Friday, August 6, 2010

M.I.S. - Space:1999

Quite often, due to the vagaries of television production, a series will make substantial changes in its format and cast as it goes along. Nowadays, producers are likely to try and explain these changes within the context of the show itself, often building whole stories and arcs around them. But back in the 1970s, these changes were just made, and loyal viewers were left to wonder just what the hell happened. Especially on science fiction shows, which had a tendency to burn out fast on the networks and often experienced game-changing behind-the-scenes shifts in personnel and dramatic mid-course re-toolings.

The "Second Season Curse" is extremely familiar to those of us that grew up during the Space: 1970 era. It was rare enough for a genre show to even get a second season, and for the few that somehow managed that feat, drastic changes were almost inevitable. Thing is, back then, the people who made these shows seemed to think that no one would really notice the changes, or wouldn't care. And, frankly, most people probably didn't.

But those of us who really followed the shows - and not just watch them casually - usually did care, and when characters disappeared without explanation, or whole formats suddenly, inexplicably changed, it left us with questions. And being fans, we wanted explanations that made sense within the context of the show itself.

For example: what ever happened to Victor Bergman?

When Space: 1999 returned for its second season, there were a great many changes in look and overall tone of the show. As a kid, I could roll with the new costumes, Maya, and the newly-open (and kinda disturbing) romantic relationship between Koenig and Dr. Russell. What I couldn't just roll with - and desperately wanted an explanation of - was what happened to Victor, hot-headed Paul and creepy cyber-worshiping Kono, and why everyone was hiding in a tiny, windowless closet underground instead of running things from the gorgeous Main Mission set.

Since no one was offering said explanations, I had to make one up myself. The simplest and most logical one was that Main Mission had been destroyed (presumably in an attack by hostile aliens - on Space: 1999, there was pretty much no other kind), while the aforementioned characters were on duty. While this was logical, I still wondered why nobody ever mentioned them again or discussed their reasons for moving their control operations downstairs. And, of course, the exterior shots of Moonbase Alpha didn't exhibit any evident damage of the sort, either.

Of course, while this is among the biggest of the Space: 1999 mysteries, there are plenty of others; questions that bugged me even when I was a kid.

How did Victor Bergman always know the names of the strange new planets they encountered? (And he was always right!)

While still living on Psychon, Maya transformed herself into several Terran animals. How did she know about creatures like lions, anyway?

Why did they start wearing jackets indoors in the second year? I presume that they were keeping the temperatures in the base lower to conserve energy, but it was never actually stated on the show.

Where was Tony locked away during the first year, and why did they let him out?

And, of course, the big one: how come they never ran out of Eagles? Those things were blowing up all the time. Surely Alpha wasn't equipped with a manufacturing plant? Hell, in "Space Warp," the rampaging Maya-beast trashed a bunch of them - and the hangar! Of course, nobody seemed to care afterward.

Is it sad that I still ponder these questions?


  1. If you're sad then so am I. And trust me, Victor was my favorite character so imagine how I felt!

  2. It would be sad only if ever stopped wondering Chris.

  3. My understanding is that the departure of Bergman was due to a salary dispute, coupled with Barry Morse's unhappiness with the show. I remember hearing that there was supposed to be some explanation for his disappearance but that it didn't happen for some reason or other.

  4. Planets of Peril, the novelization of the first few Year Two eps, explained that Bergman's suit malfunctioned.
    Main Mission still looked intact (from the outside, anyway) in Year Two exterior shots.
    Apparently, Koenig's energy-conservation policies were so drastic that not only did everyone start wearing jackets and sweaters, they added collars to the uniforms!
    Thanks to the modular design of the Eagles, any undamaged parts could be recycled into compositing new ships. The novelizations (and the Moonbase Technical Manual) stated Alpha had manufacturing facilities that utilized mined elements from the Moon itself for various items, including Eagle parts.

  5. Enjoying your blog now that I've found it! I have added it to my list of links on my own sci-fi blog:

    Hope you visit and enjoy it, we share a lot of the same interests!


  6. What we've learned since then is that the only way we'll ever have a real moonbase is if we built a lot of it on the moon itself. It just takes too much energy to lift all that gear up from earth.

  7. I just finished reading "The Making of Space 1999" by Tim Heald, a facinating little first hand account of the production of Year 2. Released in 1976, it looks at the series from all aspects of the production process and the people involved. It was an inexpensive pick up on Amazon and if you're a fan I can't recommend it enough, fun stuff!

    Dusty Abell

  8. Quite a lot of these questions have been answered in the new Space:1999 novels from Powys Media.

    Here's the link...

    (who owns them all)

    PS--Victor gets a better send-off than the old Tech Manual gave him.

  9. Other ones I can think of...
    Buck Rogers. It became all about them traveling through space on a big ship (was it called "Searcher?")... maybe to make it more like Star Trek? And they added the hawk man to the cast.

    And then of course, who can forget Galactica 1980?

    While that weirdness was going on, one of my non-scifi favorite shows Dukes of Hazzard had gone and replaced Bo and Luke with a couple lame stand ins!

  10. Well, it's cool that the authors of the various 1999 books (and I remember that from Planets of Peril, Britt) noticed these things and tried to rationalize them, but I'm old school - if it wasn't on screen, it wasn't canon. ;)

    I would love to pick up that "Making of" book and the Powys novels, but I have virtually no disposable income, and unless it's something I can trade for locally (the main way I get new DVDs) or it's REALLY cheap, I can't afford much cool new stuff.

  11. Oh - and while I can almost buy that they had manufacturing facilities on Alpha - and mining and refining and metallurgical facilities and some sort of fuel source - I can't believe they had the manpower. If I recall, there were only about 300 people on the base, right? So, if you subtract all the command, medical, security, life support, service technicians, and pilots... who was left to mine, refine and build all those Eagles?

    I am a very disturbed individual.... ;)

  12. As for how Victor knew the names of the planets they were approaching... simple, he had read the script! :)

  13. SPACE:1999 forty-eight episodes that I experienced in 1975-1977, as a twelve to thirteen year old boy, will always be my favorite science-fiction series.

  14. The best non-fiction production books on Space:1999 are "MAKING OF SPACE:1999" by Tim Heald includes the only season 2 sounstage sets blueprint and newly 2010 released "DESTINATION:MOONBASE ALPHA" by Robert E. Wood.

  15. There was a scene shot in the first season 2 episode that said Victor died in a space suit malfunction. I can't remember if they mentioned Paul and Kano. I want to say they died in an Eagle crash, but I may be halucinating. In any event, the producers thought this bit of continuity might confuse new viewers, so they cut the scene.

    There was never any explanation of the different control rooms. What amazes me is how long it took me to recognize they were in a different room! I dont' think I noticed it for several years.

  16. In regard to impossible to answer question concerning "MAYA" changing into earth animals which are not native to PLANET PSYCHON, it's just possible that Psychon sent video U.F.O. faster than light probes all over the galaxy which some have visited EARTH and relayed a picture back to PSYCHON. (It could account for what we see in ours skies lately!) As for those modular eagles which get damaged -lets hope that the Alphans have some new modular components tucked away deep in the lunar surface somewhere safe. Because I don't believe 300 hundred people are equipt could help put an eagle together -it would be a terrible strain on resources!

  17. Victor's character brought a LOT to 1999, an air of learned science, that great permeating curiousity, that excellent 'sense of wonder' that gave even the weakest scripts an air of coolness and sophistication.

    We lost that for younger, handsomer action-oriented characters in Yr 2. Nice eye-candy, more personable (I liked the coats/collars look, and really got to like both Nick Tate and John Hug's scenes), but there was that creeping sense of uneasiness and tension that added so much to Year 1.

    Sylvia gave us so much style and pinache in Year 1.

  18. Most of these question where answered in the amazing Space 1999 Tech Manuel.
    BTW Mr. Mills Tech Manuels would be a great section for your outstanding website.
    1. Victor died in a space suit malfunction while installing the laser defense ring.
    2. Paul and Kano died during take-off in an Eagle,when it malfunctioned.
    3. Main Mission became a hazard due to radation.
    4. Btw what ever happed to Sandra and the first season second doctor? I believe they where in first couples shows osf S2 then replaced.
    Once again Love the site!