Blu-ray Review: Space: 1999 (The Complete Series)

Whenever I go to the local comic convention there’s always a parade of people cosplaying as cast members of Star Trek and Star Wars. They act like there was nothing between Mr. Spock’s phaser and Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. As if a generation of science fiction fans just sat around for the ’70s waiting for Darth Vader. But there was something there and it was as big as the Moon. Space: 1999 was a syndicated show that arrived in America in the Fall of 1975 with a few familiar faces among the English cast. The show brought back Martin Landau and Barbara Bain after they’d split from Mission: Impossible in 1969. Barry Morse also returned after chasing down The Fugitive. The show allowed Gerry and Sylvia Anderson another chance to work with people after the one season of UFO. Space: 1999 was a little less slick than Thunderbirds by giving us characters that weren’t in control of the situation. Space: 1999 – The Complete Series takes us back to the time the Moon flew away.

The first season kicked off with “Breakaway.” John Koenig (Landau) arrives on the Moon to take control of the base. There’s been some issues with crew members going mad. Helena Russell (Bain) is the head of Medical Section. She’s not quite sure what’s going on. Science Advisor Victor Bergman (Morse) is also investigating. Ultimately it’s an issue with the nuclear dumping ground that’s gaining critical mass with too much material in one place. While Koening orders an action plan, it proves to be too late. A massive explosion breaks the gravitational pull between the Earth and the Moon. The Moon spins out into the universe leaving the Earth all alone. This tragic day is September 13, 1999. The show is unique because it’s about space travelers that have zero control over the journey. They are passengers on the Moon whose biggest hope is to transfer over to a planet that is habitable so they’re not trapped inside Moonbase Alpha for the rest of their life. This turns out to be easier dreamed than done when they begin to make encounters with otherworldly creatures.

Because the series was shot in England, there’s plenty of famous guest stars ready to drop by the Moon. “Earthbound” has Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings) visit. This is rather fun since he was Dracula in the Hammer films and Landau would win the Oscar for playing Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. “Missing Link” presents the other Hammer superstar Peter Cushing (Star Wars) as a scientist. Also among the guests were Ian McShane (Deadwood), Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey, Patrick Troughton Doctor Who), David Prowse (Star Wars), Brian Blessed (Flash Gordon) and Joan Collins (Dynasty). The show was able to change on the episodes because the folks stuck on the Moon really wanted to either get back to Earth or at least a nice substitute. This was not their home and it would not sustain them for generations. There’s an urgency to their actions because of their limited resources.

This limited nature is what makes season two a bit of a shock since so much about the show changed. Their main control room had been completely changed along with their uniforms. Why would they have done this while trying to survive in space? That was more of an Earthbound decision. Turns out during the break a lot happened including the Andersons breaking up. The original set was trashed after Lew Grade decided to cancel the show. But then he reconsidered after Gerry Anderson hired Fred Freiberger (Star Trek) to be his producing partner. They retooled the show so the budget was lower. They changed the theme song and credit sequence. They let go Morse and hired Catherine Schell (The Return of the Pink Panther) to play Maya, a shapeshifting alien to be the new science adviser. They also brought on Tony Anholt (Howards’ Way) as the second in command and head of security. They’re still stuck on the Moon so they didn’t completely change up the show.

Space: 1999: The Complete Series is both the ultimate way for longtime fans to enjoy the show, but also a definitive way for curious viewers to be introduced to the life on Moonbase Alpha. This is the boxset fans have been wishing for since episodes popped up on VHS in the ’80s. The 1080p transfer bring out the beauty in the special effects and the sets. The details rise up in case you want to make your own version of their uniform for an upcoming convention’s cosplay contest. This looks better than when it ran on Saturday evenings back in the mid-70s. Recently Comet TV ran the series on weekends which was nice, but they had fit in 75 minute time slots to accommodate all the 21st century commercial breaks. It’s great to enjoy an episode in 51 minutes. The bonus features give so much details to a series that tried to go beyond the usual science fiction fare. Space: 1999 deserves to be appreciated on the same level as Star Trek and Star Wars.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The high definition transfers brings so much out of the show. The extra boost in resolutions shows how much care the effects crew took to make things look exciting on the Moon. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono of the original mix. There’s also a 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround to give the audio effects more direction around your room. The show is subtitled in English.

Mission To Moonbase Alpha (10:35) is an interview with actress Barbara Bain. She reflects on how the Andersons came to visit them in Los Angeles to pitch the show. She was married to Landau at the time. While she wasn’t a big science fiction fan, she enjoyed getting to act like she was on the Moon.

Into The Uncertain Future (16:44) chats with actor Nick Tate. Tate was an Australian who originally passed on the project to do a play Down Under. When the production came to England, he found himself being recruited for the show again. Tate played the main pilot in the show. He points out how Sylvia worked better with actors. Gerry preferred the puppets. Tate’s father was a utility voice on Thunderbirds. The pilot episode took six weeks. He also talks what went into the second season.

Brain Behind The Destruction (9:14) sits down with Director Kevin Connor. Connor had directed The Land That Time Forgot, At the Earth’s Core and The People That Time Forgot for Amicus. He describes coming in and working on a second season episode. He exposes Landau’s good side to the camera.

Moonbase Merch: A Tour Of Space: 1999 Ephemera With Author John Muir (11:16) shows off the toys. He has an original Eagle spaceship that was huge. The newspaper ads seemed to be from Child World.

Audio Commentaries are on several episodes. Author Anthony Taylor speaks about “Dragon’s Domain” And “The Metamorph.” Space: 1999 Series Expert Scott Michael Bosco gets into “Ring Around The Moon.” The big treat is series Co-Creator Gerry Anderson On “Breakaway” And “Dragon’s Domain.”

These Episodes (69:10) are reflections on Space:1999’s iconic episodes from the crew. There’s talk of how this series was a big event in England since the film industry was dying with both Hammer and Amicus stopping production.

Memories Of Space (7:33) has cast and crew members talk about how the show has maintained its following. The show did push TV with it’s cinema approach to TV.

Interview With Sylvia Anderson (16:54) has her remember putting the production together. She also reflects on their other live action shows like UFO and The Protectors.

Guardian Of Piri Remembered With Actress Catherine Schell (1:41) has her discuss a costume fitting that didn’t go well.

Vintage Year Two Interviews (30:25) catches the cast and crew on the backlot of Pinewood and in the studio. Landau talks about how his character gets to always be surprised encountering new folks in space.

Vintage Brian Johnson Interview (3:21) has him break down his special effects. He describes how the Eagle spaceship was created.

Behind The Scenes Footage (6:49) is of the model department with Brian Johnson providing commentary. They worked out of Bray Studios which was the home of Hammer films for a while.

Concept And Creation (13:10) shows how the Andersons made Space: 1999 after UFO.

Special Effects And Design (17:34) has Brian Johnson talk about making feature film effects for a television show.

Martin Landau And Barbara Bain TV Promos (1:41) promotes the second season. There’s a batch of takes for the end plug with the various channels.

Promos For Year One (11:37) and Year Two (1:35) jazz up the action to get you to watch.

Trailers For Destination Moonbase Alpha (2:10) and Alien Attack (3:04) are for when they packaged episodes together to be a movie. This was done for a few reasons including being able to sell the show to tv stations without having them book a scheduled series.

Blackpool “Space City” Exhibition Advert (0:39) is various effects shots.

Lyons Maid Ice Lolly Advert (0:28) is a frozen treat.

Galleries include contact sheets, Bubble Gum Cards, Cigarette Cards, Portraits, Models, Props, Year Two Promo and storyboards. Each episode also has a gallery of production photos.

16 Page Episode Guide with trivia and major guest stars.

Shout! Factory presents Space: 1999 – The Complete Series. Created by Gerry and Syvia Anderson. Starring: Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse, Catherine Schell, Prentis Hancock, Clifton Jones, Zienia Merton, Anton Phillips, Nick Tate, Suzanne Roquette & Tony Anholt. Boxset Contents: 48 Episodes on 13 Blu-ray Discs. Released: July 16, 2019

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