Close

Blu-ray Review: SPACE: 1999 – THE COMPLETE SERIES

Jul 15 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

Space: 1999 is a sci-fi action-adventure series that opens in the future, September 13, 1999. The Earth has been using the far side of the moon as a dumping ground for its nuclear waste, which now seems to be causing brain damage to some of the research astronauts on Moonbase Alpha. So when another shipment of nuclear waste arrives to the scientific research center, the newly-appointed Commander John Koenig (Martin Landau) sends a crew to investigate. However, the nuclear waste causes a massive explosion, knocking the moon out of Earth’s orbit, hurling it out of the solar system, along with the 311 people aboard the moonbase. The explorers find themselves getting further and further from Earth as they search for a new home, and encounter new alien planets, civilizations, and unexplained phenomena along the way.

The crew of Moonbase Alpha includes head medical officer Dr. Helena Russell (Barbara Bain), chief pilot Alan Carter (Nick Tate, data analyst Sandra Benes (Zienia Merton), deputy medical officer Bob Mathias (Anton Phillips), science officer Victor Bergman (Barry Morse), and second in command/main mission controller Paul Marrow (Prentis Hancock). The first season, which was produced in 1975, has a bit of a metaphysical focus to it, with a central idea that there is some mysterious unknown force leading the crew on predetermined path, guiding them to their ultimate destination. This first season was produced by husband and wife team Gerry and Sylvia Anderson (who are probably best known for their puppet-based shows like Thunderbirds). The opening title sequence for the first season is reminiscent of Mission: Impossible—probably inspired by the fact that Landau and Bain had previously starred in that series together. This opening sequence gives viewers a preview of the action to come in the episode.

There were quite a few changes made to the series when it was surprisingly picked up for a second season two years later. Sylvia Anderson was no longer with the series, being replaced with American producer Fred Freiberger, and the series went in more of an action/adventure route rather than the metaphysical focus of the first season. I actually found this direction more enjoyable, and prefer the second season to the first. The sets and costumes were updated, and there were also some cast changes, introducing alien Maya (Catherine Schell) as the new science officer, and Tony Verdeschi (Tony Anholt) as the new second in command/head of security. The season also saw the quiet exit of computer operations officer David Kano (Clifton Jones) and base operations officer Tanya Alexander (Suzanne Roquette). The second season also changes up the theme music, and drops the Mission: Impossible like opening titles. For the second season, the episodes are also book-ended by a Star Trek like Captain’s Log of sorts, with Dr. Helena Russell narrating a Moonbase Alpha status report, recounting the events of the crew’s latest mission.

A NOTE ON EPISODE ORDER

Viewing Space: 1999 can sometimes be tricky for those looking to establish a clear, definitive timeline from episode to episode. This is due to a number of factors, including the nature of episodic television and its production at that time as compared to now, and the variance in airing dates from station to station and nation to nation. Ultimately, there are moments of character or storyline continuity that might seem out of place. While some fans have made excellent suggestions regarding a viewing order that makes the most sense, it is generally accepted that there is no single “correct” viewing order — only possibilities.

With this in mind, we have presented Space: 1999 here in production order, as it is the most commonly accepted viewing order.

There is no way that anyone could watch this series and not think of/make comparisons to Star Trek. In many ways it is very similar, though Moonbase Alpha starts off as more of a military installation rather than a ship setting out to explore new worlds, seek out new civilizations, and boldly go where no man has gone before…though this accidentally becomes their ultimate mission. I found that the series holds up remarkably well. Some of the episodes can be hit-or-miss, but there are some really interesting and thought-provoking storylines, as well as some great action-packed adventures, and even some that border on horror (like the somewhat terrifying Dragon’s Domain). The characters are well-defined and well-acted, and it’s a shame the series didn’t go beyond 2 seasons.

The first season had previously been released on Blu-ray in the U.S. back in 2010 by A&E Home Video, but Shout! Factory’s Complete Series collection marks the first time that the second season has been available on HD home video to North American audiences. The HD restoration looks fantastic, with bright colors and a clean, clear, and detailed image. If not for the show’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, you would never guess this series was over 40 years old! The audio has also been enhanced—I noticed a much fuller and more immersive experience when switching from the show’s original mono soundtrack to the upgraded DTS 5.1 audio track.

Shout! Factory’s release comes in some premium packaging. The six discs of each season come packed in their own multi-disc HD keepcases, while a standard HD keepcase houses the special features disc as well as a 16-page full color episode guide. These three cases are placed inside a sturdy cardboard slipcase. Each disc includes a Play All option, which makes it easy to binge your way through the series. The Blu-ray set includes a massive amount of bonus features, including most of the material that has appeared on various prior home video releases of the series, as well as several new commentaries, and new interviews with star Barbara Bain, actor Nick Tate, director Kevin Connor, and author John Muir. Dropped from previous releases are a trio of episode commentaries by co-creator Sylvia Anderson, writer Johnny Byrne & story consultant Christopher Penfold, and series expert Scott Michael Bosco.



What’s Included:

Episodes: (41:24:04)

  • All 48 episodes of the series:
    • Year One:
        Disc 1 (3:28:47): “Breakaway”, “Matter Of Life And Death”, “Black Sun”, “Ring Around The Moon”
        Disc 2 (3:28:59): “Earthbound”, “Another Time, Another Place”, “Missing Link”, “Guardian Of Piri”
        Disc 3 (3:29:04): “Force Of Life”, “Alpha Child”, “The Last Sunset”, “Voyager’s Return”
        Disc 4 (3:29:17): “Collision Course”, “Death’s Other Dominion”, “The Full Circle”, “End Of Eternity”
        Disc 5 (3:29:12): “War Games”, “The Last Enemy”, “The Troubled Spirit”, “Space Brain”
        Disc 6 (3:29:13): “The Infernal Machine”, “Mission Of The Darians”, “Dragon’s Domain”, “The Testament Of Arkadia”
    • Year Two:
        Disc 1 (3:24:47): “The Metamorph”, “The Exiles”, “One Moment Of Humanity”, “All That Glisters”
        Disc 2 (3:25:00): “Journey To Where”, “The Taybor”, “The Rules Of Luton”, “The Mark Of Archanon”
        Disc 3 (3:24:49): “Brian The Brain”, “New Adam, New Eve”, “Catacombs Of The Moon”, “The AB Chrysalis”
        Disc 4 (3:24:49): “Seed Of Destruction”, “The Beta Cloud”, “Space Warp”, “A Matter Of Balance”
        Disc 5 (3:24:57): “The Bringers Of Wonder, Part 1”, “The Bringers Of Wonder, Part 2”, “The Lambda Factor”, “The Seance Spectre”
        Disc 6 (3:25:10): “Dorzak”, “Devil’s Planet”, “The Immunity Syndrome”, “The Dorcons”
  • 1080p / Full Frame 1.33:1
  • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround, English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
  • Subtitles: English

Extras:
Items new to this release are marked with a *

    • Audio Commentaries
      These can be found in the Bonus section on the disc with the corresponding episode.

      • Breakaway Audio Commentary with Gerry Anderson (52:17)
        Series co-creator Gerry Anderson provides a commentary for the show’s pilot. He talks about how the success of U.F.O. in the UK led to an order for a second series, but when the ratings in America started to decline, these plans were scrapped and the sets were re-purposed for this new series. He also talks about how various aspects of the sets, including how the modular sets could be configured and utilized to create whatever ship sections they needed. Anderson also discusses some of the challenges in casting the series, writing the series, and the original 2-hour cut delivered by the director. While the commentary can be quite interesting and informative, there are large gaps of silence—this probably would have been better as an interview featurette instead of a commentary
      • Ring Around The Moon Audio Commentary with Scott Michael Bosco* (52:00)
        New to this release, Space: 1999 Series Expert Scott Michael Bosco provides and really interesting and informative discussion of the series. He talks about Sylvia Anderson’s role in the production, how the series differs from Star Trek, the show’s main title sequence, how the show’s special effects were done, how the series was distributed in the United States for broadcast, the history of the series on home video and the restoration process, and more.
      • Dragon’s Domain Audio Commentary with Gerry Anderson (52:19)
        Recorded in 2005, Anderson talks about the challenges of making the series, particularly creating alien planets for the crew to land on, which accents were acceptable to American audiences, adding monsters to the series, building the ship graveyard for this episode, the music and working with Barry Gray, and more. Similar to his previous commentary, Anderson leaves some large gaps.
      • Dragon’s Domain Audio Commentary with Anthony Taylor* (52:19)
        New for this release, writer/film & tv historian Anthony Taylor rattles off trivia about the series and production while watching the episode. It often feels a bit dry, like he is reading/stumbling over a pre-written statement rather than just talking off the cuff.
    • Photo Galleries
      Slideshows of production photos and deleted scenes that auto-advance through the images every 3-4 seconds. These can be found in the Bonus section on the disc with the corresponding episode.

      • Breakaway Gallery (8:30)
      • Matter of Life and Death Gallery (7:27)
      • Black Sun Gallery (4:11)
      • Ring Around the Moon Gallery (3:39)
      • Earthbound Gallery (8:21)
      • Another Time, Another Place Gallery (3:09)
      • Missing Link Gallery (1:30)
      • Guardian Of Piri Gallery (4:00)
      • Force Of Life Gallery (1:15)
      • Alpha Child Gallery (3:15)
      • The Last Sunset Gallery (2:33)
      • Voyager’s Return Gallery (1:06)
      • Collision Course Gallery (3:00)
      • Death’s Other Dominion Gallery (4:27)
      • The Full Circle Gallery (3:00)
      • End Of Eternity Gallery (3:51)
      • War Games Gallery (3:30)
      • The Last Enemy Gallery (2:42)
      • The Troubled Spirit Gallery (1:51)
      • Space Brain Gallery (:51)
      • The Infernal Machine Gallery (2:12)
      • Mission Of The Darians Gallery (3:18)
      • Dragon’s Domain Gallery (2:27)
      • The Testament Of Arkadia (1:51)

    • Audio Commentaries
      These can be found in the Bonus section on the disc with the corresponding episode.

      • The Metamorph Audio Commentary with Anthony Taylor* (51:03)
        New for this release, writer/film & tv historian Anthony Taylor returns to discuss the season premiere and the changes that came in Year Two of the series. He also talks about how various effects were produced.
    • Photo Galleries
      Slideshows of production photos that auto-advance through photos every 3-4 seconds. These can be found in the Bonus section on the disc with the corresponding episode.

      • The Metamorph Gallery (3:03)
      • The Exiles Gallery (2:18)
      • One Moment Of Humanity Gallery (1:39)
      • All That Glisters Gallery (3:45)
      • Journey To Where Gallery (2:24)
      • The Taybor Gallery (:48)
      • The Rules Of Luton Gallery (3:09)
      • The Mark Of Archanon Gallery (2:09)
      • Brian The Brain Gallery (1:00)
      • New Adam, New Eve Gallery (2:18)
      • Catacombs Of The Moon Gallery (2:39)
      • The AB Chrysalis Gallery (2:48)
      • Seed Of Destruction Gallery (:54)
      • The Beta Cloud Gallery (4:09)
      • Space Warp Gallery (2:21)
      • A Matter Of Balance Gallery (3:48)
      • The Bringers Of Wonder Gallery (3:49)
      • The Lambda Factor Gallery (1:39)
      • The Seance Spectre Gallery (1:51)
      • Dorzak Gallery (1:30)
      • Devil’s Planet Gallery (3:48)
      • The Immunity Syndrome Gallery (1:42)
      • The Dorcons Gallery (1:06)

      • Interviews
        • Mission To Moonbase Alpha: An Interview With Actress Barbara Bain* (10:36)
          New for this release, actress Barbara Bain (“Dr. Helena Russell”) recounts stories from her time on the set, discussing her character, the costumes, the sets, writing the series with act breaks for US audiences, the special effects, and more.
        • Into The Uncertain Future: An Interview With Actor Nick Tate* (16:44)
          New for this release, actor Nick Tate (“Alan Carter”) talks about how he got the role in the series, working with Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the evolution of his character, the reactions to the first season, the changes for the second season, and more.
        • Brain Behind The Destruction: An Interview With Director Kevin Connor* (9:14)
          New for this release, director Kevin Connor discusses his work on the series, the innovative effects, and the rapid nature of the production.
        • Interview With Sylvia Anderson (16:54)
          In this 2010 interview, the producer talks about various projects, including Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, UFO, The Protectors, and Space: 1999.
        • Guardian Of Piri Remembered With Actress Catherine Schell (1:41)
          Catherine Schell (“Maya’) talks about her disappointment with her costume in the Guardian Of Piri episode, and her reaction to the fantastical set.
        • Vintage Year Two Interviews (30:25)
          Raw footage of interviews conducted from the backlot of Pinewood Studios for the promotion of Year Two. Those interviewed include actor Martin Landau (“Commander John Koenig”), actress Barbara Bain (“Dr. Helena Russell”), co-creator Gerry Anderson, actress Catherine Schell (“Maya”), a set designer (name was not mentioned), and producer Fred Freiberger.
        • Vintage Brian Johnson Interview (3:21)
          Special effects director Brian Johnson talks about designing the Eagle spaceships, adding detail to the models and making things explode around the ship.
      • Featurettes
        • These Episodes (1:39:10)
          In this 2010 featurette, the cast and crew reflect on the storylines and production challenges of many of the show’s episodes, including “Breakthrough”, “Matter of Life and Death”, “Black Sun”, “Another Time Another Place”, “Guardian of Piri”, “Forces of Life”, “The Last Sunset”, “Voyager’s Return”, “The Full Circle”, “War Games”, “The Troubled Spirit”, “Space Brain”, “Mission of the Darians”, “Dragon’s Domain”, and “The Testament of Arkadia”. Participants include supervising editor David Lane, co-creator/executive producer Gerry Anderson, story consultant/script writer Christopher Penfold, actress Zienia Merton (“Sandra Benes”), and scriptwriter/script editor Johnny Byrne.
        • Moonbase Merch: A Tour Of Space:1999 Ephemera With Author John Muir* (11:16)
          New for this release, author John Kenneth Muir discusses and shows off the wide variety of merchandise and toys that were created to promote the series.
        • Memories Of Space (7:33)
          In this 2010 featurette, the cast and crew reflect on the series and why it still endures. Those interviewed include story consultant/script writer Christopher Penfold, actress Zienia Merton, supervising editor David Lane, scriptwriter/script editor Johnny Byrne, and co-creator/executive producer Gerry Anderson.
        • Behind The Scenes (With Brian Johnson Commentary) (6:49)
          Effects director Brian Johnson narrates this raw footage of folks working in the model shop and bringing effects to life on set, along with the finished shot.
        • Concept And Creation (13:10)
          In this 1996 featurette, the cast and crew talk about the history and creation of the series. Features interviews with co-creator/executive producer Gerry Anderson, story consultant/script writer Christopher Penfold, and actor Barry Morse (“Professor Victor Bergman”).
        • Special Effects And Design (17:34)
          In this 1996 featurette, the filmmakers discuss the film’s production design and special effects. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with story consultant/script writer Christopher Penfold, special effects director Brian Johnson, production designer Keith Wilson, and model maker/designer Martin Bower.
      • Promos and Trailers
        Trailers, episode promos and product adverts.

        • Martin Landau And Barbara Bain TV Promos (1:41)
        • Year One Promos (11:37)
        • Year Two Promos (1:35)
        • Destination Moonbase Alpha Trailer (2:10)
        • Alien Attack Trailers (3:04)
        • Blackpool “Space City” Exhibition Advert (:39)
        • Lyons Maid Ice Lolly Advert (:28)
      • Galleries
        Slideshows of production photos, behind-the-scenes shots, storyboards, products, and more that auto-advance through photos every 3-4 seconds.

        • BTS and Contact Sheets (2:11)
        • Bubble Gum Cards (3:30)
        • Cigarette Cards (5:09)
        • Portraits (5:03)
        • Models and Model Making (5:39)
        • Year Two Models and Props (5:03)
        • Year Two Promo (2:51)
        • Storyboards (1:32)
      • 16 Page Episode Guide
        16 page full color episode guide booklet that includes episode descriptions and trivia.

       

      Missing features from previous home video releases of the series include several audio commentaries, “Testament of Arkadia” with co-creator Sylvia Anderson, yet another “Dragon’s Domain” commentary with writer Johnny Byrne and story consultant Christopher Penfold, and commentary for “Death’s Other Dominion” with series expert Scott Michael Bosco (who did two new commentaries for other episodes for this release).


      Final Thoughts:

      My Rating
      Film:
      Video:
      Audio:
      Extras:
      Must Own for Fans
      Recommended For Others

      Space: 1999 is an underrated, and often forgetten gem, that usually falls in the shadow of the similar Star Trek series. Shout! Factory has put together a stellar Complete Series Blu-ray release that looks and sounds amazing and includes a wonderful assortment of new and vintage bonus material. This is a must own for fans of the series, and recommended for anyone looking to check out this classic series, which has never looked so good!