Production: GB, 1970.
Cast: Ed Bishop, George Sewell, Michael Billington, Gabrielle Drake, Wanda Ventham, Vladek Sheybal, Grant Taylor.

First live-action show for british producer Gerry Anderson.
Anderson was well known for his “supermarionations”, in which the stars were very well made electronic puppets (best remembered “Thunderbirds” and “Stingray”), and in 1968 he tried a live-action movie for big screen. Title was “Doppelganger” (aka “Journey to the far side of the sun”), but viewers did not appreciate it, due to slow-pace and too complicate story.
 But the special effects crew (directed by Derek Meddings, which had also been contacted for “2001: A space odyssey”) had shown its potential. So ITC boss Lew Grade (which had commissioned all Gerry Anderson’s shows until then) asked for a TV programme with same visual standards of “Doppelganger” (and some of the vehicles, spacesuits and also were recycled…).
The action took place in 1980 (which looked very far and futurible) and showed the adventures of secret organisation S.H.A.D.O. (Supreme Headquarter Alien Defence Organisation).
Assumed that aliens existed and were hostile to earthmen, S.H.A.D.O., led by commander Straker (Ed Bishop) fights them with its futuristic vehicles and moonbase (very popular the moon interceptors with their single missiles and the Skydiver
submarine, which could launch a fighter aircraft).
Very little is known about the aliens, they fly in spinning flying saucers and after each sighting mutilated human corpses are found.
In the pilot episode “Identified” a theory is made possible: a captured alien has transplanted organs, human organs. So aliens come from a dying planet, with its habitants become sterile and doomed to extintion, needing human organs for transplants in order to survive.
But this theory is updated in the episode “The cat with ten lives”: an alien corpse is examined and proves to be totally human: aliens could have no physical shape at all, and need our bodies to live their lives. Transplants are needed to keep alive those bodies.
After shooting the first episodes, it was clear that two male leads (Straker and his number two colonel Alec Freeman, portrayed by Goerge Sewell) were not enough, and a younger man for action scenes (and to please female audience) was needed. So entered Paul Foster (Michael Billington), which joined SHADO in the episode “Exposed”.
At first, commander Straker was intended as a sort of James Bond’s “M”, a very distant chief  only giving orders. But writers decided to centre more and more the show on him and even on his biography.
In “Confetti check: A-OK” we can see a long flashback about Straker’s failed mariage and SHADO’s first steps.
”Question of priorities” is a very strong episode: a SHADO air carrier is transporting
an urgent medicine to save Straker’s dying son, but also SHADO vehicles which could be vital for Earth’ safety…
Not only divorce, but also cheating: two lovers plan to kill the woman’s husband, but an alien is killed by mistake in “The square triangle”.
A very particular episode was “Survival”: Foster was stranded on the Moon surface together with an alien, and they must collaborate to survive… a very similar story will be seen years later in the movie “My enemy”.
At the beginning of 1970 production had to move to another location, filming stopped for six months and a large part of the cast (George Sewell among others) found other job. A recast was made, and new second-in-command for Straker was colonel Virginia Lake (Wanda Ventham): a woman in a so high position was quite
unusual at the time.
With the new cast were made the last 9 episodes, probably the best of the serie.
”Mindbender” was very intriguing: Straker had hallucinations, and believed to be an actor in a science fiction serie, so it was possible to see the UFO backstage…
Drugs too were shown. In “Timelash” aliens build a force field to freeze time: to avoid freezing themselves, Straker and Virginia use a shot of a particular drug…
Even worse “The long sleep”, where a young couple meet aliens while making an LSD trip…
TV programmers were puzzled by so daring stories, UFO was aired late at night and audience failed. The second serie, already on pre-production, was stopped (but the script was modified and later become “Space: 1999”).

Although Anderson was interested in adult audience, young boys remained the most interested, being target for a huge merchandising (first of all the die-cast models by Dinky Toys).
UFO’s appeal was due mainly to its stunning special effects (as in all Anderson’s productions) and the incredible variety of futuristic vehicles, created by Derek Meddings and Mike Trim.
Its limit was in the repetitiveness of the scripts, the central idea did not allow a large amount of original stories (and some critics said that actors were very similar to “Supermarionation” puppets…).
In 1980 a compilation film was released with title “Invasion: UFO”.

26 episodes, colour, 60’

1) Identified
2) Computer Affair
3) Flight Path
4) Exposed
5) Survival
6) Conflict
7) The Dalotek Affair
8) A Question of Priorities

9) Ordeal
10) The Responsibility Seat
11) The Square Triangle
12) Court Martial
13) Close-Up
14) Confetti check A-OK
15) E.S.P.
16) Kill Straker!
17) Sub-smash
18) The sound of silence
19) The Cat with ten lives


20) Destruction
21) The man who came back
22) Reflections in the water
23) The Psychobombs
24) Timelash
25) Mindbender
26) The long sleep


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