By Neko Bijin
Originally published on Neko Bijin’s Serious Blog and re-posted here with permission.
A mention of the gonzo Australian TV series Danger 5 recalled to me an unfulfilled task: I’ve been meaning to write an appreciation of the nigh-forgotten British series U.F.O.. If Danger 5 took itself seriously–not merely seriously but with deadly earnest–you’d get something like U.F.O.
Start with the look of the show: swinging 1970 England. Women in silver miniskirts and purple wigs, men in jumpers and tunics, plastic models and practical effects. Sets are a cross between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. No’s secret lair.
Next, the show’s attitude: cool. The actors manage to give the show the atmosphere of a War movie while prattling on about alien invasion, and no one is ever expounding without a cigarette or a glass of hard liquor at hand. Crisis after humanity-annihilating crisis is handled with steely aplomb.
Last, consider the plot: circa 1970 (the broadcast date), U.F.O.s (pronounced “you-faux”) insert themselves into the political affairs of humanity. An MP is spectacularly assassinated in his motorcade from above, and a task force is formed to deal with the extraterrestrial threat. A moon base is built to intercept enemy spacecraft, and a fleet of air, land and sea vehicles (all done with fantastic working models) is scrambled to capture or destroy landers. The task force’s leader, an American named Straker, approaches his work with a cerebral determination and single-mindedness. His thesis-delivery monologs about mission and sacrifice arrive with just as much gravitas as any Starfleet Captain’s (and on reflection, are much more credible).
Let me not leave the wrong idea. Although the actors all take the material seriously, it’s great ridiculous fun! Every episode is a banquet of spaceship explosions and nutty plot points. (E.g., in one episode, aliens invade a health spa to abduct a human officer and transform him into an alien.) Once a character comments that racial prejudice in 1980 is a thing of the past, but by golly sexism is alive and kicking, and there’s nary a scene where some older male supervisor isn’t leering over a pulchritudinous underling. One can easily imagine a real-world clandestine organization enjoined to save the world fueled by hard drinking, chain smoking and vigorous shtupping. Thanks to U.F.O. we don’t have to.
ufo (1970) episode 1 – Identified part 1 of 4