Can anyone not be stirred by this opening?
At the time of its making in 1975, it was the most ambitious and expensive television series developed in the UK. Helmed by Gerry Anderson – whose dynamism and flair had already given the world legendary names such as Supercar, Stringray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and UFO – Space 1999 (despite some rather dodgy physics) pushed the envelope of science fiction television and carried the — rather parochial — British public into realms of myth, legend, psychology and dream as much as science and society.
Cast upon an almost Odyssean quest into an unknown future, the ark of Moonbase Alpha gave viewers a fabulous (and fabulously real thanks to the impressive, and huge, set designs) base for weekly stories of hope, courage, terror and thought.
This is evidenced by the this magnificent – even infamous – episode, ‘Dragon’s Domain’, which gave both children and adults alike nightmares for years (despite the rubbery grobbly).
However, as many fans have said over the years, though the high concept and thought-provoking narratives of the show were impressive enough, the ‘real’ stars of the show were the modelers – led by Brian Johnson, Martin Bower and other masters of the art, whose talents would later be seen on dozens of blockbuster films and TV series.
Being given the brief of ‘realistic excellence’ in the show’s designs, Johnson looked both to the real Space Race which was slowly winding down into the settled era of Skylab and the (then proposed) shuttle fleet.
The models of Space 1999 were not the sleek, chrome ships of the imagination, but the worn-out, grimy work-horses of the future: fitting, rough, tough and ugly ships for Moonbase Alpha which was, as its first episode reveals, little more than a dustbin for the nuclear waste of the World.
Of all the props of the series, perhaps the one most redolent of the ideals of the Brian Johnson’s brief – and the one of which he is most proud – is the Eagle transporter. So perfect is it, in its form and execution that many a child – myself included – simply refused to believe that it was not ‘drawn from the life’ as it were….
The Eagle models (some of them) still exist today, and this interesting video gives insight into the practical genius of Johnson’s creative team.
However, today, we turn our attention to the one ‘prop’ which defined the series’ scope: Moonbase Alpha itself, here as rendered by MPC.
Johnson’s original Moonbase Alpha models were huge. Even the smallest scale was mounted to a 12 x 12 board, representing the crater location of the base and was lit from beneath by hundreds of feet of wire. Sections of the base were also built at much larger scales for close-up shots, but the main miniature still retains a massive amount of detail, as these photos can attest:
This kit was originally released in 1976, by Fundimensions in the US and was reissued with slightly modded tooling in 1999 by AMT/Ertl.
This current version of the kit has once again been slightly retooled and improved by Round2, but the overall kit remains as it did in the 1970s.
The kit comprises two models in one: A 1/3200 scale moonbase model, mounted to a vac formed base and a 1/115 scale command centre.
This kit has a bit of a duff reputation, but I’m always up for a bit of Space 1999, so lets see how the build goes…..
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