Features: Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1. Available Audio Tracks: English
(Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono). No Subtitles offered. Six complete episodes per volume
(three per disc). Photo Gallery of production stills.
Beginning in the 1950s and continuing to this day Gerry Anderson produced a string
of bizarre science fiction television programs for British television. The strangest
of them all was Thunderbirds, which featured Star Trek-like action played earnestly
by marionettes. Anderson's program including UFO, The Protectors and Thunderbirds
eventually made it to US television and became cult classics but none was more
successful than Space: 1999.
Staring Martin Landau (Commander John Koenig) and Barbara Bain (Dr. Helena Russell),
Space: 1999 was intended to compete with both Star Trek in America and Dr. Who
in Britain. It combined the fantastic stories and surreal situations of the latter
with the machismo and special effects of the former to achieve an experience
that only Gerry Anderson could deliver. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending
on your perspective) a little film called Star Wars came along in 1976 and instantly
raised the level of viewer expectations so high that Space: 1999 seemed absurd
in comparison. The series was canceled after just two seasons. But rather than
slipping into obscurity Space: 1999 thrived among devoted fans most of whom,
myself included, were pre-teens at the time of the show's initial run.
If you're unfamiliar with the show here's the basic premise: The year is 1999
and the united sovereignties of Earth have constructed a sophisticated Moon base
called Alpha. The base is a scientific research facility and storage ground for
radioactive waste. In October 1999 a strange accident occurs when exploding waste
blows the Moon out of Earth orbit. Alpha's citizens are flung into the cosmos
and begin a journey to find sanctuary in a cold, dangerous universe. As fantastic
as that sounds, the main plot point of Space: 1999 is about the most believable
element in the show.
This is another TV series release from A&E. The cable network has been building
a large catalogue of British programs on DVD with varying results. Each episode
of Space: 1999 has been remastered from the original 35mm film elements and they
look very good. Most scenes are clean and crisp with good contrast, acceptable
shadow detail and full color saturation. Regrettably some segments suffer from
deterioration in the form of grainy images and strange color balance. This is
to be expected from such an old program though and such flaws can be overlooked
The sound track for these discs is a little disappointing. The dynamic range
is very limited and I was able to hear a good deal of clipping when voices got
loud. In addition volume levels are inconsistent meaning that some scenes are
far too soft while others are so loud that I had to grab for my remote to turn
them down. This is clearly an oversight on the part of the mastering company
and one that I hope will be corrected in future releases. If you're a fan of
the show the sound problem shouldn't discourage you from buying the discs though.
It's nowhere near as bad as the flawed sound tracks on the Prisoner set 2 discs.
Select Episodes (set 1):
The premier episode of the series, Breakaway recounts the story of the Moon's
departure from Earth orbit. This is probably the most plausible story of the
series (there are 48 episodes in all) and also the slowest. It took a little
time for Space: 1999 to hit its stride but the premier is enjoyable none the
This episode begins with the Alphans encountering a black hole in space. As the
Moon slips beyond the dark star's event horizon the crew experiences a strange
metaphysical episode and eventually returns to the known universe light-years
from where they began. This is one of the most surreal episodes of season 1.
Ring around the Moon:
A strange alien ship crash lands on Alpha carrying a crew of refugees bound for
Earth. Commander Koenig and his crew accidentally kill one of the visitors and
inadvertently free one seat on the Earth bound craft. Koenig must select one
Alphan to accompany the aliens back to Earth. This episode has a very Star Trek
feel and features Christopher Lee as the alien captain.
Select Episodes (set 2):
The Guardian of Piri:
Another surreal installment, the show begins with Alpha discovering a planet
that seems to have been home to a sophisticated race but is now disserted. Before
long the crew meets a woman who claims to represent the planet's overseer; the
Guardian of Piri. She offers the Alphans total serenity, but at what cost?
After months in space the first child is born on Alpha but within minutes it
grows into what appears to be a healthy five year old. Meanwhile four mysterious
alien spacecraft threaten the base. Are the two events connected? Koenig must
use his leadership skills to convince the crew that something is amiss and in
the process help them to save themselves from the toddler menace.
Any Star Trek fan will recognize the basic plot of Voyager's Return from the
Star Trek the Motion Picture. Alpha discovers the Voyager spacecraft on its
return trip to Earth but something has happened to it since it's launch. The
craft is equipped with a dangerous space drive that enables interstellar travel
but it's malfunctioning and threatening to destroy the Moon. The Alphans must
try to find a way to over ride the craft's prime directive and shut down the
drive before it's too late. Of course the Voyager is the least of their worries
when they learn that three potentially hostile alien ships are following the
A&E isn't much for including meaningful extras on their releases and Space:
1999 is no exception. The only extra content is a small photo gallery on each
disc. Most of these galleries are comprised of stills from the shows but there
are a few nice production and publicity stills interspersed with them.
These two boxed sets show Space: 1999 in its formative stage. The actors are
feeling out their parts and the writers are getting comfortable in the odd world
they've created. Watching all twelve episodes gives the impression of growth
and refinement that's quite rewarding for fans like myself. I commend A&E for
bringing this show to disc but wish they had been able to find some more interesting
ancillary content. Even in this bare bones version the shows are a joy to own
though. If you're a fan go out and get them today. If you've never seen the
show you should probably rent first as the low tech and dated feel of the show
might not appeal to your sensibilities. Rating: Highly Recommended.