Ed Straker (portrayed by Ed Bishop) is the overall commander of SHADO.
A former American Air Force pilot and astronaut originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Straker organized SHADO following a series of UFO attacks in 1970. He masquerades as the head of Harlington-Straker Film Studios, as SHADO Headquarters are located directly below the studio.
He was married to Mary Nightingale in 1970, but they soon separated after the birth of John, their son, in spring 1972, and eventually divorced in 1977. [N 1] As if perhaps to show her opinion of Straker and his cold attitude, Mary registered their son as John Rutland, after his new stepfather, played by Philip Madoc.
In "A Question of Priorities," John was later seriously injured when he was hit by a car and Straker, against his own rules, used a SHADO aircraft in order to fly in antibiotic drugs from America. But when his second-in-command, Col. Alec E. Freeman, was forced to divert the plane in order to investigate some curious UFO-related events in Ireland, Straker's sense of duty prevented him from informing and overruling him as to the plane's original mission. The drugs arrived too late at the hospital, and John died. His ex-wife blamed him for their son's death, and spat angrily at him when he saw her after the tragedy, "I never want to SEE you again!!!" Though Straker and General James Henderson were once good friends, this presumably has the effect of straining their relationship and causing friction between the two men.
In other sci-fi series, a character must face a challenge and overcome it, though the problem is invariably solved by hour's end after which all is well. In contrast, the UFO series makes it clear that Ed Straker has had to completely sacrifice his personal life for the organisation, and that although he has learned to live with the fact, he has never forgotten the suffering it has caused to him and people he loved most. Moreover, it is repeatedly demonstrated that there is no realistic prospect of Straker's circumstances ever improving, though if circumstances were different he would undoubtedly embrace change. Straker's underlying tension and unhappiness is the foundation of his wounded character, exemplified most powerfully in the "Confetti Check A-OK" episode. The overall effect of Straker's regularly referenced back story is to transform what could have been a stereotypical sci-fi character into one who is three-dimensional, complex and sympathetic.
One relatively consistent element of Straker's character is that he refuses to drink alcohol even though he has a fully stocked bar in his SHADO office. An early episode refers to him possessing the willpower to avoid alcohol, yet he drinks champagne at his wedding, and later to commemorate his wife's pregnancy. Some fans have suggested he might be a recovering alcoholic, but nothing within the series supports this idea. On the contrary, Alec Freeman's comments, as his best friend, would be entirely out of character if that were the case. However, Straker is fond of cigars, and he can be seen smoking in some episodes. Straker suffers from claustrophobia, a fact known only to the SHADO doctors and Alec Freeman. [N 2]
His voice in the television episodes sounds somewhat higher-pitched than Ed Bishop's real voice actually was, because the episodes were recorded at 24 frames per second but on television were played at 25 frames per second.
- ↑ Timeframes are never given for events before the series, but it would be reasonable to presume that their marriage had ended by the end of the flashback presented in Confetti Check A-OK.
- ↑ This was a major sub-plot in the episode Sub-Smash.