Ian Coomber guides us through a gallery of Space: 1999’s most famous guest stars.
While a regular cast of actors often provided voices for guest characters throughout Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s Supermarionation series, the live action shows which followed would need to feature new faces each week. Despite its early cancellation, UFO was able to show exactly what the Anderson’s were capable of achieving and so its successor, Space: 1999, was able to attract the highest calibre of well known talent. From current British veterans who were then up and coming, to 1970s Hollywood legends, Moonbase Alpha was graced by the presence of stars which other series can often only dream of…
Joan Collins – Mission of the Darians
Most famous for her role in American soap Dynasty, the variety of roles played by Joan Collins is much more diverse than many realise, Snickers adverts notwithstanding. Not only did she once play Fred Flintstone’s mother in law, but in the last ten years alone she has appeared in both Agatha Christie’s Marple, and Footballers wives. Likewise it is unsurprising that Space: 1999, in which she played the essentially cannibalistic Darian Kara, wasn’t her first foray into the world of Science Fiction. Back in the 60’s she had previously appeared in the acclaimed Star Trek episode City on the Edge of Forever as Edith Keeler. Far from the only woman to be romanced by Captain James T. Kirk, she is however the only one who many believe he had ever truly loved.
Ian McShane – Force of Life
Despite a career that spans over fifty years, it has to be said that Ian McShane is best known, in the UK at least, for his starring role in Lovejoy; a unique series which managed to combine crime drama with antiques dealing. He also appeared throughout all three seasons of US western series ‘Deadwood’, and has more recently appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, as well as providing voices for Kung Fu Panda, and Shrek the Third. Like many actors however, the majority of his work has been playing guest roles throughout a variety of series, on both sides of the Atlantic. More recently these have included American Horror Story and Ray Donovan, but also shows such as The West Wing, Columbo, and Minder. When visiting Moonbase Alpha he took on the role of Anton Zoref, the unfortunate technician who, having been possessed by an alien entity, began to absorb energy not just from Alpha’s systems, but also its crew.
Julian Glover – Alpha Child
No stranger to what is now considered cult TV, Julian Glover made guest appearances throughout the 60s in series such as The Saint, and The Avengers. He was also twice able to grace Doctor Who with his presence, first as Richard the Lionheart and again some 14 years later as the bug eyed alien Scaroth (in a Tom Baker serial which also starred Catherine Schell). In Space: 1999 he played Jarak, an alien in search of not just a home but also a body to live in it. As such, he chose to take that of Alpha’s first newborn baby, Jackie. On the silver screen he also appeared in such 80’s classics as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Empire Strikes Back, and For Your Eyes Only, in which he faced up to Roger Moore as Bond villain Kristatos. For the last six years he has also been seen as Grand Maester Pycelle, perhaps the only character to achieve some measure of consistency throughout his time on Game of Thrones.
David Prowse – The Beta Cloud
Often cast in roles that utilised his height of 6’6”, David Prowse’s career is notable for characters which required an intimidating presence. This ranged from bodyguards in both A Clockwork Orange and the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy TV series, to perhaps the most famous villain in cinematic history: Darth Vader. This list also included the deadly Cloud Creature who boarded Moonbase Alpha with the sole purpose of taking the vital life support system. As a bodybuilder he also won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship three years running, and competed at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Following this he served as the personal trainer for Christopher Reeve when preparing for the role of Superman, likewise Cary Elwes, and The Princess Bride’s Westley.
Pamela Stephenson – Catacombs of the Moon
One of the earliest roles for New Zealand born Pamela Stephenson, her appearance here saw her portray Michelle Osgood, an Alphan with a heart of tiranium (by the end of the episode at least), and wife of a faithful, if misguided, engineer. She is perhaps best known for her work on the satirical comedy series Not The Nine O’clock News however, and also went on to star in Superman III as Lorelei, sidekick to supervillain Ross Webster, played by The Protector’s Robert Vaughn. After turning her attention away from acting thirty years ago she ran as a parliamentary candidate for the Blancmange Throwing Party in 1987, and went on to complete a PhD in psychology. Now working as a clinical psychologist, she is also the author of seven books, including a best-selling biography of her husband, Billy Connolly.
Peter Cushing – Missing Link
An actor most famous for his various roles in many Hammer House of Horror films, it is perhaps that of Abraham Van Helsing which was his most frequent character. His portrayals of Sherlock Holmes also endeared him to both film and television audiences alike, and although often overlooked, he also played the role of Dr. Who in the two spin-off feature films which helped Dalekmania sweep the globe throughout the 60s. Ever the curious scientist, in Space: 1999 he played the golden hued Raan. Describing himself as human, but reaping the benefits of an extra 2 million years of evolution, he is a Zenite anthropologist who intends to keep Commander Koenig permanently captive in order to study him.
Patrick Troughton – The Dorcons
Despite being the first actor to play Robin Hood on TV, Patrick Troughton is undeniably most famous for playing the second incarnation of the Doctor. After an initial three year run he in fact returned to Doctor Who three more times throughout the its run, his final appearance in the role occurring in 1985. The opposite of the compassionate Time Lord however, as the Archon, leader of the Dorcons, he was willing to kill Maya to ensure his own immortality. On the silver screen he also appeared in The Omen alongside Gregory Peck, as well as two classic Ray Harryhousen adventures, Jason and the Argonauts, and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He continued to act until his death in 1987, and one of his last appearances was in the pilot episode of Inspector Morse.
Brian Blessed – Death’s Other Dominion & The Metamorph
A British actor of the highest magnitude, Brian Blessed is one of only a handful to appear in Space: 1999 as two separate characters, firstly as an 800 year old survivor of the 1986 Uranus expedition, Dr. Cabot Rowland. He then returned at the beginning of the following season as Maya’s father, the aptly named Mentor, and that same year was also cast in a lead role in Gerry Anderson’s pilot for The Day After Tomorrow. Three roles which are hardly surprising for someone who loves space so much that he has also completed 800 hours of space training in Moscow. This is just one of his many accomplishments away from his acting career however, as he has also made three attempts at climbing Everest, is the oldest person to reach the North Pole on foot, and he’s also the official Shoutsperson of the University of York’s Douglas Adams society.
Catherine Schell – Guardian of Piri
More famous for portraying Maya throughout the show’s second season, Catherine Schell was chosen as a series regular after her guest appearance as the servant of the titular Guardian of Piri. An episode which was first broadcast the same year as her starring turn in The Return of the Pink Panther was released in cinemas, it saw her character take human form to better relate to the Alphans. Relations which saw the entire crew find an extreme state of bliss, until Koenig throws her (or at least a rather obvious dummy) from Piri’s dais. One of her earliest roles was that of Nancy in George Lazenby’s only outing as James Bond, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. A role which saw her not only spend the night with Britain’s most famous secret agent, but also serve as an integral part of Blofeld’s plan of initiating worldwide bacteriological warfare.
Christopher Lee – Earthbound
In just the fifth episode to be produced, Space: 1999 cast the most iconic British actor to ever grace the screen, and it is no surprise that Christopher Lee was once recognised by Guinness as having the“most screen credits for a living actor”; a record which included Captain Zantor, leader of a small group of Kaldorians heading for Earth after their own planet became sterile. Rising to fame with starring turns as Frankenstein’s Creature and Dracula in the Hammer House of Horror films, although unlike Cushing it was his villainous roles which often became his most successful. Something which continued for more than 50 years with films such as The Wicker Man and Gremlins II, and he later appeared as Saruman in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth trilogies. He also forged a successful singing career combining opera and heavy metal, and in 2013 became the oldest living artist to enter America’s Billboard music charts, at the age of 91
About the Author
Ian grew up in the 90s and was raised on a diet of cult television. He earned a Masters degrees in film studies, where he began to write film and TV articles as well as essays. After his student newspaper he began to contribute to the entertainment website What Culture, as well as having his own blog.