Ed Bishop, also known as Klaus Hergeshimer in Diamonds are Forever , is Commander Straker, head of an MJ-12 type organisation set up to defeat a secret alien invasion. George Sewell, familiar from every UK cop show ever made, plays Straker's sidekick.
The retro-futuristic look comes from the fact that this was made circa 1970 but is set in 1980. There are lots of strange anachronisms. For example, the new-looking buildings have massive glass windows - a clear sign that they were built before the 1970s Oil Crisis.
Flying saucers attack England, machine-gunning bystanders in a forest and bombing a Government limo. One survivor is Commander Ed Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ), in green dress-uniform.
In 1980, Straker controls SHADO - a secret Alien Defence Organisation. It has lots of hi-tech gear (moonbase, flying subs, a cargo-carrying Concorde) and beautiful women in miniskirts or skin-tight cat-suits.
Straker's sidekick, Colonel Alec Freeman (George Sewell), is in charge of security for some hi-tech gear. However, the UFOs try to intercept it.
This is quite an action-packed ep. However, the ending sets the disturbing undertone to the entire series.
Near-future Earth ... well, an early 1970s version of the Near Future. A British test-pilot, Colonel Foster (Michael Billington), is witness to a UFO incident. He wakes up from his coma in 1980, discovering himself blamed for the crash (and subsequent death of the co-pilot).
The aliens attack moonbase. There is no senior officer on duty, only the air traffic control woman. Luckily, Commander Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) and Col. Virginia Lake ( Wanda Ventham ) are in the control room back on Earth. Straker sends up three interceptors, the maximum number that moonbase has available. However, the aliens already know this. They send three UFOs to decoy the three interceptors, each of which only has one missile available. Also, they have other UFOs lurking nearby to get in a shooting match with the ground defences - a set of tracked vehicles with multiple rocket-launchers.
Colonel Foster (Michael Billington) is on moonbase, but his only job is to train Jim Regan (Alexis Kanner - The Prisoner ), Philips (Steven Berkoff - Werewolves Vs Strippers ) and the other interceptor pilots in Judo. Now that the moonbase has no ground defences, the interceptors are its only defence. However, Regan gets a few days leave back on Earth. The fuel bill for the weekly supply runs must be incredible!
Regan and his wife Jean ( Geraldine Moffatt ) visit their friends, a married couple, and have a seance. This involves letter cards, not the classic Ouija board - which is a patented board-game. Anyway, on the way home they save a strange cat - and are abducted by aliens!
Jean is kept by the aliens, but her husband is left behind. Straker assumes the abduction was mere coincidence, despite the unlikelyhood of a SHADO operative being targeted by mere chance. Also, he is not suspicious about Regan being left behind, and assumes that the aliens rejected him as a host because of a physical imperfection. This is in spite of the fact that Regan was a top-quality fighting man, with enough athletic ability to fight Foster at Judo. Worst of all, Straker orders the grieving man - someone obviously under incredible psychological stress - to return to active duty immediately.
The SHADO doc, Jackson, discovers that the aliens are actually abducted humans, medically altered to breathe fluid so they can withstand interstellar travel. The aliens somehow implant their own thought patterns into their victims. But he does not realise that the aliens could also modify other mammals ... like cats!
There are a couple of other familiar faces among the SHADO staff. Straker has a new secretary, Miss Holland, on loan from another agency - Colonel Blake in Section Nine. She is Lois Maxwell , best known as Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond series. Morgan, the security guard on the front gate, is Windsor Davies - who later became famous as the Sergeant Major in It Ain't Half Hot, Mum.
Space junk, the debris floating in near-Earth orbit, is causing problems for SHADO. Commander Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) is afraid the Aliens are using it.
The problem is, the bureaucratic General James Henderson (Grant Taylor) refuses to help, claiming the budget is too restrictive. Colonel Alec Freeman (George Sewell) is sent to Moonbase to compile a report on the dangers. This is all too late, because one of the moon-flights crashes. Henderson then has the moon flights suspended, so Freeman is stuck there until they can work out how to safely fly back to Earth safely.
Colonel Foster (Michael Billington), former test-pilot, is now commander of the Moonbase. His method of investigating a crash is to identically duplicate the dead pilot's course. The idea is that whatever problems the dead pilot encountered, including alien sabotage en route, will be discovered first-hand. Of course, this will require fast reflexes to avoid the same fate.
Henderson does not care about the space junk. He refuses to believe Straker's evidence of alien sabotage, and is more interested in undermining Straker's position. In fact, he wants to end SHADO altogether. Presumably this would mean the world's defences would be in the hands of Henderson and the regular military. We see what a bad idea this would be in UFO [Season 1, Episode 9] Destruction.
Straker is divorced, and only gets to see his son a few days a month. The son is injured in a road traffic accident. Only an emergency flight of drugs from the USA can save him.
The aliens attack, and one of them lands off the west coast of Ireland. The only flight handy is the one with the drugs aboard ...
The Aliens send another saucer to Earth. This one is on manual control, and actually lands. Well, crash-lands. More crash than landing, in fact.
Paul Foster (Michael Billington) commands the ground team that intervenes. He winds up in hospital, and suspects that someone is following him. Is he merely paranoid, or is he developing a psychic sense?
A middle-aged Englishman has developed mind-reading powers. His psychiatrist knows he has a pre-cognitive ability, but somehow he got detailed info from reading Freeman's mind. By incredible coincidence the UFO crashed into his house and killed his wife. He blames SHADO, and is stalking the leaders with the intent of assassinating them. The most unbelievable bit? He has gotten hold of a handgun, and knows how to use it!
An Alien encounter puts one of the moonbase ships in peril. Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) is on Moonbase at the time, and as the senior officer he has to make a difficult decision.
Colonel Paul Foster and his co-pilot are lost for sixteen hours. Luckily the two pilots survive. However, they become antagonistic towards Straker. This escalates to a homicidal level!
Back on Earth, Alec Freeman gets called into a meeting with the General. Foster has put in a complaint about Straker's command style. He also complains that Straker wants to double SHADO's budget, and refers to this as Empire-building. In all fairness, if the alien attacks increase in both frequency and sophistication then there is no choice but to increase funding to Earth's only line of defence. Most of it probably goes to the rocket-fuel, for all the space-flights to and from moon-base. Perhaps it would be cheaper to use a manned space station in near Earth orbit.
This show is not about the aliens, despite the title. It is really a character-driven drama about Straker himself. He is humanity's only line of defence. And that burden weighs heavy upon him.
The Aliens have invented a flying sub, and are using it to abduct sailors and destroy oil tankers. This week Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) and Alec Freeman (George Sewell) join the crew of the SHADO sub, to help hunt it down.
Unfortunately, the sub gets crippled by an alien vessel and left on the sea bed with the air slowly running out ... With Straker and the others inside. Straker, a known claustrophobic, has to control both himself and his crew. The tension is ratcheted up, notch by notch. Straker and Freeman, being main characters, will probably survive. But the crew of redshirts are a different matter ...
Straker is an incredibly complex character, an obsessive workaholic haunted by the death of his son, and Bishop handles the part perfectly.
A Royal Navy warship, the County-class destroyer HMS Hampshire, is on patrol in the Atlantic Ocean. Using an out-dated Sea Slug missile it shoots down a UFO. Unfortunately, the Ministry Of Defence (MOD) photos somehow reach the Press.
It turns out the MOD was dumping barrels of nerve gas into an Atlantic-floor trench. And the Aliens have discovered this, because Stephanie Beecham was their brainwashed spy in the Admiralty.
The final battle between a UFO and the Royal Navy destroyer illustrates the importance of using specialist firepower to fight the alien menace. Nice use of stock footage, too.
The story was set in 1984 but filmed over a decade earlier. For a real-world comparison with the sea battle, we can look to the Falklands conflict of 1982. The County-class destroyer was a 1950s design, constructed in the 1960s and replaced in the early 1980s. In fact, the ship depicted in this episode was dismantled in 1976. During the Falklands War, only one Seaslug missile was launched against an aircraft target. This was by HMS Antrim, a sister-ship of the Hampshire, and did not hit its intended target. Since the missiles were of such little use against the Argies' Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, itself a 1950s design, they would not be much good against the UFOs.
A UFO lands in England. Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) sends a ground-patrol out to intercept the pilot.
Adrienne Cori is plotting to murder her husband.
The climax gives Straker an uncomfortable choice. But he does not balk at doing what is necessary.
The end scene, wordlessly passing as the credits roll, is quite chilling.
SHADO tests an unmanned spaceship which has a spy-cam that can do close-ups from five hundred miles. The aim? To follow a UFO to its homeworld, and see what the Alien world looks like!
Unfortunately, the threat of sabotage exists.
The ending is quite ironic. A bit of a downer, perhaps, but this is a drama rather than action-adventure.
Two men and a woman get supernatural powers. Like The Champions , but eeevil. They are controlled by the Aliens, who have full knowledge of SHADO's security.
A UFO sends psychic signals to the trio, and they drop what they are doing (like in Telefon) to attack pre-determined Installations. Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) and SHADO have been told what the targets are, as in Captain Scarlet . Or even Vincent Price movies ( Theatre of Blood, Abominable Dr Phibes ).
One of the anti-Champs is Mike Pratt (star of Randall and Hopkirk, Deceased , who also played a villainous type on a submarine in the actual Champions show). Another is a beautiful woman, who the Colonel falls in love with in about five minutes!
The Aliens land a sniper on the Moon. Somehow he has infinite oxygen, despite not carrying any cannisters on his back. He walks to within two hundred metres of Moonbase, takes a shot at a window. This causes explosive decompression and the death of one of the pilots. Not only is the guy Foster's best friend, he is also only one day away from a well-earned trip home.
Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) goes to Moonbase to oversee the proceedings. Foster (Michael Billington) leads a mission to capture the UFO on the moon's surface. It puts up a fight - yes, with sound effects in vacuum - and Foster is left missing-believed-dead.
Foster himself is kept alive by the alien. You know, like in Enemy Mine . The others assume he is dead, even though they did not find his body. Surely they could have examined the explosion site for any debris. After all, they were able to collect the fragments of window glass after the decompression incident scattered them across several acres. And a search of the explosion site would gain them valuable info about the alien species and their technology.
The date of this mission is given as April 1981. Since the show was filmed ten years earlier, it must have seemed very futuristic. However, there is one major change they do not seem to have predicted. Straker delegates the female staff members simple office jobs like radar operator and coffee gofer. However, in real life the UK had elected Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister two years previously! Perhaps women should have been given more important jobs, such as cannon fodder in Straker's never-ending war against the aliens.
Mark (Harry Baird), the token black guy, is made Foster's replacement. However, he is paranoid about racial prejudice. Hey, this was made in 1970, after all! However, Straker assures him that racism was eliminated five years previously, circa 1976.
A UFO flies close to Moonbase, but mysteriously explodes before it can be shot down. Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) sends out a unit to investigate.
SHADO personnel start to hallucinate. One fellow thinks he is surrounded by Mexican banditos, and tries to shoot his way out! Philips (Steven Berkoff - Werewolves Vs Strippers ) is one of the moonbase crew in the firing line.
Straker discovers that he is just an actor on the set of a TV show. An actor pretending to be a man pretending to be a TV Producer! Stuart Damon ( The Champions ) pops up as an actor who complains that the scripts he gets are hackneyed and predictable. Not something that can be said of this episode!
The aliens have used mind-control to subvert humans and use them as spies. This time they pressurise Roper (George Cole - Minder) by harrassing his wife. We get some suspenseful stalk-and-slash type scenes, reminiscent of the suspenseful parts of UFO [Season 1, Episode 23] The Sound of Silence.
The aliens' plan is to attack Moonbase. Luckily, SHADO has shoulder-fired rocket-launchers capable of taking down a UFO!
A SHADO astronaut goes MIA after a UFO encounter, and is written off after forty-eight hours MIA. However, he emerges alive from the jungle.
Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) assigns an officer to keep an eye on the MIA man. Firstly, the Aliens' attacks usually involve mind-f*cking with SHADO personnel. Secondly, the happy smiling MIA fellow once played Number 2 in The Prisoner . Can he be trusted?
A private corporation, Dalotek, sets up an experiment station near Moonbase. Not only does Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) complain about secrecy and the drain on resources, but there is the risk of electronic interference.
The UFOs fly near moonbase, but secrecy is maintained. A strange meteor lands nearby ...
Colonel Foster (Michael Billington) flirts with the female geologist. But their relationship is put under strain when Moonbase suffers from electronic interference, and the Dalotek station seems to be responsible.
The ep starts in the bunker room, where Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) goes crazy and smashes up the machines. However, it turns out that Straker could not have gotten into the Bunker ...
Straker babbles that the aliens killed Time, possibly a literal reference to the Mysterons' threat in an episode of Captain Scarlet . The Doc doses Straker with an experimental serum, and he tells the story in flashback. He was giving a lift to Col. Virginia Lake ( Wanda Ventham ) when the car was zapped by a UFO, and they found themselves trapped in a moment of time. Not unlike the Stephen King TV movie made almost thirty years later, The Langoliers .
The story involves a traitor, corrupted by the Aliens. This has been used before, but works well here. This time it is Turner (Patrick Allen - ), a radar operator. He stalks the two survivors, laughing maniacally while he boasts of his plans. Luckily the woman is not a helpless damsel in distress - she can use a SHADO issue M-16 rifle as well as Straker does.
The cinematography is very off-the-wall, somewhat reminiscent of The Prisoner . The special effects, however, are what really make this ep work. The UFOs look like what they are - dated 1970s models - but the effects that simulate a frozen moment are what really impress the viewer.
Colonel Foster (Michael Billington) goes to a health clinic - like James Bond in Thunderball . Although Bond never had flashbacks to terribly dated music and dancing, like something from Austin Powers!
Aliens attack, and capture Foster. Worse, they experiment on him - a weird reverse of the operation Jackson the German doctor performed on Alien prisoners. They turn him into one of them!
Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) does not hesitate to order the necessary steps. He is a tough man when necessary, and as he points out it would be kinder to kill Foster than let him be tortured to death.
Colonel Foster (Michael Billington) is on trial for espionage. Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) tries to find out what actually happened.
We get to learn a lot more about the workings of SHADO. Also, we get a nice reminder that there is an oversight committee. Jackson, the creepy Herr Doktor type, is also General Henderson's head of counter-espionage. He acts as the Prosecutor in the Court Martial - yes, he is a lawyer as well as a scientist!
A moonbase flight runs foul of the UFOs. An astronaut is killed, and a UFO gets through to Earth. Alec Freeman (George Sewell) tracks the UFO to Canada, while Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) conducts an internal investigation.
The black pilot, Mark (Harry Baird), is having an inter-racial affair with the ground-control officer, Lieutenant Ellis ( Gabrielle Drake ). Heady stuff, considering the time this show was actually made.
The UFO is located in Canada. Mark is sent to attack it. Unfortunately nobody has any woodland camouflage - the Shado men have blue spacesuits, the aliens have Red ones.
When Aliens are surgically converted to breathe Earth atmosphere, they look identical to humans. Unfortunately for Straker, they do not seem to speak English!
One of the SHADO personnel has gotten married. This is a bookend sequence, as Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) has an extended flashback. Ten years ago he got married to Mary, at the same time as he first proposed the creation of SHADO. The final chapter in his marriage was shown in UFO [Season 1, Episode 5] A Question of Priorities, so we all know that it will go downhill. Basically we see Straker become the man we know him as.
General Henderson, best known as Straker's overbearing boss, turns out to have been his greatest supporter. The good news is that Straker gets approved as head of SHADO. The bad news is that, as Henderson warns him, he has to work sixteen hours a day for the next ten years.
Mary seems to be a traditional housewife, with no career of her own. She celebrates the news of her pregancy by pouring two glasses of red wine - one for Straker, one for herself. Just like the celebratory smoking of cigars, this was the done thing in 1970s.
It is not the long hours apart that sets Mary against Straker. No, it is his refusal to tell her details of his work. She suspects he is seeing another woman, and her mother sets a private investigator to tail him. A pity that he never learned any counter-surveillance techniques.
A UFO gets past the space patrol, and lands in rural England.
The horse-riding landowners have trouble with a homeless Gyppo type who camps on their land. No Victorian stereotypes here. Move along!
Straker sends Colonel Foster (Michael Billington) and a team to investigate. Foster gets himself a love interest, but the story takes on a creepy 1970s slasher-movie vibe (reminiscent of And Soon The Darkness (1971) ).
Finally, Foster recovers an alien artefact. It is the size of a coffin - or a torpedo. Foster takes it back to the SHADO HQ, in the basement of the film studio, and Straker insists on being personally present when it is opened. If it were boobytrapped, not only would Straker and Foster be killed instantly but the building would probably collapse on top of the secret basement HQ.
A merchant ship is sunk in the Atlantic ocean with no survivors. SHADO does not investigate, because Straker is too busy maintaining his cover as a film producer. By incredible coincidence, Straker's newest film project involves underwater footage shot off the coast of Cornwall, in the Atlantic Ocean. Someone gets killed in mysterious circumstances, so Straker pulls the Skydiver submarine in to investigate.
Skydiver discovers an alien underwater base. Straker deploys a team of Navy SEAL types, experts in underwater combat and survival. Well, actually, no. He flies himself and Paul Foster out so they can do it themselves. Not only are they the two highest-ranking officers on duty, but they are both Air Force pilots rather than Navy SCUBA divers.
Straker and Foster get some valuable intelligence. They witness someone that looks like a low-ranking SHADO officer, Lieutenant Anderson (James Cosmo - Braveheart ), in league with the enemy.
Straker and Foster head back into the Dome. They must defeat the aliens before the next UFO attack is launched. Worst of all, Straker gives a self-imposed time limit. If they are not back in an hour, the submarine commander is to destroy the dome with his torpedoes.
The alien plan is to send a massive number of UFOs to Earth in one go. Of course, Straker has assets deployed to stop them. The flying submarine can take on the first wave, while Moonbase's defences (interceptors and ground-based rocket launchers) can take on the second wave. Will the SHADO defences have enough firepower, or will they be overwhelmed?
Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) is interviewed by a female journalist. However, she is deceptive ... and thanks to a minor security lapse, she gets a clue to SHADO's existence.
While Straker tracks the woman down, Alec Freeman (George Sewell) is given The Responsibility Seat. A strange radar signal is detected ... something is driving along the moon's surface, directly towards the tiny target of moonbase.
Freeman gets a glimpse of the extreme stress that Straker handles every day. And Straker gets a taste of a normal life.
Unfortunately, Straker (a divorcee) is prone to blackmail if he sleeps with a woman.
A woman comes out of a coma after ten years. Straker takes personal responsibility for the case, and interviews her while she is still in her hospital bed. After all, he was the driver who put her into the coma in the first place.
Her flashback is in monochrome, although it switches to an amazing palette of colours when she uses recreational drugs. She and her boyfriend Tim, a couple of hippies, are witness to a UFO landing. They stole a mechanism from the aliens, but the boyfriend was abducted.
The woman is kept in a private room in a public hospital. Doug Jackson, the SHADO Doctor (and Internal Affairs officer) is in charge of her treatment. However, the aliens have managed to infiltrate the place.
The aliens converted Tim into one of their agents. He does not need the full liquid-breathing space-suit, because he can pass for a natural human. However, when his mission is completed he quickly disentigrates until only a skeleton is left. This seems to be a self-destruct mechanism so that the humans cannot investigate the alien bio-tech. Not unlike the alien's self-disentigration in The Invaders .
The aliens' plan is to detonate a bomb that will cause an earthquake so vast it will destroy England. The explosive was composed of two liquids, but the hippies stole one of them and hid it. Now the woman is out of her coma, the aliens have a chance to recover the liquid and detonate the bomb.
As always, Straker (Ed Bishop - Diamonds are Forever ) must make a difficult decision. He is normally quite cavalier about risking lives, but now he seems quite reluctant to do so.
Luckily the bomb is on a timer, so SHADO has the opportunity to defuse it. In another lucky stroke, SHADO has a rocket capable of quickly taking the bomb 24,000 miles from Earth. Well, they launch moon missions on a weekly basis so their rocket capability must be incredible.
The ending, tinged with bleakness, epitomises the entire series.