|ABOUT THIS SITE
|This site has been optimised for Internet
Explorer v4.0 and above, displayed on 800x600 monitors. Please
One of the real stars of
the series - some would say Star Maidens' only real
claim to cult immortality - is its design work,
a real icon of 70s excess.
While the perfunctory Earth-bound sequences of forests
and Barratt housing estates dragged the thing back
to the level of a 70s Children's Film Foundation
production (albeit shot on marginally better film
stock than, say, Electric
Eskimo) it was the Medusan design that lifted
the series out of the ordinary.
Famously, Keith Wilson was the production designer
on Star Maidens in
between working on Seasons One and Two of Space:1999.
Star Maidens is so
commonly referred to - if it ever crops up at all
in conversation - as 'the series that looks like
Wilson's main triumph here is the Main Hall of the
Medusan underground city. Built on two levels at
Bray studios, this design suddenly, briefly, lends
a movie-budget look to the production. This really
is a huge set, as big if not bigger than Wilson's
first season Moonbase Alpha set. The city's look
is similar to Space:1999,
with the feel of both Moonbase Alpha and 1999's
alien planets all at once. The computer rack panels
dotted around share the same black panel/white frame
look as Moonbase Alpha's hardware. Its colour palette
- predominantly off-whites, biege, orange and reds
- is oddly reminscent of the Season One 1999
production sketches 'doctored' by a secretary. Wilson's
initial designs for the Alpha interiors had been
drawn in black and white but someone somewhere felt
a little colour was needed before presenting these
to the network bosses, to which end a secretary
was virtually given a packet of felt tips and asked
to colour them in. The look that resulted was predominantly
orange (as was most European furniture in the early
70s!) and while this was not carried through to
Alpha, bar its spacesuits, one wonders whether this
less sterile look came back to influence Wilson
when designing Medusa.
The set dressings remind one of the alien planets
encountered by the Alphans in 1999 - particularly
the 'globe lighting and twigs' look of The Guardian
of Piri. Twig 'trees' (ie trees with no leaves
on them!) were placed around the set and seen being
tended to (oddly!) by the male gardeners. Again,
this look was alluded to in Wilson's initial sketches
for Alpha but not really used in the final series.
The furnishings - curved, moulded shiny plastics
very much in evidence - and lightings were also
similar to those seen in Space:1999.
In the main these props were bought in products;
Italian late 60s and early 70s modernist pieces
from the likes of iGuzzini, Colombo and in particular
the Artemide design house. It would appear that
the sofa in Liz's quarters (see bottom left picture) ended up
on Multi-Coloured Swap Shop
(no, I don't know if it's the very same one!).
The city's exterior, also designed by Wilson, was
less impressive when realised. On screen this had
no sense of scale, existing only as a model built
infamously from eggboxes and other household junk.
Photos of the city exterior appeared prominently
on the covers of both the series' annual and novelisation
and even on the covers of the more recent German
videos. This has helped cement another lasting impression
of the series - 'the one with the eggbox city'.
It's an unfair assessment - in reality the special
effects modelwork of the city exterior and its destruction
by the comet Dionysius was seen only very briefly
in the opening titles. This 'old' city no longer
exists by the timeframe of the series - that's why
the Medusans live underground!
The glorious costumes for the women of Medusa (see
Fashions for more detail) again raise the show above
the ordinary. Look, I'm speaking purely objectively
here! I would assume that Wilson again designed
these on paper, with wardrobe supervisor Dulcie
Midwinter actually turning them into wearable outfits
(Wilson designed many alien outfits on the first
season of 1999). The
skintight suede work uniforms look great, the constant
use of 'peephole' features on these and the accompanying
knee-high leather boots probably sticking in the
minds of most male viewers. Of course, this is where
the design concept rather falls down - the sexy
outfits rather work against the series' supposed
key story ideas on gender role reversal in favour
of titillating the male viewers.
Also well-remembered were the glam rock-style face
glitter and sequins make-ups (yes they were only
make-up, not genetic features of the Medusans -
this isn't Star Trek!).
Ornate hairstyles would also be worn - one assumes
most of Medusa's subservient male populace are pressed
into service as hairdressers (camp or otherwise).
The bizarre hair and make up ideas in turn influenced
Wilson's development of Maya for 1999
Season Two. The silky dress outfits again recalled
Space:1999 - specifically
Joan Collins as she appeared in Mission of the
Darians. The guards meanwhile, it must be admitted,
are the most ludicrous piece of costuming possibly
ever seen in sci-fi! Probably the most significant
icon of the series' slightly perverse sub-dom subtext,
not only are the multi-coloured guards' outfits
completely over the top, but in context they make
no sense. Why are the security guards (and there
are an awful lot of them - the women must really
fear an uprising by men) frivolously running around
exposing their belly buttons? How can any security
guard do their job in platform boots? Yes, it must
have been the 70s...
For three of Keith Wilson's production drawings
for the series, see the Space:1999
Catacombs which also includes sketches for many
of the crossover elements listed here.