(1970) was Gerry Anderson's first attempt at a live-action "adult"
television series and also one that made at least a stab at portraying
what life would be like in the far-off year of 1980.
premise of UFO was unusual for its time. The Earth was
being invaded by aliens from another star system who were kidnapping
humans to harvest them for organ transplants. In order to combat
the menace and avoid a public panic, the major powers set up SHADO (Supreme
Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation).
This international secret organisation, set up behind the cover of a
film studio in southern England, was lead by the intensely driven
Commander Ed Straker, who had a personal grudge against the aliens for
destroying his marriage and indirectly causing the death of his son.
Straker's job was to intercept the alien spaceships before they could
carry out attacks on the Earth and to learn as much about the
mysterious enemy as possible. Straker also made certain that any
civilians or other outsiders who learned about the alien conspiracy
would have their memories erased or be ruthlessly hounded into
Think of it as an alternative version of the X-Files
with the cigarette-smoking man as the hero.
UFO shared with Anderson's earlier sci-fi outing
Thunderbirds a love of engineering for its own sake, but it
differed in that SHADO operated in a world where budgets were not
unlimited and our heroes often had to make do with what was on hand.
Nevertheless, it was a world of Moon bases, SSTs, and flights into
space so routine that they weren't worth commenting on.
And where Thunderbirds was set in the distant 21st
century, UFO was only ten years in the future. It's
interesting that the makers of the series saw the '80s as being a
logical extension of the '60s with ties giving way to Nehru jackets,
little of the '70s apathy, and the scarier aspects of the sexual
revolution nowhere in evidence. Though apparently people in
England would be driving on the right-hand side of the road by the
Rumour has it that they didn't shift all at once, but changed over