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Series / UFO (1970)
aka: UFO

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Ah, the 1980's. When men were real men and women wore purple wigs.

"The Earth is faced with a powerful threat from an extraterrestrial source. We've moved into an age where science fiction has become fact. We need to defend ourselves."
Commander Ed Straker, "Identified"

UFO is a British live-action Science Fiction television series created by Gerry Anderson and his wife Sylvia Anderson (with Reg Hill), the creators of Thunderbirds. It was Gerry Anderson's first live-action series. Filming began in 1969, and the show aired between 1970 and 1971, with one episode delayed until 1973.

In the future year of... 1980, Earth is under attack by UFOs sent by a dying race (no name for the aliens is ever given) seeking to harvest our organs. A top-secret multinational organisation called SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation, pronounced "Shadow"), led by the dedicated Commander Straker, is given unprecedented (though not limitless) resources to suppress knowledge of the aliens while at the same time sussing out ways to fight them.

The series is remembered for its garish decor, glamorous girls in miniskirts, and dark (for the time) subject matter. Few episodes had genuinely satisfactory endings; at most SHADO would prevent major acts of destruction while sacrificing a few innocent people, and their attempts to discover more about the aliens frequently came to naught. The stories included such adult themes as drug use, adultery, inter-racial relationships, and the breakdown of Straker's marriage under the strain of the job.


This dark reimagining of Captain Scarlet unfortunately backfired, as most broadcasters were expecting the Andersons' usual children's fare. Erratic broadcasting schedules (no two regional stations ever simulcast the show) and indifferent American broadcasters, who reacted with a collective "WTF?", prevented UFO from cultivating an audience. Without US support, a second season set on a more advanced Moonbase in the 1990's was scrapped, and the pre-production design and model work (and basic concepts) reused for the marginally more successful Space: 1999.

Even if UFO's original impact was limited, it still had a significant influence on international pop culture. Both the video-game developer MicroProse and the anime studio Gainax have cited the series as a main inspiration for X-COM and Neon Genesis Evangelion, respectively.


After languishing in Development Hell for years, a feature film based on the series was supposedly moving ahead for release in 2012. Perhaps unsurprisingly, nothing seemed to come of it.

No relation to Project UFO, nor to the rock group UFO.

"The Earth is faced with powerful tropes from an extraterrestrial source."

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The series is set exactly a decade after it first aired... but see Zeerust below.
  • Action-Hogging Opening: A fast-cut montage, over an uncharacteristically Swinging Sixties Instrumental Theme Tune (as compared to the orchestral martial-sounding Theme Tune of Thunderbirds), shows us all the relevant people, places, and hardware featured on the show.
  • Agents Dating: One of the SHADO pilots is dating Lt. Ellis from Mission Control, so computer-psych tests are run to see if it will affect their performance. The test suggests that a recent tactical decision by Ellis was overly protective of her boyfriend, so she deliberately sends him into a dangerous situation to prove otherwise. He survives, but isn't bothered by her decision because it gave him a chance to see some action.
  • Alien Abduction: UFOs visit Earth to abduct humans, either to harvest their organs or to take over their entire bodies.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Inverted in that the aliens are never heard to speak.
  • All Men Are Perverts: In one episode the aliens are using a weapon that freezes time. Straker enters the film studio used to disguise SHADO headquarters and sees an actor permanently "glancing" down the cleavage of the well-endowed actress opposite him. Apparently even Straker is not immune — in "Close Up" he uses a sophisticated macroscope to look up the skirt of a posing Lieutenant Gay Ellis. Supposedly it's part of a demonstration on how it's impossible to judge magnification without reference points, but even after he gets the point Straker zooms in for a second look... you're not fooling anyone, you sly dog!
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Usually drugs such as GL-7 and X-50. Also the neutronic detection equipment.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • In "Computer Affairs" man is shot from a submerged submarine into the air. If the submarine's interior had been at normal atmospheric pressure it would have been very difficult to open a hatch against the water pressure, and when the hatch opened the compartment inside would be very forcefully flooded. On the other hand, if the internal air pressure had been increased to match the water pressure (as is done in similar situations in Real Life) the man would have had to be treated for the bends afterwards.
    • The speed, acceleration and maneuverability of the UFOs defy all known laws of physics. This is just taken for granted and not even handwaved away.
  • As Himself: Frank E. Stranges in ''The Dalotek Affair'.
  • Auto-Kitchen: In the first episode "Identified", the break room in Moonbase has what appears to be an automat-style setup on one wall, with six different sets of slots divided by nationality. Apparently they didn't foresee the introduction of fusion cuisine.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The fully-tracked Mobiles of SHADO have a radar dish on top and carry a squad of assault rifle-toting redshirts for taking on the anonymous alien invaders, yet are small enough to be deployed via aircraft. Somewhat incongrously they don't seem to be at all armoured or otherwise equipped to deal with hostile armed aliens.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: "ESP". While John Croxley is holding Ed Straker and Alec Freeman at gunpoint two shots ring out and Croxley crumples to the ground, dead. Paul Foster appears behind Croxley holding a gun - he heard Croxley threatening them and shot him to save their lives.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You:
    • If two SHADO employees are having an affair, computer-psych tests are run to see if it will affect their performance.
    • Straker wants to tell his wife the truth about his job, but it would put her life at risk from SHADO's own Security department.
  • Body Snatcher: After discovering a completely human 'alien', it's theorised that the aliens are Energy Beings who just use the bodies as hosts.
  • Brainwashed: A favourite tactic of the aliens, especially Manchurian Agent ("The Psychobombs", "Kill Straker!", "E.S.P", "The Cat With Ten Lives", "Destruction", "Mindbender" and "The Man Who Came Back"). "Timelash" is a notable exception, in that a voluntary traitor is used.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In "Mindbender" alien crystals make Commander Straker hallucinate that he's an actor in a sci-fi television series. As he remembers being Straker, but can clearly see the cameras and backstage crew around him, he naturally starts to go insane.
  • Bridge Bunnies
    • Played Straight in SHADO headquarters. With very few exceptions the female personnel are young and shapely, wear skin-tight clothes and don't actually seem to do very much.
    • Subverted on Moonbase during normal operations: despite their Stripperific clothing, the female personnel run the base and command the male pilots.
    • ...until a male main character turns up and takes over, and the trope is played straight again. This is partly justified because those men are higher in rank, but raises the questions why they have to micro-manage the women instead of letting them continue to do their jobs.
  • The Casanova: Alec Freeman is introduced flirting with Straker's Sexy Secretary and then the Bridge Bunnies. This verges on Kavorka Man as he's the oldest of the main characters.
  • Cassette Futurism: The '80s as viewed from the The '70s, with tape drives and blinking lights galore. Had the follow-up project that was modified to create Space: 1999 had been followed through, then there wouldn't have been much in the way of change in computer technology on The '90s, even with the capacity to go into deep space.
  • Catapult Nightmare: "Exposed". Paul Foster spots a UFO while piloting an experimental plane. Sky One destroys the UFO, but the explosion damages the plane and sends it into a dive. Paul Foster wakes up with a yell and sits up in a hospital bed, apparently after having a nightmare of the flight.
  • Celibate Hero:
  • Colonel Badass: Straker. It's a good reason why the aliens actually target him for assassination about three or four times throughout the show.
  • Comm Links: "Computer Affair". When a team of SHADO troops is sent in on foot to attack a UFO, the leader communicates with his superiors with a "wrist radio" version, complete with extendable antenna.
  • Compilation Movie: Several episodes were edited together in the late 1970's to make ''Invasion: UFO".
  • Compressed Vice: Straker suffers from claustrophobia, which causes problems when he's trapped on a damaged submarine (though though you'd think it'd cause problems in the confines of a spacecraft too).
  • Computer Equals Tapedrive (along with Beeping Computers, Billions of Buttons, and Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future): A montage of flashing lights, spinning tape drives, large font letters on coloured monitors, swaying female buttocks, and rows of large luminous buttons accompany every Red Alert. SID (the computer-controlled radar satellite) is given a more 'advanced' look, being a talking computer and all.
  • Concealing Canvas: "Exposed". Paul Foster breaks into the Ventura Aircraft Corporation to find evidence that he saw a UFO. He looks behind several paintings on a wall and eventually pulls one back, revealing a safe hidden behind it.
  • Continuous Decompression: "Survival", "Kill Straker!", "The Man Who Came Back."
  • Cool Car, Cool Boat, Cool Starship, Elaborate Underground Base: What do you expect from the people who made Thunderbirds?
  • Crazy-Prepared: In the episode Court Martial it turns out that the pretty light show which we've seen behind Straker's desk for the previous 11 episodes isn't a decoration. It's an escape route. Better still, someone else figures Straker would arrange this, and helps himself.
  • Death of a Child: In "A Matter of Priorities". Straker's son is involved in an automobile accident and requires an experimental drug from America, but regular transport options would be too slow. After wrestling with using his position for a personal reason, Straker orders a SHADO transport to bring the drug to the UK. It is diverted en route to deal with a UFO sighting, which meant the drug did not arrive in time to save his son. Worse, the SHADO mission the plane was diverted for didn't work out either.
  • Death Seeker: Straker sees Freeman about to shoot Croxley and can't help thinking, "Shoot, for God's sake shoot!" Even though Crosley can read minds, he doesn't move to defend himself.
  • Distant Prologue: Begins one year in the future (i.e. 1970) with Colonel Straker witnessing a UFO attack. The rest of the series takes place 11 years in the future (1980) when Straker is head of SHADO. As of the finale, it is implied that "now" is 1984note , helped along by the reference to more advanced and sophisticated Moonbase defence systems against massed UFO attacks.
  • Doppelgänger: "Reflections in the Water."
  • Downer Ending: "The Square Triangle," "Survival," "Flight Path," "The Cat With Ten Lives" and especially "A Question Of Priorities."
  • Drinking on Duty: Straker has an automatic booze dispenser in his office, though he never partakes of it himself (guests and coworkers do use it). Given SHADO's mandate there must be many times when personnel seriously need a Freaking Drink.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Wanda Ventham makes a brief appearance as Col. Lake in the very first episode, and then does not appear again in the series until its final set of episodes in which she becomes the co-star.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Straker's iron self-control and willingness to Shoot the Dog is joked upon (and sometimes criticised) by his officers.
  • Enemy Mine: While shooting down an alien craft in one episode, Foster crashes on the Moon. His radio is broken, but he discovers that an alien is also alive (and his communications are also broken), and the two form a truce and co-operate to reach Moonbase. There's a hope that this show of good faith could lead to the alien entering Moonbase alive and opening negotiations with SHADO - but once they reach Moonbase, the guards think the the pilot is being held captive, and they shoot the alien.
  • Energy Weapon: The UFOs have them, but their ground troops use chrome assault rifles firing ordinary bullets.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: "The Dalotek Affair". As part of one of their plots the aliens drop a meteor on the Moon. Late in the episode Commander Straker remembers a single word from a 10 year old TV broadcast ("fireball") and realizes that his subconscious mind is trying to tell him about the meteor's significance.
  • Everybody Smokes: Even on the Moonbase, medical areas, and computer rooms! Averted in "Sub Smash" where a nurse tells Commander Straker he can't smoke inside a hospital room.
  • Faceless Goons: The aliens are normally shown wearing spacesuits with helmets with opaque visors. In this case it's to enhance their mysterious and threatening nature, so the audience won't identify with them. Though episodes where we're supposed to feel sympathy for a space-suited invader feature a lot more close-ups.
  • Failed Future Forecast: For whatever reason, Gerry Anderson decided to predict that England roads would switch to right-hand traffic within ten years. Thirty years on, and it's still not even discussed.
  • Fanservice: There is no nudity, except for a few Lingerie Scenes (themselves something unexpected to see in a series that some broadcasters marketed for kids), but other kinds of Fanservice by both genders.
    • The uniforms worn by most HQ personnel are white, skin-tight jumpsuits which leave little to the imagination.
    • The female moonbase personnel wear purple wigs and silver catsuits which are even tighter than the HQ uniforms and really emphasize their figures.
    • When off-duty, some of the (all male) moonbase pilots unzip their flight suits to show off their bare chests.
    • Then there's the fishnet shirts (string vests) of the male and female Skydiver crew that show off the men's nipples and chest hair (the women seem to be wearing something nude-coloured underneath, but it's never shown clearly).
    • In the first episode, we see one of the female moon base crewmembers changing clothes in a cubicle with a glass door. She's down to her bra and panties when a man walks up to the other side of the door, seems to check her out, and starts a conversation. Then the camera angle changes to an outside view and we see that the glass door is actually a one-way mirror and the man was admiring his own reflection.
    • There's this famous clothes-changing scene, which seems like a lot of trouble to go through for a ten minute coffee break. Lt. Ellis removes the legs and sleeves of her catsuit and puts on a skirt on top of it, turning it into a mini-dress.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: Every time the Moonbase intercepters, SHADO mobiles or Sky One deploy.
  • Flashback: Several episodes start with some event or line that makes a character remember where it all began.
    • "Court Martial: Colonel Foster's death sentence for espionage leads other characters to go over the events that led to the accusation and trial.
    • "The Dalotek Affair": An encounter with a woman at a restaurant leads Colonel Foster to recount their first meeting on the Moon which she has forgotten because of amnesia drugs.
    • "Confetti Check a-OK": A SHADO technician's wife has given birth to twins. A celebratory cigar makes Straker remember the early days of SHADO, his marriage to Mary, and the birth of his own son.
  • Flashback Effects:
    • "Court Martial". The teaser shows Colonel Foster being sentenced to death. The first act starts with a shimmering effect on the screen like falling water, then continues with the beginning of the events that led to the sentencing.
    • "Do you remember the Dalotek Affair, six months ago?" The Dalotek Affair...the Dalotek Affair...
  • Flatline: In the episodes "Identified" and "Computer Affair" the death of a captured alien is graphically depicted by their pulses flattening out on a heart monitor machine.
  • Flying Saucer: The UFOs, though they are more conical than saucer shaped, presumably to help them spin better.
  • Front Organisation: SHADO headquarters is hidden under a film studio, where all the odd goings-on can be passed off as something to do with a movie. Fair enough, but how does Straker have the time to run a film studio and be the leader of an international alien-fighting organisation? Wouldn't hiring a front man as studio boss make more sense? Of course the real reason for disguising the base as a film studio was that the series was shot at a film studio! (Actually two in succession, because the first studio closed down during production.) In one of the few times it comes up in the show, a director praises Straker for his "hands-off" approach to films.
  • Future Music: "Ordeal" wrongly predicts that you can go to a party in the future dressed like Goldmember and not get laughed at; however it is correct in assuming that the Beatles song "Get Back" will still be popular.
  • The Future Will Be Better: Overt violent racism has died out by The '80s, though it's pointed out that the more subtle forms of prejudice still exist.
  • Get It Over With: In "Kill Straker", Foster's response to realizing that Straker intends to kill him is to say that he understands that it has to be done because He Knows Too Much, but "For God's sake, get it over with!" Since Straker's actual goal is to tempt Foster to kill him (to test if he's still a Manchurian Agent), this just leads Straker to make up other reasons that are more inflammatory and unfair.
  • Government Conspiracy: SHADO conceals evidence that UFOs exist to prevent worldwide panic. Their methods include intimidation (ranging from beatings to pressure on the employers of the witness), conscription into SHADO, amnesia pills, and even murder.
  • Guyliner: Commander Straker and Colonel Foster both wear black eyeliner and blue eye shadow. In "Destruction" you can even see a bit of a 60s "cat eye" look on Foster.
  • Handcuffed Briefcase: In "Identified", Colonel Straker has a briefcase containing evidence of the existence of U.F.O.s chained to his wrist. When the car he's riding in is attacked by a U.F.O., he's thrown out of it and the chain is broken. The evidence burns up in the fiery wreck of the car.
  • Hand Signals: Used in "Computer Affair", "Survival" and "Court Martial".
  • He Knows Too Much: Test pilot Paul Foster is given a choice between joining SHADO or dying when he witnesses a UFO attack and starts asking questions. Later when Foster becomes unreliable due to alien brainwashing it's expected by all concerned (including Foster) that Straker will kill him as it's impossible to simply fire the man. Instead Straker forces the issue with an intense Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand moment in a Shooting Gallery.
  • He's Dead, Jim: In the episode "Sub Smash", after a Skydiver officer is injured during an attack he goes berserk and falls to the deck. Commander Straker checks his pulse, puts his ear to the man's chest and says "He's out of it".
  • Human Aliens: Justified in that the aliens are using human bodies. Even the legendary Little Green Men look is Handwaved as being from the fluid used to cushion their bodies for faster-than-light travel.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: Extra-Sensory Perception is treated by mainstream psychologists like any other mental condition. While most sufferers adjust to its effects, the subject of the episode "E.S.P." cannot cope with knowing everything that's going to happen before it occurs.
  • I Can Explain: When his wife wants a divorce because she thinks her husband is cheating, Straker blurts out that he's willing to tell her everything. However Mary cuts him off, thinking he's referring to his affair.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Very much. There's lots of Black-and-Grey Morality, and plenty of What the Hell, Hero? moments.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • In "The Dalotek Affair", both Colonel Foster and the crew of a Moonship pick it up, causing the death of two SHADO Moonship pilots. The lunar module pilots stubbornly remain on computer remote control, despite the latest in a series of communications failures. Foster is actually smart enough to force the issue by shutting down the Moonbase computer, but by then it's too late. Meanwhile, everybody is only too happy to accept that the new crater near the Dalotek base is a common meteor, even though it happened in the wake of a UFO feint, and Straker ordered Foster to look for subterfuge.
    • As Chris Bentley points out in The Complete Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Episode Guide, there's no logical reason why the aliens should try to wipe out all life on Earth with nerve gas (in "Destruction") when they need transplantable organs and living hosts to, you know, survive.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: "The Man Who Came Back". Commander Straker tries this when his friend Collins turns out to be a Manchurian Agent sent by the aliens, but to no avail.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: Applies to the humans wearing space suits, whose faces are clearly visible through their visors. The aliens' faces are usually obscured by their liquid-filled helmets.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: "The Sound of Silence". Twice while near a lake a woman mentions that there's no sound from local animals. This is because there's a UFO hiding in the lake and a bodysnatching alien wandering around nearby.
  • It Was All Just A Dream: "Ordeal", "Mindbender"
  • It Works Better with Bullets: "Survival". While on the surface of the Moon, Paul Foster is captured by an alien. He manages to grab his gun back from the alien, only for the alien to open his hand to display the weapon's ammo clip.
  • Karma Houdini: In "The Square Triangle", SHADO accidentally interrupts a plot by a wife and her lover to murder her husband. However they can't just hand them over to the police as they've seen an alien, so the conspirators just get their memories wiped and it's implied the murder goes ahead as planned.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: "Kill Straker!". Colonel Foster has been given a subliminal command to kill his superior Commander Straker. Straker needs to be absolutely sure the command has been erased, so he orders the guards to lock them in the Shooting Gallery, then proceeds to take pot shots at Foster in order to provoke him, screaming "Kill! Kill!" when Foster finally picks up a gun to defend himself.
  • Limited Wardrobe: A real-world example. They only had two alien uniforms, so there are never more than two aliens on screen at once. Also, there's a rather memorable red dress that shows up on several different female characters throughout the series.
  • Lingerie Scene:
    • A female journalist strips down to her bra and panties in an attempt to seduce Straker (as a part of a plot to extract classified information). It only makes him more suspicious of her motives.
    • In this video from the pilot episode we briefly see one of the female moon base crewmembers in her silver underwear while changing clothes in front of what looks like a glass door. A man walks up to the door and starts talking to her. She doesn't react to him seeing her half-naked, and when the camera angle changes we see that the door is a one-way mirror and he is just seeing his own reflection.
    • Foster gives a Twirl of Love to his Girl of the Week, causing a Panty Shot in the process.
  • Made of Explodium: The UFOs disintegrate if they spend too much time in Earth's atmosphere. They can also be destroyed by conventional weapons.
  • Male Gaze: The Title Sequence has two separate shots of a female SHADO operative sauntering towards or away from the camera, dressed in a very tight jumpsuit. In the from-behind shot, the camera focuses on her buttocks.
  • Manchurian Agent
    • In "Kill Straker!" The aliens give Paul Foster a subliminal command to kill Commander Straker.
    • In "The Man Who Came Back", Commander Straker's friend Collins turns out to have been brainwashed by the aliens into an assassin. His orders: kill Straker.
  • The Men in Black: Though dressed a lot more stylishly. Well...colourfully anyway.
  • Military Mashup Machine: Skydiver, an atomic submarine with hydrofoil capability and a jet fighter attached to its nose. The name makes a lot of sense when you see the opening titles: The sub is only ever shown from the left side, where "SKYDIVER" is written on the side of the hull. When the jet, "Sky One", separates from the sub, the word splits in two: the jet now says "SKY" and the sub "DIVER".
  • Mistaken for Cheating: In "Confetti Check a-Ok", Straker's long hours and extreme secrecy during SHADO's early days leads his mother-in-law to believe he's cheating on Mary, to the point of hiring a private eye to follow him. He's spotted going into a flat with another woman (one of the Moonbase lieutenants and a celebration of SHADO becoming operational), which causes Mary to leave him.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Doug Jackson, who speaks with a noticeable Eastern European accent and always has a vaguely sinister air about him. It's possible he is a spy for Straker's superiors. As the doctor says on his first appearance, things are not always what they seem.
  • Move in the Frozen Time: In "Timelash", Straker and Col. Lake drive into the base to find everyone in it frozen in time (which means it happened while they were out). They find that they can pick up some objects but others are completely frozen, and Straker soon finds a pattern: The objects they can pick up are those that weren't in motion when time was stopped. Later still they also notice they're slowing down, and take some stimulant drug to remain able to move for a little more time.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lieutenant Gay Ellis, who is described in the DVD Commentary as having "the figure of a goddess", and usually wears skintight clothes.
  • Necessarily Evil: The aliens are motivated by desperation rather than malice.
  • Never Recycle Your Schemes: Each episode has a different alien plot to destroy SHADO headquarters, kill Ed Straker, release nerve gas or whatever. Each time a plot fails the aliens never try it again even if it has a good chance of working. Then again, Straker never builds a second electron telescope; he may not be the only one with budget troubles.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: In the 1980's wigs have replaced bad hairstyles, suits and ties have given way to turtlenecks and Nehru jackets, while catsuits and calf-boots are standard military uniform. Some of the civilian fashions aren't too different from the current fashion around 1970, while others are more on the bizarre side.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: The aliens can adapt human organs to replace their own, yet die if exposed to our atmosphere for too long.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: An idiosyncrasy of the series is that the term "UFO" is pronounced as a word ("you-foh"), as suggested by the real-world originator of the term Edward J. Ruppelt, and not as the more common "you-eff-oh". This is particularly true of the lead character, Ed Straker. Technically speaking the series title should properly be pronounced "you-foh" as well. However, the "you-foh" pronunciation was not consistently applied and some supporting characters use the now more common form.
  • Nude-Colored Clothes: Female Skydiver crew look like they are naked under their fishnet shirts, but the few closeup shots show that theye're wearing something nude-coloured underneath to cover their breasts.
  • Nuke 'em: Each Moonbase Interceptor is armed with a single large nuclear missile on its nose, though the Sky One fighter (that operates in Earth's atmosphere) uses multiple rocket launchers with conventional warheads.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: General Henderson of the International Astrophysical Committee, who's always going red in the face and shouting at Commander Straker, usually over SHADO's budget allocation. Ironically Henderson and Straker are quite friendly in the 'contemporary' scenes that take place before SHADO is operational.
  • Old-School Dogfight: The series draws very much from Battle of Britain tropes. Moonbase is the beleaguered sector airfield, and SID (Space Intruder Detector) the early-warning radar. Calmly-speaking young women (the WAAF's) vector in Interceptors (Spitfires) against the anonymous alien invaders (German bombers). However special-effects limitations prevented much in the way of actual dog-fighting — the combat between interceptors and UFOs consist mostly of missiles and energy weapons being fired at fairly long range.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Dr. Jackson appears to know most branches of medicine, ranging from ordinary GP diagnostics all the way to advanced psychiatry. In addition to wearing those hats, he also at one point serves as a rather competent prosecutor in a court martial!
  • Organization with Unlimited Funding: Averted. Several episodes show Straker arguing with his superiors over his budget allocation. (Players of X-COM might have a idea of how he feels.)
  • Person of Mass Destruction: "The Psychobombs"
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: At the end of "The Dalotek Affair" a woman apologises for the trouble her privately-operated moon-mining operation has caused, despite the fact that it was SHADO who disrupted their operation in the (unjustified, as it turned out) belief they had something to do with the crisis of the week.
  • Put on a Bus: The character of Col. Veronica Lake appears briefly in the very first episode - and then is not seen again until late in the season, when she becomes a regular.
  • Rapid Aging: "Identified". After a UFO is shot down one of the aliens aboard it is captured. After he's exposed to the Earth's atmosphere he starts aging rapidly and quickly dies.
  • Red Alert: SID (Space Intruder Detector), SHADO Control and Moonbase all call them whenever a UFO is detected, so it happens on an average of once per episode.
  • Reentry Scare: "Kill Straker!" While a SHADO Moon ship is forced to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere at a steeper than normal angle a SHADO technician says "I have re-entry cessation on radio contact". The ship isn't found until 16 hours later, and Commander Straker comments on how worried he was.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: "The Dalotek Affair". Straker catches a subliminal clue about UFO attacks from a documentary film, and insists on watching the clip over and over until he figures out what triggered the association. (He actually catches it the first time around).
  • Secret War: The ongoing alien invasion attempts and body-snatching must be kept secret to avoid widespread panic, which is why SHADO necessarily must operate without revealing itself to the general public.
  • Self-Destructing Security: Straker is carrying a briefcase chained to his wrist with taped evidence of a Flying Saucer. When a British minister wants to look at the contents, Straker flicks a catch hidden under a nameplate, exposing the words DESTRUCT NEGATIVE, before opening the briefcase.
  • Sci Fi Writers Have No Sense Of Distance
    • "The Dalotek Affair" and "Ordeal". In both episodes Commander Straker says that aliens from another solar system came from a billion miles away, which would mean that they came from inside the solar system. The nearest star system to Earth is Proxima Centauri, approximately 4.24 light years or about 25 trillion miles away. Even if he had been using "billion" in the British sense, which is an American trillion, it still would have been wrong because a trillion miles is still much less than the necessary distance.
    • The way the moon-based spaceships are able to intercept UFOs coming from a totally different direction shows some lack of understanding of the distances involved. Given that the Moon takes roughly 27 days to orbit the Earth, why don't the aliens just attack when Moonbase is on the opposite side of their target?
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story:
    • "Close up" has Straker request a billion dollars for a special space probe outfitted with an advanced telescope to take images of the alien planet. There's the launch, a spacewalk to install the telescope, and then a nerve-wracking interception mission to force a UFO into an orbit near the probe so it can lock on and follow the alien craft when it retreats. And then a months-long wait for data to come back. And all for naught since the photographs are missing range and magnification data that would allow reliable identification of their contents.
    • "A Question of Priorities". Straker's son is injured and requires an experimental antibiotic from the United States. Realising that SHADO can get it there quicker than a commercial transport, Straker has the antibiotic secretly placed on a SHADO transporter. At the same time a possible alien defector lands in Ireland and tries to communicate with SHADO, so Foster diverts the transporter to pick him up. He offers to retask the transporter when Straker explains what it's carrying, but Straker can't put his own priorities above those of Earth. In the end another UFO turns up to kill the defector before they make contact, and Straker's son dies because he doesn't have the antibiotic, earning Straker the lasting enmity of his ex-wife.
  • Shoot the Dog: "A Question of Priorities", "The Responsibility Seat", "Ordeal"
  • Sigil Spam: SHADO puts its name and logo on all of its vehicles, even though SHADO's existence itself is secret.
  • Slip into Something More Comfortable: Oh so averted by Gay Ellis, whose 'break outfit' of skin tight silver bodysuit and mini with high heeled silver go-go boots doesn't look any more comfortable than her skin tight silver all over duty uniform.
  • Slow Laser: The aliens have a laser weapon in their ships. It fires a bolt of energy that travels slow enough for the human eye to see it moving.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Straker and Freeman.
  • Solemn Ending Theme: It has a fast upbeat opening theme, but closes with an ominous atmospheric piece.
  • Space Clothes:
    • The uniforms of the moonbase personnel, of course. The female command-and-control staff wear skin-tight, silver uniforms, while the male pilots wear more mundane, but somewhat futuristic, flightsuits with belts and boots of shiny plastic.
    • The crew of the Skydiver wears very tight trousers and fishnet shirts that show off the men's nipples and chest hair (but are less revelaing for the women).
    • The personnel at SHADO headquarters wear white, futuristic-looking jumpsuits. The female version is skin-tight but the male version has a looser fit, at least on top .
    • Some of the civilian fashions also have a spacy, futuristic look, while other fashions are pretty mundane by early 70's standards.
    • There's even Space Underwear: a scene with a female moonbase crewmember changing clothes shows that her bra and panties are of silver-metallic fabric.
  • Space Is Noisy: The shots of UF Os travelling through the vacuum of space are always accompanied by the whining noise from their engines.
  • Stealth in Space: Averted. Nothing escapes the eagle eye of SID; in fact most alien plots are about trying to get past the SHADO defence system.
  • Stock Footage: The underwing rocket packs on the Sky One fighter resemble those used by RAF ground attack fighters, saving money on shots of them firing.
  • Sweater Girl: The female personnel at SHADO headquarters affect this look: their uniforms don't include actual sweaters, but the top half of their jumpsuits is skin-tight, has long-sleeves and a high neckline, and emphasizes their breasts.
  • Tap on the Head: "Ordeal". An alien punches Colonel Foster in the chin and he goes out like a light. It turns out to have occurred during an It Was All A Dream sequence.
  • Time Stands Still: "Timelash", affecting all of SHADO headquarters including the film studio aboveground. Straker and Col. Lake were initially unaffected when they entered the base but have to use a very dangerous stimulant to keep moving. The episode's cold open has Straker suddenly smashing computers and a corpse in a runaway go-kart appearing out of nowhere as time resumes.
  • To the Batpole!: Pilots use chutes to quickly get to their interceptors on Moonbase and the SkyDiver submarine. SHADO's headquarters (hidden under a film studio) is accessed by Straker's office which serves as an elevator. As Gerry Anderson pointed out in a DVD Commentary, it's just as well no-one peeked into the boss' window and wondered why his office was sinking into the ground.
  • Truth Serums: "Computer Affair". The "GL-7 serum", one of the "new anodynes", is used on a captured alien at Straker's orders to lower his resistance so he'll talk. Unfortunately it kills him instead, due to either his different biology or him somehow committing suicide to prevent himself from talking.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Those shiny metal belt pouches the Bridge Bunnies wear? That's not some high-tech Everything Sensor or computer repair tools; it contains a mirror and makeup kit.
  • Vapor Wear: The Skydiver crew wear fishnet tops (string vests) which show off the men's chest hair and nipples. It is implied that the women are bare-breasted underneath as well, but nothing explicit is shown and in the few closeup shots they seem to be wearing nude-coloured bras.
  • Video Phone: Multiple examples during Earth-Moon communications in "The Dalotek Affair" and one in "The Responsibility Seat".
  • We Used to Be Friends: Straker thinks that Henderson should be in charge of SHADO; ten years later, they're constantly at each other's throats.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: "ESP". John Croxley's wife was killed by a UFO crashing into his house and he blames SHADO for her death. He lures Ed Straker and Alec Freeman to the ruins of his house with the intent of killing them at midnight.
  • Zeerust:
    • Most of the "futuristic" fashions in the series seem very 1969-ish today. Even though most of the series was actually filmed in The '70s, the design was probably done in the previous decade.
    • The turbine-powered, streamlined cars are obviously inspired by the concept cars of the 1960's.
    • The gender roles, with women mostly in subordinate jobs or as housewives, and lots of Bridge Bunnies around. Averted for the moonbase which has a female commander.
    • While not exactly outdated, the predictions of an extensive space/lunar industry and widespread use of supersonic transport already by 1980 feels like Apollo-era optimism today.
    • Averted in some cases: the series foresees the pervasive use (though not the nature) of computers in everyday life, spacecraft piggy-back launched from aircraft, voice print identification, car and cordless telephones, and that space debris will become a serious concern. Also, advanced or impossible (for the 1960s) tissue identification methods (e.g. DNA analysis) are nonetheless implied to be used routinely by the show's era.

Alternative Title(s): UFO