SHADO In Command : an article by: GF Willmetts

April 3, 2022 | By | Reply More

Looking at the command structure of SHADO from the 1972 ‘UFO’ series, it did leave me pondering on why would they want to recruit Paul J. Foster into their organisation and was this their normal way of recruitment. Point of detail, even going back to ‘Confetti Check-AOK’, we don’t really see how SHADO recruitment was done, although security checks were undoubtedly done but specialising in particular skills. Interestingly, two of them, Gordon Maxwell and John Masters, ended up crewing Skydiver One than remain in their electronics speciality. Saying that, John Masters, also worked briefly on the space telescope with optics expert Major Joseph Kelly as his superior in ‘Close Up’, suggesting that both could be called away for special assignments. Equally, having their electronics expertise on board a Skydiver might be useful in emergencies or simply wanted to be in the hub of the action than solely under the Harlington-Straker Studio. When you also consider that Nina Barry and Joan Harrington were also early recruits and both are lieutenants on Moonbase, maybe they had choice assignments as well. Certainly, being multi-talented helps as witnessed by Lieutenant Keith Ford doing repairs in SHADO control as well as monitoring UFO incursions. No union delegations at SHADO but then they are a small multi-task military organisation considering the work they do.

From a command structure point of view, we don’t really see many of the command staff below Commander Edward Straker and his deputy Colonel Alec Freeman, although there must be others or there is an odd balance in command structure. There are a number of officers who are lieutenants and Moonbase is mostly seen under the command of Lieutenant Gay Ellis, although there is no indication as to why or how she outranks the other lieutenants in the command module.

All the Interceptor pilots are also lieutenants and only Mark Bradley gets promoted to colonel after Foster’s apparent death in ‘Survival’, although we don’t see his later job roles. As the Skydiver fleet are both combined submarines and aircraft, the leading office is always a captain. Lew Waterman must have been promoted when he stepped down from Interceptor pilot to Skydiver One.

The number of lieutenants overall is quite high and ranks below them low and I think, outside of security units, we don’t see anyone acknowledged with a lower rank. I doubt if SHADO would recruit people to lower ranks without some level of promotion at some point or a decent wage scale. Considering the responsibility of running SHADO control, you probably wouldn’t want lower subordinates having to make command decisions at short notice. More so, as even a Sky aircraft launch has to have signed approval indicating chain of command for its flight.

The fact that they can recruit personal directly into high ranks is interesting but would probably save time with promotion and pre-training. SHADO is still run under military command protocols, especially as they are at war. Considering Virginia Lake came from an electronics background, it would suggest that SHADO recruits from civilian as well as military backgrounds to ensure they have the best security cleared staff. There is also a matter of whether it is best to recruit people who have the skills and seen UFOs to ensure the dedication to the cause, although that probably isn’t true of all recruits.

Looking at the known colonels and their skills, we have computer expert Virginia Lake, astronaut/engineer Craig Collins and John Grey, who one presumes was also a multi-tasker and certainly a special project leader. Those were also trained pilots were used to fill in when needed. Freeman, Collins and Lake were certainly selected by Straker.

I have commented in the past over the absence of Freeman, Ellis and probably Bradley as they were working on organising a second Moonbase and a secondary headquarters across the world after the events in ‘Kill Straker!’

Recruitment is obviously a slow operation, no doubt slowed down by vigorous security checks and the fact that there were only two acknowledged traitors, albeit mind-controlled for the unnamed medical technician in ‘Flight Path’ and Turner in ‘Timelash’, both of whom passed the tests. However, as with Interceptor pilot James Reagan in ‘The Cat With Ten Lives’, mind control is always an option. The number of ways the aliens have to gather intelligence and be subversive could make for an article of its own. You would think that if the aliens would want to stop SHADO, having them publicly revealed might have seemed like a good option. Although Straker’s argument of public panic has some bearing, it would also not be in the aliens best interest in kidnapping people covertly.

There have been several times when the security units should have been called in but haven’t. Although its only implicit, Straker thinks they can be heavy-handed and reluctant to bring them in unnecessarily. They are also not entirely under his command as witnessed in ‘Court-Martial’ where Henderson and Jackson could alert them to apprehend or shoot Foster.

Then we come to the recruitment of Paul Foster. Ex-military and now test pilot in an experimental aeroplane XV-104 when he and his co-pilot James Wade witness an exchange between Sky One and a UFO and get caught in the crossfire and crashed. Under normal circumstances, Foster would probably have been given the amnesia drug and carried on with his normal life. Instead he is given a series of tests to see how determined he was and eventually leading him to the Harlington-Straker Studios as a means to see if he has the right stuff for recruitment. Presumably, any failure would have resulted in his memory being wiped although you do have to wonder how much William Kofax at the Ventura Aircraft Corporation would have been told in case that happened. Certainly the week where Foster was in a coma and blinded in ‘Exposed’ would have allowed the necessary security checks to be carried out. It is significant and on record that Foster has also had two other UFO sightings and conceivable that he might be a trouble magnet or the aliens might take an interest in him.

One obvious thing about Straker is that he doesn’t want to be surrounded by yes-men. That doesn’t mean he likes dissent but appreciates the chain of command when listening to alternative choices. Even so, Foster frequently disobeys orders as with Moonbase being locked down in ‘Conflict’ and has a tendency to be rather headstrong. He even shouted down General Henderson, who outranks him. It is hardly surprising that the aliens were able to select and break down his resistance in ‘Kill Straker!’ using that tendency against him. It should be noted that there have only been two people who have resisted alien mind control: Straker and Foster, making him somewhat unique although no one knows if he could beat it a second time.

The fact that he also introduced himself to women who had been administered with the amnesia drug, Jane Carson in ‘The Dalotek Affair’ and Anne Stone in ‘The Sound Of Silence’, would surely be considered a break in security protocol. I suppose we should be lucky he didn’t meet Jo Frazer from ‘The Responsibility Seat’, although it does appear his various girl-friend liaisons don’t reveal anything about his job other than being a film executive. Although bringing the psychobomb Linda Simmonds into SHADO control itself has to be considered some sort of security breech.

An interesting side note is when General James L. Henderson wanted to replace Straker in ‘Conflict’, his immediate choice was Foster than Freeman, who was loyal to Straker but not present. This does open up the possibility that somewhere down the line, Foster might be considered as a replacement to Straker. Whether the aliens consider that SHADO would fall about without Straker is debatable although the number of times they have tried to assassinate him does suggest that.

That, in itself, would suggest that SHADO always had a problem recruiting senior officers. As pointed out in ‘Mindbender’, SHADO requires dedicated personal and as pointed out in ‘Exposed’, selection is tough for leaders who must be capable of everything and step in when needed. Maybe with Foster, they made the exception and that he would shape up and probably has.

 

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© GF Willmetts

April 2022

Category: Offworld Report, TV


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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 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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