Space Precinct: The Complete Series
Image // Unrated // $49.98 // November 23, 2010
Review by John Sinnott | posted December 15, 2010
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The Show:
Gerry Anderson, creator of such cult classic shows as Supercar and Thunderbirds, has always been someone who goes for style over substance.  That's not necessarily a bad thing as anyone who has ever been enthralled by UFO or Stingray can attest.  After Space: 1999 was cancelled Anderson largely disappeared from American TV screens but he was still active.  He went back to puppets for his show Terrahawks, dabbled in stop-motion animation for his series Dick Spanner P.I. and in 1994 he created another live-action series, Space Precinct.  As with all Anderson productions, there are explosions, last minute rescues, and exciting chase scenes, but that's about it.  With visual effects that look a good 10 years behind the time and rubber-masked aliens this cop show set in space lacks the thrill of his earlier series and, unfortunately, doesn't replace those with thoughtful stories or engaging plots.    

Patrick Brogan (Ted Shackleford) used to be a New York City cop, but he moved to a more challenging beat.  He's now a police officer in the city of Demeter on the planet Altor.  Along with his partner Jack Haldane (Rob Youngblood) and the rest of the alien police force, Brogan has to track down murderers, protect witnesses with prices on their heads, stop arsonists, and even outwit a computer AI.  All while making sure his son and daughter stay out of trouble and that his wife is happy.
This episodic show plays a lot like a generic cop show from the 70's, even though it's set in the future and a good percentage of the characters are aliens.  A lot of the plots revolve around typical police work, though with an alien flare:  there's a girl who can kill with her mind, a berserk robot, an imminent alien invasion that has to be stopped, etc.  That's fine, but the writers never seemed to know who the show was aimed at.  Some of the episodes deal with more adult topics like racism, drugs, or illegal immigration.  Other plots, often in the same episode however, are played for juvenile laughs.  While Brogan and Haldane search for a murderer who targets young women, other officers are trying to capture a space ape, with (supposedly) comic results.

In addition to the comic subplots, the special effects make the show feel like a kids program too.  While Farscape proved that you could have a SF show with puppets and rubber headed aliens and not come across as camp, Space Precinct isn't able to come close to pulling that off.  The masks have eyes that blink, which is a nice touch, but they're huge and way too big for the bodies.  The result is a guy in a police uniform with a funny mask on.  It doesn't feel like an alien at all.
Being an Anderson production, there are a lot of miniatures used throughout, and while they've gotten better at hiding the strings the effects have a very 70's look to them, which is horrible for a show made in the 90's. 

That's not to say the show is worthless.  There are some fun episodes and there is a lot of action, which is what you'd expect from Gerry Anderson, but it just doesn't come together as well as his other work.
The DVD:

The entire series arrives on five DVDs that come in a double-width clear keepcase with a two-sided cover.
The Dolby Digital audio track is adequate, but unfortunate since the opening logo says the show is available in Dolby Surround Sound.  I can't imagine why they wouldn't port the multichannel audio over to the DVD.  I can only assume that it wasn't available.  In any case, I was expecting a more separation and use of the front soundstage from a SF show from the 90's, but the dialog was clear and the sound effects came through nicely.  Not the most dynamic audio I've heard, but it'll do.  There are no subtitles.
Unfortunately the 1.33:1 image looks well below average, even when you take into account it was created in the UK in the 90's.  The show is very soft throughout and the level of detail is pretty low.  There's more than a little color bleeding, aliasing crops up in the background, and the colors are fairly muted.  Overall it's a pretty disappointing transfer.
Nothing. Not even an episode guide.  They refer you to a web page for that. 
Final Thoughts:
While I did enjoy some of the shows, the bad effects and very inconsistent writing make this one of Gerry Anderson's lesser series.  Add to that the rather poor video quality and it's best just to rent this show.

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