“Gentlemen, let’s concern ourselves with the three main questions regarding UFOs. One; where do they come from? Two; who are they? Three; why do they come?” – Ed Straker
Although the first confirmed UFO landing on Earth occurred in 1970, it wouldn’t be until 1980 that one of its alien occupants would actually be captured and examined. With the founding of S.H.A.D.O. (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation) the Earth finally had an agency capable of combating these visitors from another world – whose visits usually resulted in mutilated bodies turning up near their landing sites, plus multiple outright disappearances.
The alien race seen in UFO are never referred to by a proper name and the exact location of their homeworld is never established in the television series, but their civilisation appears to be many centuries in advance of humanity. Humanoid in appearance, these Aliens are always seen wearing a red spacesuit with silver helmet, and are sometimes armed with machine guns. Their helmets are filled with a green survival liquid which leaves a greenish-blue tint to their skin when removed, although protective lenses prevent eye damage. Although the Aliens rely on this liquid to keep them alive during extended years in space, their lungs can take over normal respiration should the helmet be removed or damaged.
The Aliens have apparently found a way to arrest the natural ageing process through the use of drugs, although exposure to Earth’s atmosphere usually results in them rapidly deteriorating to their true ages. This was the case with the first Alien SHADO were able to examine in the show’s opening episode Identified, and an autopsy revealed that he had received organ transplants from several compatible human donors – providing a reason at last for the mutilated bodies and disappearances. Additionally, evidence suggested that the drugs taken to prevent ageing had also induced sterility, leaving the Aliens a race facing extinction – and looking towards the population of Earth for their survival.
Examinations of further Alien bodies only reinforced these initial discoveries, but following an attack on Moonbase in the episode The Cat With Ten Lives SHADO were forced to re-evaluate everything they had learned about the Aliens so far. Upon examining the body of an Alien killed in the attack, Doctor Doug Jackson came to the conclusion that this particular individual was entirely human – albeit with his brain altered to remove sections that controlled emotion and creativity. With the mind apparently wiped clean too, replaced with that of an Alien, the prospect was raised that perhaps the Aliens were not humanoid at all but instead some kind of disembodied intelligence capable of taking complete possession of humanoid – or that episode even animal – bodies.
The Aliens are also capable of controlling human beings in less drastic ways, although the degree of this control can vary. In Kill Straker! both Colonel Paul Foster and Captain Frank Craig were conditioned to destroy their commanding officer, which initially manifested itself as barely-disguised contempt before developing into active attempts to murder him. Captain Craig Collins later received similar conditioning in The Man Who Came Back, although this appeared involve burning out the personality centres of Collins’ mind and altering his brain so that he could be controlled by radio waves. Other controlled humans could appear normal until ‘activated’ to carry out their orders, such as naval secretary Sarah Bosanquet in Destruction or the three ‘psychobombs’ in the episode of the same name. Perhaps most interestingly was the case of John Croxley, through whose extrasensory perception the Aliens appeared to speak directly to Straker and Freeman in the episode E.S.P.;
Despite this apparent plea for understanding if not direct assistance, the UFOs continue to head towards Earth on a regular basis – and they usually tend to land in the South of England, not too far away from SHADO Headquarters! These incursions range from a single craft to sometimes three and occasionally several dozen, but thankfully SHADO has been able to destroy the majority of them…although sometimes one slips through…
Very little is known also of the spacecraft the Aliens use to travel to and from Earth, since those too are prone to deteriorating on exposure to Earth’s atmosphere. However, by staying underwater these spacecraft are able to avoid this deterioration indefinitely, and are sometimes only discovered after attacking shipping that has strayed too close for comfort. Most notably, a UFO was once converted into an underwater dome off the coast of an uninhabited volcanic island in the Atlantic and used as a training centre for replicas of SHADO HQ personnel. Whether these were Aliens or conditioned humans who had undergone plastic surgery was unclear, as they were all destroyed when the dome was blown up.
Most Alien spacecraft encountered by SHADO appear to be the same model, with each having its own escape pod and a powerful laser beam. They can travel many times the speed of light, with the highest recorded speed being SOL 12 (twelve times the speed of light), but generally stick to sublight speeds inside Earth’s solar system. Several variations have been noticed over the years, including a UFO with a transmitter on top and more than one kind of underwater UFO. Other Alien equipment included a powerful jamming device seen in the episode The Dalotek Affair, a cryogenic capsule designed to hold a captured human body in The Sound of Silence, and even a rock capable of inducing hallucinations in Mindbender. In Timelash, we see that the Aliens have also developed some kind of ability to isolate a moment of time and can impart the ability to control that moment to a human collaborator.
Surprisingly for a race that appear so dependent on humanity for their own survival, the Aliens have on more than one occasion hatched plans that would have devastated (if not utterly exterminated) the human population had they succeeded. Upon discovering that a British naval vessel had been assigned the task of dumping a nerve agent into an ocean trench, where it could be left to dissolve harmlessly, the Aliens sent a UFO to destroy the ship. They also planted two explosive devices on Earth in 1970; one of which caused an earthquake which killed 80,000 people when it was detonated in Turkey, with the other thankfully being discovered and removed to space before it could do similar damage in England.
Were these plans of global catastrophe intended to deal the human race a blow great enough to finally allow a mass invasion fleet to occupy the planet and harvest survivors? It certainly points to dissension among the ranks of the Aliens, but occasionally this manifests itself in positive ways too. In A Question of Priorities one UFO is seen firing on another, which then crashes into the sea off the coast of Ireland. Escaping before the crash and seeking shelter in a nearby cottage, this Alien then attempts to directly contact SHADO – but is killed by the occupants of the second UFO before he can pass on any information that might aid them in their fight.
Efforts are continuing to learn more about the origins of the Aliens, as seen in the episode Close Up when a modified B-142 space probe followed a UFO back to its home planet. Although the data gathered by the probe was later declared useless following a fault with the on-board camera, we the viewers got an all-too-brief glimpse of a world every bit as barren and dead as the previous close encounters with the Aliens had led us to believe.
Clearly SHADO have a long road ahead of them, as each discovery they make seems to raise more questions than answers, and there can no doubt that the Aliens will make even more dangerous and unpredictable moves against the human race before they ever accept defeat! We may never know how this conflict is ultimately resolved, but SHADO are resolute and determined in their efforts to protect the Earth!