UFO

Aliens are attacking Earth! Green-skinned alien organ-snatchers to be precise, who keep their sterile bodies alive with transplants from unwilling Human donors. To combat this threat, Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organization has been established, under the authority of the irascible General Henderon and the day-to-day control of driven Commander Straker. From his headquarters beneath the studios of movie-makers Harlington-Straker, the Commander deploys resources including the orbiting Space Intruder Detectors, a Moonbase equipped with three single-missile Interceptors, the jet fighter Sky One (which launches from the submarine aircraft carrier Skydiver), and a fleet f terrestrial SHADO-mobiles. He must protect an unwitting population from the marauding aliens, at whatever cost to his own humanity..

 

 

 

 

Episode Listing

1 Identified 16th September 1970
2 Computer Affair 15th May 1971
3 Flight Path 20th January 1971
4 Exposed 23rd September 1970
5 Survival 6th January 1971
6 Conflict 7th October 1970
7 The Dalotek Affair 10th February 1971
8 A Question of Priorities 14th October 1970
9 Ordeal 24th April 1971
10 The Responsibility Seat 8th March 1973
11 The Square Triangle 9th December 1970
12 Court Martial 1st May 1971
13 Close Up 16th December 1970
14 Confetti Check A-OK 10th July 1971
15 ESP 21st October 1970
16 Kill Straker 4th November 1970
17 Sub-Smash 11th November 1970
18 The Sound of Silence 17th July 1971
19 The Cat with Ten Lives 30th September 1970
20 Destruction 2nd December 1970
21 The Man Who Came Back 3rd February 1971
22 The Psychobombs 30th December 1970
23 Reflectons in the Water 24th July 1971
24 Timelash 17th February 1971
25 Mindbender 13th January 1971
26 The Long Sleep 15th March 1973

 

                  

Episode 13 - Close-Up - Instead of shooting a UFO down, SHADO forces it to follow one particular trajectory, allowing a space probe to lock onto its path as it escapes. The probe will track the UFO back to its base, and finally give SHADO a glimpse of the aliens homeworld. Unfortunately their insight is restricted by a matter of perspective..

Dull, dull, dull. With little human drama and the effects sequences held in check by SHADO's determination to let this invader escape, there's little tension as we wait to see if the plan will succeed, and, without that interest, there's no shock to the conclusion - that without any way of measuring scale, the probe's images lack context and are meaningless.

This ending - with billions in SHADO funds wasted because of a stupid error - is surprisingly realistic when one remembers that NASA once lost Mars probe because some instructions were written in Imperial measures and others in metric, with all the potential for confusion that suggests, but it's hardly worth a 50-minute wait.

And the close-up of Grabrielle Drake's legs it involves is a bit too great a close-up to act any sort of compensation.

 

 

Episode 8 - A Question of Priorities - Commander Straker's rare day out with his young son ends in tragedy as the boy chases after his father .. and is run down by a car. His treatment should be routine, but a sensitivity to antibiotics means his life can only be saved by an experimental drug under development in America. Promising his ex-wife Mary he'll save the boy, Straker orders a SHADO jet to transport the drug across the Atlantic - without telling his staff about his 'diversion' of SHADO equipment, even though his deputy and best friend Alec freeman would surely support him.

At SHADO HQ, Freeman is monitoring an alien landing in Ireland, and realizes from its signals that tis alien may be friendly - and a valuable ally. He diverts the nearest asset SHADO has - the jet in mid-Atlantic - and Straker doesn't overrule him ..

 

UFO is a curious series. Rather than the straight piece of Sci-Fi action many had expected, it's a almost precursor to ER and Hill Street Blues - a drama series about people who face immense stress in an important job, except his job involves the use of spaceships. The mix isn't always successful, but A Question of Priorities is the perfect fusion of Science Fiction action and Human drama, while Ed Bishop`s understated performance as Straker does his duty at the cost of his son's life is a wonder to behold (even though it does rather play into the hands of lazy critics who like to think Anderson = puppets = wooden... review done!). The final scene is quite shattering, but its full impact is really bought home in other episodes, as Confetti Check A-OK shows the 10 year story  of how Straker's responsibilities at SHADO destroyed his marriage, Sub-Smash sees him reliving Mary's anger at the tragedy as he hovers on the edge of death, and, most devastatingly, the surreal Mindbender puts him in an alternate world where he's merely an actor in a TV series, and transforms his grief into entertainment - "pretty pictures for the masses with a great performance from the kid".