Remaking UFO: some thoughts by: GF Willmetts (article).

May 31, 2015 | By | Reply More

With ‘Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons’ and ‘Thunderbirds’ being remade as CGI series, there has been some talk of remaking ‘UFO’ for a few years now. It’s been over forty-five years since the original release and although the essence of the series will remain, how far can it or should be changed.

UFO-Skydiver-docked

One would hope that it would stay a live-action series with CGI enhanced effects. Scanning through Utube, various people have been playing around with digital models and the odd one of Skydiver certainly shows it can be as impressive as the original physical models. One major factor that was left out but only referred to was that there was a fleet of Skydivers and we only ever saw one at a time. That might not even change today, a Skydiver submarine would be an expensive proposition but they would be spread across the world and unless a mass fleet of UFOs came to Earth would not be needed in the same place.

That being the case, the same could be said of the Interceptors on Moonbase. You wouldn’t want to launch a fleet for every encounter and a satellite base would be easily attacked.

UFO-Interceptor

Like with any resource, I doubt if the aliens themselves have unlimited capacity to make many of their space vehicles or at least not to put more than a couple at risk at a time or have them all manned. When they started originally, their mission was to retrieve either organs or bodies to keep their own survival as a near sterile race. There would have to be a limit to how many pilots they would have and they can’t all be expendable on what appears to be a suicide mission in the original series. A sound rational which I doubt will change and, if it was, then I suspect a lot of fans of the original series would be upset. Considering that no other SF series or film has taken that direction, it’s one of the things that people will say this is ‘UFO’ from the start.

This doesn’t mean that the aliens were always successful and enough evidence is accumulated to build a secret organisation to fight off them. I suspect the acronym ‘SHADO’ will be kept although whether it still stands for ‘Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation’ remains to be seen. As noted from the ‘UFO Screenplays Volume 1’, the name ‘SHADO’ was a last minute replacement for ‘UFODO’, so a little more thought might be given to the first two initials. Maybe something like Strategic Hostile Alien Defence Organisation. Most of the organisation would be hidden although certain aircraft wouldn’t be out of place landing at various airports to deliver Mobiles.

Whether the main headquarters would still be in England, let alone under a film studio is more debatable. The original choice was to keep costs down by using what was already there at Elstree. Although it was never said exactly in what part of outer London the Harlington-Straker Studios was, considering the number of times the base faced being attacked, it is the one thing I can see most likely to be changed. Probably still covert but maybe a different cover. After all, the official line is that there are no UFOs. The whole point of the main headquarters being underground was to make it the equivalent of a nuclear bunker to survive any attack. Saying that, I would think there would be some offensive facility added but disguised in some way.

What else might be added is open to debate. I doubt if any nation would tolerate having armed satellites in orbit simply because of the danger should the aliens show themselves capable of turning them against ourselves or at the Earth. Having said that, as with the final episodes of the original ‘UFO’, Moonbase defences would certainly be beefed up to protect its personal. Its main purpose would still be to house the three Interceptors. Three is actually a good number. They were never actually intended to actually hit the UFOs as a proximity blast would have been enough to damage them. It would only be a need to cover three points of the compass, the last being the way the UFO was coming in. The size of the missiles would probably prohibit carrying more than one each and I hope any new series would avoid making them super-fast. There is still a need to show how inferior human technology is compared to the alien technology. Showing improvements over the series isn’t a bad thing but SHADO should not be shown to be perfect.

Which brings us neatly back to just what is SHADO’s own mission. Primarily, it is to stop the aliens from killing or kidnapping humans. However, the secondary mission would be to capture an alien, some technology or better, one of their spacecraft and know what they are facing. One thing I do hope that will be changed is the UFOs exploding should they remain in Earth’s atmosphere for too long as its far too contrived. Originally, this was seen as a means to prevent SHADO getting their technology and advancing the series. These days, this would be seen as the means to prevent the reset button to be pressed at the end of each episode although the aliens would undoubtedly want to ensure that their equipment is not taken. Reviewing the original series, SHADO acquired several alien bodies, spacesuits and oxygen-based fluid and hand weaponry although this was rarely dwelled upon at the end of an episode. The aging of the captured aliens could also be sorted out in a different manner, too, especially as this did not affect some of them. A simple self-destruct would be enough and just as deadly and ways to stop that instead tried.

UFO-UFO

Looking at the aliens other objectives. The most obvious one is the removal of SHADO as it is preventing their main task of body collection. If direct assault is difficult then they are just as likely to bend people to their will and use them to achieve their objectives. At that point, the new series will have parallel stories compared to the original. Again, looking at the original series, there is a lot that is left unsaid. How do the aliens gather their intelligence? How many people do they have under their control rather than take with them? Are they mind-controlled or have they been bought? When you consider how much they know about SHADO itself, there is enough there to develop the secondary plots.

What they do beyond that point is anyone’s guess. One would have to presume that we see different aspects of the organisation and its people, including recruitment and relationship issues blended in with their objectives. There would also be a matter of SHADO security protecting its people, even from themselves from time to time. All too often in the original series, Straker, Freeman, Foster or Lake would be involved than letting their security team do their job. A conflict between that would be more interesting chemisty.

You’ll note that I have been very careful not to discuss the characters themselves. Although the command structure would be very much in a similar order of the original, how much it parallels is just conjecture at this time and I have no desire to appropriate actors that would fit such roles. Indeed, it might be better to have some different vulnerabilities.

Would a new series of ‘UFO’ survive more than one series? Other than special effects, relying on real actors than CGI avatars would change the budget and it would certainly be targeted at a more adult audience which would widen its world-wide selling potential and not relegated to a children’s TV channel. One lesson it needs to learn from the recent ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ is that vehicles need gravitas to give them realism and not reminding that they are CGI. Computer Generated Imagery is good enough to fool the viewer, it shouldn’t be used to say this is CGI. This is why the original series are still so effective.

Going back again, there are a lot of subliminal details that should be explored. Right from the first episode, ‘Identified’, the alien attacked Straker and Henderson in Britain and were aware of the creation of the Ultronic detection equipment and tried to stop it. Later episodes like ‘Flight Path’ showed the aliens captured and controlled humans making them controlled agents and the device in Dawson’s temple no doubt meant that SHADO personal were then regularly x-rayed to stop that happening again. However, they must also be supplied with intelligence from other sources, including some using extra-ordinary perception as with John Stratton in ‘E.S.P.’. The likes of Craig Collins in ‘The Man Who Came Back’, Paul Foster in ‘Kill Straker!’, Jim Reagan in ‘The Cat With Ten Lives’ and the three ‘Psycho-Bombs’ took advantage of opportunity and need to attack particular targets without revealing their baseline intelligence gathering. This makes a lot of sense because you wouldn’t want that discovered. I suspect that apart from collecting bodies and body parts, their spacecraft probably also collects broadcast information and intelligence from their controlled people on Earth.

One thing the original series did well with was the ever-changing regular cast through a variety of reasons, mostly actor availability. In many respects, it made for better realism because it meant they were involved in other projects. I always saw it as Alec Freeman, Keith Ford, Gay Ellis and Joan Harrington were co-ordinating the next stage of having more bases on the Moon in the last few episodes for their absence. It also allowed the likes of Nina Barry to be promoted.

UFOmoonbase13

To do ‘UFO’ effectively, it needs to acknowledge what was done originally but don’t get all super-duper with modern day technology. A reminder that SHADO’s budget wasn’t infinite and that the characters weren’t perfect gave a far stronger brief than its successor ‘Space: 1999’ failed to achieve in either of its two series. Keeping things secret is also essential and as someone just jabbed me with one of those amnesia shots I’m probably going to forget that I typed this.

© GF Willmetts 2015

all rights preserved

Category: Scifi, TV

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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