Home Interview INTERVIEW: David Hirsch & Robert E. Wood on Maybe There: The Lost Stories from Space:1999

INTERVIEW: David Hirsch & Robert E. Wood on Maybe There: The Lost Stories from Space:1999

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Now available to pre-order from the Official Gerry Anderson Store is Maybe There: The Lost Stories from Space:1999! This 290-page hardback book collects NINE lost stories from the original series of Space:1999, including un-produced and early drafts of scripts that never made it to screen, as newly novelised by writers and Space:1999 historians David Hirsch and Robert E. Wood. In this exclusive interview, both share their thoughts on the creation of this unique and insightful book!

Who are you and how did you come to write this book?

DAVID: In 1977 I was hired by Starlog Magazine, where I wrote about various Gerry Anderson series, edited his column ‘Gerry Anderson’s Space Report,’ and the original Alpha Moonbase Technical Notebook. I was also engaged by ITC Entertainment’s New York office to assist Robert Mandell as Creative Consultant on Super Space Theatre, a series of TV movies culled from episodes I personally selected from the various Gerry Anderson series.

ROBERT: I’ve been a fan of Space:1999 since its original run during my childhood and have been involved with organized fandom since 1984. I’ve written and edited multiple books over the years including Destination Moonbase Alpha – The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Space:1999 and most recently To Everything That Might Have Been – The Lost Universe of Space: 1999 in collaboration with David Hirsch and Christopher Penfold. David and I had a wonderful time working together and our new book Maybe There – The Lost Stories from Space: 1999 was a natural next step for both of us, and we’re grateful to once again welcome Christopher Penfold’s involvement. As this book primarily concerns early drafts of scripts and story treatments for Year One, many of which Christopher originally wrote or re-wrote, his input is invaluable.

Most of the scripts we’ve novelised came from David’s collection, but A Breath of Death came from my collection (obtained years ago through fan sources), and we’re grateful to Martin Willey for providing us with the script for All That Glisters (which had been Brian Johnson’s copy), as well as the story treatment for Nobody’s Perfect (which became Guardian of Piri). The Web storyline (which became Dragon’s Domain) is thanks to both Martin Willey and Simon Rhodes.

Have these stories ever been out in the wild before?

DAVID: They have never been novelised in this detail before. Two of the scripts, Zero G and the original draft of Black Sun appeared as brief synopses in the souvenir programmes for two Space:1999 conventions held in the United States 40 years ago, and they were also discussed in our book, To Everything That Might Have Been: The Lost Universe of Space: 1999.

ROBERT: No, these stories have never been told to fans in their original forms and that was what excited David and I about writing this book. A story like A Breath of Death was written very early on in the series development and shows fans what an alternate earlier version of the series could have looked like, with much more conflict between the characters and a high-tension pressure-cooker atmosphere on Alpha. It has never been seen in any form as it was never filmed. Siren Planet is another early story that is radically different from the episode it ultimately became, Matter of Life and Death. The storyline for Web is a gripping read that contains some jaw-dropping similarities to the film Alien that 1999 fans have never seen before. And All That Glisters is a unique inclusion here as it’s the only Year Two story in the book. Admittedly, it’s likely not anyone’s favourite episode of the series, but it is interesting and enjoyable to see this early version of the story which is considerably different from what ended up on-screen.

From what you know, why were they rejected/modified so much for the original production? 

DAVID: Space:1999 went through a major gestation period during 1973. It originally was born from the intense pre-production work created for the second series of UFO. When that project was cancelled, the format was repurposed for Space:1999 and passed through several creative hands. ITC’s New York office made several demands in the hope of assuring a lucrative sale to one of the three major television networks. This included the involvement of an American as Head Writer. Naturally, all these concepts and ideas then had to pass through a Transatlantic ‘Court of Opinion’ which involved many people, from ITC Chairman Abe Mandell to lead actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. As the ‘Writer’s Guidelines’ for the series evolved, scripts that were assigned to many of the initial writers were based on information that was no longer valid. Art Wallace’s Siren Planet, was rewritten by Johnny Byrne to fit the altered format, while others reached beyond production resources. Christopher Penfold had to reign in David Weir’s visual concepts that were unfilmable in a pre-CGI era. Others, like A Breath of Death remained unmade for a variety of reasons.

ROBERT: A Breath of Death would have required massive rewrites in order to fit the eventual format for the series, and there were likely aspects that would have been too expensive to produce and would have needed to be scaled back. At some point it likely became simpler to just abandon it and start a new script. There was considerable discussion at ITC over the Siren Planet script (as David and I detailed in our book To Everything That Might Have Been) highlighting multiple facets that were considered flaws or weaknesses in the story, so it was ultimately given to Johnny Byrne who almost completely re-imagined it. Web became Dragon’s Domain after Christopher Penfold had left the series, so it was inevitable that it would go through some changes, but the final episode sticks remarkably close to the original plot. Switching out a giant alien spider for the tentacled dragon was likely due to production considerations in consultation with Keith Wilson and the Art Department and the realities of what they could physically create.

What value do these novelisations bring to fans of the original show?

DAVID: The novelisations bring a unique look at the possible directions any television series can take as format concepts evolve, especially before shooting even begins. Major characters, for example, can start with a very different personality, then be significantly altered by the casting of a particular actor. Some readers might be challenged to imagine Martin Landau in the role of Commander Koenig as he is portrayed in an early draft. 

ROBERT: These novelisations give fans a chance to read Space:1999 stories they’ve never seen before and see how earlier versions of the series concept work as actual stories. There are fascinating earlier versions of some of the most popular episodes of the series, like Black Sun, Dragon’s Domain, and Breakaway, all the way to one of the least popular All That Glisters, which nonetheless makes for an entertaining read! To be able to read these stories in novelised format so readers can immerse themselves in the action along with the Alphans, is the nearest fans can get to experiencing how the episodes would have played out on-screen.

What new things might fans learn about the original series?

DAVID: Fans might be surprised, or even disturbed, by the fact that Moonbase Alpha was not originally envisioned to be a place where well-trained and well-adjusted people try to survive in deep space. Gerry and Sylvia Anderson originally set out to make the Earth people the invaders, a pestilence to alien races. Original story editor George Bellak took this concept even further by filling the Moonbase with dissidents who would create unrest week-to-week and perhaps force the conquest of another planet just to flee their sealed barracks. 

ROBERT: Fans will see how earlier versions of the series itself and of the characters impacts the tone and telling of the stories. Depending how much people know about the series, they will learn about earlier versions of Alpha’s technology and the predecessors of the iconic Eagle spacecrafts that everyone love. They’ll also get a fascinating look into how stories and characters evolved for their favourite television series.

Any highlights or surprises readers should look out for?

DAVID: It’s common knowledge that character names and nationalities evolved due to casting. The co-financing agreement with Italy’s RAI originally saw several Italian characters planned and readers can easily guess who these may be. What fans may not be aware of is that George Bellak also devised a larger international recurring cast that included a French Engineer in charge of the Technical Section. Other planned, but unused concepts included Professor Bergman doing a voice-over diary for each episode (later adapted into Helena’s Medical Log on series 2), an automated cafeteria where Alphans could gather off-duty, and a back-story for Koenig about a difficult childhood growing up on a poor farm with a father who didn’t understand his dreams.

ROBERT: Lots! But a few that immediately come to my mind include the appearance of Koenig’s father in Siren Planet, a couple of remarkable similarities to the movie Alien contained in Christopher Penfold’s original story treatment for Web, and in All That Glisters fans of Maya will see her use another mysterious Psychon power other than molecular transformation!

What was the process for novelising, and what challenges did you face?

DAVID: Early writers like E. C. Tubb, John Rankine, and Michael Butterworth all worked with early drafts, but they could make the changes necessary to pull their various storylines into one cohesive novel.  Unlike these previous novelisations, we didn’t want to make any changes to unify them. We felt it was important to present a faithful representation of the writer’s original work and to retain all the early concepts and names featured within. Perhaps, it would have been easier for us to just offer the original scripts, but when talking to fans at conventions, it was obvious that novels were the preferred format of most.

ROBERT: In novelising these stories we wanted to remain as close to the original scripts as possible. Every line of dialogue was preserved, and the action lines in the scripts were transformed as delicately as possible into the prose text in the book. The biggest challenge I personally faced was in novelising All That Glisters because the script was Brian Johnson’s copy and was a mishmash of pages from two different drafts. Some of the material from page to page was repetitious, contradictory, or unrelated to the previous page, so I had to make significant effort to ensure the story we were presenting was coherent for readers. Some lines of dialogue were scratched out to the point they were unreadable, but I managed to decipher most of them and re-incorporate them into order to try and take the story back as far as I possibly could to its original state. Occasionally I had to make cuts to incongruous material that was clearly from the later draft of the story.

Who should buy this book and why?

DAVID: This book is offers something fans of Space:1999 would be interested in, a new take on this beloved series. It’s a peak into the production office, a look at earlier ideas, of what may have been had those involved agreed to go in a different direction. Film and TV buffs interested in the genesis of any television series will also discover how this input from many minds can alter the creator’s story from script to screen.

ROBERT: This book will make an outstanding read for any Space:1999 fan interested in the origins of the series, as well as those who just enjoy reading entertaining stories!

Commander Maddox or Commander Koenig? Moon City or Moonbase Alpha? Prober One or Eagle One? Discover how Space:1999 might have been had they gone Maybe There? when The Lost Stories from Space:1999 is published this November – and be sure to pre-order your copy now!

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