Sunday, September 13, 2015


Another year has gone by, and once more it's Breakaway Day.  On this day 16 years ago a massive explosion of Nuclear Disposal Area 2, on the Moon's far side, sent the Moon out of Earth's orbit, flinging it into deep space.  For the survivors on Moonbase Alpha it was the beginning of a journey across the Universe.

In our world this year also marks the fortieth anniversary of Space: 1999 hitting TV screens in the UK and elsewhere.  For those of us who saw the show when it was new it's weird to think we first saw it that long ago.  At the time it was the only new science fiction TV series set in space, its contemporaries such as The Six Million Dollar Man and The Invisible Man being set primarily or entirely on Earth. 

Space: 1999 was created in an era when the possibilities for manned space exploration seemed huge.  Men had landed on the Moon, Skylab was active, and plans were in the works for the joint Soviet-American Apollo-Soyuz mission.  So it's no surprise that the series envisioned manned spaceflights to the outer Solar System in the mid '80s and '90s, and a manned base on the Moon.  Years later Gerry Anderson would admit he was overly optimistic in setting the show in 1999, but everyone else was thinking the same kind of things as well.  Of course we would have a base on the Moon soon.  Unfortunately for everyone space travel in the real world proved a lot more complicated than it did on TV.

As with everything else fandoms for television have changed a lot in that forty years.  It's funny to think of how fandom then was pretty much entirely based around printed material, including whatever licensed material was released in connection with a series, articles in commercial publications and newspapers, and fan publications exchanged between local fans or sent by mail.   By modern standards the amount available was generally quite limited, and it often took weeks or even months for news to reach fans.  Things like fan art and fanfiction existed, but distribution was limited to the small publishing runs of whatever fan publication it was submitted to. 

I watched "Breakaway" tonight on a Sony Walkman.  No, the tiny screen isn't an optimal way to watch a TV episode, but it seemed appropriate to watch it on something that would have seemed amazingly high tech and exciting to the 8 year old version of me who watched the series in 1975 and 1976, a gizmo that could have been lifted right from the set of the show itself.  (Well, perhaps if it was beige plastic, not the lovely wine colour mine is.)  Even being able to watch an episode whenever you want would have seemed exciting in an era before people owned VCRs to record things, and before commercially released TV episodes existed.  That's of course one of the greatest changes from the mid '70s, the instant access to programs and information we have.  And of course it's something that isn't reflected at all in the series. But hey, most other science fiction of the '70s didn't get it right either.

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