Space: 1999 Mega-Set (A&E U.S. DVD release)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
episodes are as follows with title/writer(s)/director:
(Pilot episode; George Bellak/Lee H. Katzin)
Of Life And Death” (Art Wallace & Johnny Byrne/Charles Crichton)
Sun” (David Weir/Lee H. Katzin)
Around The Moon” (Edward Di Lorenzo/Ray Austin) The show really takes off on
(Anthony Terpiloff/Charles Crichton) guest stars Christopher Lee
Time, Another Place” (Johnny Byrne/David Tomblin) guest stars Judy Geeson
Link” (Edward Di Lorenzo/Ray Austin) guest stars Peter Cushing.
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
“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.
Child” (Christopher Penfold/Ray Austin) guest stars Julian Glover (For Your
Sunset” (Christopher Penfold/Charles Crichton) a mixed show
Return” (Johnny Byrne/Bob Kellett) not good, but its influence on 1979's Star
Trek: The Motion Picture is obvious.
Course” (Anthony Terpiloff/Ray Austin) Not well-rounded.
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.
Eternity” (Johnny Byrne/Ray Austin) guest stars Peter Bowles (The Avengers)
Games” (Christopher Penfold/Charles Crichton) Not bad.
Enemy” (Bob Kellett) Has its moments.
Troubled Spirit” (Johnny Byrne/Ray Austin)
Brain” (Christopher Penfold/Charles Crichton)
Infernal Machine” (Anthony Terpiloff & Elizabeth Barrows/David Tomblin)
guest stars Leo McKern
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).
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.
Of Arkadia” (Johnny Byrne/David Tomblin) Also on bonus
DVD, a fitting if problematic end to the first season, and for many, the whole
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.
“Metamorph” (Johnny Byrne/Charles Crichton) Catherine Schell’s debut
Exiles” (Donald James/Ray Austin)
Moment Of Humanity” (Tony Barwick from “Captain
Scarlet”/Charles Crichton) guest stars Billie Whitelaw, but even she cannot
save this episode.
Glisters” (Keith Miles/Ray Austin)
To Where” (Donald James/Tom Clegg) guest stars Freddie Jones, also unable to
save this show.
Trybor” (Thom Keyes/Bob Brooks)
Rules Of Luton” (Charles Woodgrove/Val Guest)
Of Archanon” (Lew Schwartz/Charles Crichton)
The Brain” (Jack Ronder/Kevin Connor) guest stars Bernard Cribbins, but no help
in saving this show.
Adam, New Eve” (Terence Feely/Charles Crichton)
“The A B
Chrysalis” (Tony Barwick/Val Guest) guest stars Sarah Douglas, unable to save
Of The Moon” (Anthony Terpiloff/Robert Lynn)
Destruction” (John Goldsmith/Kevin Connor)
Cloud” (Charles Woodgrove/Robert Lynn) guest stars David Prowse, poor.
Of Balance” (Pip & Jane Baker/Charles Crichton) guest stars Stuart Wilson,
Warp” (Charles Woodgrove/Peter Medak)
Of Wonder” (two episodes - Terrence Feely/Tom Clegg) guest stars Stuart Damon,
Lambor Factor” (Terrence Dicks/Charles Crichton)
Seance Spectre” (Donald James/Peter Medak)
(Pip & Jane Baker/Charles Crichton)
Planet” (Michael Winder/Tom Clegg)
Immunity Syndrome” (Johnny Byrne/Bob Brooks)
Dorcons” (Johnny Byrne/Tom Clegg)
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
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.
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.
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!