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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Outer Space > Oceans > Submarines > Drama > Police > Crime > Mystery > Pathfinder In Space Trilogy (1960 – 1961)/City Beneath The Sea/Secret Beneath The Sea (1962 – 1963/Network U.K. DVDs)/Regan (Pilot to The Sweeney/1973/Network U.K. Blu-ray)/Without Motive (2000 – 2001

Pathfinder In Space Trilogy (1960 – 1961)/City Beneath The Sea/Secret Beneath The Sea (1962 – 1963/Network U.K. DVDs)/Regan (Pilot to The Sweeney/1973/Network U.K. Blu-ray)/Without Motive (2000 – 2001/Acorn DVD)


Picture: C/C/B-/C     Sound: C/C/B-/B-     Extras: C+/C/C+/D     Main Programs: C+/C+/B/C+



PLEASE NOTE: Without Motive is a U.S. Region One NTSC DVD from Acorn, while the Pathfinder, City Beneath The Sea and Secret Beneath The Sea DVDs are Region Two only and will only play on such DVD players.  The Regan (pilot to The Sweeney) telefilm Blu-ray is region free and all these imports are only available in the U.K. from our friends at Network U.K. and can be ordered from them exclusively at the website address links provided below at the end of the review.



Now for a look at some classic British TV shows you may not know of and a newer one that represents more of what we are getting today.


The great Sydney Neuman (The Avengers, Doctor Who) tried to create all kinds of TV and among the first British dramas for children and family audiences were a series of five short shows that happened in succession and had some key success for Associated British when he was still working there.


The new Pathfinder In Space Trilogy includes all three shows produced from 1960 to 1961 involving three youngsters whose father works at a spacer station and the trouble they get into.  But things get wilder when saboteurs may be hiding on the base ready to strike and they get involved in unlikely ways.  The first show was so successful that co-creators Malcolm Hulke (Ghost Squad) and Eric Paice (Star Maidens, Sergeant Cork) delivered the sequel series included here: Pathfinders To Venus and Pathfinders To Mars.  Yes the budgets are low, the visual effects a hoot and the costumes possibly funnier, but these are smart, entertainingly made and though some of the science and factual data is dated, the shows are fun.  George Coulouris is among the cast.


Wanting to take the established audience to new places, the oceans and submarines were mixed with military and more spies, so City Beneath The Sea (not to be confused with Irwin Allen’s later productions of the same name) this time penned by the capable John Lucarotti (Moonbase 3) making it and its follow-up show Secret Beneath The Sea further hits.  However, by the final series, Neuman and Associated British (known as ABC) quit while they were on top and that was the end of the ongoing shows.  However, these are also much fun and it is nice to see these shows make it to DVD, as so many other such shows (shot on tape or live captured on kinescope) need to come out on DVD now.  Extras include booklets and stills sections (including promo still and behind the scenes stills) for each show, plus a DVD-ROM accessible PDF teleplay for the Pathfinders prequel Target Luna is also included.



After so many fantastical action shows like The Avengers and Doctor Who in the 1960s, a more serious kind of drama was starting to surface (think Callan) and the fine Armchair Theater anthology series (which we have reviewed elsewhere on this site) showed a TV movie called Regan with John Thaw as the tough cop title character.  This landed up serving as a pilot for The Sweeney, a groundbreaking police drama that changed British TV forever, is about to be remade and holds up very well.  As a result, the all-filmed telefilm has arrived on Blu-ray (its been on DVD for a while now) and the landmark holds up as Regan and his team have to a killer, but he finds Scotland Yard might be as much trouble as the unknown killer in this enduring work that more people need to see outside of the U.K. and this is an impressive disc.


Dennis Waterman, Lee Montague and Barry Jackson are among the supporting cast and extras include an interview with writer/creator Ian Kennedy Martin and a feature length audio commentary track with Waterman, Producer Ted Childs and Director Tom Clegg.



Part of the result was not only some great British TV, but the often regressive police procedural cycle, which is safer, less gritty and a little less realistic no matter how much more graphic the makers can be.  Without Motive (2000 – 2001) is such a show, running at least the two seasons represented in this new 4 DVD set from Acorn.  Ross Kemp is Detective Constable Jack Mowbray, juggling his family with his job.  The first season has a serial killer on the loose, while the second has a man accused of a murder he may or may not have committed.  Not bad, though we have seen much of it before, it is best reserved for fans of this specific subgenre. 



The black and white 1.33 X 1 image on the Pathfinder and Sea sets show their age with the kind of distortion old round picture tubes would give such shows, but this is as good as they are going to look.  The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image on Regan is likely from a 16mm print source, possibly 35mm that has aged, but it is superior to the out of print U.S. BCI Eclipse copy from their Season One box set (they went out of business) and is the first telefilm in the U.K. out on Blu-ray (the 35mm Dark Night Of The Scarecrow is the first in the U.s., both beating the telefilm that is usually first in both markets in a new format, the 1972 Night Stalker with Darren McGavin) and has some fine shots throughout.  It is shot to be dark and gritty and Network (et al) has done a fine restoration job on the fine work by Lighting Cameraman John Keeling (Special Branch).  Guess the whole series is not far behind.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Motive has too much edge enhancement and other flaws to look as fine as it should, so in this way, it disappoints the most.


The Pathfinder and Sea sets have Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that also shows its age and has distortion issues as expected, but holds up better than their respective pictures.  Regan has an interesting mix of audio options.  You can watch the film in solid PCM 2.0 Mono, in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix with stereo music and PCM 2.0 Stereo that isolates the music score by Mark Duvall.  Too bad there is not a DTS-MA lossless 5.1 option, because these materials suggest this could have been amazing.  Motive has Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with surprisingly good Pro Logic-like surrounds.



As noted above, you can order all the DVD and Blu-ray imports in this review exclusively from Network U.K. at:









-   Nicholas Sheffo


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