Thursday, May 12, 2016

Formative Kink: Gerry Anderson’s “UFO”

In the future world of 1980, Earth’s first line of defense against alien invaders was a moonbase crewed by shapely women in purple wigs and silver catsuits.

Worked for me then. Works for me now. Especially given how the alien invaders also slipped into some rather B&D-ish looks.

I remember this show first airing here in America sometime around 1971 or so. And given my then-steady diet of afternoon Star Trek repeats, Lost in Space repeats, Land of the Giants repeats, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea repeats—each episode of which I’d already seen many times over by this point—UFO was like a fresh canister of oxygen popped in the space suit of my childhood. Not only did it air in the early evening, it was broadcast on a station out of Pittsburgh instead of somewhere in West Virginia, both of which made the show inherently more legitimate in my young mind. And best of all, it was new.

In some episodes, those shapely women seemed like support staff. But in others, they seemed to be in charge. And in still others, one of them (waify little Lt. Gay Ellis) actually was in charge. You can probably guess which episodes played into my formative kinkiness the most.

Even beyond the women-in-charge and the pseudo-catsuit-uniform aspects, this show was full of amazingness. A secret military organization with an underground base beneath a movie studio, run by a commander who poses as a movie executive and whose entire office is an elevator to that secret underground base? Even today, that’s just cool, to the point you don’t even care whether or not it actually makes any sense. Speaking of which, how about those special uniforms the crew of the secret Skydiver submarine wore?

Rewatching the whole series a few years ago, I was amazed how well so much of it still held up four decades later. The production design remains stylish enough to match anything that came before or since. The special effects are obvious models, yet you can’t help but be charmed. Even the astronaut lost on the Moon who stumbles against a mountainside—and pushes said "mountain" back several inches across the set—is kind of endearing. And the theme song really is, as James Lileks puts it, “The Grooviest Organ in the Solar System.”

Of course, this was not a perfect show, even at the time. The writing and the acting could be clunky. (It was the first live-action series from a guy who made his name with puppets, after all.) The Moonbase Interceptors only carried one shot, for some reason. And the second-in-command (the guy behind the desk in that picture above) had something of an Austin Powers vibe, which is even stronger today. Watching the series again, I half-expected to hear “Yeah, baby!” whenever they took out an incoming UFO. Even so, it was an oasis of new sci-fi during a very dry time.

And it played into my developing kinkiness very well indeed.

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