Synopsis of TV Show

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson pretty much ruled kids’ sci-fi in the 60’s. Through their patented “Supermarionation” puppetry process, they brought the futuristic delights of Supercar, Fireball XL-5, Thunderbirds and others to kids worldwide. But in 1970, the puppeteering duo decided to go live-action for a more adult-oriented sci-fi show, the cult classic UFO.

Set in 1980, UFO revealed the shocking truth about a few missing persons. Beginning in 1970, a race of aliens had been making visits to our planet and kidnapping our fellow humans for unknown purposes. In response to the threat (which the general public didn’t know about), the Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defense Organization was formed.

SHADO’s acting chief was Commander Edward Straker, a bright-blond-coifed man of action who reported to General Henderson. Working at Straker’s side were his sub-commanders—best buddy Col. Alec Freeman, hot-headed Col. Foster and computer whiz Col. Virginia Lake—and a relatively small force of pilots, communications officers, technicians, doctors and so on. To keep the public from falling into mass hysteria, SHADO’s Earth HQ was disguised as a London movie studio, with Straker as the head.

When UFOs approached (as they often did), SHADO launched its trio of Interceptors—space planes with one very large missile attached to the front. Since three missiles were rarely enough to turn back an alien fleet, the UFOs often found their way to SHADO’s Moonbase (where purple-wigged officers like Lt. Gay Ellis ran the show) or even to Earth. Straker and company struggled to unravel the mystery of the alien abductions (some hypothesized that the humanoid creatures were harvesting human organs to extend the life of their own race), while keeping the planet safe from a threat that the general public—including Straker’s wife—didn’t even know existed.

There may have been a noticeable lack of marionettes, but another Gerry and Sylvia Anderson staple was certainly evident: an envy-inducing lineup of fantastic vehicles. The Interceptors were popular buys in toy form, but the series also included an orbiting Space Intruder Detector (SID), sleek cars for Straker and Foster, six-wheeled assault Mobiles for SHADO’s ground forces, and the “Skydiver” submarines, which launched the “Sky One” spacecraft out to attack the space invaders. If this was the future, then the future was very cool.

Only 26 hour-long episodes of UFO were produced (enough to fill a single syndicated season), but the show was a favorite of sci-fi buffs both in its native England and during its 1972 syndicated run in the U.S. Talk of a second season turned out to be nothing but hopeful rumor, but the Andersons did return to a similar concept with Space: 1999 in 1974, keeping the drama of alien invasion alive for another two seasons.

Release History of Prime Time Show

1970 - British release
1972 - U.S. syndication

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Television Network


Television Studio

Gerry and Sylvia Anderson

TV Cast

Cmdr. Ed Straker  Ed Bishop
Col. Alec Freeman  George Sewell
Capt. Peter Carlin  Peter Gordeno
Lt. Gay Ellis Gabrielle Drake
Col. Paul Foster  Michael Billington
Gen. James Henderson   Grant Taylor
Lt. Keith Ford   Keith Alexander
Lt. Mark Bradley   Harry Baird
Lt. Johnson   Ayshea Brough
Lt. Joan Harrington   Antonia Ellis
Interceptor Pilot   Mark Hawkins
SHADO Radio Operative  Anouska Hempel
Skydiver Engineer Lt. Masters  Jon Kelley
Lt. Nina Barry   Dolores Mantez
Skydiver Operative  Georgina Moon
Skydiver Captain Lew Waterman   Gary Myers
Miss Ealand  Norma Ronald
Dr. Shroeder  Maxwell Shaw
Dr. Doug Jackson  Vladek Sheybal
Col. Virginia Lake  Wanda Ventham
Lt. Gordon Maxwell  Jeremy Wilkin

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