Saturday, June 12, 2010

Space Babe: Catherine Schell

Stunning Catherine Schell as the shapeshifting Psychon Maya, the token alien from the second season of Space: 1999. No matter what your opinion of producer Fred Freiberger's handling of Year Two, there's no question that the lovely Ms. Schell made a very fetching extraterrestrial, despite some decidedly unflattering (and inconsistent) make-up. Despite what I've heard fans say, she did not have "sideburns," although what exactly the brown, airbrushed markings that accented her perfect cheekbones were supposed to be is something I guess only Freiberger and her make-up artist knew for sure.

I've always liked the character of Maya, even if her addition to Space: 1999 contributed to the unfortunate (IMO) change in the series' tone. Schell always managed to be charming and likeable despite the contrived nature of her character and the ridiculously low-tech "effects" that signified her metamorphoses. And even with that absurd make-up, she was gorgeous.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, her real name was Katherina Freiin Schell von Bauschlott, and she appeared in dozens of films and television shows between 1964 and '94. Her science fiction credits include a memorable appearance in the Doctor Who serial "City of Death," and a co-starring role in the 1969 "space western," Moon Zero Two. It's rumored that she was the producers' first choice to play Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager in 1995, but obviously, she didn't get/take the part.

Anyone know what she's up to these days?


  1. Re-watching Space: 1999, I had forgotten just how crappy the second season was in comparison to the first series. However, as you mentioned, Schell's Maya was just about the only reason for this particular fan to hang in there.

    Nice post!

  2. Schell (with husband Bill Hays) runs a successful bed & breakfast in France these days, and she paints and writes novels. I was 11 when Year 2 came out, and I swear she kicked me into puberty a few years early. I adored Maya and actually liked Y2 quite a bit. I wish the stories had been a bit more intelligent, but I was happy to see the super-serious characters warm up a bit.

  3. Just following up and correcting what Robert Saint John wrote:

    Actually, Catherine's husband Bill Hays passed away in 2006. See his imdb page here:

    Catherine no longer runs the B&B.

    She has appeared recently at celebrity autograph events in the UK and had been scheduled to appear at the upcoming Space: 1999 convention in Austin, Texas this July, but has had to cancel her appearance. Carolyn Seymour (who guested in 1 1999 episode) will be attending. See here:

  4. Catherine was also one of Blofeld's "Angels of Death" in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service and appearing as "The Servant of the Guardian" in Space: 1999's Year One ep "Guardian of Piri"

  5. The 2nd season of 1999 gets a bad rap. BOTH seasons of the show have its pros and cons. If only they could have struck a happy medium between the dour and cerebral season 1 and the lighter more guns-blazing season 2.

  6. While my 12 year old self really liked s2 of 1999 I really hated Maya's make-up (especially those Rice Krispies eyebrows). The other month I caught Guardian of Piri on a re-run and she looked absolutely stunning in that. True, that dress probably had something to do with it :) but I would still rather have had Maya without the make-up.

  7. For those of you who would like to hear an interview with Catherine Schell from France, done Nov. 7th, 2010, go to the link below.

    She was wonderful to have done this interview, considering she was sick with a cold at the time.

    She has always love 1999 because of the great fun doing the series and the crew was great to work with. As she puts it, a lot of giggles and laughs.

    Maya is a wonderful character because of Catherine's willingness to go the extra mile to make it work. Enjoy.

  8. Chris' comments about the make-up and "token alien" I've heard before. First Fred didn't design the make-up, Keith Wilson and Catherine did. She even did a depiction of what she thought the character should look like. Some of her concepts were used, the coloring of brown and white (see her eye lids), but she wanted more brown shading with some white. They even tried contact lens with white star-like design, but it caused her discomfort. So they decided to go with what we saw. The "sideburns" were her idea and were thinned out as ITC thhought that it made her ears look "dirty". Some fans look at it as the maturation of the Psychon female. Notice that Dorzak doesn't have the "sideburns", so I suspect this is a Psychon female trait. It gives Maya a cat-like look, I think the lynx has been used as a comparison.
    Token alien? I say couldn't the Alphans meet an alien in their travels? I ask did the Enterprise really need a Spock or any alien to carry out their missions? I'm sure there were brilliant human scisntists that could've taken his place. OK, Spock had his mind meld and neck pinch, and brain, but outside of the first two,well... Now, Spcok (Leonard Nimoy) is my favorite Trek character, but
    I've never compared these two characters except that they are both aliens and intelligent, but other than that, they are as different as night and day, and Catherine Schell wanted it that way.
    Finally, abserd make-up. Oh, boy! If you want some supid make-up let's look at the borg junk on the faces of the actors, including Ms Ryan, let's look at Jabba the Hut, Quark on DS9, etc. And there are tons of other TV and movies that some might consider having rediculous alien make-up.
    Well, that's all for this post. I just leave eveyone with this question, has anyone ever seen an alien?

  9. Sideburns or not, I always found Catherine Schell irresistible in the role. She wasn't bad in Moon Zero Two either.