Last Tuesday, on ITV4 at 6pm, there was another opportunity to see what is, in my opinion, the finest episode of perhaps the most consistently excellent SF series ever made... the series is Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's "UFO" and the episode... "The Psychobombs". Originally shown twelfth, on 30 December 1970, in a run of twenty-six, the story pits the operatives of SHADO against three human agents of the aliens, bent on destroying first a SHADO tracking station then a Skydiver submarine and finally SHADO HQ itself unless they cease operations immediately!
The episode boasts an excellent guest cast in the roles of "The Psychobombs". Deborah Grant plays Linda Simmonds who, whilst under the influence of the aliens, falls for series regular Michael Billington as Colonel Paul Foster. He is sent to investigate her after she strangles a policeman with superhuman strength given to her by the UFO which has landed in England. Deborah is perhaps best known to television viewers for playing the ex-wife of Eighties' cop "Bergerac".
David Collings plays Daniel Clark, the man who, again under alien influence, attacks Commander Straker (Ed Bishop) in his car and presents him with the written ultimatum. David is well known to "Doctor Who" fans for three guest appearances, as Vorus in "Revenge of the Cybermen", Poul in "The Robots of Death" and Mawdryn in "Mawdryn Undead". He also guested as Deva in "Blake", the last-ever episode of "Blake's 7" recently released on DVD. He is familiar to fans of "Sapphire and Steel" as Silver in eight episodes of that series.
The remaining human bomb, Clem Mason, is played by Mike Pratt, best known to viewers as Jeff Randall in cult late-Sixties paranormal comedy drama "Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)", which has also recently enjoyed a reshowing on ITV4. Eagle-eyed viewers will have spotted Christopher Timothy in this episode of "UFO", as the navigator of Skydiver 3, who, having recently starred in "Doctors", weekday afternoons on BBC ONE, is still perhaps best known as James Herriot opposite fifth Doctor Peter Davison and Robert Hardy in "All Creatures Great and Small".
The episode may have modern resonances in the light of suicide bombings but was produced in undeniably more innocent times. It is stylishly made, especially the close-ups of teardrops on Deborah Grant's cheeks, who incidentally looks stunning throughout, with some great explosion sequences but "UFO" was an attempt to populate a science fiction drama with real people with real emotions. "The Psychobombs" is one of two episodes that does not begin with the regular opening title sequence and the terrific Barry Gray theme tune.