It’s been a little while since I last looked at Gerry Anderson’s UFO series… by which I mean over a year (given that the first two parts still have the character breakdowns on them) but hey-ho! I’ve had more time to sit down and watch them, and the one thing I didn’t want to do is watch them when I wasn’t in the mood, because that would just unfairly dampen my view. The final eight episodes have some good gems, and the lack of Col. Freeman doesn’t hurt the show as much as I feared, so… let’s take a 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!*
“I say Straker, it’s a good thing I’m not being mind-controlled to kill you during this up-coming spacewalk, isn’t it? Wouldn’t that be awful! Ho-ho!”
Episode 20 (again in the order presented on these blu-rays) “Destruction” was a good bit of fun. A navy ship is dumping old nerve gas into the sea to make sure nobody can ever retrieve it, but is then attacked by a UFO. Commander Straker (Ed Bishop) becomes more concerned with how the UFO beat his security than why it attacked the ship, and soon suspects a girl named Sarah, who he then sends Col. Foster (Michael Billington) on a date with to get information, which was a bit harsh, though turns out they were right and she was in contact with the aliens all along! Soon Straker and Col. Lake (Wanda Ventham), the new Col. Freeman essentially, figure out how she did it, and the ship, who went back out to complete their mission, comes under attack again, but this time the threat is dealt with, mostly thanks to the submarine/jet plane Skydiver One. It was fun, had a good “ship’s bridge” set, and some really fun model work.
Episode 21 “The Man Who Came Back”, used the old “sleeper agent” thing and had a pilot vanish, come back, act strangely and then turn out to be under alien control. The end scene, which sees Straker and the sleeper agent on a spacewalk and ends with the two fighting and Straker begrudgingly unhooking his old friend’s air supply was great, tense stuff. The next episode, “The Psychobombs”, used a very similar concept, this time three civilians were not only controlled, but turned into human bombs. Two of the three are successful in blowing themselves up at key government buildings, but the third, who manages to get inside SHADO HQ, is stopped before she can go through with it. Again, similar concept, but handled differently and was still fun to watch.
I’ll never forget him calling Straker “Big Man!!” over and over agai- Hang on, that’s not Straker! … is that even an actor? Is that a dummy riding that car?!
Episode 25 “Timelash” was entertaining. Straker and Col. Lake are hit by a strange UFO beam and end up in a single moment to time, complete with everyone and thing that was moving at the time of the beam being frozen in time. The two are hounded by a jealous member of staff who has made a deal with the aliens and can dip in and out of time, all while giving the cheesiest villain lines ever in a really comically deep voice, complete with no joke, genuine “Muhahahaha!” laughing. Straker manages to kill the guy, defeat the UFO and destroy the tech that was causing the time freeze, leading to what was actually the start of the episode that saw Straker randomly destroying a bunch of equipment. It was a fun episode.
For one final time, let’s remind ourselves that this was supposed to be set in the future year of 1980, not the early 70s…
Episode 19 “The Cat With Ten Lives”, was alright. A Moonbase pilot and his wife encounter a cat on the road (on Earth, obviously) and swerve to miss it. When said pilot wakes up his wife is gone and he doesn’t remember anything, but soon goes back to work. The cat in question has somehow possessed him, and eventually he sets his interceptor on a collision course with Moonbase, but Straker puts two and two together and eliminates the cat out of the equation, just in time for the pilot to swerve his craft out of the way and drive it fatally into the lunar surface. Like I said, it was fine, has its moments, but wasn’t as good as some others.
Episode 23, “Reflections in the Water”, had a bigger scale to it (and was clearly the inspiration for the game “X-COM: Terror From The Deep” I used to play on the PS1) and features some impressive scenes of Straker and Foster breaking into an underwater alien dome, but in general it was quite slow and uninteresting. It also had duplicates as a plot which is always rather dull at this point. It’s a shame because it had a change of location and some good action, but I just never got into it. Similarly, Episode 24 “Mindbender” had some amusing scenes as people start to have bizarre hallucinations due to an alien rock, but eventually Straker gets infected and believe he’s part of a TV show and it turns into a tongue-in-cheek fourth wall thing and I just hate that kind of stuff.
The final episode, 26 “The Long Sleep”, was a mixed bag. It features a woman who was in a coma for a decade after being hit by Straker’s car waking up and recounting her story which is told is sepia tones and multi-coloured tones when her and her love interest were on drugs. The whole flashback stuff wasn’t all that interesting and went on for way too long. In the end they manage to get enough info to find an alien bomb that the two had found a decade ago and blast it into space. The hippy love interest’s body was being controlled by the aliens, by the way, that was quite a good bit. Like I said, a mixed bag. It did give us a lot more scenes with the SHADO Doctor Douglas Jackson (Vladek Sheybal) whose accent and delivery never failed to bring a smile to my face.
It’s Sky Diver One, a submarine AND a jet in one package! Two popular toys for the price of one! (was probably the idea…)
UFO’s final batch of episodes didn’t feature any I’d count as bad, though some were duller than others. It did have some fun standout episodes though, and generally kept the momentum going right to the end. I think if there was a second series (and it didn’t end up like Space:1999) they would’ve had to have introduced a new alien threat, because that same UFO ship and countless “controlling humans” storylines were getting old hat by the end. Still, as a standalone single season series, UFO is good fun.
Episodes 20 – 22, and 25:
Episodes 19, 23, 24 and 26: