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Spaceships that were almost other spaceships #3: The Eagle Transporter

Space 1999 was originally intended to be a spin-off series to the earlier Gerry Anderson TV series: UFO. Moonbase Alpha was originally going to be "Moon City", which was a build-up from the smaller moonbase seen in UFO. As the show was originally supposed to be in the same universe, the ships were originally meant to be the UFO interceptors.

These vehicles came from this beautiful concept piece by the legendary concept artist Mike Trim. These vehicles were designed when the Apollo programs were still in recent memory and you can clearly see some stains of NASA style 60s and 70s engineering in here. I do like this design. In case you're not familiar with the way these vehicles intercept UFO's on the show, there is a large one-shot rocket mounted to the front of the vehicle. Often when I am designing vehicles somebody will comment that it looks a bit like a cock. I imagine Mike Trim gets that from time to time.

This design was adapted to the final interceptor design below. As you can see, the penis overtones have been completely removed so there is no chance of anybody saying it looks like it's firing a massive dildo off into space.

These vehicels were originally going to be defending "Space City" but when the show got changed to a new IP the decision was made to re-visit the vehicle design. Mike Trim's original piece was combined with a couple of Chris Foss pieces to come up with something new. Chris Foss concept work on this show is very hard to come by but the image below appears to be his first piece depicting the design that would become the Eagle.

This led to the piece below which shows something much more akin to the Eagle we recognise today.

When you put all of this together you get the beautiful Eagle Transporter. This vehicle was the backbone of the show in so many ways and appeared across the two seasons in many guises, a true utility vehicle. It looked so nice on-screen and I have such fond memories cooing over these things as a kid. Looking at the design now I can see a pretty serious issue: There's nowhere to store the fuel. The vehicle has those lovely bell-shaped rocket engines but nowhere on it's frame to store all the fuel that these kind of engine's need. Unless we presume it's stashed under immense pressure in those tiny ball-shaped pods. In case you've not seen an Eagle on-screen, I should point out that the centre pod is a module that is often switched out across the episodes, so there's no fuel storage in there. I might sound like I'm picking holes but I can get over it - this ship design is one of the classics.

I always got excited seeing the moonbuggies on-screen as a kid and always wanted to have a go in one.

Here's the legendary Nick Allder and Brian Johnson hard at work influencing my childhood (Cheers to my mate Phellim O'Neill who is very good at facial recognition).

So there you have it - The Space 1999 eagle was very nearly the UFO interceptor. Incidentally, there's a UFO movie being made at the moment that's currently scheduled for release in 2013 - if you fancy keeping track, you can find their website here.


References (3)

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Reader Comments (11)

Why don't we see more spaceships with stripes? What would StarWars be with Foss stripes?

Great images, thankyou, I allways wanted to fly the Eagle. It looked so functional. A cross between 2001 and reality.

October 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

This is great! Unfortunately, about a dozen images have broken links...

October 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterguimnon

Should be fixed now, sorry about that. Thanks for drawing it to my attention.

October 30, 2011 | Registered CommenterGavin Rothery

So cool - never knew Foss did concepts for the Eagle. Yes, stripes, numbers, billions of little windows and aerials is what you want on spacecraft :)

I love the Eagle - the best thing about it is that it's such a utilitarian design, it seems to be constructed entirely of girders, various pipes and tanks, and not much else. It actually looks like a design that would work in real life.

November 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlan B

Nice post, the Eagle was always one of my favourites. That poster for the UFO movie in production looks like something from a rubbish 1990s PC game! I will not be holding my breath...

November 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Nail

The concept art mentioned above was used for a book cover - "The Early Asimov Volume 1" as shown here: http://www.hanselledbooks.co.uk/the-early-asimov-volume-1-by-asimov-isaac-22121-p.asp

November 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Big fans of Gerry Anderson's work and UFO in particular (although S1999 before the reboot was great too and the Thunderbirds will surely live forever). But I have to say quite apart from the look of the Interceptors the whole concept of them was so very very Freudian. The craft which flies into battle has one shot, a giant phallus shaped missile which sticks out the front and having let fly with its massive weapon then has to turn round and go home for a nice cup of tea and a lie down... 'nuff said surely? :-)

Hoping the UFO movie doesn't turn out like the Thunderbirds film did or that ghastly abomination Hollywood made of the Hiker's Guide.

November 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEnno

In regards to fuel storage; it was indeed stored in the side pods. One episode had Eagles spending a long period on station, and being refueled by a tanker Eagle that inserted a cylinder in a side pod. Still not a large fuel load for an otherwise realistic looking craft.

March 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEricthetolle

Fuel could be inside the girders if they're made of hollow tubes. Some motorcycles now use the frame for storing fluids like oil or coolant.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTedO

Brilliant to go through these wunderbar images just after Gerry Anderson passed away. Thanks, mate.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrez Bergen

I always thought of the Hawks as being the true "Interceptor" update. Those did look like they had someplace to put the fuel. Too bad they never kept those in SPACE:1999 beyond "War Games" those were really badass.

July 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFrozen Astronaut

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