Review: Space: 1999 Season One (Blu-ray)

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Title: Space: 1999 The Complete Season One
Format: Blu-ray / DVD
Release Date: December 14, 2010
Studio: A&E Home Video
Original MSRP: $59.99 (Blu-ray) / $29.98 (DVD)
Number of Discs: 7 (Blu-ray) / 8 (DVD)
Language: English
Subtitles: English
MPAA Rating: NR
Space: 1999 The Complete Season One is available on Blu-ray and DVD.
The Blu-ray version was used for this review.

Editor’s Note:spb2447
I find it staggering that Keith could write an 1800 word review covering all aspects of Space: 1999 and completely fail to mention the most iconic part of the show and one of the coolest ships in science fiction, The Eagle. For shame! What you’ll get here though is a thorough look at a pretty good Blu-ray package. Enjoy.

—–

Picture it! Indianapolis, Indiana: 1975! Television programs debuting that year include The Jeffersons, Barney Miller, Welcome Back Kotter, Barretta, the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off Phyllis and the Indianapolis-set sit-com One Day At A Time.
Around the globe, BBC Two in the UK will begin running episodes of a little show called Fawlty Towers. The CTV in Canada will welcome The Bobby Vinton Show while Aussies tuck into something called The Don Lane Show on Nine Network.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a syndicated science-fiction television series filled with special effects by soon-to-be Oscar winning effects artists appeared on Sunday afternoons. That’s how it seemed to this barely-twelve year-old boy Trekker: out of nowhere. So when you look at the stats above and notice the release date for this Blu-ray collection is a tad over four years ago, keep in mind that the original material on these discs was created over the course of fifteen months beginning in the Autumn of 1973 for air dates in 1975. Those four years hardly make this information I have to impart, dated! Besides it’s never too late to visit an old friend or make a new one!

Main Command
SPACE1999STORY

Story:
Space! Not the final frontier where we discover alien life. Well, not yet anyway. But what we can do is leave our decaying nuclear waste right there on the dark side of the Moon. We can’t see it from Earth and it can’t possibly hurt us from waaaaay up there! Besides, we’ll put a large station on the bright side of the Moon to keep an eye on roentgen levels and maybe even to launch deep space missions.  Excellent solution.

SPACEALPHAPLAN

What could possibly go wrong, right? Apart from this being the worst time in the universe for the whole first-string-crew of the crucially vital exo-planetary flight to planet “Meta” to suddenly become ill. And utterly crazy with the SPACE MADNESS!!! Things are so bad on Moonbase Alpha that the Earth-based company running things fires the Commander and sends a new one to oversee the manned Meta Probe launch.

Martin Landau as Commander John Koenig
SPACEKOENIG

Enter John Koenig played within an inch of his teeth by Martin Landau. All deep concern and authority, Commander Koenig, Koenig being the German word for King by-the-way, takes the reins and immediately begins his investigation. Why didn’t the Earth commanders tell him conditions had sunk so low? Why were the doctor’s reports on the crew being kept under tight security? Koenig’s going to find out, by goodness! By hook or by crook! By nonchalantly feigning interest in Doctor Helena Russell’s equipment when he’s really interested in Doctor Helena Russell’s equipment! Well, kind of interested this season. Next season he’s going to go bonkers for her middle-aged hips, lips and thighs please. Doctor Russell is played by Barbara Bain who was Martin Landau’s castmate on Mission: Impossible. She was also his wife at the time.

Barbara Bain as Dr. Helena Russell
SPACEHELENA

Rather than explain every inch of this pilot episode I’ll skip directly to spoiling it. I have to! Sorry! It’s the premise of the rest of all the episodes. Trying to not spoil this would be like trying not to spoil Star Trek by leaving out the fact they’re on a space ship.

So remember all that fissionable material on the dark side of the Moon? Yeah…KAH-BOOOOOM!!!! BIGGEST KAH-BOOM EVER! SO BIG! The Moon is blown out of its orbit of Earth and even out of the influence of El Sol all together. The Moon splits and takes Moonbase Alpha and all 311 scientists, janitors and cooks with it. Waving forlornly at the Earth through windows of ever-cooling glass, they bid their loved-ones and every McDonald’s drive-thru adieu.

SPACEEXPLOSION

It is at this point I must point-out that fiction takes the lead chair in this symphony of science fiction. The show couldn’t exist any other way. As a matter of fact, without the massive amounts of fiction administered in the scripts for Space: 1999 it could only have been a one-off movie. It would in fact have been Armageddon.

So there you have it. The first season of 26 hour-long episodes are set-up. The Moon is flying through space at an alarming rate which is never remarked upon by the “Alphans”, as the base inhabitants are called, even to say, “Gee! How fast is this goddamned Moon going, anyway?!” Instead they all take it in their stride as week after week goes by like planet after planet.

On occasion the writers do try to get some new, cutting-edge scientific plot points in motion based upon truth. The episode Black Sun has the Moon passing through what we know now as a Black Hole. During the passage through, Koenig and Victor, played by Barry Morse, don tons of ancient-age make-up and go on a groovy trip, man. But we know in reality that their atoms would have been broken down into their basic elements and crapped into deep space. Still, such was the dearth of knowledge available in 1973.

For Season One of the show, the writers spend a lot of time leaping from science to meta-physical manifestations of the universality of what it means to be human. There are funky lights shown through prisms and high-pitched music along with musings about the true nature of the universe and carefully written new ways to not-say-God. Then something explodes, thank non-specific phenomena which may or may not be self-aware!

For those among you partial to a little soap in your space opera, there are relationships a-budding. There are even scantily clad, moon-surface volleyball games in the RAIN which one must see to believe. Like, if you can believe the builders of Moonbase Alpha put in doors to the moon’s surface where there are no airlocks. Stop thinking so darn much!

Video:
Slightly disappointingly, the HD restoration for these Blu-rays keep the original broadcast ratio of 4:3. However after a few moments one really isn’t affected by that. The colors are brighter and the pictures are sharper than ever. And thank goodness they’ve touched-up the horrible opening credits for Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. Until now they always looked like producer Sylvia Anderson’s cats had run rampant in the editing bay!

Special effects were provided by Brian Johnson who went on to work on the films Alien for Ridley Scott and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for Irvin Kirshner. He won the Oscar for each of those two films and has more nominations and awards for achievement in effects. Earlier in his career Mr. Johnson also built models of space ships for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Costumes for Season One were designed by the award-winning fashion designer Rudi Gernreich. The form-fitting, unisex zippered belted unitard worn by the Alphans is as classic a design as the Star Trek red shirt.

Here is a gratuitous shot of Joan Collins guest starring. Well? Aren’t they all?
SPACE1999COLLINS

Audio:
The sound has been completely remixed for every episode. The superb interactive menus allow for a choice of either original broadcast mono sound or 5.1

Bonus Features:
The special features appear on the only two DVDs in this collection. Therefore they are not in HD, although they look fine.

In terms of the wealth of features and extras on offer here, you will feel rich indeed.

  • Audio Commentaries on some episodes
  • Music only soundtracks
  • Behind the scenes Featurettes
  • Sylvia Anderson Interview
  • TV Special from the set of Space: 1999 chronicling Gerry Anderson
  • Episode by episode still photo slideshow
  • Trailers
  • Alternate Credit-less Titles
  • Barry Gray’s Theme Music Demo
  • Alternate opening/closing Titles
  • Landau/Bain pilot intro and outro
  • SFX plates and deleted SFX scenes with music tracks

The collection of featurettes about each episode of the season is a goldmine! Not simply dry facts and figures but with the inclusion of footage from Gerry Anderson and Zienia Merton there are tales of actor madness and a real flavor of what the day to day running of the show was like. Writers discuss the arduous re-writes for sometimes painfully incompetent directors in a kind but juicy release of long-held annoyance. By the time you have watched the interview with a now-elderly Sylvia Anderson you will know more dirt than a feasting Aardvark! Ms. Anderson lets absolutely no one off the hook and drags more skeletons out of closets than Vincent Price did his whole career!

Sylvia Anderson on set.SPACESYLVIA

Conclusion:

When “Space: 1999” blasted into view on the TV screen nearly a year ago it was billed as the answer to a Trekkies prayer, a genuine imitation reincarnation of “Star Trek.” But what the science fiction fans got was dazzling special effects wrapped In stoney-faced calamity theater – Martin Landau and Barry Morse registering perpetual alarm while Barbara Bain stared blankly. -Richard K. Shull, Indianapolis News  14, August 1976

That may have been the snooty opinion of a syndicated entertainment reviewer of that time and it may be 100% correct even these 38-plus years later. But as with all things in life, not every flavor has to be sweet to be enjoyed. Every film doesn’t have to be Gone with the Wind. Some films are loved for being One Crazy Summer!

So what if Landau’s Koenig is no Kirk! So what if Bain’s Doctor Russell is desperately trying to get her meds right so she can frigging register any emotion at all! So what if it’s “the Moon, John! The Moon!”

This show isn’t for everyone. I adored it as a kid perhaps because I had little to compare it to. There were few good science-fiction shows on the pre-cable over-air channels of my ancient TV youth.

Space: 1999 Season One has a decidedly pseudo-metaphysical focus. What does it all mean? Are we little more than the peewees in the universe’s marble game? Why am I expecting these answers from a 19-inch black and white TV with Reynold’s Wrap foil-covered bunny ears- hold your left arm in the air for a better picture please?

But it is fun. It’s fun to take bets on when Barbara Bain will show any emotion. It’s fun to make a drinking game out of how often women are seen as objects! It’s fun to spot guest stars in their youth like Ian McShane!

It’s also fun to add new things to one’s science-fiction Blu-ray collection and have them to sample from time to time on a rainy day. Secret tidbit: The show only had two seasons. The second is still not on Blu-ray yet but it likely will be. They do away with the mumbo-jumbo and instead blow-up way more stuff and even get a gorgeous female alien named Maya played by Catherine Schell. She can literally shape-shift into animals!

Score:
8.5

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Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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  • Keith Dunn

    Note to editor: I am not a car guy. LOL

  • Makai

    $60.00? Wow that seems crazy. Even $49.99 that they’re selling it for right now still seems way too high. I don’t even spend that much on Game of Thrones Blu-Rays. If it was $30 on blu-ray It’d be worth considering.

    At least the episodes are hour long. So that helps a bit and I’m sure film to blu-ray restoration process is a pain, but they should at least have trickled a few episodes onto Netflix. No matter how positive your review, is if you’re like me and not a big sci-fi fan, you’d at least want a taste before you drop a full tank of gas’ worth of money on a t.v. show from 30-40 years ago…

    What price would you say it’s a “MUST-BUY”

    • Keith Dunn

      It’s cheaper on Amazon. And there are, again, 26 hour long episodes before you even touch the extras. It’s well worth it….for a sci-fi fan. Apart from that it is up to you.

  • John Montegudo

    Space 1999 is a sci-fi classic and I plan on picking it up, good work Keith! You always make me laugh which probably goes to show your a sick nastard like me and yes that spaceship is a sci – fi icon!

  • Keith, before I purchase the Blu-ray release of Space: 1999, what’s the condition of some of the space shots in the series? For example (with the A&E DVD releases), in the episode War Games many of the scenes where Eagles are battling Mark IX Hawks, a third of space is white! White space is also present in the episodes Guardian of Piri, Dragon’s Domain (also red space!), The Testament of Arkadia, The Infernal Machine, etc. Very annoying, and a purchase breaker if the Blue-Ray restoration didn’t correct those major picture flaws.

    • Keith Dunn

      None of those hideous irregularities exist in this version! I was unaware they did in the DVD versions. But I agree. If I saw that kind of a mess I’d be plenty upset too. You can buy with confidence. Happy viewing!

  • David Sodee

    I found the Space 1999 final message the other day. Awesome wrap up on the series. Check it out on you tube !!