Mon 11 Jun 2012
“The Square Triangle.” An installment of UFO: Season 1, Episode 10. First broadcast: 9 December 1970. Ed Bishop, Michael Billington, Ayshea, Gabrielle Drake, Adrienne Corri, Dolores Mantez, Antonia Ellis, Allan Cuthbertson, Patrick Mower, George Sewell, Anthony Chinn, Keith Alexander, Gary Myers, Hugo Panczak, Godfrey James, Norma Ronald, Mel Oxley (the voice of SID, uncredited). Producers and format: Gerry Anderson, Sylvia Anderson, and Reg Hill. Writer: Alan Pattillo. Director: David Lane.
“SHADO is headed by Commander Edward Straker (played by Ed Bishop), a former United States Air Force Colonel and astronaut…”
It’s been a hard day’s night for our blue-skinned alien: He has just flown almost thirty trillion miles from his home planet to Earth (which his race is anxious to colonize) without being detected — until the last few thousand miles of his journey.
An Earth-orbiting space detector (a posh-voiced computer system named SID) picks up his saucer-shaped spacecraft and directs a Moon-based rocket fighter to intercept him just outside Earth’s atmosphere.
Although he manages to avoid destruction, the alien must still make an emergency landing somewhere in rural southern England. Leaving his ship behind, he wanders through the woods more or less aimlessly — until he finds a small cottage. As he stealthily pushes the door open, the last thing he would expect to find on the other side is a woman with a gun.
And a space alien is the last thing the woman with the gun would anticipate seeing — because for some time now she and her lover have been waiting nervously for her husband to come home and walk through that door….
This episode of UFO seems to be one of those “high concepts” — in this case Earth vs. the Flying Saucers meets Double Indemnity.
However, don’t dismiss this one too hastily. If you accept the show’s “reality” (sometimes called “willing suspension of disbelief”), then “The Square Triangle” actually succeeds.
The man in charge of hunting down alien intruders (Bishop) has his hands full with this case, and because of it he is impaled on the horns of an ethical dilemma. He has uncovered a foiled murder plot. What actions should he take? He can’t arrest them because they’ve killed an alien who officially doesn’t exist — if he does he’ll have too much explaining to do, thereby exposing his super tip-top secret operation to the world. However, if he lets the plotters go, they may try it again.
His decision, a tough one, might not sit well with some viewers, but it’s what makes “The Square Triangle” one of the best episodes of the otherwise mediocre UFO series.
…and if you happen to watch this particular show, stay with it through the final closing credits, where you’ll see the ultimate resolution of the plot line.
Gerry Anderson (born 1929) will always be fondly remembered for his children’s shows featuring brilliant marionette and scale model work: Supercar (1961-62), Fireball XL5 (1962-63), Stingray (1964-65), Thunderbirds (1965-66), Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-68, with a CGI reboot in 2005), and Terrahawks (1983-86).
Anderson is also infamously and perhaps unfairly known for his two live-action SF series UFO (1970-71) and Space: 1999 (1975-77), but he was also responsible for a fairly entertaining crime-adventure show called The Protectors, starring Robert Vaughn (1972-74, 52 episodes). He also produced one fascinating science fiction feature film, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969, a.k.a. Doppelganger).
Finally, some trivia: Col. Virginia Lake, a continuing character in the UFO series (but absent from “The Square Triangle”), was played by Wanda Ventham, who would become the mother of Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor currently making a big splash as Holmes in the Sherlock series.
NOTE: This episode may be seen on YouTube in five parts, beginning here.