Space Precinct’s journey from original concept to finished television series was a notably longer and more complicated one than any other Gerry Anderson show, and perhaps the most obvious symptom of the behind-the-scenes problems the production faced is the fact that it has no opening episode. While Double Duty was the first episode to enter production, and Protect and Survive (the second into production) was the first to be shown in most markets, the finished series lacked a proper introductory episode to establish the show’s setting and characters.
This was certainly not the plan, as among the batch of nine story outlines developed in 1993 to help sell the show to Grove Television executives was such an introductory episode. This was Demeter City, with the other eight outlines being a mix of several stories that did make it to screen (Double Duty, Protect and Survive, Deadline, Takeover and Flash, under its original title of Blue Hell) and a few that didn’t (Manhunt, The Guardian, and Stand and Deliver). Paul Mayhew-Archer (who also wrote Protect and Survive) was assigned to write the script for Demeter City, which was in the second draft stage when it was finally abandoned, becoming Space Precinct’s lost first episode.
The story begins when a colleague of the N.Y.P.D.’s Lieutenant Chuck Brogan and Officer Eddie Haldane is murdered after discovering a shipment of weapons imported illegally to Earth from Demeter City on the planet Alitorp. Suspecting the involvement of alien crime lord Flex and frustrated by the D.C.P.D.’s inability – or possible reluctance – to solve the case Brogan and Haldane apply to be part of the Interplanetary Exchange Programme and are accepted. Accompanying the two officers on the freighter journey to Alitorp are Brogan’s wife Sally and two children Matt and Liz, but even before they reach their new home an attempt is made on their lives by Turner, an agent of Flex’s. After arriving at the Precinct 44 station house and being introduced to their new alien and human colleagues it soon transpires that Turner only knew what Brogan and Haldane looked like because someone at the D.C.P.D. faxed him their images, which leaves them with an additional mystery; which of their new colleagues is secretly in league with Flex? With Podly, Castle, Took, Fredo, Orrin, Beezle, Slomo, and Ricardi all potential suspects, who could the traitor possibly be?
Unlike the three other ‘lost’ episodes, which were likely dropped for reasons of quality or simply being incompatible with the show’s final format, Demeter City faced two even greater opponents; money and time. The script required the creation of the futuristic New York from which Brogan and Haldane were to be transferred, plus the space freighter that transported them to Alitorp, plus various other one-off sets that would never been seen again, plus the show’s regular standing sets of the station house and the Brogan household on Space Suburb Delta. Considering the immense challenge the production team were facing in getting the show up and running at all it would have been impossible for Demeter City to be the first episode shot without a significant and equally impossible increase in manpower and money; it would literally require two worlds being built from scratch simultaneously. Instead, when the cameras finally began rolling on Space Precinct in May 1994, Double Duty was the first episode to enter production precisely because it made maximum use of the show’s standing sets and required minimal additional locations to be constructed.
Despite this setback Demeter City was not finished yet. The producers felt that it would be worth returning to the script after half a dozen more episodes had been made, both to allow the cast time to get a handle on their characters and also to try to save money on the first six stories to spend on realising the more expensive Demeter City instead, but this remount too was doomed to failure. News soon came down that Space Precinct was firmly scheduled to premiere on American television in the fall of 1994, and pressure was rapidly mounting to have episodes completed and ready for transmission as quickly as possible. Faced with a looming transmission date and no way to get the ‘first’ episode made in time, the producers were faced with no other choice but to permanently abandon Demeter City and thus leave Space Precinct without an opening episode.
This would have been a shame even the script had been a disaster, so it’s even more unfortunate that on paper Demeter City seems to have been one of the strongest of the nine original concepts pitched to Grove Television; certainly not the equal of the show’s later episodes, but definitely on the level of Protect and Survive and streets ahead of Double Duty or Flash. While it lacks any high-concept science fiction elements it could be argued that the introduction of the world of Demeter City and the aliens and creatures that inhabit it fill that function adequately, and instead the script does its best to provide a decent mystery plot and several exciting action scenes (most notably another attempt on Brogan’s life while he is out in his cruiser getting driving lessons!).
More importantly the episode does an impressive job of introducing us to each of the show’s regular human and alien characters, as well providing reasons why each of Brogan and Haldane’s new colleagues might be potential traitors – such as when Took, still struggling to master her telekinesis, accidentally almost kills Brogan with a floppy disk!
Indeed, aside from minor cosmetic details (Chuck and Eddie, Precinct 44, Alitorp, all of which still featured in various pre-show publicity materials even after Ted Shackelford and Rob Youngblood were cast) the characters and their world as we would ultimately know them seem pretty much fully formed in this script, which also introduces other familiar elements of the show such as Orrin and Beezle’s antics and the Haldane/Castle flirt-banter. Their final exchange at the end of the episode is also lifted almost word for word from the Space Police Reloaded short film, with Sergeant Fredo now getting to deliver proto-Beezle’s “I will never understand humans!” line. We even learn the origins of Zil (referred to as ‘Parrot’ throughout the script), as the alien creature was formerly the property of crime lord Mr Flex and was given to Liz by Took after his arrest at the end of the story.
So, did Space Precinct as a whole suffer from the loss of Demeter City? Given that the show’s ratings remained fairly consistent throughout its initial run in the U.K. it’s unlikely many viewers in its country of origin were put off by the lack of a proper opening episode, but it certainly couldn’t have helped. In the U.S.A. the show often found itself in late night graveyard slots thanks to broadcasters who weren’t entirely sure what audience it was aimed at – but might the lack of an introduction also have scared away potential broadcasters? Could the mad rush to get the show onto American television that largely led to Demeter City getting dropped have ironically played some part in Space Precinct’s failure in the States? Ultimately we’ll never know for sure to what extent the loss of Demeter City hindered the show – but it’s certainly fun to speculate! And just as much fun to consider which of the episodes that did get filmed deserved to be axed in place of it…
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