- Homage to the Space: 1999 science fiction series.
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Roberto Baldassari talked with Roberto Baldassari in March 2000 about his influential (and inspirational) Space: 1999-based illustrations. Part One of Three.

Roberto, what did you find inspiring about the Space: 1999? How was your life touched by the series?

I think when Space was first aired here in Italy in 1976 I had the right age: I was eleven years old. To my eyes, it was the most wonderful thing I'd ever seen. I loved the visual aspects of that show, the model work, the design of the moonbase, and the whole mood of show, it's sense of wonder and mystery... the unexplained things. I think season one was also quite scary for a kid to watch.

Eagle lifting off, from "Dragon's Domain."

I agree. Speaking of which, did you have a favorite episode of Space: 1999?

I must say that I'm really a Year One fan. It's difficult for to name one particular episode. I equally enjoyed "Dragon's Domain" for the cool spaceships and the classical music; "Another Time, Another Place" for the fascinating story and the mood; and "Death's Other Dominion" for the Jack Tanner character.

Have you met anyone associated with the show?

In 1998, I had the honor to be invited to the Pinewood Studios by special effects supervisor Brian Johnson, the man who designed the original Eagle Transporter, back in 1974. This was like a dream came true, if you consider that Brian was my hero when I was a kid.

I also had the privilege to invite script writer and Year One story editor Johnny Byrne to join me and dozens of other Italian fans in Milan for a convention last year (1999). He was very friendly and nice with everybody. And, of course, I was in Los Angeles for the Breakaway convention (September 1999) and I met most of the cast, including Captain Alan Carter himself, Mr. Nick Tate.

Let's discuss your work, starting with your "Ultimate Eagle Blueprints" (UEB). What motivated you to create them?

It was an old project of mine. I think I started collecting information and making drawings of the Eagle in my notebooks when I was about twelve. As I said I was very fascinated by the visual side of the show and I always thought that the Eagle was a wonderful design, very realistic looking, even for today's standards.

What source did you base your blueprints on? And I'm curious what you found erroneous (or factual/helpful) about the original Starlog magazine blueprints?

My main source for the exterior have been Philip D. Rae's blueprints published for the first time by the S.I.G. magazine (#10, Spring 1984). These were the best blueprints I could possibly have found for this project, because Phil took his measurements from the first 44" Eagle studio model that was built by Wag Evans of Space Models in England, and used throughout the production of the television series.

As for the Starlog's blueprints, I discovered them very late in the nineties in the form of a bitmap scanned version in a very raw shareware multimedia version of Starlog's Moonbase Alpha Technical Notebook. I adopted some ideas from them for the interior arrangement. The main mistake in the Starlog's blueprints is the size of the Eagle, 76 feet long (23.16 m) with a "standard ceiling height" of 5.5 only feet!

Besides that, in 1996, the author of the Starlog's Eagle blueprints, Geoffrey Mandel, sent me an e-mail. He got my e-mail address from the great Rick Sternbach of Paramount's Star Trek Art Department, to whom I'd sent my drawings some time before knowing his opinion.

What software tools did you use to create the blueprints? How long did it take to create the final product?

I used Adobe Illustrator 5.5 with a little help from Adobe Dimensions 2 to obtain the right perspective for the various elements in the 3D cutaway drawing. As for the time I spent for making them itís difficult to say. I made them in a five years arc. Working on them once in a while when I had the time and energy.

Eagle lifting off, from "A Matter of Balance."

What was the most challenging aspect of putting together this project?

Well, probably the most difficult part was trying to fill the internal sets design within the limits of external structure of the Eagle model. In working on this project, I tried to stay as close to "official" sources as I could. Unfortunately sometimes portions of the interior Eagle set just didn't match with the Eagle miniatures used for the special effects shots. To blend the exteriors and interiors of the Eagle together successfully, I was forced to take some liberties with the designs here and there.

I understand that Brian Johnson, the creator of the Eagle, has a set of blueprints hanging on his walls...

Yes. Can you believe it? Two time Academy Award winner Brian Johnson has my drawings on his walls. And he wanted to pay me for another set when I met him in London.

That's high praise. Overall, how well did the blueprints sell? (Note: They sold out! ;-)

That's the most incredible and gratified aspect of the whole story. I received dozens of emails from all over the world from people who have my drawings hanging on their house or office walls. I'm very honored by this. You know I made the UEBs for myself and then, suddenly, thanks to the Internet I was able to share my work with so many people from all over the planet including some of the people who actually made the show!

Sadly, I've heard stories that people have found copycat (fake) blueprints of your work. How can someone verify that they are buying your genuine blueprints?

Yes, this is sad. I'm sure of the existence of at least one fake blueprints set. I'm sure about this because I actually bought it! Iím pretty sure that someone else is selling unauthorized low quality copies of my drawings somewhere. I don't care if someone makes money with my stuff, but I made every effort to produce the best possible quality prints and it's sad to know that there are fans that spend money for low quality photocopies with my name on them. Fortunately, I made an agreement with "Sci-Fi Matters" last year and they are the only offical seller of my UEBs for the USA and Canada.

How did the Space: 1999 fan community contribute to your work?

I had a lot of help from the Space: 1999 Mailing List at the beginning. In 1996, my Ultimate Eagle Blueprints were nothing more than a bunch of bytes in my Mac's hard disk. When I went online and discovered the list, I sent a picture of the 3D cutaway Eagle (I was completely illiterate about netiquette at the time) and the picture had an enthusiastic response with the list members. That ís the reason why I decided to make printed copies of the UEBs.

Also, British modelmaker and Eagle expert Chris Trice had a pivotal role for the improved version of the UEB I made in 1999. He gave me advice and suggestions about how to make the drawings even more faithful to the original 44" model.

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