U.F.O. MegaSet (British Television Series)
Sound: C Extras: C+ Episodes: B+
U.F.O. is a TV series that has always had an interesting
history, and its DVD release will add to any oddness. When the show was first issued on DVD by A&E, it was done in
two translucent, hard plastic cases at four DVDs each. Now, they have issued an eight DVD MegaSet,
but it is not quite the same repackaging they always do so well.
When the first set was issued, it was remixed for 2.0
Stereo, which was not bad, but has a slight harshness and some marginal volume
shifts that was tolerable for the fuller sound we got otherwise. However, fans and people inside A&E (and
likely both Carlton and Anderson camps) did not like this, so the second set
came out monophonic. That set is
covered elsewhere on this site and we intended to have someone other than this
critic cover Set One, since said critic covered it previously for another
outfit. When the MegaSet was announced,
we would leave the whole set would be covered by that alternate writer
instead. Then, A&E did something
they never did before: redid the sound on the first four DVDs!
Now the entire set was monophonic, so half the box was
suddenly a second edition, so a comparison to the first set was necessary, so
that leads us to this review. For one
thing, a comparison of the sound on both versions could only be done by someone
who covered the first stereo set, and how would this change affect the picture?
Well, the full-screen picture is at least as good as it
was from Set One, while the DVDs are exactly the same as the Set Two
review elsewhere on this site. The
color is rich and images still on the clear side, but some slight detail hazing
is noticed from what are likely PAL transfers.
Also, even with the audio change, the slightly poorer, noticeable
picture quality drop on DVD 4 remains.
Otherwise, this is among the best full screen, color transfers on DVD,
even with its flaws.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is adequate, but even at
A&E/New Video’s higher 384 kilobits-per-second rate, average. Too bad they could not have found a new way
to redo the stereo versions or even include both on all 8 DVDs, as they have
with some other Gerry Anderson titles.
However, purists get to have it there way and Set One becomes a
collector’s item, though it is unclear if that set is going monophonic after
its initial printing, which we do not know as of presstime.
The series, once again, focuses on S.H.A.D.O. (Supreme
Headquarters Alien Defence Organization) and its anti-invasion activities in
detecting and stopping UFOs from reaching earth, tucked away underneath a
successful movie studio. Ed Bishop is
Commander Ed Straker, who poses as the head of the studio, which is amusing
since studios rarely have one person running them so personally nowadays. This is also supposed to show what a good,
smart guy he can be, as he deals very well with creative talent. Perhaps it is a nod to Gerry Anderson.
Other main characters include George Sewell as Colonel Alec
Freeman, Michael Billington as Colonel Paul Foster, Grant Taylor as General
James Henderson, Wanda Ventham as Colonel Virginia Lake and Gabrielle Drake as
Lieutenant Gay Ellis. That is only the
tip of the iceberg too. Now, we’ll list
the shows in order, with a # indicating key shows:
The Dalotek Affair
A Question of Priorities
The Square Triangle [#]
Close Up [#]
Confetti Check A-O.K.
The Responsibility Seat
Sub Smash [#]
The Sound of Silence
The Cat with Ten Lives
The Man Who Came Back
The Psychobombs [#]
Reflections in the Water [#]
The Long Sleep [#]
This is not to say the other shows are awful, but to say
that those marked episodes offer the series at its best, cancelled too soon
(worth noting yet again) so Gerry and Sylvia Anderson could do Space: 1999. Extras include stills accompanying all
episodes on the DVDs for which they appear, alternate clips for “Identified”
and a commentary track on that show are on Disc One, Disc Two has alternate
clips from “Exposed”. Disc Three has audio of the SID computer voice, Disc Four
has a biography of Gerry Anderson, Disc Five has three takes from the "Kill
Straker!" episode from three different angles. This is not a multi-angle section, but three different takes of
the same conversation between the three principal actors as well as a fine
audio commentary with Alan Perry & Mike Billington on the same show, Disc
Seven offers the voice of the HAL-9000-like SID computer singing “Home On The
Range” as a gag unused in any episode, and Disc Eight offers two extras clips
for the great “Timelash” show, one that shows the before and after of the
day-for-night work in an early scene, the other a clapperboard piece. The episode also has an exceptional
commentary by Sylvia Anderson & Wanda Ventham. There is also a piece on “The Long Sleep” show that shows the
Special Visual Effects and music sting sounds.
All in all, this is a great set, and also an alternate
one. If you want the harder plastic
storage and potential stereo versions of the first four DVDs, get those
separate sets, but if the monophonic sound and eight alpha-paks holding each
DVD individually in a paperboard slipcase are not an issue for you, then you
could get the MegaSet. Either way, you
will land up with one of the greatest short-run TV shows ever made.
- Nicholas Sheffo