SHADO's main headquarters is hidden beneath a film studio near London England. SHADO also has a base on the moon (Moonbase) and a fleet of submarines (Skydiver). Incoming UFO's are initially detected by an Earth orbiting satellite named SID (Space Intruder Detector). An initial interception attempt is made in space with three Interceptor craft launched from Moonbase. A second attempt is made in the Earth's atmosphere with a fighter plane (Sky One) launched from Skydiver. Landed UFO's are tracked down with ground Mobiles.
SHADO is run by the extremely dedicated Commander Ed Straker, and is overseen by General James Henderson. Straker's seconds in command are Col. Alec Freeman, Col. Paul Foster, and Col. Virginia Lake. Moonbase is often commanded by Lt. Gay Ellis or Lt. Nina Barry. Skydiver is often commanded by Capt. Peter Carlin or Capt. Lew Waterman.
The episodes are typically about SHADO's attempts to thwart the Alien invasions, and the various Alien strategies to disable SHADO or kill its commander. Recurring themes include maintaining SHADO security, keeping SHADO properly funded, and the effect that the secrecy has on the personal lives of SHADO's operatives. - (Source)
The show's concept was unusually dark for its time: the basic premise was that Earth had not simply been visited by extraterrestrial visitors, but indeed was under brutal alien attack, and that alien invaders were abducting humans to use as involuntary organ transplant donors. A later episode, "The Cat With Ten Lives," contains a sinister plot point which suggests that the UFO pilots are not humanoid aliens at all, but are in fact human abductees under the control of the alien intelligences, suggesting that, as in Captain Scarlet, the aliens, in the dialogue of Dr. Jackson, "may have no physical being at all and therefore need a container, a vehicle – our bodies".
The show also featured realistic, believable relationships between the human characters to a far greater extent than usual in a typical science fiction series, showing the clear influence of American programmes like The Twilight Zone and Star Trek and British action series such as Danger Man. One early episode, "Computer Affair," suggested an interracial romance between two continuing characters – something that was uncommon in British TV of the period – while others showed the heroes making mistakes with sometimes fatal consequences. Furthermore, relatively few episodes of the series actually had happy or (for the characters) satisfying endings.
The episode "Confetti Check A-OK" is almost entirely devoted to the breakdown of Straker's marriage under the strain of maintaining the secrecy of the classified nature of his duties. "A Question of Priorities" takes this exploration further, and hinges on Straker having to make the life-or-death choice of whether to divert a SHADO aircraft to deliver life-saving medical supplies to his critically injured son, or allow the aircraft to continue on its mission to attempt a last-chance intercept against an incoming UFO. Two key images from "A Question of Priorities" – Straker's son being struck down and his ex-wife declaring she never wants to see him again – are repeated in flashback in two subsequent episodes, "Sub Smash" and "Mindbender," suggesting that Straker remains haunted by these unresolved emotional issues.
Another episode, "The Square Triangle," centres on a woman and her lover who plan to murder her husband. When they accidentally kill an alien from a downed UFO instead, SHADO intervenes and doses the guilty pair with amnesia drugs. (This was decades ahead of a similar story device in Men in Black, and it was one that was deployed for similar reasons.) Straker realises, however, that the drugs will not affect their basic motivation and, worse, he cannot reveal the truth to local legal authorities. The end credits of this episode run over a scene set in the near future, showing the woman visiting her husband's grave and then walking away to meet her lover.
Some critics complained that the emphasis on down-to-earth relationships weakened the show's science fiction premise and were also a means of saving money on special effects. The money-saving argument might have been true to a limited extent, but the Andersons made a virtue of necessity. They had always hoped to direct live-action TV drama, and although the marionette shows helped them develop impressive skills in effects and scripting, they had always considered them as essentially being a way of keeping in work and earning money while they tried to break into "real" TV drama. Others countered that the characters were more well-rounded than in other science fiction shows and that science fiction concepts and special effects in themselves did not preclude realistic action and interaction and believable, emotionally engaging plots. Ultimately, the mix of dark human drama with traditional science fiction adventure is probably the reason for UFO's enduring cult popularity and what sets it apart from the rest of TV SF series. For example, the time-freeze plot of the episode "Timelash" is similar to The Outer Limits episode "The Premonition". But UFO adds a drama twist: Straker repeatedly injects a drug (X 50 stimulant) to remain awake during the time freeze, which results in Straker being hospitalised in SHADO's medical centre. The ending not only shows him lying in bed recovering from the harmful effects of drug use, but has a subtext that the plot of the episode may, in fact, have been a drug-induced delusion, although actual evidence of the events such as Turner – guest cast member Patrick Allen – being found shot dead by Colonel Paul Foster (Michael Billington) and guards at the start, plus Colonel Virginia Lake (Wanda Ventham) being found having been knocked out, also the gate security officer's records showing Straker's car as being 'logged out' but not 'logged back in' to SHADO H.Q. together with a high powered hand-held rocket launcher being found on a building roof having been fired, would subsequently prove the events depicted in the episode HAD in fact occurred....
UFO confused broadcasters in both Britain and the United States, who could not decide if it was a programme for adults or for children – In the UK, the first series was originally shown in the 5.15pm 'tea-time' slot on Saturdays, and on Saturday mornings during an early repeat, by both London Weekend and the-then South-East franchisee, Southern Television, which began broadcasting the first series almost two months before the London area. (The fact that the Andersons's companies, like APFilms and Century 21, were primarily associated with children's programming did not help matters.) This confusion – coupled with erratic broadcast schedules – are considered contributing factors in its cancellation, although UFO is credited with opening the door to moderately successful runs of later live-action, adult-oriented programming by Anderson such as The Protectors and Space: 1999. - (Source)
In the UK, people drive on the left side of the road and steering wheels are on the right side of the vehicle. However, in UFO's version of 1980s Britain, both of these have been reversed. The show's creators were simply going along with what was being predicted at the time, which was that the UK would switch its driving system sometime in the near future. That change never happened.
Gerry Anderson intended the second season of the series to focus on alien attempts to destroy the Moon. When "UFO" was cancelled, Anderson developed this idea into Space: 1999 (1975).
Female moonbase personnel wore purple, pink and blue wigs because Gerry Anderson thought the color looked the best under the set's lights.
Initially Ed Bishop's hair was bleached for the series. As time wore on they decided to switch to a blonde wig instead to avoid damaging his hair with repeated bleaching. Bishop used to own this wig and would bring it with him to sci-fi conventions.
The series was filmed at two separate studios due to the untimely closure of MGM's Borehamwood Studios. Pinewood Studios became the final studio after a six month wait for availability. Because of this, many of the non-contractually obligated actors left to pursue other projects, making recasting a necessity for some roles.
On December 31, 1994 the video game company Microprose released a game called "UFO: Enemy Unknown" based on this TV series.
The name of the planet that the aliens hailed from is never mentioned.
In this series, the term "U.F.O." is usually not "spelled out". Most often, it is pronounced as a word: "you-foh." Only automated systems like the voice of the computer on the interlink satellite pronounce it "you-eff-oh".
Gerry Anderson's first live-action TV series, after a number of shows produced in the "Supermarionation" process. Star Ed Bishop provided voices for one of these shows, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967). - (Source)
Here is a list of the cast members who played the main characters in UFO:
Cmdr. Ed Straker: Ed Bishop
Col. Paul Foster: Michael Billington
Col. Alec Freeman: George Sewell
Col. Virginia Lake: Wanda Ventham
Gen. James Henderson: Grant Taylor
Dr. Doug Jackson: Vladek Sheybal
Lt. Gay Ellis: Gabrielle Drake
Lt. Nina Barry: Dolores Mantez
Lt. Joan Harrington: Antonia Ellis
Lt. Keith Ford: Keith Alexander
Capt. Lew Waterman: Gary Myers
Capt. Peter Carlin: Peter Gordeno
Lt. Mark Bradley: Harry Baird
Lt. John Masters: Jon Kelley
Miss Ealand: Norma Ronald
Dr. Shroeder: Maxwell Shaw
Skydiver Navigator: Jeremy Wilkin
Skydiver Operative: Georgina Moon
SHADO Radio Operator: Anouska Hempel
See Also: Space 1999 Eagle 1 Transporter Deluxe Edition 1:72 Scale Model Kit, Space 1999 The Alien Moon Buggy 1:25 Scale Model Kit, White Jumpsuits, Catsuited Babes, Pornstaches and Other Joys of ‘70s Sci-Fi Television, Space: 1999 (1975-1977)(Gerry Anderson)(ITV),