Space: 1999 Ships

The models for Space 1999 were built and stored at Bray Studios, England.  Special effects wizard Brian Johnson brought the models to life.  Brian gained larger fame for his revolutionary work in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when he did what was then thought impossible, and filmed the asteroid chase sequence.  Most prominent of the Space: 1999 effects were its explosions.  These were created small charges and smoke pumped in from unseen smoke machines.

The most recognizable and famous of all models were the various Eagle spacecraft.  These were built in four scales, depending on the needs of the shot, ranging from 5.5 inches to 44 inches long.  They were some of the most durable spacecraft models ever made as they had to survive constant use in crash-landings and other abuse defined in the various scripts. They were built around a heavy brass rod, with legs and rockets made from aluminum.  The hulls were reinforced fiberglass.  They were also equipped with moving parts and retro jets that would release freon gas.

In the cases where models were actually exploded, blast powder was embedded into fragmented models and paper mockups and filmed with high-speed photography running at 120 frames per second.

All the Earth ships were meticulously designed and followed the convention of being white, with a nose cone section containing blacked-out windows.  This allowed them to remain instantly recognizable, and distinct from all of the alien vessels.

The shooting schedule was so tight that models were frequently torn down and rebuilt.  Several were reworked from models used in earlier movies, the most prominent being the rework of a 79 inch model used as the “USS Discovery” seen in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  This model was supposed to have been destroyed according to instructions by Arthur Clarke but was purchased at the last minute by Martin Bower who then sold it to Brian Johnson.  They modified it to be a bomber used in the episode “War Games”.  It was then rebuilt again for a single shot in “The Last Enemy” and built again to appear in the spaceship graveyard in “Dragon’s Domain”.

Likewise, the alien ships were often so rapidly constructed that parts were taken from a variety of sources.  Since they would appear in only one episode, their detailing occasionally fell short of the Earth-based ships.  Despite this comparison, they still overwhelmingly surpassed the detail used on ship models for other television shows at the time.  These models immediately became the template defining the level of detail needed for spaceships used on most science fiction series that followed. 

In terms of special effects and modeling, Space: 1999 literally did for television what Star Wars did for the motion picture industry.  It set a new standard that all others had to meet.

The Swift, presumably the forerunner to the Superswift, was a support craft that serviced long-range spacecraft.  This design was seen only in the Space: 1999 episode: “Brian the Brain”.

The Superswift, from the Space: 1999 episode “The Bringers of Wonder”, was an Earth-built faster than light advanced space exploration craft.  The ship was capable of traveling rapidly across vast reaches of space.

Shown only in the episode “WarGames”, the Mark IX Hawk was Earth’s combat spacecraft, armed with both missiles and lasers.  Since Earth had not yet made contact with any alien species prior to the Moon being blasted away from Earth orbit, it was never clear what danger the Hawk was designed to combat.

The MPC model of the Mark IX Hawk generally sells for US$35-50, compared to the AMT/ERTL model that sells for US$15-20. 

Seen in the episodes “Breakaway” and “Dragon’s Domain”, the Ultra-Probe was Earth’s manned deep space exploration vehicle.