UFO SET TWO
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
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:
"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.
"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
"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.
"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.
"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
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.