Tag Archives: UFO

UFO Interceptor diorama from Sixteen 12

The 1970 television series UFO is considered a cult classic, famous for its superb visual effects and production design. One of the highlights of the series was the Interceptor, a one-man spacecraft designed to stop alien invaders before they reached earth. Three interceptors were housed in an underground hangar at SHADO’s Moonbase facility, ready to leap into action whenever the enemy appeared.

Sixteen 12’s limited edition UFO SHADO Interceptor With Launch Crater Display captures the look of the Interceptor as it appears on the launch pad ready for lift-off. It’s a relief to see that they finished this diecast miniature in white (as it appears on the show) rather than the metallic green featured on the decades-old Dinky Toys version. Sixteen 12’s rendition of the Interceptor appears to have accurate proportions, and they got both the missile and cockpit canopy right (unlike the Dinky Toys and Bandai kit versions). The launch pad is surrounded by the walls of a protective crater and a photo of Moonbase is provided as a backdrop.

Ambitious modellers may wish to go a step further and build a lift mechanism to raise and lower the launch pad. Part of the underground hangar could be built up as well. 

The Interceptor is one of the great sci-fi spacecraft designs of all time. It began as a sketch by Mike Trim that was tweaked and finalized by UFO effects director Derek Meddings. The craft has a compact and efficient layout, with wide track landing skids for good stability, rocket engines for forward and vertical flight, and one large atomic missile on the nose. The design is not only functional, but attractive: a medley of soft, flowing curves that brings to mind the sensuous look of a Ferrari coupe.  

1972 Ferrari Dino 246 GT

The Interceptor has been called impractical (by Meddings himself) since it carries only one missile. However, there are three short barrels on the fuselage just in front of the cockpit that could be additional weapons. One illustrator suggested that these are ‘high velocity machine guns’ in a cutaway drawing of the Interceptor from a 1973 publication called Countdown For TV Action. In addition, a Century 21 Tech Talk on the Interceptor (currently on YouTube) describes a rarely used ‘autocannon’ which can be used to pursue damaged UFOs. Here is a screenshot from the video:


This is pure speculation since no weapons other than the missile were used during the course of the series. At any rate, short range weapons would be of little use. Being much slower than the alien ships, the Interceptors would have no hope of engaging them in a dogfight and bringing guns to bear at close range. A guided missile, launched from a distance under computer control, is the only practical way to stop the invaders.

Fans of UFO might want to check out SHADO Yards, a diorama that features two Interceptors. This work is the subject of a detailed case study in Diorama Design . SHADO Yards is a conjectural design that speculates as to how the Interceptors were assembled before being delivered to the moon for front line service. 


No Way Out (1:35, non scale)

This forced perspective scene was inspired by the classic TV series UFO. Pursued by one of the alien craft, Straker and Ellis have taken refuge in an abandoned factory. The saucer hovers ominously at the far end of the factory, blocking the only escape route. 

The shimmering blur effect of the spinning UFO, which I recreated here with the help of a low rpm electric motor, was one of the signature visuals of the series. The superb miniatures created by special effects director Derek Meddings and designer Mike Trim gave the show a sophisticated look which put it in a class by itself.  

This diorama is the second I’ve built which is based on UFO. The first was SHADO Yards

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.


Revisiting SHADO Yards

This is a follow-up to my original post on SHADO Yards from May 24, 2016. This diorama features moving parts, so I’ve decided to show what it looks like in motion. It was inspired by the 1970s TV series UFO.

SHADO Yards is half diorama, half model railroad. I had long thought about building a model railroad. But I realized I wouldn’t be satisfied with a conventional layout using off-the-shelf rolling stock, and decided I wanted to go with a science fiction theme instead. So the “train” in this diorama became a launch pad, which carries a factory fresh Interceptor from the assembly building to its launch position. I realized it would be less expensive to use an electric motor with a chain and sprocket drive, rather than a DC or DCC equipped locomotive, which would require an expensive controller. As you can see from the video, the transport mechanism moves at a constant speed.

The video also shows off the lighting to good effect. The sound effects were added in post production.



SHADO Yards (1:43)

This conceptual diorama is based on the 1970s TV show UFO, showing my design for SHADO Yards, an earth-based assembly facility where the Moonbase Interceptors were built.

The Interceptors are original Bandai injection molded kits (scratchbuilt interior and missile) and the figures are white metal. The cargo truck is a kitbash of an aircraft carrier tractor. Everything else is scratch-built. The finished Interceptor is lifted onto the launch pad with a gantry crane and moves on rails to the launch position. The launch pad is powered by a low rpm electric motor on O gauge track, using gears and sprockets from a robotics supplier.