Gerry Anderson's UFO, one of the seventies' most secretly awesome shows, is getting a movie adaptation. But is America really ready for the show's bold mix of grim moral ambiguity and absurd purple wigs?
UFO isn't as well-known today as some of Gerry Anderson's other shows, such as the Supermarionation series Thunderbirds (otherwise known as what Trey Parker and Matt Stone were parodying in Team America: Wold Police) or Space: 1999 (which, for all its lofty intentions, might be the one show that can outdo the original Battlestar Galactica when it comes to space opera cheesiness).
But, despite its dated 1970's style - let's just say bell-bottoms were heavily featured and leave it at that - UFO was probably the best of the bunch, offering an uncompromising look at a desperately underfunded paramilitary organization as it attempted to defend Earth against an alien threat it barely understood. This organization was SHADO, or Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization, led by Commander Ed Straker. Straker's cold, calculating character made him an unlikely hero, but it also provided the show with much of its dramatic heft, as his singleminded pursuit of the enemy left him ever more isolated from his friends and family.
The show also had the standard Gerry Anderson assortment of cool vehicles and equipment, including a Moonbase - infamously staffed by sexy young women whose uniforms consisted of sparkly silver catsuits and purple wigs - and a submarine that launched a fighter jet. I'd attempt to explain further, but the opening sequence does a much better job of setting up the premise (it's also unspeakably groovy):
Though the show admittedly got off to a bumpy start, with some poorly paced, woodenly acted early episodes (considering most of the creative team had spent the previous decade working with puppets, that's not entirely surprising), UFO quickly developed into an exciting mix of action and drama. Its last nine episodes, made after a forced months-long production break, represent the show in top form and is some of the best science fiction ever made for British television.
So that's the original show, which I heartily recommend checking out. But what about this new movie? Not much is yet known, although it will retain the original's near-future setting. The TV show was made in 1970 but was set in 1980, and the movie features a similar decade-long gap, as it will take place in 2020.
Joseph Kanarek and Ryan Gaudet are currently writing the screenplay. UFO will be their first screenwriting credit. The film is being produced by Avi Haas and Henri M. Kessler as well as super-producer Robert Evans, who used to be famous for being behind the likes of Chinatown and The Godfather but is now mostly famous just for being super-producer Robert Evans.
Admittedly, this isn't quite the dream team I'd want handling a personal favorite like UFO, but I'm going to remain optimistic. The show's dark tone, uncertain enemy, and complicated characters arguably make it a fit far better with the science fiction of today (like Battlestar Galactica) than it ever did with the lighter shows of the 70s (like, well...Battlestar Galactica). UFO was ahead of its time, but its time might just be right now.