The Completion of Mission Alpha
- An Origins Story
Apart from Thunderbirds, the only other Gerry Anderson series on Finnish nationwide television in my youth was Space: 1999. It aired in 1976-78. Soon after the series started, Space: 1999 bubble gum by Dutch manufacturer Monty appeared on the counter at a kiosk nearby. With every bubble gum, you got a collectible gum card as well.
(Picture 1) A full set of Space Cosmo: 1999 gum cards along with some of my favourite cards.
In the set there were 64 full-colour photos from various Season 1 episodes. As a further enticement for completing the set, the back-sides of the cards formed a large black-and-white puzzle with Moonbase Alpha crew on the lunar surface.
(Picture 2) Unlike the cards, the wrapper was not too appealing. (Courtesy of purkkakortit.net)
In spite of using all my weekly allowances for bubble gum, a lot of chewing and stacking a hefty pile of cards, to my bitter disappointment I was not able to complete a full set. Thus the b/w picture puzzle was left unfinished as well. Nevertheless, being a collector by nature, I stored my cards away in good - even if incomplete - order anyway.
(Picture 3) There were some tricky pairs in the set. Note the film strip-like layout of the title sequence cards.
Fast forward a quarter of a century: on a mid-summer day back in 2002, we stopped by an old junk shop on the way to our summer cottage. Inside the glass case on the counter, there was a small stack of those same Monty cards! The past just flashed back in an instant!
(Picture 4) This gruesome picture of Alpha's botanist Dan Mateo in episode "The Troubled Spirit" was also one of those hardest to find.
Soon after, while visiting my boy-cave at home, I dug up my old cards and compared them with these newly found ones. Miraculously, all those cards missing from the original set were present in the new ones! For the first time, I was able to complete the set, and more importantly, the puzzle of a lifetime!
(Picture 6) The same picture was also included in the set, in reverse.
This chance event sparked anew my collector's instinct than had lain dormant for decades. First I looked for everything about Gerry Anderson, until one July day in 2003, I stumbled online upon a certain Project SWORD The Collector's Checklist by an enthusiast, Mr. Paul Woods.
That project is still underway!