lover, their plan apparently having been a success.
As for other good episodes, 15 “E.S.P.” sees a man with psychic powers that are driving him crazy accidentally mentally force a UFO to crash into his home and kill his wife, which he then blames Straker and co. for, although at the end it seems he just wanted to be killed (which he is during a tense showdown with Straker, Freeman and Foster), 16 “Kill Straker!” sees Foster and a random guy get mentally influenced by some aliens to, well, kill Straker, and Foster very nearly does so in a showdown in a decompressing room. In the end Foster is cleared, but he could always have the urge in the back of his head, so to test this Straker leads Foster into a shooting range and pretends to try to kill him, and when Foster grabs a gun and goes to shoot his former boss, he can’t bring himself to do it. Straker then says he will accept Foster back, as if he didn’t kill him then, he won’t another time (kind of a risky assumption if you ask me, but whatever…)
Episode 10, “The Responsibility Seat”, sees Col. Freeman takes over the running of SHADO for a day as Straker deals with a potential female spy, and Episode 18, “The Sound of Silence”, sees an alien slowly kill several people in a rural area (and a dog! … even though it was clearly still breathing when its “mangled corpse” was found…) until it gets outsmarted by Col. Foster. Both episodes are fine, but won’t blow you away…
Hey look, a UFO! I didn’t know they were in this series…
The worst episode of the bunch is definitely 13, “Close Up”, which sees a whole episode of Commander Straker and co. building a device that could follow a UFO back to their home planet and send pictures, but in the end he gets a proper, school TV lecture about telescopic zooming and the differences of blurry pictures on being able to tell details in things… it was properly aimed at teaching kids, which was really at odds with most of the other episodes in the series, which have a far more mature edge (for a Gerry Anderson sci-fi show…)
Episode 9, “Ordeal”, wasn’t much better, as Col. Foster faints in a super-hot sauna and wakes to find everyone dead, and then he’s kidnapped by the aliens, etc etc, and it became obvious very quickly that this wasn’t real, and sure enough it turns out to be a dream / hallucination after he fainted in the sauna. Waste of time…
Finally, Episode 12, “Court Martial”, was just okay, though I do hate American court dramas being added to sci-fi shows (as several other reviews on this blog will attest!), but thankfully it didn’t dominate it too much…
“I killed my husband… Wait, was my husband always green? I don’t think he was… was he?”
UFO continues to get better and better, with one or two minor slip ups here and there. While none of the episodes were outright classics, far more of them were really good than the few that were average, or the two that were bad. I’ve got my fingers crossed they keep the momentum going for the last few episodes, though I hear a few major cast members vanish, sadly… We shall see!
Episodes 11, and 14 – 17:
Episodes 10, 12 and 18:
Episodes 9 and 13: