Science fiction has been a popular genre in film and television for decades, captivating audiences with imaginative storylines, futuristic technology, and otherworldly creatures. One show that left a lasting impression on science fiction fans is UFO, which ran for 26 episodes from 1970 to 1971. Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson with Reg Hill, the show was set in the year 1980 and followed the adventures of the staff of the secret organization SHADO, the Supreme Headquarters, Alien Defense Organization, as they fought against mysterious UFOs visiting from a far off dying planet that threatened the Earth.
UFO was unique for its time, as it marked the Anderson’s first departure away from the puppetry used exclusively in previous offerings like Thunderbirds and Fireball XL5, branching off into the brave new world of live-action television. With the marionette strings cut, the series became known for featuring stunning visual effects that were ahead of their time.
The show also had a star-studded cast, with actors who would go on to become household names in the entertainment industry. From Ed Bishop’s commanding performance as Commander Straker to Michael Billington’s charming portrayal of Col. Paul Foster, each cast member brought their own unique talents to the show.
In this video, we will take a closer look at the cast of UFO, exploring their roles in the show and what they went on to do in their respective careers. From the iconic performances of actors like Ed Bishop and George Sewell to the later work of lesser-known cast members like Ayshea Brough and Antonia Ellis, we’ll dive into the careers of each actor and examine how UFO played a role in shaping their legacies. Whether you’re a longtime fan of the show or just discovering it for the first time, this facts-packed video will provide an in-depth look at one of science fiction’s most beloved cult classics.
Ed Bishop (Commander Ed Straker)
Ed Bishop played the lead role of Commander Ed Straker in UFO. Bishop was a US-born actor who had worked in both British and American television and film.
Bishop made his acting debut as an ambulance driver in Krubrick’s 1962 film Lolita. He went on make appearance in films such as 1963s The Mouse on the Moon, The Bedford Incident, Diamonds Are Forever, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Prior to appearing in UFO, Bishop starred in a number of other films and television series created by Gerry Anderson, including Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Doppelganger.
After UFO, Bishop continued to act in a number of popular TV shows and films, including The Professionals, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, and The Lonely Lady.
Bishop passed away at the age of 72 on June 8, 2005, succumbing to a chest infection he contracted while undergoing treatment for leukemia, just five days after the death of his UFO co-star Michal Billington.
Michael Billington (Colonel Paul Foster)
Michael Billington was an English actor who played the role of Colonel Paul Foster in UFO. Prior to his role in UFO, Billington had appeared in several TV shows and movies, including The Prisoner and Alfred the Great. After UFO, Billington continued to act in various TV shows and films, including Flicks, KGB: The Secret War, and The Spy Who Loved Me.
Billington died of cancer in 2005 at age 85.
George Sewell (Colonel Alec Freeman)
English actor George Sewell played the role of Colonel Alec Freeman in UFO. Sewell was a British actor who who worked a number of odd jobs before deciding to take a stab at acting. Notably, he worked as a street photographer, assisted a French rollerskating team, and served as a drummer and road manager of a band. He also served in the Royal Air Force and Merchant Marines.
After getting his start as an actor at age 35, Sewell appeared in a number of TV shows and films before his role in UFO, including Manhunt, Public Eye, Z-Cars, and Kaleidoscope. After UFO, Sewell continued to act in various TV shows, including The Sweeney and Doctor Who. He also appeared in several films, such as Barry Lyndon, Winterspelt, and Let’s Stick Together. Sewell died of cancer in April 2007 at the age of 82.
Wanda Ventham (Colonel Virginia Lake)
Wanda Ventham played the role of Colonel Virginia Lake in UFO. Ventham was a British actress who had appeared in several series and movies before her role in UFO, including The Avengers, The Troubleshooters, Danger Man, and Edgar Wallace Mysteries.
After UFO, Ventham continued to act in various TV shows, including Doctor Who, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, and more recently Sherlock, Holby City, and Departure. She also appeared in several films, such as Asylum, Run For Your Wife, and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. At 87, Ventham is still alive and active in the industry today.
Gabrielle Drake (Lt. Gay Ellis)
Gabrielle Drake played the role of Lt. Gay Ellis in UFO. Drake is a British actress who is best known for her roles in the TV series The Brothers and Coronation Street. After UFO, Drake continued to act in various TV shows, including Crossroads and The Inspector Lynley Mysteries. She also appeared in several films, such as The There’s a Girl In My Soup, Au Pair Girls, and The Steal. Drake is still alive and active in the entertainment industry today, having most recently appeared in the TV show Doctors in 2011.
Gabrielle’s brother was the singer-songerwriter Nick Drake. Since his death in 1974, she’s consistently worked to help promote his music. Nick’s influence can be heard in the music of later singer-songwriters like Elliott Smith and Connor Oberst.
Dolores Mantez (Lt. Nina Barry)
Dolores Mantez was a British actress best known for her work in the science fiction television series UFO, where she played the role of Lt. Nina Barry. Her portrayal of the character, a pilot and mobile equipment officer for the secret organization SHADO, helped to make her a fan favorite on the show.
Beyond her work on UFO, Mantez also appeared in a number of other TV shows and movies throughout her career, showcasing her talents in a range of genres. Some of these include the television series Shadow Squad and The Avengers as well as the film The Angry Silence. Despite her relatively short career, Mantez left a lasting impression on fans of science fiction and remains a beloved figure in the entertainment industry.
Mantex died on November 30 2012, at the age of 76 following a short illness.
Ayshea Brough (Lt. Ayshea Johnson)
Ayshea Brough is an English actress, singer, and dancer who is best known for her role as Lt. Ayshea Johnson in UFO. In the show, Brough played a key member of the SHADO organization, serving as a lunar module pilot and reconnaissance officer.
Beyond her work on UFO, Brough had a successful career in the entertainment industry, including appearances in several films and TV shows. She also had a talent for singing and dancing, and released several singles and albums throughout the 1970s. Though she has largely retired from acting in recent years, Brough remains a beloved figure in the world of science fiction, and her work on UFO continues to be appreciated by fans of the show.
Antonia Ellis (Lt. Joan Harrington)
Antonia Ellis was a British actress born on April 28, 1944, in London, England. She began her career as a child actress, appearing in various TV series and films throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Ellis is best known for her role as Lieutenant Joan Harrington on UFO.
In UFO, Ellis played the role of an operative of the SHADO Moonbase. Her character was a strong and confident woman who was an integral part of the team fighting against alien invasions on Earth.
Aside from UFO, Ellis appeared in numerous other TV shows, including 1971s Hine. She also appeared in several films, such as The Boy Friend, The Pirate, and Mahler.
At 78, Ellis is still alive and kicking, although she has since retired from the entertainment industry. Her memorable performance as Lieutenant Joan Harrington in UFO is still fondly remembered by fans of the show to this day.
Grant Taylor (General James Henderson)
Grant Taylor was an Englsih- Australian actor born on December 6, 1917 in Newcastle upon Tyne in England. He began his career in the 1940s, appearing in various Australian television productions and feature films.
Taylor is perhaps best known for his role as General James L. Henderson in UFO. Henderson was the President of IAC and wasn’t someone whom you’d want to mess with.
In addition to his work on UFO, Taylor appeared in several other TV shows, including The Adventures of Long John Silver, The Stranger, The Avengers, and Doomwatch. He also had roles in feature films such as Forty Thousand Horseman and Calamity the Cow.
Taylor was a prolific actor who worked in the entertainment industry for over three decades. He was known for his versatility and ability to play a wide range of characters. Sadly, Taylor passed away in 1971 at the age of 54.
Keith Alexander (Lt. Keith Ford)
Keith Alexander, born on February 3, 1930, played the role of Lt. Keith Ford in UFO. Alexander was an Australian actor who also appeared in TV shows such as Softly, Softly, Minder, and The New Avengers. On the big screen, he had roles in films such as Submarine X-1, Superman, Hanover Street, and All About A Prima Ballerina.
Aside from UFO, Alexander appeared in a number of other productions of Gerry Anderson’s including Thunderbird 6, The Secret Service, and Doppelganger.
At 73, Alexander is still alive and well, although he hasn’t appeared onscreen since 1980.
The cast of UFO played a pivotal role in making the show the cult classic that it is today. Their performances, both on and off screen, helped to establish the show as a must-see for science fiction fans. Some of the cast members have since passed away, but their contributions to the entertainment industry will always be remembered. Others have continued to work in TV shows and films, building on the success they achieved through their roles in UFO.
As the years go on, the influence of UFO on the science fiction genre remains strong. Its unique blend of live-action performances, stunning visual effects, and complex storylines have inspired countless creators over the years. Its impact can still be seen in the sci-fi shows and movies of today, proving that great storytelling never goes out of style.
If you haven’t seen UFO yet, we highly recommend giving it a watch. Not only is it a time capsule of 1970s sci-fi, but it’s also an exciting and engaging show that will keep you on the edge of your seat. And if you’re a longtime fan of the show, we encourage you to revisit it and appreciate the incredible performances of the cast members once again.
So, what are you waiting for? Are you ready to embark on a journey with SHADO and fight against the UFOs threatening Earth? What was your favorite moment from the show, and who was your favorite character? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, thanks for watching!