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Design

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 Space:1999'.

overhead viewJuliet Bravo reads the news

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 Comet Sale......everything must go!

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.

city detailnice stylistic touches abound

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...

Sofa so good - who's on line 1?The Nemesis ship model

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.