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Barry Morse, from the Space: 1999 season one opening credits
From Space: 1999's 'Black Sun'
From Space: 1999's 'Black Sun'

Features: Ask Barry Morse (Q&A)

Presented by and!


In 2003, an online Question & Answer session was hosted by, permitting fans to ask questions of Barry Morse, Space: 1999's Professor Victor Bergman!

The Q&A is now closed. Mr. Morse' answers are provided below. (Very special thanks to the dedicated work of Anthony Wynn and Robert E. Wood. Thank you!)

We remind everyone to be sure to visit Barry's official Internet site:!



Q. What is your favorite episode from Space: 1999 and why?

A. I think I'm at one with most followers and fans of the Space: 1999 series because this question is quite often asked at conventions and meetings concerned with Space: 1999. It's very striking that a majority of people will tell you that their favorite episode is "The Black Sun," a show filmed quite early in the series, where we're faced with imminent death. There's a scene in the show between Martin Landau and I, and we decided eventually that we would more or less improvise it. As I recall, Martin and I were having a glass of brandy and sitting there recognizing that we were going to be dead within the next half hour, or whatever it was. In one of the exchanges between us, Martin said--as we raised our glasses of brandy--"To everything that might have been," and I replied, "To everything that was." That was the kind of high moment, as it were, in that episode.

Q. When you first got the role of Prof. Victor Bergman, how much of it was shaped by you, by the producers, directors and the writers? Ultimately the actor always adds something of themselves to the role and I'm curious as to how you shaped it.

A. It's not a question of adding something of one's self to the role, but something of what one perceives, or conceives, as the character that one is being called upon to play. With regard to the character of Victor Bergman, most people are astonished to learn (and even I was astonished to learn) that at the point when we started to shoot Space: 1999, we had only one script--which is an act of flagrant lunacy in my book! I thought that Lew Grade, who was the ultimate producer of it all, must be very, very crazy to embark on a series for which there was only one script. And in that one script, there was virtually no indication of the nature of the characters at all, beyond the fact that Victor Bergman was the oldest inhabitant and a kind of 'Space Uncle.' But as to what kind of character he was, and how he became the kind of character he was, there was no indication at all. So, all of that fell into my lap because I felt that we ought to have some idea as to our characters. I always remember that we had a meeting with the Andersons; Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, and I met with them just before we started to shoot. I was always the troublemaker, and I said, "Look now, can we please have a little discussion about who we are." Upon which one of the Andersons said, "Oh well, now the boots are going to be made by--" Oh my lord, I thought, "We've stumbled into trouble here." And so, most of what emerged ultimately as the character Victor Bergman was what I invented or imagined.

I remember writing an imaginary biography of his background as I foresaw it and how he became the kind of person that he was. Of course, none of that was indicated in the script at all. My perception of Victor Bergman was that he was a much more eccentric sort or character than eventually he became. There was no indication in the script as to his background; where he was born, where he grew up, what sort of education he had, what his tastes were--all of those things that one wants to know about a character that you're presenting. So I wrote this biographical sketch about his background which I then passed to the Andersons, who as far as I know made no use of it at all. For one thing, I didn't want to wear those uniforms that everyone else had. He was not the sort of character, I felt, to succumb to appearing in a uniform. He was a senior world-class scientist!

Q. What was the reason you did not sign up for the second season? Was it was your decision or that of the studio?

A. It was a combination of both. As many viewers will know, they took on another producer for the second series, a chap called Freddie Freiberger, whom I knew of slightly because he'd been one of the producers of the original Star Trek series. As you gather, I had not been immensely excited by the quality of the scripts in the first series, partly because of the poor chaps, Johnny Byrne and Chris Penfold, were trying to do the writing and trying to get ahead of the shooting. When the first series came to an end, I thought about what was likely to be happening in the future--I knew this chap Freddy Freiberger was coming aboard, so I wasn't too hopeful about the prospects of it all. I remember going to the Andersons and with my usual wickedness said to them, "Look, I do wish you every kind of success and I thank you for the year and a quarter, but if it's all the same to you I'd like to go and play with the grownups for awhile." That was my parting jab, as it were, as far they were concerned.

Q. Were there any scenes filmed on Prof. Bergman's disappearance from Space: 1999?

A. They never explained it at all. I've grown weary of answering that question, from all sorts of viewers from all over the world who say, "Come on, they went on to a second series and Victor Bergman has just disappeared--nobody ever said a word about what happened and what caused his disappearance!" So I've grown used to saying, "Well I guess he fell off the back of the moon." No explanation was ever offered or given as to what happened to him or why he disappeared.

Note from The novel "Space: 1999 - Survival" by Brian Ball (2005) from publisher Powys Media now offers explanations and closure on the topic.

Q. Do you think a modern version of Space: 1999 could be produced and successful to day? (Perhaps the name could be changed to something like Space: 2099.)

A. It's always possible to produce more--and hopefully better--versions of any existing series, particularly in the science fiction genre, because it's a field that's expanding all the time and is never completely examined. But I would like to think that in any future production of that kind the individual characters should be paid more attention to. For instance, what do we know about Zienia Merton's character and what her personality was? (Aside from what she brought to it, as she's a most engaging and attractive young woman.) We never found out anything really about her background and why she comes to be where she is and doing the kinds of things that she does. The same with Nick Tate, Prentis Hancock, and everyone else. We never found out very much about their essential characters and you don't need to go too far to look to find that all the best dramatic material in the whole history of mankind is based on human character. What human characters feel, what they try to do, and how they respond to what happens to them. You don't need to go any further back to look than the best example of all, your friend and mine, William Shakespeare! He doesn't have all that much in the way of explosions or lighting effects, or all those things which they try to cram into a show, but he does have an amazing variety and depth of human characteristics. That's what drama is all about.

Q. Powys Media is publishing the Space: 1999 novel "Survival," which contains a foreword by you. The character of Victor Bergman is a treasured part of Space: 1999, however, as you know, he didn't make it to the second season. I assume the "Survival" book explains what happens to him. Can you share with us how you, yourself feel your character should have been written out of the series, if you had had a say in it?

A. If they are going to try and explain what happened to Victor Berman and why he was no longer around, they must go one of several routes. One, that he simply died because presumably he was the oldest inhabitant of the crew. Another explanation might be that his artificial heart failed and he died. But a more imaginative explanation might be that they touched down somewhere on some or other outer planet in which he, Victor Bergman, became deeply fascinated by the lifestyle of these people who lived on this other planet, XYZ. He then decided that the rest of the crew must go on in their explorations and he would remain with the XYZ population. He would study the way they live because he felt that it was a rather superior way than the normal human race lived! That would have been an interesting development, wouldn't it? There are all kinds of other ways that his disappearance could be explained, but such a thing was never done in the original series. So it remains a mystery--what ever happened to Victor Bergman?

Q. Was there a sense of dread on the set with the arrival of "Hollywood" actors" Martin Landau and Barbara Bain? Since both came from Mission: Impossible, I wonder if people mistook their enthusiasm and proactive natures as arrogant or self-serving?

A. No, no. The fact that they had been successful Hollywood actors in another series was impressive in itself, but they are--as anybody who knows them would readily tell you--a couple of wonderfully relaxed professionals, with charming personalities, who don't have (as so many so-called Hollywood stars do) an inflated sense of their own importance or self-worth. They settled themselves down very readily amongst what was an almost entirely British cast and worked with marvelous equanimity with everybody in the unit. Of course, they were both of them experienced enough through their time with Mission: Impossible to know of the immense stresses that there always are in shooting a weekly television series. They were and are, both Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, first class real pros, as we always say in the trade.

Q. Do you have fond memories of being on the Space: 1999 set with the cast?

A. I enjoyed it all, I usually do. In a career which now has lasted more than 70 years, I've only very rarely had experiences where I hadn't been comfortable and happy with the set-up in which I was working. In this instance we were working with a charmingly professional bunch of actors, most of them much younger than me, and the general atmosphere within the shooting period was really very friendly. This, despite the fact that we were working fiendishly long hours in order to keep up with the calendar pressures of turning out a new show--if possible--every nine shooting days. Many of the followers of the series perhaps don't know that our first episode, instead the scheduled nine days, took 26 days! So we were running behind schedule almost from day one.

Q. What kind of brandy were you and Martin Landau drinking in "The Black Sun"?

A. Burnt sugar and water, as it always is when it comes from the prop department! People sometimes do imagine--and it has happened, of course--that people do use real alcoholic drinks. In the matter of shooting a television series, when you may have as many as seven or eight different takes of one scene, you'd well drink yourself into insensibility and be flat on the floor if you drank real brandy! There's always been a convention that the prop department would supply a liquid, which in this case looked satisfactorily like brandy. If you sip it and react in the manner that you probably would if you were drinking a good old brandy, well then the audience is convinced that you are indeed drinking a brandy.

Q. Did you improvise the scarf that you wore in that episode?

A. I think so, yes, I think so. Because, there again so little attention was paid to the individual characters. So this was an opportunity to hint a little bit that Bergman was not entirely conventional in his tastes.

Q. Were there any guest stars on the show that you particularly liked or remember?

A. Some were very good, like the rest of the world, and some were better actors than others. Of those working as guests on the show, most of them were good. As you know, my dear old friend Peter Cushing appears as a guest and he was a long-standing friend ever since we were beginners. He and his wife were deeply, loving friends of Sydney--my wife--and me. And then there were other people like Joan Collins, she was a big name and was very disciplined and well-behaved. I can't remember, truthfully, any of them that were in any way difficult or objectionable. They all fitted in pretty well.

Q. Did the show make a mark on your career personally?

A. In terms of enlarging my popularity and all that sort of thing, yes, I suppose it did. I always say that one of the most pleasurable aspects of that series was that it recruited an army of fans from all over the world, who I've met in the succeeding years, and it's rather touching to find that there's whole groups of people from all sorts of different countries who are brought together and bound together by a mutual admiration for this series. So, indeed, it had a value from my own personal point of view, in that way, in that I've been able in the 30 years since we shot that series to meet the 'customers'--the audience--in all sorts of different parts of the world. In normal circumstances, if you do a single television show you're not likely to meet the audience in the same way and with the same friendship as I've been able to with fans of Space: 1999.



Q. How do you start your mornings?

A. It varies very much according to what I'm doing. In the old days, of course, when I was a youngster first working in repertory theatres, we had to rehearse every morning and we usually were called for 10 o'clock in the morning. I was living in lodgings in those days and I would get up 8 o'clock and have some breakfast, look at the script that we were currently rehearsing for the next upcoming play, in order to familiarize myself with the new character that I would be about to play and to start to learn some of the lines that were involved. Then I would get myself ready to go down to the theatre to have the first rehearsal, for whatever play it was. We would rehearse for about 3 or 4 hours until about 1:30 or 2 o'clock, at which point we would break for the afternoon. If we were able to, we would take a little time to have a bit of pleasure; going to the movies, or going for a walk or a swim, or whatever. We would turn up back at the theatre again at about 5:30 or 6 o'clock in the evening to prepare ourselves for the two performances which most times we had to give. This was in order to compete with the movies--we would do two performances of a full length play in the evening; one usually at 6:30 and the second performance at 9 o'clock. So we weren't out of the theatre until about 11:30 at night. Then we would make our way back to our lodgings, perhaps have a late supper and get to bed, if we were lucky, somewhere around midnight. This in readiness to get up again around 8 o'clock in the morning to get prepared for the next day of rehearsal for next week's upcoming play and then to play two performances of our current production! So it was a hectic sort of life.

Later on when I started to work in movies and in television, the hours were totally different. During filming I had to be at the studio at 8 o'clock in the morning which meant getting up much earlier in order to get breakfast and get myself tidied up and dressed, and down to the studio--wherever that was. For example in London, there is Elstree Studios which takes more than an hour to get to, or Denham or Pinewood Studios which are down in Buckingshire, which also takes an hour or more. Then, depending on how successful and how prosperous one is, the filmmakers would provide transportation and a car would come and pick you up. But before that when I was playing small parts and relatively un-prosperous, I would have to find my own way there on the train or the bus, or the combination of the two. So the travel time could be very substantial, leaving for the studio at a quarter to seven in the morning in order to make sure to get the studio by 8 o'clock. Shooting might go on until 6:30 or 7 o'clock in the evening, so it could be 8 or 8:30 at night before I was back at home again. So we had very long days.

Q. How did your intense interest in George Bernard Shaw develop?

A. It was quite marvelous. It's the sort of unconventional series of happenings that one wouldn't think of putting into a movie script or a novel! As most people know, I was trained on a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Now I didn't really know much about George Bernard Shaw at that point, although he was world figure and as widely known or as deeply popular as say, Winston Churchill or President Roosevelt, I didn't know much about him or his works at firsthand. But as a student at RADA, I came to know almost immediately that he was one of our Board of Governors and always deeply interested in the way actors worked. Being a playwright himself, he wanted to know as much as he could about how plays are prepared for presentation--how they are produced. So he used to come quite frequently, which many of our Board of Governors didn't, to RADA to see performances not only of his plays but of other people's plays too.

In particular, he would come to rehearsals to give advice to us about playing his plays. I always remember the first time I actually personally encountered him when we were doing a production at RADA of Shaw's great little play "Androcles and the Lion." The Lion appears as a character in this play and I was lucky enough to be playing the Lion. He came along to one of our rehearsals and in his exquisitely cut tweed suit, the kind of tweed suit he always wore, he laid on the floor of our grubby rehearsal room at the Royal Academy, this dusty wooden floor of the room where we used to rehearse. He lay on the floor on his back, waving his arms and legs in the air to show me how the Lion should behave as he put it, "When he wants his tummy tickled." So we became very much devoted to him because he treated us all--and we were just ignorant kids, I was a 15 year old snotty-nosed urchin--as if we were his equals and contemporaries. He called me "Mr. Morse" and all that sort of stuff. He became instinctively, from our point of view, a deeply treasured friend.

Q. Have you ever felt stereotyped at any point in your career?

A. I've always deliberately, quite consciously, set out to avoid becoming stereotyped because most people who pay any attention to public entertainments at all will know that it's all too easy for actors to fall into playing a certain ‘line' of parts. That's why, of course, when I first started to work in the U.S. of A. in New York and in Hollywood, I made it a rule--if I could--to avoid playing English parts. That's what led this great distinction I'm very proud of, of my becoming the only British actor ever to have played a leading role in an American television series as an American with an American accent. It's never been done before or since. That, of course, was the great series The Fugitive which shot 40 years ago.

Q. Which was your favorite episode from The Fugitive?

A. It's hard to guess, really, because not many people realize that my character 'Lt. Philip Gerard' did not appear in every episode. He did appear in the 'teaser', the little introductory passage at the beginning of each episode, which made it clear that David Janssen's character 'Dr. Kimble' was being pursued by my character. Beyond that, Gerard didn't appear fully in every episode. It was an enormous advantage from my point of view in that it enabled me in the time I had free from actually shooting The Fugitive to do all sort of other things. Among them, the famous event in the theatre where I was able to help launch the full scale professional theatre festival--based on George Bernard Shaw--at Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada. I did actually direct one of the episodes towards the end, but I played in a whole range of different stories. I don't remember them sufficiently in detail to be able to distinguish any particular show which I thought particularly noteworthy. But the general quality of the writing, overall, was the secret or the main credit, which led to the distinction of the show as a whole. The concept and the development of characters were so good and so strong.

Q. How did your family handle your work within the entertainment industry?

A. Not everybody might know that my own family had no connection with show business at all. My parents had been servants and the occasion which led to their meeting and eventual marriage was when they were working--my father as porter and my mother as a maid--at a hospital just outside London in Richmond. It was outside London in those days, the beginning of the 20th century, but now is an outer suburb of London. They married in 1913. Not long after, my father was called up to fight in the First World War because he had initially, as a volunteer, fought in the Boer War when he was only 16. But my parents had never been to any type of legitimate theatre! They'd been to the music halls a bit which were popular entertainments amongst working people. They'd never seen a professional production of a play or anything like that. So my blundering into the theatrical world was really a series of flukes and coincidences. In my own subsequent family, my wife Sydney was an actress but also a very devoted mother. We worked together until the babies came along and then she put her career on the back burner. When the children were grown up, she went back to acting a certain amount again and was wonderfully good in all sorts of different parts. Both of my children became actors and Hayward, my son, has become quite well-known both for his work on the stage and as a voice artist for a great many recorded books.

Q. You worked with both John Colicos and Douglas Rain in Radio. What was that like and what do you remember of them?

A. John was a very skilled actor. He was one of the actors living and working in Toronto, Canada, largely for CBC when Sydney, the children, and I first went there. He was a young man--much younger than me--and had a certain amount of theatrical training, but had become very skilled because in addition to his talent he had a very fine voice. He had become quite popular in radio and of course in those days, the early 1950's, there were so few professional and professionally experienced actors in Canada that we automatically formed ourselves into what you might almost call a radio repertory company. It wasn't officially known in that way, but it was group of 10 or 12 actors and actresses whom the producers at the CBC knew had knowledge and experience both in the theatre and also on radio. I'd done literally hundreds of radio shows before I left England, so in my case they knew right from the word go that they had somebody who knew their way around radio technique. Among this company there were a number of actors including the young Donald Herron, James Doohan, and the great John Drainie who was considered the ‘senior' radio actor in Canada in those days. John Drainie had become crippled through a boyhood accident and walked with a stick and a limp and made a great career in radio. Now, Dougie Rain has had a great career in Canadian television and theatre. But well before that, he worked with us in radio and was one of the youngest in that group of 'repertory' actors. He went on to become quite famous as one of the leading actors in the Shakespeare Company at Stratford, Ontario and also played at the Shaw Festival in Niagara in more recent years.

Q. What authors, philosophers and thinkers speak strongest to you?

A. There's a leading question! One of the authors--aside, of course, from William Shakespeare--who has probably had the most effect on me in general way both professionally and personally, is George Bernard Shaw. I think he's a wonderful example of someone quite literally who worked his way into becoming the world's greatest living dramatist, having started out with virtually no encouragement or natural instincts towards being a dramatist. You might say he almost talked himself into becoming the world's greatest dramatist. He realized that the creation of great drama has nothing to do with words on paper. It was he who was always stressing (which I always stress) that 95% of the audiences who crammed into the Globe Theatre to see the original productions of Shakespeare's plays were illiterate, they couldn't read or write.

Earlier in his life when Shaw first began to try and speak publicly--and he was aflame with new ideas--he tried to get up to speak at some debating society's meeting. He only got out three or four words before he was overcome with shyness and had to sit back down, having more or less made a fool of himself. Shaw describes how his personal shyness was such that when he was invited to visit some people who were friends of his family from Dublin, who were now living in London and whom he knew well and were old friends, he walked up and down in the rain for the best part of half an hour before he could summon up enough courage to quench his shyness and ring their bell to go in and visit. He turned his whole perspective of life around and became one of the foremost authors and speakers of his day. That's why one of my favorite proverbial quotes of Shaw is, "So long as I can conceive something better than myself, I cannot be easy unless I am striving to bring it into existence or clearing the way for it; that is the law of my life."

Among other writers one of my favorites is John Bunyan. His "Pilgrim's Progress," although not really written as a drama, is one of the world's great dramas. When you get to the end of the story of Mr. Valiant for Truth, the leading character, the whole thing winds up with, "and so he passed over and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side." Well, that's great drama, isn't it? It wasn't written as drama but Bunyan could have been, and would have been if he'd been encouraged in the right directions, a great dramatist. Whereas so many other writers who have great reputations; Keats, Shelley, Byron, Tennyson, Henry James--all immensely respected writers--all tried to write plays and not worth a damn, anyone of them! Because they weren't instinctive actors. All the great plays written in every country on Earth throughout the whole of human history have been written by people who were of histrionic disposition.

Q. You've had a very active career in film, theatre and television. What would you say is your greatest achievement, or achievements, in life?

A. Parenting two lovely children and all those grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There's no question. It's the simplest answer in the world! All that stuff that you do professionally doesn't add up to that, does it? I didn't realize it, of course, when I was embarking on those things, but I think I first realized it when Sydney and I lost our first baby, of how immense an event in one's life that is. Our child was killed, in essence, by the ruthless, selfish incompetence of a doctor. Perfectly healthy, but through the induced birth became what used to be known as a 'blue baby.' Through the procedure he suffered such damage to his heart during the process of being induced simply because this bastard of a doctor wanted to go on his holiday. It was the beginning of my deep skepticism about the medicos.

Q. You talk about all of these things, in greater detail, in your upcoming autobiography which has just recently been finished--including a complete chapter devoted to Space: 1999. What can you tell us about that project?

A. It's thrilling to have had the good luck to encounter two such lads as Tony Wynn and Bob Wood who have encouraged me to the extent of starting to believe that having such a book as "Pulling Faces, Making Noises: A Life on Stage, Screen and Radio" was both possible and worthwhile. I don't think, aside from the kind of ‘dreamland' that you induce in yourself once in awhile, that I ever seriously considered being part of making a book. But I realize now that it is a book concerning someone who didn't necessarily achieve world significance in the sense of Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, or Charlie Chaplin, but who nonetheless because of the sheer volume and variety of work has had a career if not necessarily richer, at least wider and more varied than most people in our profession have ever had. That's what it comes down to. Recently someone asked me why I wasn't thinking of retiring and I said in response, "Well, so long as you can say the lines in the right order and not fall over the furniture, you don't want to retire!" Our book will be out soon and I invite all of you to read much more about my memories of working on Space: 1999 and many other events, all stretching over now more than eight decades!


So thank you to and to all the varied fans who sent in the vast numbers of questions, comments, and personal notes for this interview. I've read each and every one, and even though we've had to do a bit of editing since a number of questions were quite similar, I appreciate the sentiment. It's been wonderful to reminisce with you about the old Space: 1999 series and to talk about my life. There's nothing better, is there, than to sit and talk about one self--it's an egomaniac's paradise!

- Barry Morse        


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Moonbase Alpha
Commander John Koenig
Dr. Helena Russell
Professor Victor Bergman
Alan Carter
Controller Paul Morrow