Maya (Space: 1999)

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Space: 1999 character
Catherine Schell as Maya in Space: 1999's second season.
Portrayed by Catherine Schell
Species Psychon
Gender Female
Affiliation Moonbase Alpha
Rank Scientific Officer
Section Command Centre
Date of birth 3rd day of Tayad, 6752 Psychon years
Home planet Psychon

Maya is a fictional character created by writer producer Freddie Frieberger, who appeared in the second series of the science fiction television program Space: 1999. Played by actress Catherine Schell (who also made a first season appearance as a different character),[1] Maya was introduced in the second series opener "The Metamorph". Maya is in her early twenties,[2] and is a native of the planet Psychon.[3]

Character biography[edit]

Maya is the daughter of the accomplished Psychon scientist Mentor (Brian Blessed);[4] her mother had died before the events depicted in "The Metamorph".[5] She had one brother, also a scientist, who sat with their father on Psychon's High Scientific Council.[5][6] Psychon's science and technology was far in advance of Earth's at the time of the Alphans' encounter with this planet; the manipulation and transmutation of matter at the molecular level was commonplace.[4]

Maya recounts her upbringing as essentially idyllic. The planet Psychon had a peaceful and happy culture. Its people were all of one race, one religion and one government; with an over-abundance of natural resources, there was no separation of classes.[5] The world of her youth was soon lost in an environmental disaster; intense volcanic activity laid waste to the entire planet. The escalation of the surface temperature to an average 180 degrees Fahrenheit[4] made life there impossible. The surviving Psychons were forced to retreat to underground compounds to survive.[4]

For some unknown reason, the Psychons were unable to manipulate the environment to save their world; Maya's brother and a thousand others instead opted to build spaceships and leave Psychon. All other Psychons followed their example, and ultimately Mentor and Maya were left alone on the dying planet.[5] Mentor remained, believing he could restore Psychon with the help of his biological computer Psyche. (Maya once told John Koenig that she also knew he would never leave her late mother.)[5]

Psyche, capable of molecular transformation, drew its power from the mental energy of intelligent beings.[4] Unknown to Maya, rapport with Psyche left its victims brain-damaged. Mentor intimated that he may have used not only those space travellers unfortunate enough to approach Psychon as fodder for Psyche, but some of his own people as well.[4]

The arrival in the Psychon system of Earth's wandering Moon and its 297 human inhabitants gave Mentor his best opportunity to fulfill his dream. Mentor's attempt to capture the Alphans failed; Psyche was attacked by Commander Koenig and fatally damaged. The energy released destroyed the already unstable planet. Mentor elected to stay behind and perished in the explosion, but Koenig and company managed to escape with Maya and brought her to Moonbase Alpha to live with the Alphans.[4]

In appearance, Maya is a slender young woman with auburn hair. A brown peak extends down from her hairline and identical brown colouring under her cheekbones resembles 'sideburns'. (In the first nine episodes, Maya has dark brown ears as well; this was abandoned without an on-screen explanation as some executives felt the makeup made her ears look 'dirty'; at this time, the 'sideburns' became less dramatic as well.) Her eyebrows are a line of wart-like 'octopods' that are a distinctive genetic characteristic of the Psychon race. (Actress Catherine Schell collaborated with Production Designer Keith Wilson in the development of the Maya makeup and has stated she would have liked to have seen Maya with a dark neck and a peak extending upwards from her chin and arms that were pigmented on the tops and light on the bottoms. Discarded concepts also included a curly white wig and contacts with white star-shaped pupils that the actress could not tolerate.)[7][8]

Series Two[edit]

Maya was rapidly integrated into the Alpha community; in less than two months after her arrival, she had attained the position of scientific officer,[9] was head of the Research Section[10] and had a posting in Command Centre.[11] Maya is a brilliant intellect and has lightning-fast computational skills; she has proven to be quicker than Alpha's Main Computer, thanks to her training in Psychon's advanced mathematics.[12] She has proven to be an able pilot and accompanies many of the exploratory missions.

Maya is a fully emotional being throughout the series. She has an impish sense of humor and sometimes uses her powers as a metamorph to play practical jokes ("The Exiles", "Journey to Where" and "The Bringers of Wonder, Part One"). She tends to be a bit too trusting of others ("The Taybor" and "Dorzak"), perhaps due to her sheltered upbringing. She enjoys a playfully flirtatious romantic connection to Tony Verdeschi and enjoys teasing him about the lack of quality of his homemade beer.[13] During the stressful events of "The Beta Cloud", Verdeschi professes his love for her; even though later he tries to take it back, they progress to a proper relationship afterwards.

In addition to her love affair with Verdeschi, Maya has formed close friendships with John Koenig, Helena Russell and Alan Carter. Alpha geologist Dave Reilly[14] and Taybor the trader[15] were would-be suitors that an uninterested Maya quickly discouraged.

Maya was featured in "The Metamorph", "The Taybor", "The Rules of Luton", "New Adam, New Eve", "The AB Chrysalis", "Seed Of Destruction", "The Beta Cloud", "The Bringers Of Wonder", "Dorzak", and "The Dorcons". She was also seen, but played smaller roles in the 'double-up' episodes "The Mark of Archanon", "Catacombs of the Moon" and "Space Warp". Her appearance in "Devil's Planet" was limited to flashback images only.

A metamorph[edit]

The Psychon species, due to its unique cellular and molecular structure, has the ability to metamorphose.[16] Maya is able to change into any lifeform — insect, reptile, plant, mammal, humanoid (including ugly space monsters) — for about an hour. She has used her ability to get the crew of Moonbase Alpha out of a variety of problematic situations.

Maya was instructed on how to change form by Mentor, and from mastery of this skill has come to be known as a metamorph capable of molecular transformation. She achieves this transformation by concentrating on the molecular structure of the creature she wishes to emulate.[17] While transformed, she retains her own knowledge and identity. In "All That Glisters", it is noted that she can transform into anything organic. It is noted that Maya can only hold a form for one hour.[18][19] In "The Taybor", a kidnapped Maya is able to win her freedom from her captor by threatening to lock herself into a hideous transformation "forever" (one must assume she was understandably fibbing in this case). In the episode "The Rules of Luton" is also implied that, after the hour, she must change back to her original form rather than transforming directly to a different form. (This was seen to not be true as Maya had been pictured changing directly from one animal form to another in "The Metamorph" and "The Taybor".) Maya has also been witnessed transforming selected parts of her body; for example, her hairstyle.[20] Her clothing and any accessories in contact with her body, if desired, can also be involved in the transformation.[21]

When seriously ill or feverish, Psychons have been known to lose 'molecular control' and, in their delirium, transform uncontrollably into random lifeforms. During the events of "Space Warp" a delirious Maya used her abilities to thwart any attempt to restrain or control her while transformed; her sub-conscious mind was still able to make appropriate transformation choices for each situation. The Alphans were finally able to capture her and nurse her back to health before she attained her delusional goal: to escape from the Moon and return to Psychon — to save her father.

The ability to shape-change is not known by all Psychons, as mentioned in the episode "Dorzak" which featured the deranged Psychon prisoner of that name. He did not initially know how to transform, but used his powers of hypnosis on Maya to make her teach him how to do so. The fact that he learned it so quickly could indicate it is possibly a latent ability in all Psychons, but this is never expanded upon.

Although never stated in the programme, this talent may have something to do with the unique regenerative characteristics of the Psychon brain-stem, which is sought by their imperialistic enemies the Dorcons. The Dorcons have hunted Psychons throughout their history as they believe a Psychon brain-stem grants them virtual immortality when surgically grafted onto a Dorcon brain. In an encounter with the Imperial Archon and his entourage in "The Dorcons", the Alphans witnessed the infighting within the imperial court that destroyed the dying leader and his heir. There is no guarantee that other members of this species will not, some day, come searching for what they believe is the last of the Psychons.

Series Three/spin-off[edit]

Maya was viewed by many as an attempt by new producer Fred Freiberger (who had previously worked on Star Trek) to create a female version of the Spock character. She, however, became a hit with many viewers and Schell's performance as Maya was considered by many to be the main upside to the second series of Space: 1999. A third series of Space: 1999 was in the works, with a spin-off series based on Maya running in conjunction, but neither transpired by the end of the run[22].


  1. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Guardian of Piri" as the Servant of the Guardian
  2. ^ The Johnny Byrne/Fred Freiberger screenplay for "The Metamorph" listed Maya's age as twenty-one, lending credence to her naivete and playful personality; actress Catherine Schell was thirty-two when filming commenced on the second series of Space: 1999.
  3. ^ The Moonbase Alpha Technical Manual
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Space: 1999 episode "The Metamorph"
  5. ^ a b c d e Space: 1999 episode "The Rules of Luton"
  6. ^ The story of Maya's brother is touched upon in the Year Three Powys Publication novel Born For Adversity when the Alphans encounter Psychon refugees in this story. His name is revealed as 'Marek'
  7. ^ The Making of Space: 1999, Ballatine Books 1976
  8. ^ It has been noted in several texts (The Making of Space: 1999, Destination: Moonbase Alpha and the original Year Two Writers' Notes) that Maya as originally conceived by producer Fred Freiberger was to be portrayed by a Black actress. Early production sketches for make-up and costumes printed in The Making of Space: 1999 confirm this fact. Fred Freiberger has been interviewed stating he had selected an actress named Teresa Groves for the Maya part. When this fell through, Gerry Anderson began actively pursuing Catherine Schell for the role.
  9. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Seed of Destruction"
  10. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Brian the Brain"
  11. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Exiles"
  12. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The AB Chrysalis"
  13. ^ Space: 1999 episodes "Journey to Where" and "A Matter of Balance"
  14. ^ Space: 1999 episode "All That Glisters"
  15. ^ Space: 1999 episode "The Taybor"
  16. ^ Space: 1999 episode "Dorzak"
  17. ^ Space: 1999 episodes "The AB Chrysalis" and "The Beta Cloud"
  18. ^ Space: 1999 episodes "The Exiles" and "The Rules of Luton"
  19. ^ Critics have cited that this rule was broken in "The Seance Spectre" as Maya assumed the form of vegetation to provide oxygen for a three-hour flight in a damaged Eagle; however, they must consider that she could have returned to her natural form for a moment, then re-transformed into plantlife.
  20. ^ Space: 1999 episode "One Moment of Humanity"
  21. ^ In most cases, Maya's clothing will disappear when she transforms into another lifeform. In "The Exiles", Maya's leisure wear became Helena's uniform when she transformed into a copy of Doctor Russell; in "Seed of Destruction", her uniform became the jumpsuit worn by Joanna Cranston when she copied her form. Also, on occasion, her alternate form will retain the same clothing (see 'Maya/Ugly' in "The Exiles" and 'Maya/Slatternly Woman' in "The Taybor").
  22. ^ The Abortive Year Three

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