|Gabrielle Drake as Lt Gay Ellis in "UFO."|
Fans of television science fiction usually have fond memories of the Moonbase ladies from classic British science fiction show "UFO." While it only lasted for one season (or series, as the British call it), it has become a massive cult classic.
If they don't recall the actual series, they likely at least recall the moonbase girls with the purple hair. Well, the leader of the pack was Lt. Gay Ellis, played by one Gabrielle Drake.
Gabrielle is the little sister of British singer-songwriter Nick Drake.
"UFO" was filmed in 1969 by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson for Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment Company.
|Gabrielle with series star Ed Bishop, who played Cmdr. Ed Straker.|
The series aired in the United Kingdom and Canada in 1970. It only lasted for one season, or series as the British call it. It came to the United States and elsewhere beginning in 1972, when "UFO" was syndicated.
Gabrielle was not in the entire series. She had another project and left midway through the series. In total, the Lt. Ellis character appeared in 11 of 26 episodes.
Despite being in less than half the episodes, Gabrielle's characterization became one of the most memorable aspects of the series.
|Michael Billington played Col. Paul Foster.|
In fact, in virtually all subsequent marketing of "UFO," Gabrielle Drake as Lt. Ellis is invariably prominently displayed somewhere on the packaging.
It is easy to see why Gabrielle's character is so prominent, with her infectious smile and glamorous looks.
|Gabrielle with fellow Moonbase denizen Joan Harrington.|
As you can see, the most distinctive aspect of the Moonbase personnel is that they are female and have purple hair. Nobody has any idea why they have purple hair - they just do.
|A rare shot of the rear of the Moonbase outfits.|
In fact, though it is not as noticeable, almost everyone on "UFO" wears a wig at one point or another - including the male characters.
Sylvia Anderson, who designed the costumes, had a theory that wigs would become commonplace in the future. They sort of have, but not purple like she envisioned them.
The Moonbase crew is there to direct interceptors against approaching alien spacecraft. They spend a lot of time on the radio.
However, there are some episodes when Gabrielle's character gets to return to earth. In those episodes, she switches out to more normal attire (usually with a futuristic bent, such as metallic skirts and such) and ditches the purple wig.
|Gabrielle's character dressed in normal street clothes while on earth - and no wig.|
For those who like precision, the UFO Moonbase is in the Mare Imbrium in the northeast part of the Moon.
The episodes of "UFO" were broadcast out of filming sequence. Thus, even though Gabrielle left midway through the series, some of her episodes appear toward the end of the season. It appears she is there throughout, and just not in some episodes. In fact, she had left "UFO" completely when the show went on hiatus and changes studios. The episodes are not written in sequence, either, with some falling in "UFO time" before other episodes which were written and produced earlier.
All of this has led to a lot of confusion about the chronological order of the episodes. Believe it or not, a lot of study has gone into placing the episodes in their proper chronological sequence. However, some of that is based on guesswork and "clues." The show was simply filmed without regard to trying to create a continuous storyline, so each episode essentially is self-contained.
There are occasional efforts to revive "UFO" in some format. These have included both new television series and films.
The show was at one point slated to have a second series, or season, with the original cast (or at least some of them). This did not happen. However, Gerry Anderson did sell the project sufficiently to get another series made, "Space: 1999" starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.
"Space: 1999" did not include any of the actors or characters from "UFO." It also did not feature the purple wigs or metallic costumes.
Instead, "Space:1999" featured drab tones, formless outfits and surprisingly dull plots. It did last for two years, from 1975-77, so in a sense was more successful. However, it is not remembered as vividly by fans as its predecessor.
|When working on Earth, the Moonbase ladies did not wear their purple wigs or metallic outfits.|
For some reason, science fiction made in the '60s tended to have very bright colors, vivid contrasts, tight or skimpy costumes and provocative characters. Science fiction shows produced in the '70s tended toward less color, muted tones, formless costumes and characters who spent a lot of time agonizing over what to do.
Overall, the science fiction shows produced earlier, such as "UFO," "Star Trek" and "Lost In Space," tended to make a bigger impact with audiences over the long term. You always see new "Star Trek" movies, and "Lost In Space" also has occasional revivals. There also is perpetual talk about bringing back "UFO."
Nobody, however, seems interested in reviving shows like "Space: 1999."
There was a plan to make a big-screen version of "UFO" for release in 2013. Nothing came of it. There has been no further word on any plans to revive the show.
Gabrielle Drake herself, though, needs no reviving. She has been very busy in the years since "UFO."
Gabrielle, who currently lives in Wenlock Abbey, England, has been in a number of prominent shows over the years.
In fact, Gabrielle was on "Coronation Street" before her appearances in "UFO," then returned to the show forty years later in 2009 for a couple of appearances as another character.
Gabrielle also appeared in "The Brothers" in the early 1970s. She also does a lot of theater and commercial work.