As Moonbase Central moves towards its eighth anniversary I feel the urge to immerse myself in all things SWORD…..
The year is 3031, and the Earth is a dying world after being stuck by a giant meteor. Surviving land masses resemble the surface of the Moon. Prior to the catastrophe the world’s natural resources were already running out, and Project S.W.O.R.D had been created by the World Council to probe space searching for minerals and colonise the planets. Now it would be tasked to be mankind’s saviour, evacuating those deemed to be best able to create habitable environments on alien worlds, and creating rehabilitation camps for the thousands left behind known as The Rejects.
But then there are those survivors who see Project S.W.O.R.D as just another interfering face of authority organising their lives. Even though the Earth is shattered they see a clean slate, and a new start. Some of these survivors also see Project S.W.O.R.D as the enemy and carry out acts of terrorism against them. These are The Casuals.
And finally, using its vast array of specialist vehicles normally used to probe deep into other planets, S.W.O.R.D is now tasked to investigate the colossal damage caused by the meteor, and attempt to save the dying Earth.
As many Gerry Anderson toy collectors and readers of TV21 will know, this bleak dystopian future for mankind was one of the more complex concepts dreamed up to help sell a range of space toys marketed by Century 21 Toys.
A space exploration themed comic strip back story for Project S.W.O.R.D started in 1967 with issue 19 of the short lived’ Solo’ comic. This story ended abruptly with the cancellation of Solo in issue 31 with a rushed text ending. However it was the grittier dying world scenario that I preferred. I didn’t really concern myself that it was set over a thousand years in the future, and that technology would have advanced to a point when everyday things today would be totally unrecognisable in that far future.
I didn’t worry about the fact that a NASA experimental Dyna-Soar or a Space Glider from the late fifties and early sixties was part of the range, or even a then contemporary Apollo Saturn V imminently about to help put men on the Moon was also part of the fleet. Most of the designs were futuristic, and I was quite happy to read about the adventures of S.W.O.R.D Commander Bill Janson and his team as they struggled to maintain order on the dying Earth using a vast range of space-age vehicles in the 1968 Project S.W.O.R.D Annual, which was much more like the Century 21 publications that I was already familiar with, that and the text stories in TV 21 which started in April 2068 with the opening story, The Earth Will Die, in issue 168.
I don’t know whether the text stories in TV21, which lasted until issue 217 with a story entitled, ‘The End of the Beginning’, would have increased the toys sales. Personally, I would have preferred a comic strip, similar to the ones in the annual, but at least we got something.
Then there was the range of toys, many of which I never had at the time, but certainly enough to fuel my space-age childhood imagination, plus I got a free badge and a Space World Organisation for Research and Development manual.
Next time I’ll focus on the S.W.O.R.D Re-Entry Task Force fleet.