ARTICLES on this page:
♦ SPACE: 1999 STUN GUN
♦ SPACE: 1999 COMMLOCK
♦ LIS – JUPITER-II
SPACE: 1999 STUN GUN
BACKGROUND: ORIGIN: TV / Space: 1999 RELEASE DATE: 1975 (U.S.). PRODUCTION Co.: ITC (UK – Incorporated Television Company). RELEASED BY: A&E Home Video & CBS Fox. IMDB RATING: 7.4 / 10 ALTERNATE TITLES: Moonbase Alpha. WRITER: Gerry & Sylvia Anderson + others / episode. DIRECTOR : Varied by episode. CINEMATOGRAPHER: Varied by episode. STARS: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Nick Tate, Catherine Schell. PRODUCTION NOTES: 2 Seasons, 24 Episodes / season, color, mono sound. PLOT SUMMARY: Atomic waste is being stored in two sites on the far side of the moon. An unexplained ‘accident’ detonates the nuclear stockpiles. The force of the explosion hurls the moon out of orbit and sends it careening off into space. Individual episodes had their own unrelated story lines, most of which centered on the survival of the crew of Moonbase Alpha. Various natural disasters and (usually) hostile aliens kept the ‘Alphans’ on their toes from week to week. COMMENTS: The show was amusing. However, it was more science-fantasy than science-fiction. The cast worked well together and did the best they could to be believable in stories that were often not-so-believable. Like the crew of Star Trek’s NCC-1701 Enterprise, the crew of Moonbase Alpha often faced alien menaces and got to ‘explore’ alien worlds. The Moonbase Alpha sets were simple but decent and consistent from episode to episode. The alien world sets were fairly minimal, as were the number of alien individuals encountered in any given episode. The show often had serious plot holes or ‘flubs’. Technical issues or problems were rarely given plausible explanations. The biggest plot screw-up on the show was the fact that the nuclear detonations that hurled the moon into open space happened on the dark side of the moon. If this had actually happened, the moon would have been launched toward Earth, not away from it into open space [in that case, two episodes (maybe), then big collision & everyone dies]. There were also inconsistencies regarding props. For example, the COMMLOCK (Moonbase Alpha’s equivalent of a Star Trek communicator) had a number pad for selecting transmission channels; no character used this pad, they just spoke into the device & got the person or station section they wanted. The Stun Gun had a number of issues. First off, there were several different models (different top plates, different button arrangements, etc.) which was never explained. The stun guns only had two power settings – Stun and Kill. Yet, there are four ‘beam emitters’ on the device – why? Two settings should only need two emitters (max). Even Star Trek TOS phasers needed only one emitter for all nine power settings. The other thing odd about the stun gun props were the number of ‘buttons’ on the body and the grip. It is possible that the buttons on the grip were meant to change the power level for the stun or kill settings. But what about all those other black buttons all over the body? What were they supposed to do? Also, the stun beams were different colors in different episodes – why? Another major flub were the Eagle transporter ships. There were episodes in which one or more of these ships were destroyed. Yet, there were always plenty more to go around. Just how many Eagles were there on Alpha? With their ‘limited resources’, the Alphans certainly weren’t building replacements for the destroyed Eagles. Overall, (IMHO) I’d say the show was more like Lost In Space than Star Trek. In spite of its flaws and often silly plots, the show was entertaining, as long as you didn’t take it too seriously. Episodes are currently (2022) available on IMDB.com and on Amazon Firestick.
THE MODEL: MADE BY: MPC. SCALE: 1/1 – Full scale. MATERIAL: Plastic. FEATURES: No working features other than a movable Stun / Kill selector switch, but the kit is designed to permit the addition of lighting effects. ADDED FEATURES: I improvised my own light & sound electronics. I equipped my stun gun with a red laser for the ‘kill’ setting, and a 3mm green LED for the ‘stun’ setting. This required installing a working electrical slide switch under the kit’s plastic Stun / Kill selector switch and a push button switch under the kit’s trigger. I installed an old sound board from my ‘spares’ box ( the effect is nothing like the TV show’s sound-FX, but it will do ). My stun gun is powered by a 12-volt battery with a 220-ohm resistor to adapt the current to the laser & LED input limits (approx. 4.5 volts, max). COMMENTS: This is a very simple model, with few parts. It goes together easily and the parts fit well. There are decals for the Stun / Kill markings and for the black stripe on the front of the gun. However, I replaced these with images I made up in Paintshop Pro. The kit’s interior is laid out nicely and does allow for easy installation of LED lighting and control switches. The grip has adequate room for batteries & even a small sound board. The instructions are simple and clear, BUT lack any directions for painting or applying decals (you have to refer to the kit’s box art for these details). If you’re looking for something ‘different’ in a plastic model, you might find this MPC product interesting.
A video showing construction of the Stun Gun model & added electronics.
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SPACE: 1999 COMMLOCK
BACKGROUND: All information is the same as for the Stun Gun, above.
COMMENTS: The COMMLOCK was a very interesting concept & prop for its time. On the TV show, every crewman on Moonbase Alpha had their own personal COMMLOCK. Each device acted as a portable intercom and general communications device, allowing base personnel to speak to any other individual, or group of individuals, on the base or with Eagle space ships traveling off-base. Each COMMLOCK had its own encrypted transponder code / signal, allowing the base’s central computer to pinpoint the location of any given crewman at any given moment. In addition to its communication and tracking features, the COMMLOCK also served as a ‘key-card’ providing Moonbase Alpha crewmen with the ability to electronically lock or unlock doors and access panels throughout the base. The actual prop had one very interesting feature. In episodes where the audience could see a COMMLOCK’s screen, they were looking at a live shot (not a visual effect added in post-production). The hero versions of the COMMLOCK props were fitted with what was then the world’s smallest TV screen (2″ diagonal?). The TV receiver & screen inside the COMMLOCK prop were linked to a transmitter via hidden cable (remember, there was no WIFI back then). Pre-recorded video was transmitted over the cable and appeared on the prop’s screen. I’m not sure if vocals or sound-effects were live (via a speaker inside the prop) or synced-up to the video in post-production. Careful camera angles and close-ups on the prop’s TV screen kept the IRL wiring off-camera and out of the audience’s sight. The result was that the props came off as very believable working communications devices. Another thing that made the COMMLOCK realistic was the show’s time period. While Star Trek’s TOS communicators were sleek and futuristic, the show’s time period was set some two centuries in the future, so the compact devices were believable for that period. Space: 1999 however, was released in 1975 and the show was set a mere 24 years into the future. The size and functions of the COMMLOCK seemed believable for the 1999 time frame.
THE MODEL: MADE BY: MPC. SCALE: 1/1 – Full scale. MATERIAL: Plastic. FEATURES: No working features. The back panel is designed to be removable. The bezel (the hooded part over the view-screen) is made to be removable in case you ever want to change the screen decal you installed. ADDED FEATURES: There are no sound effects, but I improvised my own lighting system. I put a plastic ‘board’ in place below the view-screen and mounted two LEDs on it. One is a frosted 5mm white light LED, facing straight up below the center of the view screen (approx. 1″ below the screen). The second LED is a flat, clear, 2mm white light device, aimed at the side of the COMMLOCK to provide light for two of the ‘buttons’. A simple momentary pushbutton switch was installed behind the round black plastic button on the top section of the COMMLOCK. Gently pressing the kit’s round button part depresses the switch and lights up the screen and the large rectangular red ‘button’ on one side and the smaller green ‘button’. Power for the lighting system is provided by a single 12-volt battery linked to the LEDs through a 220-ohm resistor (from the positive wire on the battery pack).
COMMENTS: Like the Stun Gun, this is a simple model with few parts. It goes together easily and the parts fit well. There are decals for the COMMLOCK’s body markings, as well as a choice of four different view-screen images. Because my lighting is rather bright, I felt it would overpower the thin decals for the view-screen. I copied (scanned) the decals and reprinted them on peel-n-stick label paper & covered the images with clear laminating film. I selected the Barbara Bain image for my screen, cut it out, and applied it to a very thin sheet of clear plastic. I cut the plastic to size and installed it under the clear view-screen part located inside the bezel.
If you’re looking for something ‘different’ in a plastic model, you might find this MPC product interesting.
A video showing construction of the COMMLOCK & its added lighting feature.
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LIS – JUPITER-II
BACKGROUND: ORIGIN: Lost In Space TV show. RELEASE DATE: Sept. 8, 1965 (US) RUN TIME: 1 hr. ON-AIR: 9/15/65 ~ 3/6/68 83 episodes. PRODUCTION Co.: Irwin Allan Productions / Jodi Productions / 20th Century Fox TV Productions / CBS TV Network. RELEASED BY: CBS. IMDB RATING: ? ALTERNATE TITLES: N/A. WRITER: varied by episode. DIRECTOR : varied by episode. CINEMATOGRAPHER: F.G. Carson, Gene Polito, Winton Hoch, C.G. Clarke. STARS: Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright, Marta Kristen, Billy Mummy, Jonathan Harris, B9. PRODUCTION NOTES: Early episodes B/W, later episodes were in color. PLOT SUMMARY: The Robinson family are on man’s first intergalactic space mission, flying to Alpha Centuri. Professor Smith (J. Harris) sabotages their ship, the Jupiter-II. They fly off-course and end up in an unknown sector of space. The first stories were light but serious sci-fi, focusing on the family’s efforts to survive. While the Robinsons’ survival was at the core of most episodes, the individual story plots became sillier and sillier as the show went on. To paraphrase Jonathan Harris, ‘we knew it was time to pack it in when our villain was a giant talking carrot’. COMMENTS: The sets were cheap and unrealistic, the aliens’ costumes were cheesy and overdone, and the plots got more laughable as the show went on. However, the show had a lot of fans, including me, simply because it was fun. The robot, B9, alone was often enough reason to watch another episode. There were also some technical problems most fans were never aware of, and we probably didn’t care about. For one thing, the interior Jupiter-II sets didn’t match up to the contours of the outer hull. For another, there were never any indications of where the Jupiter-II’s bulky auxiliary hardware (the ‘chariot’ & the ‘space pod’) were stored, or how they were launched from the J-II.
THE MODEL: KIT BY: Polar Lights. SCALE: 1/48 MATERIAL: Plastic. FEATURES: Clear front vision port (window), sturdy landing legs, clear engine pod, nicely detailed interior (upper & lower decks). ADDED FEATURES: Electronic LED lighting & an ‘alien landscape’ display base. COMMENTS: The Polar Lights kit is nicely detailed. It accurately replicates the on-screen Jupiter-II’s exterior (hull & landing legs). There are a few flaws / shortcomings in the interior, though. Firstly, the pilot seats are horrible, just big boxy lumps with none of the shape & detail in their on-screen counterparts. The ‘ladders’ at the rear of the upper deck are molded right on the wall – there’d be no way to grip or step on the rungs. Worse yet, the ladders don’t go anywhere – they’re supposed to provide access to the lower deck, but there’s no opening in the upper deck’s floor. The same flaw applies to the ‘elevator cage’. While nicely detailed, there’s no connection to the lower deck. Based on photos I’ve seen of the original J-II sets, I think the stasis tubes are a bit too small, but that’s a minor detail. The lower deck (quarters deck) is nicely detailed, but difficult to access – it seems a waste of time to build and paint an area that won’t be seen unless you bother to remove the upper deck. This wasn’t a problem for me. I simply discarded the lower deck and used the space to install chaser boards to drive the LED lighting for the upper deck. Of course, I installed a purpose-built 32-LED chaser board inside the Jupiter’s engine pod. All the pod’s ‘ports’ were masked off (inside & outside) before spraying it with two coats of Krylon flat black paint (inside & out) to keep light from leaking through the final coat of flat aluminum paint on the outside of the engine pod. After the paint was fully dry, the masking was removed, allowing the ‘spinning’ LEDs inside the pod to be seen through the clear ports. I installed a combination of directly placed LEDs and fiber optic strands to create animated lighting effects in the flight control consoles, the scanner station, the stasis tubes, and the computer wall panel. I still say they hijacked this design element from Irwin Allan’s Seaview submarine (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV show). Other than discarding the lower deck and adding interior lighting, I made one other modification to the Polar Lights kit. I needed a way to get the wiring from four chaser boards (including the one in the engine pod) and two 12volt LED lighting strips into the display base to be connected to the toggle switches and A/C power source. To do this, I drilled out channels inside each of the three landing legs, then ran long wires (red + / black -) thru holes in the lower hull, through the landing legs, and into holes drilled in the top of the display base. Bingo! Everything gets powered up, but there are no wires showing anywhere.
To see the Jupiter’s lighting effects ‘in action’ click on the YouTube icon & watch the video….
LEFT: Jupiter-II model on ‘alien landscape’ display base.
RIGHT: Close-up. Window omitted for clear view of interior.
ABOVE: “Spinning” lighting in the engine pod. Close-up of the engine pod.
ABOVE: Custom 32 LED chaser circuit installed in the engine pod. Note hot-glue to keep chaser from shifting.
ABOVE: Flight Control / Pilots’ Seats Stasis Tubes
ABOVE: The Scanner Station The ‘Computer Wall’
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