British Sci-fi show “UFO” is all but forgotten today, save by its cult fans. But in 1969, when it was made by Gerry Anderson, creator of puppet smash hits “Thunderbirds” and “Stingray”, it was a big budget cutting edge spectacular. Anderson had been commissioned by TV mogul Lew Grade, on foot of his success with puppets, to create his first show using live actors, and the critics joke was that he preferred working with wooden puppets and so looked for those qualities in his actors. Some of the acting is woeful (in one scene, a lead actor actually punches his fist into his palm to show frustration) and the dialogue can be awfully clunky, yet it is curiously watchable.
Set in the then future of 1980, it’s great fun to watch the predictions and also the constant smoking and sexism, where the female operatives in particular are expected to dress like go-go dancers and the males are pretty much entitled to have a good oogle at passing backsides as a perk of the job. The special effects were very good for their time (compare them to the cardboard carryon of Dr. Who) with the one criticism, probably unfairly made from the age of boxsets, that there is a constant reuse throughout the series of the same no doubt expensive shots.
Having said all that, the plots could be quite good and almost adult. In one episode, the main character lets his own son die so that the organisation, SHADO, can get a chance at capturing a UFO. When it was cancelled after one season, it was then retooled as the technically excellent but curiously joyless “Space:1999”. Finally, “UFO”, it has to be said, boasts one of the funkiest opening credit scenes ever, and a theme song that sticks in your head for days.