Friday, August 26, 2011

Keith Wilson [1942-2011]

Production designer Keith Wilson of Space:1999. Actresss Ziena Merton of Space:1999 appears in the background.

It's FAB FRIDAY and what better way to take the opportunity to praise all things Gerry and Sylvia Anderson then to pay tribute to the life of Keith Wilson. There's no question a celebration of his work is in order. Fanderson's FAB magazines and Andersonic pay the most detailed respects to the creative visionary, but Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic felt compelled to do the same.

Outstanding and award-winning production designer Keith Wilson passed away this summer [2011]. Wilson is best remembered for his stunning production detail, entirely unique vision and set design provided for both Year One and Year Two of Space:1999.

It was not my intention to let this one go, but I needed to find the time and pay Wilson the proper deference for all he did for our beloved Space:1999, one of the bona fide, unforgotten and timeless science fiction classics.

His contributions to all things wonderful in the world of Anderson cannot be overstated. He was instrumental in the distinct and original look of Space:1999 [1975-1977] creating something tantamount to the anti-Star Trek. He also worked on Fireball XL5 [1963], Thunderbirds Are Go [1966], Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons [1967], Joe 90 [1968-1969], The Secret Service [1969], Doppelganger [1969], UFO [1970], The Protectors and sci-fi series Star Maidens [1976]. His credits run long and wide in both film and television outside of Gerry Anderson as seen in such series as Dinotopia [2002] and HBO's Gulag [1985] starring David Keith, Malcolm McDowell and Shane Rimmer. But if anyone deserved credit for the visual successes of Anderson's projects, Wilson was one of them.

Jobs included designer, assistant art director, art director, co-writer and production designer. *// His specific work includes the interior of the Skydiver on UFO as well as many of the show's costumes despite direct credit to Sylvia Anderson.

His big move came following an abundance of work on the planned second season of UFO, which ultimately morphed into Space:1999.

Wilson's classic work for Space:1999 was very modular and could be disassembled and reassembled quickly through his clever design and planning. Most notable in costume design was Wilson's move from Rudi Gernreich's unisex Main Mission uniforms to the equally unique look created for Year Two including those jackets. The uniforms were never the problem with Year Two and Wilson's input was one of the highlights including the reduced-in-size underground Main Mission as a result of budgetary constraints dubbed Command Center. Most importantly, it was the scope and space of Wilson's Main Mission that remains iconic as science fiction sets go. Main Mission is as classic a piece of science fiction history as the Enterprise bridge, the interior of the Tardis or the home of Stargate Atlantis itself. Wilson's influence on the look of Space:1999 was profound. Main Mission was a multi-level, spacious masterpiece - a triumph of production design. It was equally a symbol of the scope of the series itself and its efforts to explore the vast unknown of space.

Wilson offered astounding alien locations like the planet of Piri in The Guardian Of Piri. Nuclear Generating Area 3 in one of Space:1999's classic episodes, Year One, Episode 9, Force Of Life, starring Ian McShane is another extraordinary centerpiece and a personal favorite. The set is a critical component of that amazing episode as many of Wilson's contributions were. He also generated magic on another David Tomblin-directed episode in The Infernal Machine with Gwent. Height, space, scale and color palette all dwarf the actors in another of Wilson's epic sets. Finally, the Dorcon spaceship in The Dorcons reimplemented a number of set pieces, but in new color.

Wilson made the most of his resources and deserves praise for reinventing a look with existing pieces. Production designers always do it, but Wilson was one of the masters. It shows. To this day Space:1999 remains a series that looks like the grade A cinematic production effort the team was shooting for and Wilson was a big part of it. What Wilson and others achieved looks remarkable decades later. There is little doubt his work on Space:1999 will continue to shine.

This reflection on Wilson's achievements seems particularly appropriate in what has become an unexpectedly somber week in tone here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic. The research comes compliments of FAB #69. More on Keith Wilson from assorted sources will be spotlighted in forthcoming Space:1999 coverage.

Keith Wilson passed away in July. He was 69 years old.


John Kenneth Muir said...


An excellent tribute to a remarkable talent. The richness of the universe Mr. Wilson created (on Space:1999, Star Maidens, and other programs and films) will continue to live on.

It's always so awful to lose these great artists that we revere, but your words of appreciation do him justice.

Thank you for this post.


The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Thanks John.

There's no doubt we do appreciate what he achieved. Best to you.

Spacer Guy said...

God rest Keith Wilson, he'll be remembered by so many for his awesome creations

SFF said...

Positively wonderful work and craftsmanship seemingly out of thin air by this man.