Fiction Reviews

Moonbase Alpha
Technical Operations Manual

(2021) Steve White (ed.), Anderson Entertainment, 34.99 / US$48.99, hrdbk, 272pp, ISBN 978-1-914-52215-4


Space 1999 was Gerry Anderson third (after The Secret Service and UFO) mixed human-actors-and-models SF series. The series had two seasons and it ran between 1975 and 1977.

For those who do not know of it and to be honest mainly Space 1999 fans will be the ones reading this review it concerns the staff of a large moonbase who have to survive the Moon being blasted out of orbit by an exploding nuclear waste dump. Its trajectory takes it to other star systems as well as to encounters with other entities in interstellar space.

It has to be said that Space 1999 did not have the best screen writers though some episodes were quite innovative. (There's no point going into the problems Gerry Anderson had getting backing for the series which should have been a second season of the rather good UFO.) The one thing the series really had going for it was its visual imagery: both the moonbase itself and the spacecraft. The moonbase itself was somewhat reminiscent of the moonbase in 2001: A Space Odyssy. This was not entirely coincidental as Space 1999 special effects director Brian Johnson who, in addition to having worked on Anderson's Thunderbirds, worked on 2001. This brings us on to the technical manual produced by Anderson Entertainment.

It is in a hardback, landscape orientated, outsized A4, format and is highly illustrated with full colour images of the craft in the series, the moonbase's various rooms, various bits of kit and control panels, cut-away diagrams and maps of the base and the Moon.

There are also profiles of the various aliens the Alphans encountered as well as the base's staff, their uniforms. There is background into the base's construction as well as the breakaway event. In short, it is a fairly comprehensive visual guide to the series dressed up in the form of a manual. It works.

Perhaps the best feature for me was the references to other Anderson series and particularly UFO: the Dalotek mining installation features on the map of the Moon, and the caverns near the base include the mothballed interceptors. Great larks.

One word of warning. This manual's physical production leaves something to be desired. My first opening saw the sheet connecting the board front cover and the main body of pages split and the latter come away. This is a design and assembly issue. It may be that I was unlucky with a faulty single copy; conversely, it might be an inherent flaw in the production. If so Anderson Entertainment need to address this issue with any other manuals they produce. Having said that, it was largely repairable (a significant glue job) but, while a bit of a pain, did not significantly detract from what this manual does best which is help the reader relive Gerry Anderson's last, popular SF series: I am not aware of any subsequent SF series having a second season.

This manual will bring joy to Space 1999 fans. It also builds on a solid tradition of explanatory diagrams and cutaways that use to appear in TV Century 21 and is a fitting reminder of what Anderson did best: visually instil a sense of wonder.

Jonathan Cowie


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