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EXCLUSIVE: Lost retro spaceships from the 'Dan Dare' TV project


As Sam Worthington steps forward to play Britain's No.1 all-time space captain, here are some fantastic models and designs from the abandoned 1980s TV movie/pilot...

The original Martin Bower renditions fromthe abandoned ATV series of 'Dan Dare'

Last week Warner Bros. surreptitiously announced that SF 'must-have' Sam Worthington is in the frame to finally bring the British space-adventurer Dan Dare to the big screen after 40 years of failed attempts. Worthington is becoming so essential to a new SF movie project that he may actually be able to accomplish what so few others have.

We'll take a look at the varying success of the miscellaneous failed or semi-misfired attempts to bring Dan Dare to the big and small screen in a moment, but first I must share these exclusive designs from the ATV attempt to get a Dare TV film (and potential pilot for a series) on our screens in the early 1980s.

The photos were provided to me by UK-based model-maker Martin Bower, whose pedigree (on series such as Space:1999 and The Tripods, and films such as Alien, Outland and Flash Gordon) is impeccable, and the models that he created to kick-start the production are beautiful examples of the sci-fi strip created by illustrator Frank Hampson in 1950. The most recognisable and faithfully-reproduced craft is Dare's personal starship the Anastasia...

Martin Bower's faithfully reproduced 'Anastasia' from the abandoned ATV Dan Dare series in the early 1980s
The Anastasia - modelled by Martin Bower
Pictures © Martin Bower

As you can see, this sleek space-cruiser is tremendously faithful to the original version from Eagle comics in the 1950s...

The 'Anastasia' in the original Frank Hampson comic

Gareth Hunt, who achieved great success in 'The New Avengers' in the 1970s, seen here piloting an Eagle in 'Space:1999', and at one point tipped to be TV's Dan Dare"The models I made during the 1980’s were partly for a TV film ATV were thinking of making," Bower told me. "but I was glad it never “went” as the producers hadn’t a clue about what the “essence” of Dan Dare is/was and wanted to bring it “up to date”. Now obviously 'set in the future' could be interpreted as being 'up to date' but this wasn’t what they had in mind. They wanted to change everything, and even had the now late Gareth Hunt signed to be Dan Dare! Personally I can’t think of anyone less like Dan Dare than he was."

Bower told me that there is now some dispute about ownership of these models between Eagle enthusiast Alan Vince and the Dan Dare Society.

Here's a more updated Dare/bower creation for ATV's aborted 1980 movie, the 'St.Christopher rescue ship':

The 15-inch St.Christopher rescue ship for ATV's aborted 'Dan Dare' (1980)

Picture © Martin Bower

Here's the 'Mars Space Station', lovingly reproduced from the original Eagle adventure 'The Red Moon Mystery'...

The Mars Space Station from 'Dan Dare'
Picture © Martin Bower

Martin Bower's 'crypt ship' for the ATV film, originally seen in Eagle's 'Rogue Planet' Dan Dare strip...

The 'Crypt Ship' from Eagle's Dan Dare, modelled by Martin Bower
Picture © Martin Bower

A truly beautiful 50s look to this Martin Bower model for 'Dan Dare' (1980)
A truly beautiful 'fifties' retro-look to this Martin Bower model for 'Dan Dare' (1980). Picture © Martin Bower

Models by Martin Bower for the ATV movie/pilot Dan Dare (1980s)
Picture © Martin Bower

Bower describes the creation of these Dan Dare models as 'a labour of love'. The majority were carved in Jetulong wood and then pressed or vacuum-formed in clear perspex. After masking the (improbably!) large areas of window-space, the miniatures were sprayed with cellulose paint. In effect, this means that the windows are not seperate parts of the model. Bower says that "insetting the window areas any other way would have been very time consuming and not have looked nearly as neat"


More retro sci-fi goodness from Martin Bower, the cool cutaways that went on to influence SF designers such as Ron Cobb and Syd Mead, and the history of Dan Dare in CGI, cartoons and 8-bit video-games!




#1 Guest 2010-05-12 20:10
Wonderful ships, great information!
#2 Dan Dare Space Models David Britton 2011-04-14 19:37
I have only just come across your interesting article.
In it you state that Martin Bower claims there is a dispute about the ownership of the spaceships made for Alan Vince. There is no dispute, as Martin is well aware, as I have been in direct contact with him. Alan Vince approached me in June 1995 and asked me to buy the models from him. I declined. Alan followed up his initial approach and after much discussion and persistence from Alan I agreed to buy the models from him. I have all the sales documents, correspondence and receipts for the sale and purchase. This has nothing to do with the Eagle Society (not the Dan Dare Society) as it was a personal transaction initiated by Alan. I have already made it clear that should I see any suggestion by anyone of impropriety on my part, I will have no hesitation is taking legal action against them. I would suggest you remove the statement above and remind Martin of our e-mail exchanges on this matter.
Best regards
David Britton 13th April 2011

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