Friday, 21 January 2011

UFO (1970) Part 1: The SHADO Spacesuits

It’s 1980; the future, and Earth is under attack from aliens.  They come from a dying world to covertly harvest humanity of their organs.  Thankfully there’s a secret organisation called SHADO, who stop these incursions with a variety of cutting edge tanks, a submarine, planes, satellites, spaceships and a base on the moon.
There were 26 episodes of this Gerry Anderson series made between April 1969 and September 1970.  Not only is it Anderson’s first all live action series but it’s also substantially more adult in theme.  It’s a good looking show with value added by recycling various props, cars and costumes from Anderson’s Doppelganger film that is also a little darker than people expect it to be given its creators reputation as the maker of puppet based children’s shows.
Digression aside, the space suits used in this show were the ones made for Doppelganger although they had been seen in the BBC’s Doomwatch episode; Re-Entry Forbidden exactly 6 months prior to their first appearance in UFO on the ATV network, 16th of September 1970.  And this was despite UFO going into production some 11 months prior to Doomwatch and spraying the helmets yellow!
This was a mystery solved when I discovered that there had been a five month delay in the middle of the show’s production run after the MGM-British studios closed down and the show had to find a new home.  It was during this protracted break that the BBC hired the costumes for their show and repainted the helmets back to their original colour.

And it’s here that a misconception of mine is corrected, which is that the helmets in UFO were always yellow when they weren’t.  As the pictures in this post reveal the helmets were yellow, red, occasionally silver and, once at least, one of them was white.
As a general rule, they’re yellow for the first 9 episodes, then the show stops shooting, the BBC repaints them and when they’re returned to Anderson for the other 17 episodes they are left as they are.
Something else I’ve read and previously accepted as true was that there were only ever three of these helmets made.  Now I’m not sure where this originally came from, possibly an interview with somebody working on the show or the fact that you never seem to see more than three in any one scene.  But I’m beginning to have doubts that this was the case.  Although they all seem alike, it you look closely, one of the helmets has an additional raised piece on the back and no ridges at the front, like the other two have.  Which suits the theory fine until you look at the silver painted ones in which all three helmets are identical, all have ridges.
If I ever find the truth of this I’ll obviously post it here but otherwise expect at least one more post about the show because we’ve still got the alien space suits to have a look at.  Which, as far as I’m aware, is a much simpler task.



  1. Steve

    Thanks for this...but did you know the actual spacesuit design was altered for Mindbender/Man who came Back?

    Any idea which suit was used for the ITV Mockumentary Alturnative 3 with Shane Rimmer


    1. Thanks for the comments and interest,Kerry. I watched a lot of the UFO episodes back in the day (or a few years after)and am working through the box set again but haven't got as far as these episodes yet..They're in the last half dozen. A quick google image scan shows me that you're right though so I'll cover it in a future blog with many thanks to you for pointing it out.

      Haven't seen Alternative 3 since original air date, though I never could remember what the show was called and no one I ever spoke to remembered it so I think I was getting to the point of thinking I had dreamt it. Any idea where I could see an image of the suit or where it appears in the show. The craft that lands on mars was unmaned if I recall.

      keep the comments coming