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I hope you all had a great Christmas (and that you will also have a great NYE)
BTW - I am still trawling through the UFO boxset so I have not seen all the UFO episodes (the ones I have seen are: 'IDENTIFIED, COMPUTER AFFAIR, EXPOSED, A QUESTION OF PRIORITES, THE LONG SLEEP, CONFLICT, PSYCHOBOMBS, DESTRUCTION, THE DALOTEK AFFAIR, ORDEAL, ESP, SURVIVAL, KILL STRAKER, CLOSE-UP, THE SQUARE-TRIANGLE, CAT WITH TEN LIVES, and CONFETTI CHECK A-OK), so please do not post any spoilers for the remaining episodes that I have not seen as yet.
The contender for the best UFO episode is quite a tough choice as there many great episodes, particularly the 'moon-centric' episode SURVIVAL with its amazing special FX and action. But also DALOTEK AFFAIR which is also a 'moon-focused' episode that has an amazing dramatic storyline. And not forgetting the brilliant DESTRUCTION that is probably the best directed episode, with its slick editing that makes it look like the most expensive-looking UFO episode (almost as if you are watching a film). But what just slightly towers above these contenders for best UFO episode (IMHO) is the amazing THE COMPUTER AFFAIR.
WHAT I HAVE OBSERVED ABOUT THIS EPISODE:
1) SHADO seems to possess their own vineyard
2) Lt Ellis takes way too long in giving the co-ordinates to the unfortunate pilot of interceptor 3 (who had urgently requested a new course as he could see the UFO flying towards him). You'd think she would just shout out the co-ordinates to him instead of the prolonged & convoluted: "Control to Interceptor-3....alter course to........."
3) There seems to be an 'in-joke' reference to Thunderbirds in this episode. In Thunderbirds (as in all of Anderson's marionette productions) due to the limitations of the puppets, all activities using the character's hands (ie such as picking up a pen or twisting a door-knob etc) are all conveyed using a close up shot of human hands. In this episode of UFO (which is Anderson's first non-marionette production) we see Alec Freeman plotting a course of the SHADO mobiles upon a map on a table before him. All the close-up shots of his hands are conveyed using clumsy looking 'marionette hands'. To the uninitiated viewer it looks like Alec Freeman has severe case of arthritis in his hands - lol
4) You kind of feel sorry for the aliens in this episode. Firstly they collide with an interceptor that won't get out of their way. They are shotdown twice by SKY-1. Forced to submerge under water for 24 hours. They are attacked by SHADO Ground mobiles. One of the aliens gets shot in the face. The other gets captured by SHADO and is interrogated for hours by a scary looking Straker in PPE gear leaning directly into his face, before dying horribly due to a reaction to an injection of 'interrogation drug'. These poor sods must be the most unfortunate aliens in the history of their race.
5) In the unedited script (and deleted scenes) of this episode it mentions that the events of this episode take place in November 1981, and yet at the end of this episode Astronaut Bradley makes a reference to the year being 1984 (unless he is reading the 'Best before End' date on the bottle of wine he is holding :).
Interesting enough in the UFO-2 novelization the events of the 'Survival' episode take place immediately after this episode (but it is shown in both the 'Survival' episode, and in the UFO-2 novelization itself that those events took place in April 1981). Oh well, talk about 'continuity errors' :)
6) The actor Shane Rimmer is credited in this episode but he only briefly appears in stock footage from the IDENTIFIED episode as a SHADAIR pilot, and not as an 'alien' as erroneously listed in some sources.
THE COMPUTER AFFAIR is one of those episodes that 'has it all' in terms of the following :
SPECIAL FX: This episode has a basic storyline of a hunt for a UFO that has slipped through moonbase defences. This allows for the viewer to see all the SHADO hardware in action, from the moonbase forces, to the sky forces (Skydiver, SHADAIR jets), and the ground forces (Mobiles, SHADO troopers etc). This episode has it all in terms of FX and action.
ACTION: This episode has some great action scenes. From the tense opening battle between the moon interceptors and the UFO (which sees one unlucky interceptor get destroyed), to the epic ground battle between the SHADO ground forces and the aliens. The ground battle is particularly well directed and is loaded with tension (and violence as well with one of the aliens getting shot in the face). Particularly in the scene where the three SHADO personnel are stalking the aliens on foot and are waiting for them to appear which is indeed very tense. I also remember being freaked out as a kid when I first saw the scene where astronaut Bradley sneaks up on the 2nd Alien who is engaged in a firefight with the SHADO men. I kept expecting the creepy looking alien to suddenly turn and shoot Bradley (I remember my brother, who was watching the episode with me at the time, remarking that the alien would not be able to hear Bradley through the helmet etc). The whole battle scene was directed very well and the cinematography was good enough for the big screen (and I can personally vouch for this as I watch the UFO boxset through a projector).
DRAMA: This episode has a great dramatic storyline that sees a SHADO investigation into whether the death of the interceptor pilot could be attributed to Lt Ellis and her bias towards astronaut Bradley (and all this played out against a tense UFO hunt by the SHADO forces). The interrogation scenes between the SHADO psychiatrist and astronaut Bradley were very well done, and there were also great dialogue scenes between the three moonbase personnel in the waiting room where they are slagging off the psychiatrist (unaware that he has bugged the waiting room and he is listening to them). There are also great dramatic scenes between Alec Freeman & Ed Straker which sees both their working & personal relationship put under strain by both the UFO hunt and the SHADO investigation into Ellis & Bradley. The portrayal of Alec Freeman in the episode is the best one I have seen yet, particularly in the scene where he reads the verdict of the investigation to Ellis & Bradley, and finally in the scene where he offers his resignation to Straker. In my opinion the episode would have been a bit better if Straker accepted Freeman's resignation making way for the lovely Colonel Vanessa Lake to take his place (as I think mature-looking actor George Sewell looks a bit wrong for the UFO series, but I would prefer if his character actually died in the 'A Question of Priorities' episode instead of the over-melodramatic touch of killing off Straker's poor son IMHO).
Special kudos also has to be given to the excellent scene where Straker is trying to interrogate the captured alien. The alien looks particularly creepy staring blankly into the ceiling (and particularly so in the scene where he suddenly reacts to Straker deliberately dropping the glass vial to get his attention), and likewise Straker appears very scary looking in his PPE gear leaning into the face of the alien and interrogating him. The final scene is quite chilling where the alien reacts to the interrogation-drugs by suddenly screaming in a very unearthly high-pitched scream. That scream still haunts me when I watch the episode (just as much as it did the very first time when I first saw it as a kid in the late 80s) and it shows just how affecting this whole episode can still be to the viewer when re-watching it.
LT ELLIS. The portrayal of my favourite character Lt Ellis is what makes THE COMPUTER AFFAIR the best episode imho. Thanks to both Gabrielle Drake's brilliant performance and the amazing script, the intriguing character of Lt Ellis is disseminated before the viewer throughout the episode, which is conveyed through her constant changes of uniform. From her utilitarian moonbase uniform & wig which denotes her cold, professional but aloof persona, to her business-casual attire that she wears in SHADO HQ which consists of an oriental-styled suit & subtle wig which conveys a more cultured side to her. When she dons the beige uniform and brown wig as she is re-assigned to the ground forces, far away from the 'comfort zone' of her normal role of moonbase commander, she adopts a more subservient persona with her superior Alec Freeman, and a more gentler side when she is alone with Bradley. And finally at the end of the episode where she is sitting alone with Bradley, far away from their lives at SHADO, pondering their future together, we see Ellis completely umasked before us, with no makeup & no wig just her natural hair, and wearing a plain blouse. We see her true persona, that of a young woman, who appears both modest & vulnerable, who had sacrificed her desire for intimacy & to be loved when she joined SHADO. In the space of the whole episode we see her full transformation to her true human self, which makes her ever more appealing as a character
But unfortunately THE COMPUTER AFFAIR does have a serious flaw
The music for this episode is completely wrong. Anyone thinking Barry Grey was the perfect choice for scoring UFO should pay close attention to the music in the beginning of this episode where the moonbase is under UFO attack. The scene is of such high drama & tension where you have 3 tense interceptor pilots sitting in their craft waiting for their launch orders, whilst the moonbase operators are hurriedly tracking the UFO that is hurtling towards earth, all the while this is played out with the episode's opening credits appearing on the screen. And yet all this tension is completely killed by the awful 'Hammond organ' solo playing in the background (and in moderate tempo just to give the scenes a more 'lackadaisical' touch to them). The music sounds like something out of a cigar advert, I kept expecting an Interceptor pilot to light-up a 'Cuban' whilst waiting for the order to launch. The music sounds so out of place with the tone of the episode that you'd think Gerry Anderson would have a word in Barry Grey's ear. If composer Grey could not think of anything appropriate to score these scenes he should have resorted to using stock music (imagine segments of Holst's 'Mars - the Bringer of War' being used for these opening scenes of the UFO attack, the atmosphere would be so thick the knife would break :).
But instead we have a segment of 'Barry's Golden Hammond Organ delights' to score the scenes which kills the tension, and dates the series so badly that modern viewers could only find themselves laughing at it. I suggest anyone re-watching this episode to turn down the TV volume and play Holst's 'Mars - the Bringer of War' (via YouTube on a mobile device etc) to these UFO attack scenes to see what I mean (better still if any of you video-editors out there would like to edit segments of Holst's 'Mars' score to these scenes and post it on YouTube that would make a great video). And it would also show how 'out of place' Barry Grey's work on UFO was in the first place. If only Anderson chose someone else to score the UFO series (eg: Ron Grainer, Giorgio Moroder, 'Walter/Wendy' Carlos - ANYONE) the end result would have been more appropriate to the tone of the series and far less cheezy & dated than what we got :(
But despite this THE COMPUTER AFFAIR episode is in my humble opinion the best UFO episode I have seen so far. Would anyone like to agree or disagree?
And does anyone have a favourite out of the following UFO episodes that I have seen so far (NB pls do not select any episode that is not listed below) ? :
'IDENTIFIED, COMPUTER AFFAIR, EXPOSED, A QUESTION OF PRIORITES, THE LONG SLEEP, CONFLICT, PSYCHOBOMBS, DESTRUCTION, THE DALOTEK AFFAIR, ORDEAL, ESP, SURVIVAL, KILL STRAKER, CLOSE-UP, THE SQUARE-TRIANGLE, CAT WITH TEN LIVES, and CONFETTI CHECK A-OK'
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