Space 1999 ~ 40 years later
Few shows from the seventies stand so firmly in the memory of those who watched them. Space 1999 is one such show. You got Martin Landau playing John Koenig and his lovely wife at the time, Barbara Bain who played Doctor Helena Russell. Nick Tate gave us one of the coolest pilots to ever live in our televisions with his portrayal of Alan Carter. Add in Moonbase Alpha, and some bad science, (A nuclear explosion in the year 1999 rips the Moon and it’s Moonbase out of the Earth”s orbit and thrust into outer space,) and you get one hell of a cool show. They just don’t make shows like this on television anymore. This year marks forty years since Space 1999 made its first appearance on television sets in North America.
Martin Landau kickstarted the show with his character, John Koenig. He was the leader, the boss, the head honcho. Laundau brought with him his trademark acting style which we came to love in Mission Impossible and propelled the show into the American audience. In the UK where Space 1999 was filmed, it was considered a failure, but in the US the show took off, largely because of the name Martin Landau.
The lovely Barbara Bain showed us that a woman could be scientist, both intelligent and strong. She played Doctor Helena Russell and it was often her ideas that propelled the men in the show to action. Speaking with Bain, she told me, “When Mission ended we just hopped on a plane, the family in tow, and went to London to film Space 1999.” She says that working with Landau was a delight and that she could write a book on him alone. “Martin always grasped my point of view and this allowed us to work well together. This meant we were able to devote our energy to the script and the guest stars. This created a great energy on set.” We also spoke about action figures and lunchboxes and the various paraphernalia that was generated by the producers of Space 1999. “I still have two lunch pals with my picture on them.” When I asked her about the costumes in the show she told me, “When I heard Rudi Gernreich was coming in to do the costumes, I just knew that I had to be a part of this new venture.” To say I had a crush on Barbara is an understatement. I still have that silly lunch box which happens to be filled with polyhedron dice.
The feisty Nick Tate gave us a pilot/astronaut that was opinionated, rash, and quick to take action. His role in the series spawned, not only the first ever Space 1999 fan club, but generations of fans who were inspired by his on screen deed. Tate told me, “I have been humbled by fans who tell me that my character drove them to pursue a career as a pilot or in the military. I was just playing a role, one that I loved, and it was meant purely to entertain.” Tate went on, “I remember when Martin would walk into the room. He demanded your attention, he was the star and he knew it. Working with him and Barbara spawned friendships that have lasted for decades.” Tate’s memory of Space 1999 is so crisp and clear that it is like he walked off the set yesterday. He gave up several great career making roles to take part in Space 1999 and for a bit part at that. His character was scheduled to die in the first couple of episodes but he impressed Landau and the producers so much with his skill and ability and familiarity with the set, that they offered him a permanent spot of the series. “I must have had a sixth sense or something. I gave up some really good spots for this show and my part in the show was a temporary one. I was supposed to die.”
Space 1999 had so many great actors and actresses that is hard to imagine a more perfect combination. The show is one of the few from the seventies that truly deserves a revival and with modern special effects, I believe Space 1999 could live again and not only live, but thrive with the modern audience. We can only hope that some producer or studio out there will take up the mantel and revive this lost classic. I have searched high and low for copies of the old episodes and while I occasional discover one on Ebay, they are rare and truly hard to find. You can watch a number of them on youtube but I would prefer a vhs copy to fill out my collection. If you get the chance to watch this series you will truly be impressed that the show still holds up after 40 years.
So where are they now:
Martin Landau went onto become even more famous following Space 1999. From a recurring roll on NBC’s Buffalo Bill to a Broadway production of Dracula, Landau has continued to astound audiences with his acting skills. He portrayed Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood and even scored a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. His Oscars and Golden Globes added up and he even got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Barbara Bain is a director, producer, and teacher. She works with a number of theaters in LA and recently appeared in the film, Pacific Edge and won a Best Actor award at the Los Angelos Independent Film Festival. She also is appearing the Silver Skies with George Hamilton and the short Lost Music.
Nick Tate has had a long and prolific career. He has appeared in film along side of greats like Dustin Hauffman and Robin Williams. He has also been involved in numerous stage productions including CorkTown which has been playing at the Odyssey Theater in LA. CorkTown is rumored to be heading to Broadway so we may see Nick in the Big Apple soon. His fan-club is still running strong in the UK. Learn more about Nick Tate at his website or his fan-club.
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