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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > TV > British > UFO Set Two (A&E DVD)



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




The DVD release of the great TV series classic UFO concludes with UFO SET 2, which is at least the equal of the fine SET 1.  The series continues to focus on S.H.A.D.O. (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organization) and its anti-invasion activities tucked away underneath a movie studio.  It was a surprise when all the shows on box one had been remixed to regular 2-channel stereo from their original monophonic sound.  For whatever reason, here is the rest of the series.


The show added a female lead character, pushed the gambit of what the aliens would do invade, and became even darker in tone, despite the occasional formula that seeped into the show.  The series was on its way to greater things, as this box demonstrates, which makes its early cancellation all the sadder.


Exceptional prints are again used to make exceptional full screen, full color transfers here, with each DVD containing three shows.  The fourth and final DVD, again as in Set One, has four shows.  The quality drop this time is not as noticed as the four-show final DVD of that last set.  This puts it more on par with The Avengers or The Saint A&E sets.


Cinematographer Brendan Stafford, B.S.C. and visual effects supervisor Derek Meddings continued to pull off amazing things with their limited budgets.  In an age of quickly tired digital visual effects, the craftsmanship involved here gives the buildings and vehicles a character that put this show way above others of its ilk.  These effects were done right to begin with and do not need redone because they look "too old" or have faded.  Even when the model work is most obvious, it helps give this show a charm that most shows like it since Star Trek: The Next Generation has greatly lacked, even when they used models themselves.


The sound is not stereo this time, as it had been on the previous DVD box.  It has been left mono this time, which will make purists happy, while there are also three nicely recorded commentaries.  The only glitch is a sound blip at about 30 minutes into the “Timelash” episode, but the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono episode sound is better than usual in A&E’s typically higher 386 kilobits-per-second sound encoding.  When will the rest of the industry catch up?


Before beginning this section, there is an error on the back of the box.  It lists that the audio commentary on the “Sub-Smash” episode (on Disc Two/Six) is by Gerry Anderson, but it is actually by Ed Bishop.  It may not run all the way, but is the only one he has recorded, so its good value is obvious.


Disc One/Five has three takes from the "Kill Straker!" episode from three different (no pun intended) angles.  This is not a multi-angle section, but three different takes of the same conversation between the three principal actors, lasting 2:25, 2:05, and 1:15 respectively.  That episode also has a fine audio commentary with Alan Perry & Mike Billington.  Disc Three/Seven offers the voice of the HAL-9000-like SID computer singing “Home On The Range” as a gag (three takes at :40, :43, & :47) that was not used in any episode.


Disc Four/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 at 1:12, :08, & :48 respectively.


The Gerry Anderson biography is repeated on Disc Two/Six, while photo galleries are on each disc for every episode again, with the number of stills varying from 6 – 12 each.


The final 13 shows are as follows:


Disc One:


"The Responsibility Seat" (Written by Tony Barwick, directed by Alan Perry) – A reporter tries spying on Straker, with unexpected results.  Some idiot plot hurts this show.


"E.S.P." (Written by Alan Fennell, directed by Ken Turner) – The series experimented with telepathy in its second half, and this is one of the better stabs at it, though not without its problems.  It begins with a man who cannot help control his mind-reading abilities.


"Kill Straker!" (a.k.a. "The Inside Man"; Written by Donald James, directed by Alan Perry) – The aliens use mind control to try to assassinate Straker by repeating the title phrase in hypnotically suggestive ways.  Does not reach its potential, but has a few moments worth seeing and is the next to last show shot at the M-G-M British studios.


Disc Two:


"Sub Smash" (Written by Alan Fennell, directed by David Lane) – In one of the better shows, Straker and company have to get hands-on out to sea on one of the Skydivers.  Some of the production values are a bit dated, but the better moments more than make up for that.


"The Sound Of Silence " (Co-written by Bob Bell with director David Lane) – This show does not quite add up as a NASA probe comes between a UFO and a S.H.A.D.O. Interceptor, landing in a lake near the farm area of a couple, whose lives are overly interfered with by the events.  The gimmick of the UFO's ability to cut-off sound does not do much for the show either.


"The Cat With Ten Lives" (Written and directed by David Tomblin) – A fair show once again delving into ESP, with the twist being its link to a cat.  Steven Berkoff's guest shot helps here too, but whether the cat thing works or comes across as unintentionally funny will depend on the viewer.


Disc Three:


"Destruction" (Written by Dennis Spooner, directed by Ken Turner) – A very good show involving that only gets better as it progresses. The UFO's may have found a way to get through S.H.A.D.O. radar, when a UFO gets through their special radar undetected, complicated by it being shot down by a ship.  Its Captain (Philip Madoc) manages to get a photo, making Straker and Henderson scramble for a cover story.  It also leads to the investigation of the Captain's secretary (Stephanie Beacham), who seems to have some

strange link to all these odd events.


"The Man Who Came Back" (Written by Terence Feely, directed by David Lane) – A poor show in which a S.H.A.D.O. pilot resurfaces after a few years, and rejoins the team with the inevitable complications.  The problem is that he is not checked or examined upon his return, which makes this episode fail badly in the logic department.


"The Psychobombs " (Written by Tony Barwick, directed by Jeremy Summers) – Aliens turn people into killing zombies, ala Captain Scarlet, but with real actors.  It works well, but is somewhat predictable.  This is still one of the better shows and an interesting departure, in which the aliens' actions get more murderous.


Disc Four:


"Reflections In The Water" (Written and directed by David Tomblin) – Another very good show in which the UFO's send new "flying fish" sub-ships to jump out of the water and destroy ships, et al.  It turns out to be the beginning of one of the most aggressive and deadly attacks by the aliens yet to invade earth.  It gets worse when one of Straker's film directors for his movie studio front captures some clues about this on an ocean shoot, then the discovery of a mysterious dome underwater pushes Straker and Colonel Foster to investigate personally.  This puts them in serious danger.


"Timelash" (Written by Terence Feely, directed by Cyril Frankel) – In what is the actual last episode of the series, despite the order on this DVD, is a brilliant show in which Straker flips out, destroying equipment at S.H.A.D.O. HQ.  However, he may not be as nuts as he first seems, explaining that the aliens have found a way to manipulate time, with the help of a traitor in S.H.A.D.O. who has to be stopped before its too late.  What a way for this great series to go out! It is one of the smartest, most challenging live-cast shows the Andersons ever produced.


"Mindbender" (Written by Tony Barwick, directed by Ken Turner) – This show takes the series apart as Straker suddenly finds himself as someone else on the set of a show in which S.H.A.D.O. is a movie set and everything is nowhere near how he has always known it.  The cause turns out to be a space rock, but it is limited, and unusually sentimental.


"The Long Sleep" (Written by David Tomblin, directed by Jeremy Summers) – This is a poor show that features the infamous LSD sequence, an overuse of sepia-tone footage, humor of aliens having to deal with people on LSD, and a time bomb by the aliens to boot.  It winds up being an oddity, even for this series.


It is great to have the complete show finally issued, even if it was split in two volumes.  The sad thing is that the show obviously had more to say and do before it was folded, achievements that will never be realized.   Space: 1999 was one of the reasons the show was folded, due to its huge per-episode budget, but it is a shame both shows could not have continued at the same time, especially with the way Space: 1999 went real bad by its second season.  The budgets did not seem as large in this second season, though studio jumping may have caused some instability on just what the budget would be.


Going from the British M-G-M Studios, to Elstree Studios, to Pinewood Studios, UFO gained the added luxury of diversity, though the real reason for this was that the first two studios tragically folded for good from their feature film production capacities.  The Elstree shooting does not seem as distinctive, for whatever reason, as the work at the other studios.  Part of this might be in the uniqueness of M-G-M and Pinewood. Either way, this makes UFO history in that respect.


Space: 1999 may have been the bigger hit, but it was not always as personable, realistic, or even quite as adult as UFO.  Part of that had to do with the different kinds of risks Space: 1999 took.  In any case, now that UFO is available in total on DVD, it might finally be seen for the classic it is.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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