Visit the official Doctor Who website

Visit the official Doctor Who website
Look to the future

Asylum seekers...

Asylum seekers...
Refuge of the Daleks

Doctor Who picture resource

Doctor Who picture resource
Roam the space lanes!

Explore the Doctor Who classic series website

Explore the Doctor Who classic series website
Step back in time

Infiltrate The Hub of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood

Infiltrate The Hub of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood
Armed and extremely dangerous

Investigate The Sarah Jane Adventures

Investigate The Sarah Jane Adventures
Fearless in the face of adversity

Call on Dani’s House

Call on Dani’s House
Harmer’s a charmer

Intercept the UFO fabsite

Intercept the UFO fabsite
Defending the Earth against alien invaders!

Uncover the secrets of the Dollhouse

Uncover the secrets of the Dollhouse
Programmable agent Echo exposed!

Hell’s belles

Hell’s belles
Naughty but nice

Love Exposure

Love Exposure
Flash photography!

Primeval portal

Primeval portal
Dressed to kill or damsels in distress?

Charmed, to be sure!

Charmed, to be sure!
The witches of San Francisco

Take on t.A.T.u.

Take on t.A.T.u.
All the way from Moscow

Proceed to the Luther website

Proceed to the Luther website
John and Jenny discuss their next move

DCI Banks is on the case

DCI Banks is on the case
You can bet on it!

On The Grid with Spooks

On The Grid with Spooks
Secret agents of Section D

Bridge to Hustle

Bridge to Hustle
Shady characters

Life on Ashes To Ashes

Life on Ashes To Ashes
Coppers with a chequered past

Claire’s no Exile

Claire’s no Exile
Goose steps

Vexed is back on the beat!

Vexed is back on the beat!
Mismatched DI Armstrong and bright fast-tracker Georgina Dixon

Medium, both super and natural

Medium, both super and natural
Open the door to your dreams

Who’s that girl? (350-picture Slideshow)

Monday, 21 August 2006

Psycho Killers!


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.

(Revised Post)

10 comments:

doppelganger said...

"but "UFO" was an attempt to populate a science fiction drama with real people with real emotions"

Really? Wasn't the comment of the time that in moving away from puppets, Anderson had produced a series that reproduced their plasticey, straight-faced look using humans?

Years ago someone gave my brother and I the film length first episode on video - I'm sorry if I'm treading on a much cherished memory, but we both thought it was awful. Foremost in my mind is the terribly scripted scene where Ed Draker (?) explains the whole set up the audience under the pretence of chastising an underling. ('I have to work hard pretending to be a film producer every day!'). Best of all was the immortal line uttered by the guy from Footballer's Wives who pilots the plane: 'This cloud gives about as much cover as a G-string on a belly dancer...' - priceless! - twenty years later we still roll that one out when we're drunk...

As I said, sorry to so heartily disagree in my first comment on an interesting blog that I've kept an eye on for a while.... more posts please!

TimeWarden said...

If I remember correctly, the version of "UFO" on that video was intended for a Japanese audience and includes the 1st and 2nd episodes with a completely different music track which obviously alters the atmosphere of the material. If you watch the entire series in the right order then you learn about Straker's marriage, the loss of his son etc. Home life is sacrificed to the job. It just so happens his job is defending the Earth, which he could never reveal to his loved ones.

When I first watched "UFO" as a boy I didn't really understand the human element of the programme. Naturally enough, at that age, I wanted to see spaceships and aliens. I realise now that the series was aimed at an older audience. When "Space:1999" came along I was older and this series was aimed at a slightly younger age group so I preferred it. In retrospect, it wasn't as good as "UFO" and the 2nd series of "Space:1999" doesn't rate at all. "UFO" is generally regarded as Gerry Anderson's masterpiece.

doppelganger said...

Hmmm.... the comparison with Space 1999 is an interesting one, as is the point about the music (which I hadn't realised)

I definitely rate 1999 more.

I remember being actually scared by it at about six or seven. It had a nicely claustrophobic feel and the funky bass on the theme was great....

Other great bits were:
The guns that looked like staplers
The insectoid feel to the ships
The natty outfits
The woman with the pimply eyebrows

Also good was that strangely ponderous on screen relationship between Martin Landau, Barbara Bain and Barry Morse (I think I get the names right..)

Was it Barbara Bain? - I thought she was beautiful - she had those huge wet eyes that made her look like she was permanently about to burst into tears in the existential loneliness of that harsh neon glare on a lost moon.....

Compared to that Gabrielle Drake was just kinda Destiny Angel made flesh wasn't she?

Dan said...

Isn't it unfair to judge anything on the first episode? I can't think of anything that was good from the off. Usually you're lucky if a program hits its stride in the first series. Which is, of course, why so many shows with potential are so abruptly cancelled these days.

doppelganger said...

I dunno Dan - we all seem pretty decided on Torchwood already

Paul Greaves said...

Space 1999 was awful!! Great fun - but definitely awful :-) I love the theme tune to series 2 (one of the greatest theme ever) but UFO is far superior IMO.

TimeWarden said...

Martin Landau and Barbara Bain were husband and wife and had previously worked together on US TV series "Mission Impossible". Their daughter Juliet played Drusilla in "Buffy" and "Angel".

Barry Morse was replaced, after the first season, with metamorph Catherine Schell (the woman with the pimply eyebrows!) by new Producer Fred Freiberger, also responsible for finishing off "Star Trek" in the Sixties!

Schell's character, Maya, was a cure-all, like K9, the sonic screwdriver and, to a certain extent, Rose's mobile! You might remember the actress in "Doctor Who" story "City of Death".

If you can block out the second season of "Space:1999" then I think it compares favourably with "UFO". But it exists, without the philosophy and science that Morse's character, Professor Victor Bergman, brought to the first season.

doppelganger said...

I definitely remember the mood and the lighting very clearly....

In the opening credits Babs is just washed in a harsh white light.

Stewart M. said...

The series stars David Collings and I haven't seen it!? There must be something wrong with me.

TimeWarden said...

David Collings is only in "The Psychobombs" episode of "UFO". Under the control of the aliens, he flags down Straker's car, virtually forcing Ed to give him a lift, and then half throttles him for his trouble!

The lead, Ed Straker, was played by the much missed Ed Bishop, who gives a terrific performance throughout the series.