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Moon: It’s scary out there July 19, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Moon, Science Fiction, Television Shows, Uncategorized.

Well, as noted by Craig, this looks at least a little bit impressive.

I’ve got to admit I’m a sucker for anything with model work instead of CGI. I’ll watch old episodes of Space:1999 or UFO to see the vehicles the future was meant to bring us. That it didn’t remains something of a disappointment. So the sight of those faux-2001 styled moon rovers, all chunky angles, strong sans serif typefaces on interiors and exteriors is a joy. This is the future as conceived in 1970 or so and carried through to films like Silent Running.

Or indeed Space:1999.

I’ve already mentioned how, as a kid, I was fascinated by this book. which also had something of that. And the model work was a large part of it. Anderson, Derek Meddings and others through their creations seemed to open a door to the future. This was what it would be like. The very weight of those models seemed to give them a three dimensional aspect, a reality as it were, that computer generated imagery couldn’t. The sheen of CGI, while often in its own terms fascinating, just isn’t quite there. Even now.

Now granted, some of this presented a very pristine vision of the future. But that of Anderson wasn’t, or at least wasn’t entirely. The vehicles in UFO could be grubby, their sides scored by rocket exhausts and such like.

That thought in mind I was looking up some of that on YouTube recently and came across both the UFO opening credits and the end titles.

Here’s the opening credits, all 1970s poppy excess as if it were the Avengers.

And here, by way of contrast, are the end titles.

There’s something undeniably eerie about the way the camera pulls back from the Earth with that score, by Barry Gray, in the background. It’s sort of the flip side of 2001. Whatever is out there may not be pleasant at all.

As a commenter said on YouTube:

What a contrast with the jolly and forthright “Lets go get ’em!” opening theme. When I was a kid watching this show the end theme seemed to say “we don’t stand a chance gainst the aliens”.

We don’t stand a chance. Yep.

An oddity though. Is that the Moon behind the Earth, and if so then what precisely is that planet or moon that the camera finally reveals?


1. EWI - July 19, 2009

The benchmark for me still has to be the astonishingly good model work for the spacecraft on the original Star Wars films (dodgy pyro effects aside). The modern CGI SW stuff is all “wow, look, we fit so much detail and stuff in there” which curiously doesn’t lead to a better visual experience in my opinon (and don’t get me started on CGI geeks’ compulsion to add in Easter eggs which destroy the fourth wall).


2. WorldbyStorm - July 19, 2009

Yeah, I’d agree. Again, didn’t it have that sense of ‘weight’ which for me at least helps suspend disbelief. Also, and I think this is more a conceptual issue than necessarily a real one, there’s a whole issue of ‘craft’ as against technology. It’s, of course, deceptive. There’s no end of craft in CGI, but it seems perhaps to be an intrinsic attitude of at least some who were brought up during that period just before CGI. On the other hand I’m certain that there are legions of people today from the post-modelling period who love CGI and find no impact on their enjoyment, and… I have to admit that I always loved Babylon 5 which was a bit of a pioneer of CGI. So perhaps the issue comes down to whether there is good characterisation/CGI (whch gets a free pass) or good models/poor characterisation (which also does) or poor characterisation/good CGI (Star Wars prequels… doesn’t get a pass from me) and so on…


3. EWI - July 19, 2009

There certainly is a loss of the craft of cinematography (look atThe Empire Strikes Back for a superb movie-length example of the art, really breath-taking) with ‘artists’ who are coming at it from a computer science field (look at the job specs for CGI artists, programming skills are usually foremost).

You can see signs that they’re slowly picking up the pieces and starting to absorb what the model-makers knew into their own computer-based work, but it’s taking some time to become part of the field.


4. EWI - July 19, 2009

Incidentally, what did you make of teh CGi in Battlestar Galactica? I found it good, with occasional flaws (the early over-reliance on the SFX team’s ‘focus’ technique – they were also the guys who didFirefly, for one).

A great article here:



5. WorldbyStorm - July 19, 2009

Really liked it in BS. THey managed to get the metallics just about right, and, they made space black, very very black, something that your UFO’s and S:1999’s did as well back in the day. It worked well…

Firefly’s a funny one. Some of the space based shots were amazing, less good for the atmosphere ones, although, I still liked them. It was closeups where it went down the pan…

Thanks for the link.

BTW, I loved the old flying over a landscape stuff they used in Empire Strikes Back… the swooping of the fighters was amazingly visceral.


6. Richard - July 19, 2009

I couldn’t agree more about the models – In 2001 The space station sequence, or the moon landing is still more astonishing than any CGI I’ve seen.

The typeface used is “Microgramma” by the way http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microgramma
even the name of which sounds wonderfully futuristic…


7. WorldbyStorm - July 19, 2009

Very nice, there’s another one rather like it whose name has slipped my mind… I’d absolutely agree about 2001. I’ve always felt though that the moon bus sequence looked a bit more ropy, the backgrounds never quite did it for me. That said the sequence in the monolith excavation is still amazing. Nice blog btw.


Richard - July 20, 2009

Thanks! I had to comment after we both picked up on the typeface!


8. Pete Baker - July 19, 2009

“This is the future as conceived in 1970 or so and carried through to films like Silent Running.”

And Dark Star. It really was scary out there!


9. Worldbystorm - July 19, 2009

Darn it Pete, I love Dark Star. And I was only talking about it to someone today. Thanks… I take it you are a fan too?

BTW, perhaps it’s a blessing I didn’t name check Star Maidens… etc.


10. Pete Baker - July 19, 2009

“I take it you are a fan too?”

Absolutely, WbS. John Carpenter and intelligent sci-fi [Dan O’Bannon] on a budget?! What’s not to love!

Although it’s a while since I’ve watched it last. Same with Silent Running.

I think the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw is a fan too.



11. WorldbyStorm - July 19, 2009

This I like to hear 🙂

I really think that the late 60s early 70s had a remarkable run of excellent, albeit depressing, SF.


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