Most of the classic Gerry Anderson series are well known for their use of breathtaking model effects sequences, and one storytelling field in which they could best be shown off was battle scenes! Here are five of our favourite moments featuring brave Anderson heroes and their classic vehicles locked in battle against the oncoming alien hordes!
Honourable mention – UFO: Reflections in the Water
While the final battle scene of this episode certainly provides an exciting conclusion to the story, (even if SHADO easily seeing off an invasion fleet of 50 UFOs with just a handful of interceptors and Sky One feels more than a little unlikely) the fact that it’s 99% comprised of footage from previous episodes means it can’t quite claim a spot on this list. However, it’s still a fantastic showcase for the Century 21 model department’s work on UFO and includes many memorable sequences, including the Moonbase battle sequence from The Cat with Ten Lives.
5 – Captain Scarlet: Attack on Cloudbase
Another one-sided battle here, but this time skewed in favour of the villains! It’s always cool to see an enemy that has until now relied on sending a single agent or vehicle to do their dirty work suddenly attacking en masse, taking our heroes (and the audience) completely by surprise. The approach of a single Mysteron spacecraft, which brutally blows Rhapsody Angel out of the sky, leaves the Cloudbase crew on edge – until the full fleet arrives for a final attack! Throughout previous episodes Cloudbase had always seemed absolutely untouchable, the one place in the Captain Scarlet world that was completely safe from the Mysterons, and to see it under siege from all sides with little hope of survival for any of the regular characters is one of the most disturbing sequences of the entire series. The poignant image of the wrecked Cloudbase falling from the sky, with almost all personnel aboard dead, is one of the show’s most enduring visuals…and, although it all turned out to be a dream, is so in keeping with how many Captain Scarlet fans might have expected the War of Nerves between the Earth and Mars to finally end.
4 – Stingray: Plant of Doom
Over the course of Stingray’s 39 episodes Titan and his aquaphibian hordes were often presented as rather comical figures, but in the show’s first two episodes they feel more like a credible threat than they ever would again. In Plant of Doom Stingray tangles with a Terror Fish for only the second time while transporting Marina to her home city of Pacifica – and considering that the last time Troy and Phones faced such a craft they were easily defeated and captured, they’re keen to put up more of a fight here! Unlike later battles with Terror Fish, which were usually disposed of as easily as one might swat a fly, it takes every ounce of Troy and Phones’ ingenuity and determination to avoid disaster – with Barry Gray’s music once again driving home how dramatic the stakes are. With near misses and brave gambles from both crews, this battle scene is one of Stingray’s finest moments and also provided several of the show’s most memorable images – including the shot of Stingray and the Terror Fish leaping out of the water, which made it into the opening titles!
3 – Terrahawks: First Strike
The often-silly Terrahawks was sometimes capable of producing some surprisingly dramatic moments when it felt like it and perhaps nowhere was this more evident than in the episode First Strike, as General Rip Cord takes command of the Earth battlecruiser Big White One in order to launch an all-out attack on Zelda’s complex. In retaliation, Zelda deploys three of her most fearsome monsters – Sram, Yuri, and Lord Tempo – to defend her home.
As the ZEAFs approach, Big White One scrambles her interceptors (a clear homage to Battlestar Galactica’s Vipers) to deal with them – but Cord’s confidence begins to dissolve as the Martians overwhelm and obliterate their defences. Soon the ship itself is under heavy attack and forced to retreat, allowing Zelda to claim victory – for once!
First Strike offers some surprisingly intense and visually impressive space combat scenes and isn’t afraid to present Zelda’s crew as credible – and extremely lethal – threats. It’s hard to imagine Terrahawks being able to be this dark every week, but as a one-off, First Strike is a memorable episode that harkens back to examinations of humanity’s warlike nature often seen in Captain Scarlet.
2 – UFO: The Sound of Silence
With a UFO hiding beneath the surface of a lake Paul Foster orders the Mobiles to begin firing depth charges in the hopes of luring it out – and he succeeds! What follows is one of the most intense battle scenes the Century 21 model team would ever-present, with the UFO preferring to stay and fight rather than make a quick escape and the Mobiles laying down a barrage of fire that eventually succeeds in sending the alien spacecraft back into the lake – in pieces! This sequence is also notable for its extremely effective use of sound effects; every action taken by the models has corresponding noise, right down to the sound of a startled bird fleeing the water as the first depth charge is launched. Even the live-action shots of Foster watching the battle feel far more integrated into the sequence than they might otherwise have done, with effective lighting to match the model explosions and the occasional handful of debris being thrown in Michael Billington’s direction. After so many previous episodes that featured so many UFOs cheerfully spinning to their doom without even firing back at their attackers, the battle scene from The Sound of Silence does a lot to re-establish the fighting teeth of both the Aliens and SHADO.
1 – Space:1999: War Games
Much like Attack on Cloudbase, War Games enjoys the advantage of being an episode in which everything will be set right at the end – and therefore takes great delight in seeing that things go very wrong for our heroes! Faced with an overwhelming assault from three Hawk fighters the Alphans very quickly find themselves in a battle they cannot win, and once the defending Eagles are all but obliterated the Hawks move on to the base itself – killing almost half of its occupants and leaving the rest with a choice between a slow death on the crippled Alpha or relocating to the planet that almost destroyed them! As with the assault on Cloudbase seeing Moonbase Alpha, a place the viewers have come to regard as a kind of home (and for the Alphans, their only home) utterly devastated by the Hawk attack is a real gut punch, made even more powerful as we see many Alphans (including Doctor Mathias) being blown out into space during the attack.
Unlike the wrecked Cloudbase however, whose final destruction we ultimately never saw, the haunting images of the bombed and devastated Alpha following the attack leave us in no doubt that survival for our remaining heroes is pretty much impossible. Throw in some impressive space dogfights between the Hawks and the hopelessly-outmatched Eagles, and you have a battle sequence that’s easily one of the best ever seen in a Gerry Anderson production!
And there’s plenty more where those came from! The Gerry Anderson universe offers a variety of battle sequences between human and alien craft – but which are your favourites? Let us know in the comments below!