Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Doctor Who The Planet of the Daleks (1973)

Directly following on from The Frontier in Space, The Doctor and his assistant Jo Grant land on the jungle planet of Spiridon where they meet up with a group of Thal commandos on a secret mission to prevent the Daleks mastering invisibility.
Its only one scene in the first episode but when Jo discovers the dead pilot of the Thal space ship, he’s wearing  a helmet that is exactly the same design as the Earth helmet worn by the Doctor in the previous story although it’s a white one now.  We’re probably not meant to notice production details like that but there you go; the past is now trapped in digital amber.
Interestingly before watching this a couple of months back, I had always taken the Thal suits to be military fatigues or general survival suits but seeing the pilot with the helmet in place I find myself revaluating them now because you can see the ribbed bands in the arms, wrists, ankles and neck resemble so many previous space suit designs.


Doctor Who The Frontier in Space (1973)

This six part story sees the 3rd Doctor, as played by Jon Pertwee, trying to prevent a war between the Earth and Draconian Empires.  He’s also got The Master to deal with as well as the Ogrons and their secret Dalek masters, who are actually manipulating everything from a distance.
In one episode The Doctor has to do a space walk in order to get the better of The Master and thus dons this space suit.
It’s a nice green number with duel oxygen cylinders and a matching silver space helmet.  The helmet is the same as the ones used in Pathfinders to Mars but with the plastic visor left in.  There’s a big padded neck piece that seems to match the big padded wrist bands but in truth this helps to hide the fact that the helmet doesn’t quite come all the way down at the back.  This is why the Pathfinder space suits appeared to have hoods; in order to disguise this same shortcoming in the helmet’s design.
Coincidentally  this Doctor Who story is also written by Malcolm Hulke, one of the two Pathfinder writers.


Pathfinders to Mars (1960)

For the third series of Target Luna (read the previous post) the space suits were changed from the front fastening, ribbed armed type to the all in one zipped up at the back, quilted anorak affair with hoods and new custom made space helmets.

As with the previous motorbike style space helmet, the plastic visors were a hindrance to sound recording and so were replaced on both occasions with thin pieces of wire to make a cross-hairs over the actor’s face.   A passable trick on the poor resolution TV sets of the day that gave the impression of a solid visor.  The backpacks remain the same as the previous series but now connect to a valve on the bottom of the helmet as opposed to the fabric cowl that complimented the original design.
Now these are the same style of space helmets that feature in Come back Mrs Noah and several Doctor Who episodes so I really don’t think that they were custom made for Pathfinders as research seems to suggest but rather that they are a customised prop.  I’m still trying to identify their true origin although seeing them used here in late 1960 makes them much older than I first thought and for that reason the thread that follows their many appearance on the small screen is for the time being at least entitled; pathfinder helmets

Pathfinders In Space (1960)

First there was Target Luna, broadcast at the start of 1960 for the British ABC network, and then with a little bit of recasting the second series became Pathfinders in Space and was followed by two further series; Pathfinders to Mars and Pathfinders to Venus.  The shows were all written by Malcolm Hulke and Eric Paice and produced by Sydney Newman.
This image is from Pathfinders in Space and shows one of the early uses of the motorbike helmet doubling up for the space helmet.  The suits have some of that padded tubing around the arms, a look reminiscent of Destination Moon and its imitators.
We'll be back for series three in a bit

Red Dwarf (1988)

The cult TV show from the BBC ran from 1988 to 1999 and was then briefly resurrected for the Easter weekend of 2009.  In total then that all adds up to eight and bit series worth of comedy sci-fi which in its self is quite impressive.
I don’t know how I feel about the show any more.  I was there from the start and although the production values got better and better as it went along I’m not sure the jokes did.  Or maybe it just kept telling the same jokes but with more sophisticated delivery, either way it out-stayed its welcome in my house and I never bothered to watch the 09 specials.  And with all that said I do feel the urge to acknowledge that it had a great original premise, a good cast of characters and riffed off its sit com roots as much as its sci-fi.
Anyway we’ll be back round this way more than once as the show chucked up a number of different space suits over the years.  We’ll start with this one though seen briefly but repeatedly in the show’s opening credits.
On closer inspection; yes it is an Outland helmet and possibly an Outland backpack (worn at the front in order make room for the paint cylinders on Lister’s back).

Monday, 27 December 2010

Smirnoff Vodka (1966)

You've got to love this advert for Smirnoff Vodka from 1966. I don't think its dated at all and would look every bit as good in the pages of a magazine today as it did back then.

So should we say; Hello Spacelady, or is that; Space alien?  Either way she's still kind of cute.


The Net (1953)

The Net is a British film about the goings on at a secret aviation research base where they’re developing the M7; a prototype aircraft capable of travelling at speeds up to 2,000 M.P.H.  There’s murder, betrayal and intrigue and there are these pressure suits.
With the pressure suit being the progenitor of the space suit in fiction as well as fact, I notice that these are almost identical to the space suits used in the BBC Radio’s;  Journey into Space, publicity pictures the following year.  I did wonder where the Corporation had got them from as it seemed unlikely they would have gone to the time or expense of manufacturing them for the promotion of a radio show when they actually look far better than most of their televisual space suits.  Costume hire then.  The question is; were they made for The Net or did they have a life before the film?


Morons from Outer Space (1985)

Morons from Outer Space is a comedy/sci-fi film directed by Mike Hodges and starring amongst others, BBC television's humorous double act of Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith.  There’s nothing especially interesting or noteworthy about it....  You may chuckle a bit but you’ll never get the hour 'n' half of your life back!
And that's about it really except to say; that yes, those are indeed the Outland backpacks and space helmets making a return to the big screen.  But do note that those; lots-of-glittery-little-tiny-lights at the front, ideal for illuminating the moviestar features of Sean Connery, have all been replaced with some kind of unflattering overhead lamp more in keeping with the less bankable features of a television personality.
It seems that film, much like life, is unfair and maybe that is one of the reasons that this man soon took up work on the other side of the camera.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Concord Ad (1989)

I found this while looking for something else. It's a British Airways television advert for Concord.  It's funny how some futures so quickly become the past.

R.I.P. Concord

What I was actually trying to track down was the use of the Outland helmets which were apparently also featured in a TV ad for British Airways... but not this one

I've got this so far:
which reveals little visually although it did jog the memory and I now recall seeing it at time; it had a sort of 2001 vibe.  I'll keep searching


Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Outland (1981)

John Mollo, Costume Designer, gave propmaker; Andrew Ainsworth a free hand to produce the helmets and backpacks for this futuristic feature.  Like the whole of the film, the look is functional and lived-in with a dirty realism.   After all the story takes place on a mining colony on Io, Jupiter’s moon, where the men are extracting titanium from the airless vacuum of the planet’s surface so anything too swish or shinny is going to break the tone.  It’s not really sci-fi we’re selling here.
This is High Noon in Space with Sean Connery as the heal-digging-in sheriff who's going to make a stand and a difference.  And that star-casting is perhaps one of the reasons that there are a lot of little lights inside the helmet.  If you’re paying for Connery then you need to be able to see Connery behind the visor!
Watching this when it first came out bored me to distraction but you get a little older, tastes mature and now I happen to think it’s a minor classic with a timeless plot that translates through any genre.
The suits are not the most stunning ever designed but they went on to appear in a few other films and a British Airways TV commercial.


Hot Item (2009)

These two chaps are from the Bridgestone television commercial that aired during the 2009 Superbowl.
It’s entitled; Hot Item, and shows them firstly tearing up the dusty planes of Titan before stopping to collect rocks.  However when they return to their vehicle they find it up on blocks with the tyres having been nicked by some light-flash of an E.T.
It’s a good add, made by the Richard Group of Dallas, but I’m loving the suit designs even more than that.  I see the a Moon Zero Two influence here with corrugated shoulder joints, body armour and the /\-shaped  lip on the visor but then maybe that’s just my age.  Everyone else probably just see’s Halo.


Planeta Bur (1962)

Planeta Bur is the name of the original Russian film from 1962 that was then edited and dubbed in 1965 to become; Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet for the American market  ... and then again in 1968 to become; Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Woman.
Up until a couple of weeks ago I was unaware of any of this until I stumbled across some clips on the Internet and was blown away by what I saw.   I’ve since seen the third version of this film and storywise it really is a terrible piece of old tosh but the original Russian visuals remain captivating.
The space suits are a stunningly stylish design, realising an aesthetic normally reserved for illustrations. In company with a hefty metal robot, a floaty space-car and some flesh-hungry Venusian wildlife, it looks like a fare amount of love and money went into making the original feature.
It makes you wonder what else was going on behind the Iron Curtain.


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Barbarella (1968)

The film of the French comic... The most psychedelic piece of 60’s sci-fi ever made...  Jane Fonda endlessly loosing/changing her clothes... The sexiest wardrobe of any leading lady.
But unfortunately we’re only going to be looking at this one; The Spacesuit.
It isn’t the best in the film but it does come off easily...
...in the first few minutes of the film if I remember correctly but this is as far as we're going here.
Go buy the DVD

Come back Mrs Noah (1977)

Come back Mrs Noah aired on the BBC at the back end of 1977 and starred Mollie Sugden as an everyday housewife who wins a competition to have a tour around the Britannia Seven; a docked space exploration vehicle.  While she’s aboard, the ship is accidentally launched into space and from there the hilarity ensues....or not!
Quite often regarded as one the worst British sitcom ever made - even the joke banter was allegedly recycled from other shows - it’s year 2050 sci-fi credentials were exploited by Mrs Noah having to come to terms with the outrageously strange technology aboard the ship.
But we’re here to take a look at the space suits, pictured during a spacewalk dance routine.  They very clearly and deliberately resemble the Michelin Man, which in its self could be seen to resemble an exaggerated version of that kind of inflatable padded space suit popular in 1950’s sci-fi.  So the jokes are there, it’s just that they’re maybe a little stale being pitched as they were to the future children of the Star Wars.
The helmet is a bit of a classic from the BBC’s wardrobe department and makes several earlier appearances in Doctor Who. It looks like some kind of industrial paint spraying mask to me but I’ll
do the research and let you know.


Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969)

Doppelganger aka Journey to the Far Side of the Sun is a film by Gerry Anderson and his partners through their Century 21 productions.

It’s one of those films that I’ve continued to enjoy with each successive revisit although it has continually failed to find its audience, either getting mauled by the critics or simply dismissed as some kind of experiment by Anderson to move away from his puppet shows towards a live action TV series.
Though a little unkind to suggest this was ever the original intent, much of the films look did carry over into Anderson’s 1970 TV series; U.F.O.   Cast, cars, FX models, locations and space suits all got recycled for the small screen.
As we already know and will further discover, this has always been quite a common practice in film and television production.  It’s either a good way to add a touch of class to a low budget or frees up finances for other areas.  And let’s face it; these are not only a plausible design but they manage to retain a bit of that sci-fi-sexy-ness too.  Who wouldn’t want them gracing their production?
Very much in keeping with, and even sometimes in the company of, the Moon Zero Two suits these ones go on to have quite a varied career way beyond what could have been imagined when they were first created.  I’ve found a few of their subsequent appearances and I’m reasonably sure there are more as yet to be rediscovered but for now let’s just enjoy their origin.

Doctor Who: The Wheel in Space (1968)

What a difference a year makes.
Arriving in the future, The Doctor and his companions find themselves on an Earth space station in time to thwart yet another Cyberman invasion.  That’s about it really!
Whilst not considered to be one of the classic stories in the shows history, it does however feature what is probably its most realistic space suite to date.
Yes, that is indeed a Windak high altitude pressure suit, developed for the RAF and first seen embarking on an acting career in the 1964 film version of The First Men in the Moon.
I’ll make a couple of assumptions at this point and say that the BBC hired these from a costume suppliers rather than recreating them in house and that these are therefore most probably the very same suits to feature in the HG Well’s classic.
Although there are only black and white reference pictures, you can still see the tonal difference between the two suits, suggesting to me that these are the dark blue/black one and the yellow one. 
We’ll catch up with these two again in the future in a galaxy far, far away where they’ll be keeping company with some equally starry space suits from across the pond.