UFOwatch: The Long Sleep

written by Tony Barwick
directed by Jeremy Summers

A woman knocked accidentally knocked down by Straker ten years ago wakes from a coma- and reveals the existence of a major alien threat that could still happen.

Catherine Fraser has had a full 24 hours – she ran away from home, met a musician called Tim, experienced a bizarre pills induced trip in which he fell off a roof, saw aliens making a bomb and kidnapping Tim, walked five  miles, was attacked by a passing motorist and then knocked down by Ed Straker’s car. No wonder she decided to sleep for a decade! Her awakening is greeted by SHADO’s assurance she is the `safe` hands of spooky Dr Jackson which is about as un – safe as you can get.  Moments later Straker is questioning her with the vigour of a police inspector desperate to squeeze a confession, next minute they are sharing a quiet chat in the gardens. All the while proceedings are being watched by a person unknown. Except we know it’s Tim, don’t we? 
"I'm sure they are Cheerios" "No, they have to be Corn Flakes."

Tony Barwick’s script is trying to convey some empathy between Straker and Catherine based partly on the former’s guilt about knocking her down. This works well thanks to well drawn performances by both Tessa Wyatt and Ed Bishop. However Tim’s character is less believable from the off; indeed he must be the only person ever moved on from Piccadilly Circus fountain which says something about his singing. His re-emergence depends on the aliens somehow knowing that Catherine would be run down and spend ten years in a coma but how would they know? All this is so he can somehow get her to reveal where she hid the detonation tool for the bomb they were planting. We are told about a similar bomb exploding in Mexico so why do the aliens even bother? Why not just bring another one?

If the logic of the episode falters, the delivery is more successful. Catherine’s flashbacks which constitute about a third of the episode are presented in sepia tones but when she takes the pills coloured lighting and filters are used to impressive effect. She and Tim fall about the farm bumping into the aliens and trying to dance with them like some bizarre pop video. It is all very weird but fits in with the latter day style of the show that has moved away from model shots and protocol towards something more cerebral. If Barwick’s narrative fails to surprise- anyone whose seen the show or indeed any tv sci-fi will know full well who the unseen figure is and indeed how the episode ends- then it is director Jeremy Summers who manages to imbue both the unlikely and predictable with enough style to carry the day.

Interestingly it is 1984 now according to dialogue which refers to the 1974 Mexico incident as being ten years ago meaning we have travelled four years through the fictional life of the series. This may explain the absence of some characters in the later episodes and why key moments seem to have affected the others less than you would expect. UFO was apparently shown in different episode order depending on area and there are conflicting views on what is actually the correct order. While elements of the show suggest it could be shown randomly there are also moments when you can start to see a through storyline that could link the episodes had the writers run with it. The show’s concept would certainly suit on-going rather than separate storylines.

It’s a shame that a second season was never made that could have built on the promising developments of some of the later episodes when it was if the producers had finally started to see the show’s potential as a different series rather than simply a live action version of earlier puppet shows.  If Gerry Anderson’s reputation lies in shows for children, UFO is the closest he came to realising a more mature series that was grounded enough to relate to the times in which it was made, something the later Space: 1999 could never quite manage. There are episodes of UFO that can stand up with the best of 60s/ 70s telefantasy though there are others that are merely passable today. None of it is that badly made and if you are going to watch an Anderson series, this is definitely the one that you should try.

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