As we have seen previously many of the props and fittings from UFO were reused throughout the 1970s in other productions, and one of the most notable reused elements were the SHADO spacesuits. Here are five television shows and films where you might have noticed elements of these familiar UFO spacesuits.
It’s easy to forget that even though UFO is easily the better-known production, the show’s SHADO spacesuits (along with many other props and vehicles) were originally designed and built for the 1969 Gerry Anderson movie Doppelgänger. Two suits were constructed for the film by Jack Lovell Limited, who at that time were busy producing Cybermen and Ice Warriors and other nasties for Doctor Who, and worn by stars Ian Hendry and Roy Thinnes during their voyage to a mysterious planet on the far side of the sun.
When production began on UFO at least one more such spacesuit was created for the show, with the helmet on the new suit lacking the ridged forehead of the Doppelgänger originals.
Doomwatch – Re-Entry Forbidden
Interestingly the very first television appearance of the UFO spacesuits came not in UFO, but in an episode of the BBC’s 1970 ecological thriller series Doomwatch. In the episode Re-Entry Forbidden the three-man crew of the Sunfire probe are seen wearing the SHADO spacesuits, with the familiar yellow of the helmet and shoulder unit having been repainted red – not for their appearance in Doomwatch but the UFO episode Kill Straker!, one of the last to be filmed at MGM Borehamwood.
Re-Entry Forbidden was filmed during the nine-month break in production on UFO before the show relocated to Pinewood Studios, and thus beat UFO to British TV screens by several months. When the suits were returned to Century 21 at least one of the helmets was resprayed once again, this time white for appearances in The Man Who Came Back and Mindbender, while another received white stripes for the same episodes. Mindbender also featured actor Craig Hunter wearing one of the suits, just as he had previously done for Re-Entry Forbidden. In another example of cross-series sharing, the set of Doomwatch’s Sunfire capsule was itself reused immediately afterwards as the interior of the Mars Probe 7 in Doctor Who’s The Ambassadors of Death.
Cadburys Smash advert
This commercial sees a SHADO-suited astronaut arrived at a space restaurant to find several other spacesuited figures all enjoying helpings of delicious Cadbury’s Smash instant mashed potatoes.
It’s difficult to tell from this screenshot but here we seem to have at least two SHADO spacesuits alongside several suits from the 1969 ‘space western’ Moon Zero Two (another production whose spacesuits had a long afterlife). We don’t know exactly when this was filmed although it seems to predate the more popular Cadburys Smash ‘Martians’ commercials that began in 1974, so it may even have been filmed during production of UFO itself. Either way, we can’t help but be disappointed that Ed Bishop wasn’t brought in to play the astronaut.
The Goodies – Invasion of the Moon Creatures
In this episode of the popular 1970s BBC comedy series loony scientist Graeme sends Tim and Bill to the Moon, where they goof around for a while before being captured by space bunnies. As you do.
As well featuring several of the SHADO Control consoles this episode also made use of the SHADO spacesuits in several film sequences. Tim Brooke-Taylor seems to be wearing Commander Straker’s white helmet from The Man Who Came Back, while Bill Oddie wore the ‘Moonbase Commander’ helmet most often worn by Michael Billington. This helmet is easily identifiable by not featuring the same curved forehead ridges as the other helmets while also adding an extra section on top to help viewers easily spot the Moonbase Commander in a group, and was the helmet from the suit that was built specially for UFO. The other silver ridged helmet from Doppelgänger was also used for this brief insert joke.
Space:1999 – Mission of the Darians
By the mid-1970s the UFO spacesuits had been hired out to other productions so often that it wasn’t unusual for a helmet to appear separately from its suit. In the case of the Space:1999 episode Mission of the Darians the two Darians who capture Koenig and Bergman wear spacesuits from Moon Zero Two, with the one on the right wearing Paul Foster’s ‘Moonbase Commander’ helmet from UFO.
Although the pair do look very similar, further clues to the helmet’s UFO origins can be seen in the clips around the neck seal and the visor screws.
Although the SHADO spacesuits made frequent appearances throughout the early 1970s (appearing in other productions as well as on several book/record/magazine covers) their trail seems to go cold around 1975. If anybody has any information as to what may have become of these spacesuits, or if you have any other notable appearances you think rate a mention, do please let us know in the comments below!
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