Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > TV > British > Space:1999 MegaSet (A&E U.S. DVD release)

Space: 1999 Mega-Set (A&E U.S. DVD release)


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: B     Episodes: B-



PLEASE NOTE: This set was succeeded by a 30th Anniversary DVD set back on 2007 by A&E, has been discontinued and the show is now reissued on Blu-ray by Network U.K. in England and A&E in the U.S., as reviewed elsewhere on this site.



Before Star Wars arrived, and Star Trek had become a huge hit in syndication it never was in first run on NBC, British TV was having its own success with science fiction on TV.  Dr. Who was the biggest hit, running through four decades (then later revived), while Gerry & Sylvia Anderson had a hugely successful series of puppet action shows in “SuperMarionation” that all fared very well.  When they tried their first live action series, it was the sci-fi classic U.F.O., which was picking up brilliantly before they pulled the plug prematurely due to what turned out to be declining interest in the key U.S. market.


The reason was in part, because ITC, Lord Lew Grade and the Anderson’s wanted to launch another, larger-scale sci-fi series and that would have originally been another season of U.F.O. which they had already spent much money developing.  They could not afford to do two such shows at the same time financially and for that matter, juggling two shows at once that were in a similar field could hurt both shows, so the result a new series called Space: 1999, which is rumored to have cost roughly $1 million in 1974 per episode.


Though U.F.O. was a groundbreaking show, having enough ideas and character development to have gone on longer, they forged ahead with the new series.  The Anderson’s created the largest-scale show they ever made, spent the most money they ever had, and took risks in a different direction than U.F.O. did.  The initial scripts were so bold and innovative; they landed a coup in the casting of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain in the lead roles, though Sylvia Anderson initially wanted Robert Culp for Landau’s lead.  We now know Miss Anderson wishes that had been the case after the trials and tribulation with the then married stars.


At the time the show arrived, that was huge news, since Landau and Bain had departed the groundbreaking, original Mission: Impossible series after three seasons, when the script quality took a nosedive.  Bain had even edged out Diana Rigg on The Avengers for the 1967 Best Actress Emmy Award.  Many realized they must have come back for something special after turning their back on M:I.


The networks were not so sure.  At the time, ABC, NBC and CBS were the Big Three and there was no cable TV yet.  PBS did not have the money to support the show, despite their success, especially with British import TV.  The networks turned the show down, so ITC took it into syndication (especially after a deal was guaranteed to Grade if he hired the leads he hired) and the results sent shock waves through the entire TV industry.  The show was a monster hit, even outdoing new network programs in many of the major markets.  Space: 1999 helped build syndicated TV, but would it still endure thirty years later?  At least the first season does somewhat.


This DVD set collects the double sets A&E issued over a period of a few years, save the bonus disc, which began surfacing at an electronics chain and is due to be offered separately for those who bought all those double sets to begin with.  These transfers are a mix of new digital transfers done for DVD, as well as ones that are recycled from analog masters used for VHS & LaserDisc editions.  At their worse, whites (like the title at the beginning of the first season episodes, before it was changed to yellow) yellow, and there is occurring sound warping.  At best, you get good picture and decent mono sound.  This does not sound quite as thick as the 384 kilobits-per-second Mono on A&E’s best boxed sets, like The Saint, U.F.O. (MegaSet & Set #2), Stingray, or The Avengers, but is still not bad.  There is an annoying sound click at 0:23 on “Force Of Life” to be aware of.


The show was originally thinking in terms of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), which was also the case in U.F.O., but this show had the money and storylines to go much farther.  As a result, the production design is on a feature film level.  This also means the show dealt in many schemes of black and white.  Color crept into the show more and more as it went on, not unlike the Star Trek feature films.  You can see this show’s influence on the look of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), which likely shows Gene Roddenberry’s desire to catch up to this series and pull ahead, or at least his admiration for the first season.


As the Andersons did their SuperMarionation puppet shows, they progressively did away more and more with the wires that were necessary to operate the complex of incredible vehicles and model building functions.  By Space: 1999, the wires were practically gone though some rare daylight shots gave them “cameos”.  People who defected from The Andersons to work on 2001, came back to do the later shows.  There are still corners cut, since the money only went so far, and this was still a few years before George Lucas’ first Star Wars (1977), so certain cheap visual effects were still considered passable at the time, but they rarely hurt these shows when they do surface.  It helped in the first season that all the effects were in service to the smart, daring teleplays.  Too bad those creating scripts and visual effects in this digital era usually miss that.


Finally, it is worth noting that the problematic prints are not as much of a problem as they had specifically been on full color DVDs of The Saint, which had some prints that were very disappointing.  Even with the bonus DVDs improved transfers of three of the shows, the 48 shows (and thus 51 transfers) average out for picture quality. Too bad the show could not have been remixed for stereo or 5.1, since the music score had its vibrant moments in the first season, but the mono will do.  The remarkably oversimplified score for Season Two could have only been made more obnoxious with stereo.


The set-up of the series has the 311 occupants of Moonbase Alpha experience mysterious magnetic activity, joined by their new leader, Commander Koenig (Landau).  The source turns out to be stored nuclear waste, which explodes with such force, that the moon is ripped out of earth’s orbit.  With no way of getting back, Alpha’s crew is forced into deep space, trying to survive in the face of dangerous odds.


The 48 episodes are as follows with title/writer(s)/director:


Disc One:


“Breakaway” (Pilot episode; George Bellak/Lee H. Katzin)

“Matter Of Life And Death” (Art Wallace & Johnny Byrne/Charles Crichton)

“Black Sun” (David Weir/Lee H. Katzin)


Disc Two:


“Ring Around The Moon” (Edward Di Lorenzo/Ray Austin) The show really takes off on this one.

“Earthbound” (Anthony Terpiloff/Charles Crichton) guest stars Christopher Lee

“Another Time, Another Place” (Johnny Byrne/David Tomblin) guest stars Judy Geeson


Disc Three:


“Missing Link” (Edward Di Lorenzo/Ray Austin) guest stars Peter Cushing.


“Guardian Of Piri” (Christopher Penfold/Charles Crichton) The first Catherine Schell show, but not as the Maya character she’d play later, while the show plays like Zardoz-lite.


“Force Of Life” (Johnny Byrne/David Tomblin) guest stars Ian McShane (Sexy Beast) in one of the best shows of the series, cleverly adding Horror elements.


Disc Four:


“Alpha Child” (Christopher Penfold/Ray Austin) guest stars Julian Glover (For Your Eyes Only)

“The Last Sunset” (Christopher Penfold/Charles Crichton) a mixed show

“Voyager’s Return” (Johnny Byrne/Bob Kellett) not good, but its influence on 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture is obvious.


Disc Five:


“Collision Course” (Anthony Terpiloff/Ray Austin) Not well-rounded.

“Death’s Other Domain” (Anthony Terpiloff & Elizabeth Barrows/Charles Crichton) Also on the Bonus DVD, with commentary track and better transfer.

“The Full Circle” (Jesse Lasky Jr. & Pat Silver/Bob Kellett) Also not so effective.


Disc Six:


“End Of Eternity” (Johnny Byrne/Ray Austin) guest stars Peter Bowles (The Avengers)

“War Games” (Christopher Penfold/Charles Crichton) Not bad.

“The Last Enemy” (Bob Kellett) Has its moments.


Disc Seven:


“The Troubled Spirit” (Johnny Byrne/Ray Austin)

“Space Brain” (Christopher Penfold/Charles Crichton)

“The Infernal Machine” (Anthony Terpiloff & Elizabeth Barrows/David Tomblin) guest stars Leo McKern


Disc Eight:


“Mission Of The Darians” (Johnny Byrne/Ray Austin) guest stars Joan Collins; once again, Collins punctuates a famous series with an appearance as she had done for Batman (as Siren), the British Roald Dahl’s “Tales Of The Unexpected” (the “Neck” episode), and “City On The Edge Of Forever” (considered by many to be the best of all the original Star Trek episodes).


“Dragon’s Domain” (Christopher Penfold/Charles Crichton) Also on bonus DVD, has an exceptional voice over by Barbara Bain, which would be trivialized by the entire second season.


“Testament Of Arkadia” (Johnny Byrne/David Tomblin) Also on bonus DVD, a fitting if problematic end to the first season, and for many, the whole series!

At this point, the series changed radically so much, that the first season was practically disowned, actors and the characters they played disappeared, the music went downhill, the visual effects and model work got worse, and the scripts went down the tubes.


Disc Nine:


“Metamorph” (Johnny Byrne/Charles Crichton) Catherine Schell’s debut as Maya.


“The Exiles” (Donald James/Ray Austin)


“One Moment Of Humanity” (Tony Barwick from “Captain Scarlet”/Charles Crichton) guest stars Billie Whitelaw, but even she cannot save this episode.


Disc Ten:


“All That Glisters” (Keith Miles/Ray Austin)

“Journey To Where” (Donald James/Tom Clegg) guest stars Freddie Jones, also unable to save this show.

“The Trybor” (Thom Keyes/Bob Brooks)


Disc Eleven:


“The Rules Of Luton” (Charles Woodgrove/Val Guest)

“The Mark Of Archanon” (Lew Schwartz/Charles Crichton)

“Brian The Brain” (Jack Ronder/Kevin Connor) guest stars Bernard Cribbins, but no help in saving this show.


Disc Twelve:


“New Adam, New Eve” (Terence Feely/Charles Crichton)

“The A B Chrysalis” (Tony Barwick/Val Guest) guest stars Sarah Douglas, unable to save this show.

“Catacombs Of The Moon” (Anthony Terpiloff/Robert Lynn)


Disc Thirteen:


“Seed Of Destruction” (John Goldsmith/Kevin Connor)

“The Beta Cloud” (Charles Woodgrove/Robert Lynn) guest stars David Prowse, poor.

“A Matter Of Balance” (Pip & Jane Baker/Charles Crichton) guest stars Stuart Wilson, poor.


Disc Fourteen:


“Space Warp” (Charles Woodgrove/Peter Medak)

“Bringers Of Wonder” (two episodes - Terrence Feely/Tom Clegg) guest stars Stuart Damon, tired.


Disc Fifteen:


“The Lambor Factor” (Terrence Dicks/Charles Crichton)

“The Seance Spectre” (Donald James/Peter Medak)

“Dorzak” (Pip & Jane Baker/Charles Crichton)


Disc Sixteen:


“Devil’s Planet” (Michael Winder/Tom Clegg)

“The Immunity Syndrome” (Johnny Byrne/Bob Brooks)

and “The Dorcons” (Johnny Byrne/Tom Clegg)



The seventeenth bonus disc repeats Season One key episodes “Death’s Other Domain” (with fan and collector Scott Michael Bosko giving some interesting facts, then veering off into some strange territory trying to equate the show with religion and New Age ideas that do not click.  It even seems to trivialize the show); “Dragon’s Domain” (with writers Christopher Penfold (Season One story advisor) and Johnny Byrne, which is above average); and “Testament Of Arcadia” (with Sylvia Anderson, always fearless in what needs to be said, making it easily the best commentary on the set).  The prints are a bit darker, but have better color, sharpness, and definition than the prior DVD transfers.


With the addition of a bonus DVD, this box features extras that reflect the massive production this series really was.  There are photo galleries on every single disc, usually consisting of 6 - 12 stills for each of the 48 episodes, but there are also stills on the bonus DVD.  The segments and the stills they offer are for behind-the-scenes (27,) deleted scenes (7,) special visual effects production (8,) and various tie-ins to the show (35, still skipping the action figures from Mego in the U.K. and Mattel in the U.S.).   The bonus extras also offer a longer version of a scene from that episode that should have remained, running 4:01, “Message From Moonbase Alpha” (6:55) that imagines the series ending after Season One for fans, an interview with Production Designer Keith Wilson (3:56), and the three commentaries on the aforementioned retransferred shows.  On the original DVDs, #5 has outtakes (4:01), #8 has 19 Season One TV trailers in the 2001 mode, #s 9 -11 have variations of a promo to push Season Two on the usually syndicated TV stations they appeared on, #13 has three regular trailers, a U.K. trailer, and a U.S. trailer that is the basic version of the trailers on #s 9 -11,19 Pre-Production sketches, and a 7 text page-frame explanation about Moonbase Alpha, #14 has a clip from the BBC “Behind The Scenes” show pushing Season One, 25 production stills, and theatrical trailers of the artificial feature film releases made from editing episodes of the show together.  This was to capitalize on Star Wars.  #15 features comments by Brian Johnson set to silent footage of his special visual effects work for Season Two, a short on the Blackpool Space: 1999 UK exhibit, and (uncredited on the back of the DVD box) an animated TV ad for Lyon’s Maid Space: 1999 treats in the UK.  This was a strawberry liquid filled ice treat with vanilla and lime.  Finally, #16 has six interviews that tried to justify Season Two from principals involved and 25 more production photos.  Easily put, the Season One materials are far superior to those of the second season, though the tie-in items are always interesting.  Too bad the Second Season looks like it had a redesign to simply sell toys.


The series featured Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse (Season One), Catherine (Von) Schell (Season Two), and Nick Tate.  Story Consulting by Christopher Penfold (Season One), Visual Effects by Derek Meddings (Season One), Music by Barry Gray with Vic Elms (Season One), Derek Wadsworth (Season Two), Cinematography by Frank Watts, B.S.C., and Produced by Sylvia Anderson (Season One) and Fred Freiberger (Season Two).  Shot at Pinewood Studios entirely, with the Bray Studios added for the second season.  It was amazing to revisit the show again after many decades, even with its unfortunate second season, meaning that only completists or huge fans should buy the entire box.  There was to be a third season of the show, but ITV and Lew Grade bet the money for the series on the disastrous feature film Raise The Titanic, so that was the end of Space: 1999.  However, with the direction the show was taking, maybe that was for the best.


Since then, the Andersons commercial success has peaked, though many interesting shows continued to be produced.  A&E intends to issue all of them.  No matter what can be said about the problems with the show, including that it did not manage to top U.F.O., it is a landmark TV series for its unique commercial, artistic, and science fiction genre success.  Space: 1999 is at least a minor classic!



- Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com