UFO and the Women of SHADO

by Steve Law on August 10, 2012 · 5 comments

in Angels of Action!

UFO a.k.a. “You chose the wrong species to pick a fight with”.

In the 1960s Gerry Anderson was a king among children’s action show producers. His Supermarionation programs like Fireball XL5, Stingray and the masterpiece The Thunderbirds mixed puppetry and effective model-work together to please any boy looking for TECH-based adventure programming. By the end of the decade Anderson wanted to branch out into more adult-oriented programming. The scientifically implausible (but still highly entertaining) movie Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (known as Doppelganger in Europe) soon followed. We quickly found out that Gerry Anderson had an eye for the ladies.

In 1970 an ambitious TV show was produced called UFO chronicling the secret invasion of earth by a ruthless, dying alien species and SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation), the secret multinational organization formed to counter this alien threat. SHADO is run by Commander Straker, a former American Air Force officer who has ice water in his veins. Through force of will he has whipped SHADO into an effective unit more than capable of handling the task. His drive has cost him dearly; his marriage and his young son’s life are sacrificed for “the cause.” In fact many aspects of the human existence are explored in the show: love, loyalty, racism and stress to name a few. It is a great show and ranks near the top of my list of favorites. The show is filled with action, adventure, explosions and best of all… beautiful women!

The women of SHADO are more than just window dressing, although there is not a lot of of dressing on the windows. The women are cool, competent professionals that perform their duties at a high level of skill.

There is one thing that sticks in everyone’s mind who has an even passing familiarity with the show: the purple-haired moon girls, a masterstroke of costume design. Love em’ or hate em’, you certainly remember them. Let’s address these ladies first. Gerry Anderson’s wife Sylvia was the costume supervisor for the show. She firmly believed that wigs were going to be a staple of women’s fashion in the near future. The moon girls do not have purple hair, they are wearing purple wigs as part of their uniforms. Okay, so she got that one wrong. However she did hit the nail on the head with convertible clothing, I go hiking all the time wearing pants that can be converted into shorts.

Lt. Gay Ellis, played by the petite Gabrielle Drake,  is the COMMANDER of Moonbase. Lt. Ellis and her moongirls run Moonbase, there are also interceptor pilots (all men) who do the flying and the fighting. With a calm tone she expertly vectors moonbase interceptors to destroy incoming spacecraft. In one episode her legs play an important part in uncovering a malfunctioning space telescope.

Back on Earth at SHADO HQ men and women work side by side doing the mundane tasks that keep a secret organization operating at peak efficiency. Men wear loose comfortable clothing and their female counterparts wear skintight body suits. Works for me.

Earth’s second line of defense is the super-submarine Skydiver. The small crew wear fishnet tops including the token female. Once again, this works for me.

A little more than halfway through the show’s run, the craggy-faced actor who played second-in-command Col. Freedman was seamlessly replaced with Col. Lake…effortlessly played by the Hammer horror beauty Wanda Ventham. Tall, slim and incredibly attractive. She portrayed a cool executive without losing her femininity.

Gerry Anderson was way ahead of his time. He was able to balance a show that included the standard male hero types and definitely FEMININE heroines.

 

Gabrielle Drake as Lt. Gay Ellis

Gabrielle Drake as Lt. Gay Ellis

Wanda Ventham as Colonel Virginia Lake

Wanda Ventham as Colonel Virginia Lake

 

The Girls of Moonbase

The Girls of Moonbase

 

Agents of SHADO

Agents of SHADO

 

Nice gams, Lieutenant.

Nice gams, Lieutenant.

 

In case of a shipwreck you can use her top to net fish.

In case of a shipwreck you can use her top to net fish.

 

The greatest opening for an action show ever filmed.

 

Lt. Ellis slips into something more comfortable.

 

SHADO in action

 

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