Posted by: movieotaku | April 24, 2007

Hereditary Sterility

A personage calling himself “The Phantom Computer” pointed out a boner in the classic Gerry Anderson series UFO:

In the Gerry Anderson series UFO, the medical exams uncovered that the invading aliens were suffering from “hereditary sterility”. In other words, if your father was sterile, then so are you! How’s that again?

Reminds me of the old joke, “Celibacy is not hereditary”.

Updated October 29, 2001

David Berg pointed out something that I overlooked when adding this comment:

I’ve only glanced thru it so far, but I have one correction, ie, some blunders may not, in fact, be blunders. Under “hereditary sterility”, suppose there were a recessive gene that caused sterility. If both parents had it, neither would be sterile, but 1/4 of their offspring would be. I haven’t researched it, but I believe there actually are some such genes, though rare. Having the recessive gene may not cause sterility, but may imbue the owner with some adaptive advantage, preventing the gene from disappearing as the species evolves (eg, sickle cell).

This is true. In very small populations, where inbreeding occurs, you can accumulate recessive genes very quickly. How these recessive genes affect them varies. Sometimes it’s simply a population of albinos. Other times, it’s the inability to bear live offspring to birth. So maybe this blunder is not a blunder, but if anyone else knows more about this old series, UFO, they can fill me in.



  1. There are such things as maternal-effect sterile phenotypes. The offspring of mothers carrying the genetic defect are sterile. I know these mutations are seen in worms and flies. I doubt however that the writers of this show were considering such mutations.

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