18 July 2005

[cult_tv] The Passing Of Commander Straker and Colonel Foster of SHADO

(Editor's Note: The following is a combination of recently declassified publicly-released information passed to me by a correspondent who would prefer to remain anonymous. No information sensitive to any nation's or planetary security has been included. I extend my public appreciation to this confidential source)

I'd like to take a moment to salute the passing of two genuine heroes: Commander Ed Straker and Colonel David Foster of Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defense Organisation, or SHADO.

They passed away within a few days of each other: Col. Foster on 3 June 2005, after a battle with cancer (aged 63), and Cdr. Straker on 8 June 2005, due to an infection resulting from surgical complications (aged 72). I must apologize for the delay, as declassification of documents and records from SHADO is an ongoing process and much of the story of those troubled times during the late 1970's and early 1980's remain to be told.

The basics are known to just about everyone. Originally broadcast as a single-season-length's British television series, the docudrama UFO detailed the struggle of a group of dedicated men and women to defend all the nations of the earth from a stealth extraterrestrial invasion.

Little is still known about these ETs, and sightings of their ships are still regarded as the disturbed visions of an unstable few. Perhaps it is the gruesome apparent motivation of the ETs-who abducted Terrans in order to transplant human body parts into thier own-that compels people to continue to believe that this invasion was nothing more than a one-off mid-budget series by the artistic team (Gerry and Sylvia Anderson) who was responsible for such lights of children's series such as The Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterions.

Perhaps then it was the cover under which SHADO operated that guaranteed this disconnect. During SHADO's most intense period of operation, the organisation was camouflaged by its public face, an English film production outfit based in London called Harlington-Straker Studios, which was mainly involved in producing mid-quality, largely forgettable (and forgotten) dramas for the British television audience (there is no record of a HSS production ever being screened in America). Even in this day when people can be easily convinced to believe absurd things, what is seen on the small screen can be written off to fiction if found to be sufficiently disturbing-something portrayed as a film production in its own right, doubly-so.
Therefore, even though many details of SHADO's operation, the film set, the headquarters, and Moonbase are public record, there are still those who find necessary comfort in denying the concrete evidence. Looked at from another angle-the continuation of normal lives in the face of a bizarre and lethal invasion-the operation of SHADO can be seen to be a remarkable success.

The casting of this enterprise as a film production company did have a fortunate side-effect: the creation of a second career for these military men as popular actors. As actor Ed Bishop, Cdr. Straker (who was originally a USAF officer) forged a successful supporting-character career in the British market, where American accents (his actor's bio has him being born in New York and studying university in Boston Massachusettes) are in demand. Ironically, he played the lead voice in the Anderson production Captain Scarlet as well as a supporting role in the 1969 Anderson science-fiction drama Doppelgänger (released in America as Journey to the Far Side Of The Sun, starring Roy Thinnes) and, perhaps most famously as the Aries-1B lunar ship pilot, a non-speaking part, in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 epic 2001:A Space Odyssey. As actor Michael Billington, Col. Foster became a mainstay in British television and drama, most famously as Daniel Fogarty in The Onedin Line (1971-1974).

The creation of second lives for Straker and Foster gave them prosperity beyond the deactivation of SHADO, which happened sometime in the late 1980s after the ET threat had been abated. Foster (as Billington) wrote for and acted in television, and Straker (as Bishop) played supporting roles in TV and movies until 2001. His voice was still in high demand for radio. Both played supporting roles in James Bond films, with Billington a perennial contender for the part of 007.

In sacrificing thier careers, families, and in some cases, lives, in defending all the earth from the ET menace, Straker and Foster deserve our deepest gratitude and respectful memory. In living they showed us how to live, and in death they stand as examples to everyone who is interested in freedom from threat.

(Editor's Note: if you're wondering if I'm going to be nerding out on addresses in the near future, the answer is yes.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On this cleip you can see HAL going nuts. Well, probably going nuts on a lego super computer