The Screenplays - Volume 1

Screenplays by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson, Tony Barwick & lan Scott Stewart
Edited by Chris Bentley Century 21 Books £7.99 Reviewed by Andrew Pixley

Once again, Century 21 Books demonstrates how devotees can issue high quality product which puts the professionals to shame. Following on from their range of gob-smackingly good music CDs comes the first of these beautifully packaged tomes. Encapsulated within colourful covers (which ape Pan Books' two novelizations from the 1970s) are the first four scripts from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson's UFO, one of the classic ITC adventure series.

Presented here are the original scripts to the initial episodes in production - Identified, Computer Affair, Flight Path and Survival - along with an excellent introduction outlining the changes made during shooting, a glossy mid-book insert with some fascinating photographs from the shows and also detailed cast and credit information for the instalments. And because these are the proper scripts and not just transcripts, we finally get to see the original format of the series - an alternative SHADO universe where Alec Freeman is a suave Australian who is forever chatting up receptionists, where Moonbase is commanded by the dashing young man called Desica, and where SID sings in Italian. Editor Chris Bentley demonstrates his versatility away from the colourful mass-produced books he writes for Carlton, giving us a fascinating overview of the formative months of the series - with a no-holds barred chronology of cut sequences and actors who managed to get themselves fired.

I have to admit that I never felt that UFO reached its full potential as a series - partly because of some laborious direction in early episodes, but also because the format always seemed to promise more action... but usually failed to deliver. Reading these scripts has allowed me to appreciate what Century 21 was trying to do in a new light. Very bravely, Gerry, Sylvia and their former Supermarionation chums were aiming for a rather adult series in which 'real' people react to bizarre and horrifying situations. The stories were being crafted as rather nasty and gritty Human dramas as opposed to the optimistic derring-do of the puppet world. In fact, it's almost a shame these scripts weren't made as BBC studio dramas rather than a glossy ITC film series. Although ldentified is a lightweight introduction to the format, this original version - bookended with a funeral - reads very well. Computer Affair examines whether personal relationships caused a fatal accident when a mission goes wrong. Flight Path poses the question of which loyalties are most important in a man's life. And Survival begins as a tale of revenge, but ends as a lesson in not making generalizations.

It's wonderful when scripts allow you to appreciate a series from a different perspective - and this volume does just that. Highly recommended. 10

TV Zone Magazine - Issue 148 (February 2002)
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